With the pace at which marketing changes, as a marketer you have to adapt very quickly to match changing trends. There's a lot to consider, I like to imagine a person spinning plates, rushing from one to another, sweating profusely. Trying to manage SEO, PPC, web development, PR, social media, blogs, branding, design, print media (the list goes on), all at once is a very hard task to undertake, one that should not be taken light heartedly. The debate is, do you manage all this in-house or do you outsource the work? There is no straight answer, there are a number of variables to consider, no one company's situation is the same and what works well for one may not work well for another! We are going to try and help you reach a decision, in the least biased way possible, highlighting the benefits and pitfalls of both, when compared to different variables of your business!
In a time when money is tight and budgets are tighter, marketing budgets are normally the first to be cut (it's a sad fact we know!). When it comes to cost it's easy to see that outsourced marketing comes out on top. A lot of the time you are paying for a team with a wealth of experience for less than it costs for one employee. It's a no brainer, you don't have to pay recruitment fees, wages, health benefits, national insurance, holiday pay, sick pay, training fees etc. (an employee is an expensive thing). It may seem like a lot of money to spend when outsourcing but when you think about the cost relative to the cost of in-house staff and if the marketing agency is worth its salt, then your ROI will benefit from an experienced team.
The Spinning Plates (Marketing Tasks)
Some tasks are "easier" (I say easier, nothing in marketing is ever "easy") than others, many marketing areas require a lot more knowledge and experience than a lot of people have. I'll break it down further:
- SEO - Working with websites and search engines is a difficult business. Focusing just on keywords in your website just isn't going to cut it. There are so many variables and factors to think about, such as blogging, content creation, building quality inbound links etc. You need someone who understands on page, off page and technical optimisation and can continue adapting to search engine algorithm changes. It's not something to be taken lightly, and you would need someone with a wealth of knowledge and experience to do it, outsourcing this may be your best option, as someone in-house would cost a pretty penny!
- Social Media - Personally I believe social media is better in-house. Why? First of all, if you have someone in-house (or even yourself) managing your company's social media then you can communicate your brands personality across better than an agency. Second, it's quicker! You can quickly snap a picture of your team or create some content that can be shared immediately there and then, rather than sending it over to the agency to do it. Don't get me wrong agencies are very good at social media campaigns and have the knowledge base and the strategy to implement engaging posts and any agency worth their salt should be able to understand and communicate a company's personalit. To me social media is exactly that, social, and as a company it's advantageous to do it yourself.
- PPC - Adwords can also be a tricky business, it's not something that can be set and left running. It needs a considerable amount of knowledge and experience to undertake. The better you are at running PPC campaigns, the less you will pay for clicks and the better your ROI will be. This I would outsource to an agency, as they will have vast amounts of experience managing PPC campaigns and will get you more bang for your buck. An experienced PPC manager may be rather costly to bring in-house, an inexperienced PPC manager may end up costing you more on clicks.
- Content and Blogs - This is up for debate, (as in, we had a debate in the office). On one hand, if you created content in-house, such as blogs, infographics etc., you can be more accurate on your content, especially if the content is industry specific! It makes sense, you do what you do and your company know more about it than any marketing agency could. However this is not something that is done quickly, so if you're writing it yourself expect it to take a while (research, writing, formatting, implementation into CMS), and if you're employing someone in-house, you again worry about the cost. However you can get good quality content for relatively little expense. If you provide an agency with enough information then a good writer will be able to put a good spin on it. I'm sitting on the fence for this one I'm afraid!
Note: I have only focused on the online side of marketing, I feel these are the areas that have the biggest debate
Size of Company
If you're a relatively young company with few staff members, it may simply be uneconomical and logistically impossible for you to bring marketing in-house. You may not have the budget to bring it in-house (more on cost later), you may not have the office space for another employee and you may need more than one person to manage all that I mentioned earlier effectively. In this case outsourcing is the best option, you get an agency with a number of different experience bases (Designer, web developer, marketing manager, social media manager, copywriter, online marketing manager) for less than the cost of an employee, the agency will likely have a number of employees managing your account, providing more hands to spin your plates. On the flip side however, if you're a larger company that is well established and have the budget to employ a team, then by all means you should bring marketing in-house. It provides you with a greater feeling of control, allows you to communicate the personality of your business more effectively and reduces communication issues.
What's Right For You
At the end of the day, you should do what is right for you. As a small company, you are going to struggle to bring staff in-house (staff competent enough to do the job right), and will most likely have to outsource a marketing team. As a larger company, you may be able to bring a team in-house to do the majority, some elements may need to be outsourced though, so don't be afraid of outsourcing if you have an in-house team. You also need the right agency, a good agency will fit in with your company ethos and they should be able to do this while offering an outside perspective on things. (sometimes someone else's perspective can help with the creative process!).