Businesses outsource web hosting and development, accounting, and even customer service. Why not digital marketing? Where do you draw the line?
If your industry is highly regulated, the decision is often very clear cut. Regulatory restrictions and very specific use of language can make it difficult for an outside firm to create marketing content – let alone marketing campaigns — unless they have deep roots in the industry. Mining is a good example of a highly-regulated industry. Every press release is examined, every tweet and post scrutinized to make sure the content doesn’t violate standards for disclosure.
For many companies however, the decision is not so straightforward. There are pros and cons for handling your digital marketing in-house, and the same can be said for using an outside marketing agency. Here are some of the essential considerations:
Benefits of In-House Digital Marketing
- Less time to bring up to speed: Your own team has a better understanding of your company, products, services, and customers than any outsider.
- Better business intelligence: This is related to domain knowledge. When your own marketing team performs analytics, they have more context when it comes to interpreting your data.
- Respond quickly to situations: Whether it’s via team meetings or water cooler chit-chat, your own team is up-to-the-minute in tune with what’s going on in your business. They can respond faster to new situations and market conditions, and understand right away which areas of your business are affected. An outside agency can be very responsive, but they only know as much as you tell them – or remember to tell them.
- Achieve tighter integration: For best results, a marketing program should have offline tactics that support digital campaigns and vice versa. It requires close coordination to get your message out via social media, forums, blogs, print, and advertising. Not all agencies and businesses manage to achieve such close collaboration.
Benefits of Outsourced Digital Marketing
- More cost-effective: Salaries often represent the biggest percentage of a marketing budget. Digital marketing skills are in high demand and small businesses may not be able to afford a full-time team. Tap into specialized expertise and save on recruiting, training, salaries and benefits – not to mention the cost of tools and setting up systems. An outside agency will have a working environment already set up.
- More skills: You get experienced talent and a range of skills that would be impossible to hire in-house. A digital marketing agency has experts on board whose job it is to stay on top of the latest in trends and technologies.
- Better campaign ROI: Part of an agency’s job is to prove they bring value into the process. One of the major challenges for in-house teams is expertise in data-driven marketing and analytics. An agency will set up the metrics and analytics, monitor them closely, and tweak the campaign so that you achieve the best possible ROI.
- Guaranteed timely delivery: When an agency takes on a project, it dedicates resources to meet your deadlines. If anything happens to team members, it’s their responsibility to plug the gap. When other priorities pop up, an in-house team can get distracted, which puts campaign schedules at risk.
- Stay focused on core business focus: When it comes to business success, focus is essential. If your core business is not digital marketing, trying to manage campaigns will take a lot out of your valuable time. Agencies with core competencies in digital market can achieve more for you in less time.
There are pros and cons to each approach. It comes down to comfort level, budget, skills, and time. It’s common to see a hybrid model where a client uses outside agencies to fill temporary gaps or work on a specific project. Some of the most common reasons a business will outsource are:
- Fast deployment: Rebranding, launching a new product, or going to an industry event? When an urgent project adds work on top of existing priorities, it’s faster and easier to work with a ready-made team. A digital consulting agency will do the time-consuming but unavoidable legwork of finding the right channels for reaching a target audience, conduct keyword research for optimizing web content, and manage PPC campaigns.
- Lack of bandwidth or skills: When a marketing team is already 100% utilized it’s tough finding the resources to run ongoing programs such as a pay-per-click campaign. A digital consulting agency can monitor, analyze, and manage costs to achieve campaign ROI. From creative brief to final execution, an agency gives the marketing manager full visibility into the project — without the project management headaches.
- Need to develop in-house skills: On-the-job training is a great way to upgrade a team’s skills. Put your own team members on a project where they can collaborate with an agency on a digital marketing campaign. Make learning one of the goals and a good agency will take the time to explain things along the way. Nothing teaches more effectively than seeing how things work in a real-world scenario.
Final word of advice: if you believe an ongoing, long-term relationship with a digital marketing agency would be the best use of your budget and resources, begin with a small project. Use it as an opportunity to find out whether it’s a good fit.
If your marketing plans are slowing down because you lack the skills or bandwidth, do a quick assessment of the issues and decide whether you should bring talent in-house, outsource it, or contact out on a project-by-project basis.
February 29, 2016