Does outsourced marketing make good business sense? For many B2B firms, the answer is yes. But it’s more than just a question of the work you want done and what you’re willing to pay for it.
At PMG, we’ve been doing this long enough to know that hiring an outsourced marketing department is not right for every organization. Sometimes a company is better positioned for an in-house support staff. Sometimes a full-time marketing manager is the way to go.
Marketing initiatives are as unique as the products and services they represent. So the real question is: does outsourced marketing makes sense for your organization? Before you can answer that question, you should try to answer these:
What’s Your Marketing Budget?
Make no mistake: a key benefit of outsourced marketing is the cost savings. Marketing agencies pay for the team; you pay for the work. Without the enormous overhead of ongoing salaries, benefits, work stations, and paid time off, more of your marketing spend will go toward output and results—which can be scaled up or down according to your cash flow and seasonality.
On the other hand, there may be good financial reasons to pay for the work and the team. If your business is growing at a sure and steady pace, you might want to plan for marketing that will happen three, four, and five years down the road. In-house marketing employees can become an investment—assets that grow and improve over time. Assuming you have the extra budget and the knowledge to thoroughly vet your candidates, you may want to think about hiring an in-house team or an individual employee who is qualified to manage interns and contract employees.
What’s Your Definition of Marketing?
If you are planning to hire a full-time marketing pro, you want to hire a good one. And the good ones might expect more than you can offer—not just financially. Truly passionate marketers love to sharpen their skills and practice their game. Do you have the time to oversee a full-time, year-round marketing agenda? Do you understand enough about SERP analysis and technical SEO (for just one example) to discern if this new employee is getting anything done? Or do you expect your marketing pro to reorganize the supply closet from June through August?
In the last case, think twice before posting that job ad. Outsourced marketing is a better solution for companies that think they want a hybrid employee—part administrative assistant, part marketer. Left and right, job applicants are tacking marketing skills onto their resumes, but most aren’t really qualified to execute an effective campaign. You’ll either wind up paying more for half-rate attempts, or completely frustrating your new hire.
Do You Need to See Progress…Literally?
We take location for granted in our hyper-connected world, but some managers still need to see an actual person to remember (and get excited about) work that’s being done. You can hire a local marketing agency that will gladly meet with you for lunches and onsite updates, but it’s not the same as having a totally dedicated person at a desk, in your office, knocking on your door every morning.
Marketing agencies are adept at staying in touch and providing updates—their livelihood depends on it. But at some point the project owner (you) needs to respond and weigh in. The process should be cooperative and comfortable on both ends. If “out of sight, out of mind” describes your worst professional quality… if your email inbox has been likened to the Bermuda triangle… if you expect instant answers from others, while reserving the right to disappear indefinitely…outsourced marketing may not be the ideal solution for your business.
What’s Your Marketing History?
If you’ve never formally implemented and tested a campaign, outsourced marketing is the best solution for establishing a baseline. Until you’ve experimented with different channels—email marketing, online content development, social media, PR—you won’t know what’s realistic. And you might not know how to tell if your efforts are moving the needle.
Some companies already know where they want to focus their marketing energy… and what they expect it to yield. Marketing agencies can run with the ball in this scenario, too. The exception would be for firms that have very specific, month-to-month lead quotas and reporting tools to measure marketing results. If you’re already set up to hone and optimize your marketing tactics, you might be ready for an in-house hire.
How’s Your Social Media Presence?
Most businesses are aware that marketing is no longer a one-way conversation. The explosion of social media, customer reviews, and real-time feedback means that your brand identity is a shared construct. You can pump out all the messaging you want, but clients and consumers—particularly B2C audiences—are going to temper your claims with peer advice and community recommendations.
An outsourced marketing team can certainly help you leverage the necessary influencers and start engaging target demographics. Marketing agencies can even help you monitor your online mentions. Still, some businesses are finding that relationship management gets lost in translation. If you manage a mass market brand, you may need the full-time dedication of an in-house employee—someone who can follow the daily buzz and respond on your behalf, with fast and personalized answers.
What Are Your Marketing Goals?
We saved the biggest and best question for last, because this one really needs to resonate. What exactly are you hoping to achieve? If you need work completed in a hurry, outsourced marketing is the way to go. If you need help with a finite promotion or new brand extension, outsourced marketing is the way to go. If you’re starting from square one and you need to gain a foothold, outsourced marketing is the way to go.
Experienced groups can complement a range of business sizes and services. Most importantly, an outsourced marketing department can help you avoid costly DIY mistakes.
Thinking about outsourcing your company's marketing to an agency? Feel free to download our guide – 7 Signs You're Ready to Outsource Your Marketing – to see how your internal efforts may be hurting your business!