In The News: Marketing: In-house or outsource?
This article originally appeared in the Worcester Business Journal on October 2nd, 2017.
Deciding whether to hire in-house marketers or to outsource to an agency isn’t always easy. Every situation is different, and there are variables. To keep things simple, I suggest starting by exploring three critical questions.
What do I want the marketer to do in their role?
What kind of support can I provide (mentoring, oversight, accountability, training, course corrections, time)?
What is my budget on an annual basis?
Marketing requires specialized skills to get results. If you want someone to create a substantial impact in a narrow scope of a few closely-related areas, then hire because that person will have a specialized expertise and will thrive in the narrow job specifications.
If you want someone to do a variety of things, then outsource because you’ll want someone (or a team) to thrive in every area. Frankly, it’s difficult to find one person with expertise in dozens of areas. With outsourcing, you can hire people with diversity in their collective expertise.
Marketing requires management from a seasoned professional to get results. Do you have one, or are you one yourself? A hire will need best-practices training, oversight, leadership, correction and direction. If you can provide the kind of support a top-performer will require, then hire.
Freelancers often can provide a middle-ground solution. However, management is still essential. Your plan will still require management to keep all parties functioning cohesively and on-track against goals. The same best-practices, oversight, leadership, correction and direction needs still exist (though to a slightly lesser degree).
If you can provide the kind of support a semi-autonomous top-performer (or group of them) will require, then hire freelancers.
If you can only provide minimal support or just want to sit back and watch it work, then outsource to an agency instead and save yourself the headache. You don’t want to short-change your program because you don’t have the ability to manage it. That’s best left in the hands of a professional.
Finally, the best marketing isn’t cheap; however, cheap is subjective. If you want to commit a full compensation package (full-time salary, insurance, payroll tax, other benefits) to attract an expert (or several) in their field working only for you, plus advertising budgets for the entire program, then hire. Experts will command a total package value in the $60,000 starting range.
If you prefer something more conservative, you need multiple experts and that’s beyond your budget, or you simply prefer flexibility, then outsource to an agency.
There is no right answer
Ultimately, there are benefits to both, and I advocate for both, under the correct circumstances. The right answer is the one fitting your needs best. You may not get 100-percent clarity and all three questions leaning solidly one way. At the end of the day, if you’re not sure, explore both and find an objective professional to discuss your needs with.