In or out? Choosing between in-house or outsourced marketing

Welcome to marketing. It is one of the most important arms of the organization. It’s marketing that puts the business on the front page. That ensures consumers and customers can see what your company can do. That keeps brands front and center. It is marketing that ensures the business evolves alongside the changing needs of customers and markets and manages how the brand portrays itself in the media, in print, and online. Without it, companies can lose out on significant market traction and the essential visibility needed to remain competitive in challenging markets during difficult economic times.

Marketing is a diverse and complex portfolio of activities comprised of multiple skill sets that ensure every part of a brand’s marketing strategy is aligned and managed correctly. It’s an orchestra of digital, social, copy, content, platform, email, print, and in-person activations and operations that must come together to deliver a symphony of branding. Without the right skills or expertise, without the Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) as conductor, the business runs the risk of a fragmented and discordant marketing effort that costs money but fails to deliver value.

This introduces one very simple question: Can marketing and budgets fundamentally change if resources are in-house or outsourced?

There are pros and cons for both.

In-house: The advantages

In-house marketing offers one immediate benefit – it’s a dedicated resource on tap, designed to deliver precisely what’s needed when it’s needed to whoever needs it. Marketing is high-pressure and fast-paced, so having a dedicated team ready to meet incredibly tight deadlines is invaluable.

With in-house employees, you also get a specific team that you’ve chosen. You’ve spent time selecting their talents and skill sets, ensuring that they fit within the business culture, and you’ve hand-picked them from hundreds (if not thousands) of applicants. Right here, sitting in your office is a solid stable of people who want to be there and who are committed to your brand.

Speaking of the brand – in-house people should also be immersed in your brand. They should know what language is allowed, what styles to use and when, and how to cross every t and dot every i as outlined by the brand style guide.

Another challenge, particularly now, is the lack of skills. Talent has become a commodity as skilled marketing professionals change roles, move country and reshape their lives in the wake of the pandemic. Finding and retaining the right people has become a full-time challenge, and there is the growing gap between skills in the market and skills development. Fresh talent is available but lacks the expertise that marketing teams need to fully realise their campaigns and potential, and requires a lot more time and training. Then, as pointed out in a recent article by Marketing Week, digital skills are shrinking which is causing intense pressure on marketing to get results with limited resources.

In-house: The Disadvantages

When you’ve got people in-house, you’ve also got their problems and regulated employment expectations. Your team will often be fractured by sick leave, paid holidays, training, maternity leave, paternity leave, and other similar events or occurrences. Employees are entitled to these benefits, even when a massive deadline is looming.

In-house marketing teams will cost you a lot of money regularly. You have to pay for their benefits and salary packages, which can scale significantly depending on their levels of expertise and how in-demand their skills may be, and you have to pay for their hiring and recruitment. You will also need to cover their onboarding costs, work assets such as laptops and mobile devices, and their bonuses. Plus, as you promote, you have to replace, so you’ll have to go back to recruitment and hiring to fill spaces that people leave behind, which adds that cost back onto your budget.

According to benchmarking data from the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), the average cost of hiring a new person is nearly $4,700. If you’re hiring for a role that pays $60,000, you will potentially spend as much as $180,000 or more. You’ll also have to repeat this cost if they don’t work out and leave within a few months…

Also, you have to ensure that every employee is made to feel a part of the company culture and that they have clearly defined key performance indicators (KPIs) and performance reviews, so they feel like they have a clear career pathway. People need benchmarks and clear reporting lines, and stable management of expectations.

Outsourced Marketing: The Advantages

An external marketing agency will have all these skills, all these experts and marketing professionals on hand whenever you need them. A third-party marketing service provider can not only fill skills gaps that your organization may not be able to fill, but they can take on work across multiple skill levels so that your teams don’t have to. This can considerably lower the cost to company in terms of hiring highly skilled marketing professionals while making it extremely easy for you to simply grab expertise when you need it. Outsourced is essentially expertise on tap.

Outsourced marketing comes with no sick leave, no maternity leave, no salary packages, or concerns around cultural fits. It doesn’t have expectations around KPIs or management, it doesn’t ask that you provide consistent training, and it doesn’t expect your teams to operate at half capacity on large campaigns because people are away or sick. You have a trusted resource committed to ensuring that you always have talent whenever you need it. The problems of staff management and wellbeing aren’t yours anymore.

You’re guaranteed market-leading solutions, technologies, and approaches when you work with an external marketing agency. To stay competitive in a very challenging market, external marketing companies make it their business to know the business of marketing. They are on top of the trends shaping customer interactions and behaviors and ensure your campaigns take advantage of them (where relevant), so you’re also ahead of the pack.

You can say goodbye to the stressors of training and development, complex relationships, overtime and KPIs, limited team functionality, and the costs of hiring, keeping, and managing talent. Outsourced marketing has it all for you PLUS:

  • The ability to embark on multiple campaigns across multiple touchpoints and markets while ensuring cohesion and consistency
  • The ability to create campaigns on demand, at speed, and on time
  • The ability to project manage campaigns, so you have more time to focus on creatives, approvals, and marketing strategy
  • The ability to deliver internal resources relevant to different markets, campaigns, and media on demand
  • The ability to flex and adapt to your changing needs while adding in reliable expertise and support that brings fresh insights and remarkable talent to your table

Outsourced Marketing: The Disadvantages

Outsourced marketing isn’t perfect – no solution really is – so it does come with some of its own issues. The first is the teething period, where both agency and company get to know one another. Agency talent will still have to learn the brand and its guidelines and spend time with the brand to ensure that campaigns and messaging are correctly aligned. While this also applies to new hires as they learn the brand, with an agency, the learning curve is everyone all at once.

Talent can cycle through the agency, so you may not always have the same people working on your account. This is a mixed blessing as it can introduce the risk of someone getting the brand wrong, but it can also bring fresh insights and perspectives that keep the campaigns and the team fresh.

Of course, you can opt into a hybrid blend of outsourced and in-house marketing. This is time intensive for you as a CMO, as you’ll have to juggle two sets of expectations across multiple teams. Still, it does ensure that you fill gaps around approvals or campaign management that balance some of the disadvantages of both types of marketing team.

Either way, outsourced marketing is an invaluable asset to any business wanting to cut costs, save time, improve efficiencies and revitalize its campaigns.

Discover the value of outsourced skills and marketing expertise with GROW

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