Is it better to outsource your marketing or keep it in-house?
Marketing is a core area for small businesses and many are doing it on their own. Is outsourcing most of your marketing a good option? What about having a full team in-house? What's the pro and cons for each option?
Given the complexity and range of skills required for marketing the ideal setup is a mixture of both inhouse and outsourcing.
Having your own inhouse expertise, even if its only one person, gives you better understanding of how marketing works for your business. You can be more responsive, get feedback directly on what works and what doesn't and its more sustainable over the longer term. Even if the marketing person you have leaves then you will still retain whatever structures and resources they've put in place.
A better setup is to have your own inhouse marketing person in conjunction with a marketing coach or consultant so that person is supported and you can have consistency if personnel changes.
The alternative is soley using an agency or outsourced talent. Often this happens because a business owner feels overwhelmed by marketing and just wants it "handled", preferably other there, out of sight. And of course, that can work well. But if it doesn't or the agency wants to focus on different clients or any other changes happen and you stop working with them, then what have you got? Often, not a lot. All the ideas and knowhow is usually gone too and you're back to the beginning.
I have a guide to seeking marketing help that I'll be releasing in the next few weeks. If you want a copy let me know and I can forward a copy to you. It lays out the pros and cons of each approach and what sort of businesses suit each option.
Let's look at your question from a more strategic, and high level perspective
Over the past 2-3 decades, businesses have brought in external experts to drive certain functions of the business. Those service providers (Lawyers, Accountants, HR / Recruitment executives, amongst others) have shown tremendous value to smaller businesses on a part-time basis.
Generally speaking, Small & Medium Enterprises (SME’s) can’t afford to employ Chief [anything] Officer. Typically, the Managing Director / Owner, who sometimes title himself/herself as CEO, is very lonely in the C Suite. Such businesses employ the services of an accounting firm to manage finances, a legal firm for legal work, etc.
However, In the marketing space, businesses typically use various agencies to perform various tactical duties, and use an internal resource (young and inexpensive) to manage those relationships and tactical work.
Sometimes there will be a marketing agency who oversees all that tactical work, handling bits and pieces of promotional work, branding, social media, websites and optimisation etc.
What’s missing? An experienced, strategic marketer (such as the qualified Lawyer or Accountant), acting as an outsourced CMO, drive strategy and manage the tactical execution, and be responsible and accountable for the work of the marketing function within the business.
If you’re unsure, here’s what a senior, part-time CMO can bring to a Small / Medium size business:
- Corporate level overall marketing expertise – Client acquisition, retention and expansion strategies and tactics, Pricing, Promotions, targeting, product / services mix, etc.
- Strategic experience – help define / refine the business marketing strategy
- Free up MD/CEO time to manage the business.
- Tell the forest from the trees – as a strategic advisor to the business, the CMO can bring the most appropriate service providers, and orchestrate activities.
- Responsible executive to handle budgets and P/L.
- Contacts – both high-level and suppliers. This is often an overlooked benefit, but most marketers will have a sizeable network.
- Fresh eyes – an outsourced CMO would typically work with a variety of businesses and can outsmart the competition by using tactics used by other industries.
Hope this helps your thinking in a broader sense.
This is an important question and one which is asked by businesses of all sizes, with pros and cons for both sides of the argument.
When bringing on an agency, it is usually to plug a skills gap within a business. Outside expertise used to solve a problem identified as a hurdle to the next stage of growth. Agencies exist to provide this expertise, we spend our time honing our craft and learning the advantages, efficiencies and how to navigate different problems within any particular discipline. Working with a variety of company sizes and industries, we get to experience a wide breadth of knowledge and bring that into your business.
However, like any business, agencies are still there to make money for their owners and staff, so it's important that they're incentivised correctly, in a way which is aligned to your business goals.
With internal marketing functions, you can have far more confidence that their goals and your business' are aligned, all pulling in the same direction. However, by focusing on a more narrow grouping of problems, in-house teams aren't exposed to the broad array of problems across all the disciplines in your marketing mix. They simply can't be. It's also much easier to fire an underperforming agency than it is an employee.
At the end of the day, agencies are great solutions to plug gaps in your business and bring expertise which is lacking. Ideas which will help boost you to the next stage of growth. As long as the roles and responsibilities are clear and everyone is working towards a clear strategic vision, each business will find the mix which is right for them.
You have one chance to make a great first impression so if you are launching a busioess, website, new product or service and you do not have the right expertise in house then it is time to bring in professionals who can help. Don't risk diluting your brand or putting your business in a position where it will cost more money and time to get the right words and pictures out there to tell your story. If you need help ask for it, it is rarely too early and often too late in my experience. Good luck!