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Online Marketing: Outsourcing vs. In-house

Posted by Fred Scholl on Monday, September 26, 2016

Topics: Inbound Marketing

online-marketing-outsource.gifAny business looking to succeed in today’s world knows that online marketing is an essential element. Today’s consumers spend more time online than they do using all other forms of media combined. Old school methods of marketing, like yellow pages ads and other print media, are no longer effective at reaching your target audience, and simply won’t produce the results that you’re after. In 2016, the question is no longer whether you need to focus your marketing efforts online. Rather, the more relevant questions are, what methods of online marketing to use, and whether your marketing plan is best managed in-house or through outsourcing. 

The Dilemma

Quite simply, the dilemma is the following: If you try to manage it all in-house, you’re likely to spend all of your online marketing budget on payroll and related expenses. Looking at the flip side, however, still leaves some concerns. Should you decide to outsource your online marketing, you’ll find new issues - the quality of work and your ability to control the whole process will now be in question. It’s easy to just look at the budgetary matters. We’ve already shown that outsourcing the process saves money and time. But as a business owner, you know that you also need to consider quality and control issues, so when making a decision of whether or not to outsource any work, always ponder the following questions:

Will there be a reduction in the quality of work produced? Any work that people outside of your organization can handle, with no detriment to the quality of the work, are probably good candidates for tasks to outsource. Ideally, the quality of work should improve when you outsource. We like to say that anything that falls outside the scope of your company’s core competencies would be better outsourced to a third party with specialized expertise. 

Will we lose control over the process? How much control will you have over the work, if it’s transitioned to be done off-site, by a team of people who are not your employees? How much hands-on oversight do you need to provide, and will that level of control and management be possible if you transition it to be done outside of your organization?

What will the impact be on our bottom line? As I said earlier, cost isn’t everything, but it is certainly an important factor. Once you’ve evaluated the issues of quality and control, look at the effect on your finances. Will outsourcing the work lower your overall cost? If there is additional cost, will there be additional benefits that outweigh the increase in expenses?

Benefits of Outsourcing

OK, since it segues so nice from that last question, let’s take a look at some of the other benefits of outsourcing your online marketing efforts. 

More Diverse Expertise

We’ve been discussing online marketing as if it were a single job description, but that’s not really the case at all. An effective online marketing campaign involves a diverse collection of activities, each requiring a professional with a unique skillset. It’s possible that you’ll find a web developer who is also talented at designing graphics, for example, or a content writer who can also help with planning or analytics. But it’s not very likely that you’ll find one individual who can do all the work involved in designing and executing a successful marketing campaign. One of the benefits of outsourcing to an agency is that you get a team of diverse professionals, each with the specialized skills and experience to handle a particular aspect of your online marketing efforts.

Investment of Time 

We’ve discussed cost savings as an important factor, but there’s another resource which is at least as valuable to you as a business owner: time. It’s the one resource that you simply can’t acquire more of. You get 24 hours in a day, and you really can’t work through all 24 of them (though I bet you’ve tried it at least a few times in your startup days). It takes a considerable amount of time to assemble an in-house team of marketing professionals. Keep in mind that it may take a number of people to properly handle all of the responsibilities. There’s also ramp-up time involved in the team getting to understand each other as well as their individual roles in the process. Outsourcing to an agency, on the other hand, gets you a ready-made team of professionals who already know how to work together just like a well-oiled machine.

Improved tools and resources 

When we talk about online marketing, please understand that we’re talking about a very fast-moving game, and one that is evolving rapidly. What worked well last year may no longer be particularly effective today. What was cutting-edge a year or two ago may be almost obsolete at this point in time. Google changes its search algorithms periodically, so SEO today is a whole different ballgame from what it was not too long ago. It’s time consuming to stay on top of all of these changes. It’s also worth noting that certain tasks in the online marketing process work best with particular software tools. These can be quite costly, to the point of being impractical for a small business to invest in, and it takes time and research as well to ensure that you choose the best tools and keep them current. An additional benefit of outsourcing your online marketing to an agency is that it’s their business to be aware of all of the latest and greatest technologies as well as the most current methods of marketing. You reap the benefits of their research and investments, at a fraction of what it would cost you to try to do the same in-house.

Choose carefully

Whether you decide to build an in-house marketing group, or outsource some or all of the work to an agency, you’ll need to carefully evaluate your choice and make sure that you’re comfortable with the people who will be handling your online marketing. If you hire an in-house staff, that means an interview process, samples of candidate’s previous work, and reference from people they’ve worked for previously. If you outsource, you’ll want to make sure that the agency really understands what you’re selling, and who your potential customer base is. Be wary of agencies that make outlandish promises, like guaranteeing that you’ll turn up as the top listing in search engine results within a month of efforts. Make sure you feel comfortable with them and trust them to work on your campaign off-site. And ask for references from satisfied customers both in your business and in other fields.

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