In-house versus outsourced marketing
It’s important that your marketing gives you value for money. Therefore, it’s important to decide whether an in-house or outsourced marketing team is best for you
For any SME, one of the biggest questions you’ll need to answer is how best to promote your product or service. The quality of your marketing can make or break your business, so it’s important to find the approach that suits you best.
A marketing agency can bring experience and a range of skills, while an in-house marketing specialist can focus exclusively on your business’s needs. We’ve considered the pros and cons of each option, to help you make your own decision.
Here’s our top 4 reasons for and against each option to help you make an informed decision for your business.
1 – Focus
The primary advantage of hiring an in-house marketing specialist is that you’re their number one priority. Their sole job is to promote your business, so they can devote all their time to that mission. This enables them to create a detailed strategy, plan long-term, and generate the content required to execute it. This focus works both ways, as while you gain 100% of your specialist’s time, they also have the security of knowing they work for one client and are not reliant on contract work to stay afloat. That security can reduce the stress of the employee, allowing them to focus on producing their best work.
2 – Emotional investment
While we’re certainly not saying that agencies are emotionless mercenaries, they’re never going to have the same level of emotional investment as somebody who works for you full time. An in-house marketing executive is part of your team, they’re speaking to colleagues every day, and they feel a sense of belonging. They have a personal interest in the success of your business and will want to do everything they can to help it succeed.
3 – Brand knowledge and definition
If you choose to recruit a marketing executive, you have someone in the business who can learn everything there is to know about it. Your brand, your ethos, your culture, your network, your modus operandi… All of this allows them to tell your story in a way that feels most true to you. While an agency may also be able to tell your story this way, they’ll be working to your guidelines, rather than helping to define that identity from the ground up.
4 – Easy content generation
Having someone on site makes it infinitely easier to gather content. Whether you want to take a quick team photo, or something funny has happened in the office that would be suitable to share on your social media, an in-house marketing team will be there to capture it as it happens. This makes it easier to present your business as being “of the moment” – up to date with news and information, rather than delaying it by filtering it through an agency’s content plan.
1 – Just one voice for your money
The average annual salary for an entry level marketing executive in the UK is £27,500. The average annual salary for a marketing assistant often sits around the £22,000 mark. These are substantial figures to be spending on one person to handle your marketing, and for a newer or smaller company, it may be a luxury expense that you’re not yet able to afford.
That’s not to mention the costs of training, development, employee perks and additional campaign budgets to consider if you’re going to take your marketing department seriously.
Often, entrepreneurs and business owners specialise in what they do – the product they make or the service they offer – and marketing is not their skillset. That’s fine – that’s why you have a team – but it’s important to remember that marketing is what drives growth. Invest in it wisely, and you’ll be able to afford your luxury expenses. It’s a cost that has to be taken seriously; if you’re hiring someone for £25k+, you want to ensure you’re getting value for money.
2 – Missing skillsets
It is very unlikely that you’ll be able to find one person who is an expert in all aspects of marketing, and even if you did, are there enough hours in the day to make it happen?
Will you be able to find someone who can write copy, design artwork, take photos, create video, manage multiple social media platforms, understand SEO, plan your content strategy, evaluate, and design your brand, process leads, and network at events? Even if you could find this marketing deity, would you be able to afford them?
Most marketing executives are likely to specialise in one to three of those skills, maximum. And if you’ve got a tight marketing budget, one salaried individual may not offer everything you need.
3 – Reliance on one person
Let’s say you did find someone who was capable of all that – what would you do if they left? What would you do if their strategy doesn’t work? Would that person be capable of altering course and devising a new campaign without the input of others? In clichéd terms, sometimes too many cooks spoil the broth, but – more often – two heads are better than one.
4 – Overwhelm
Single-handedly managing all the elements of marketing a business is enough to leave one’s head spinning. Placing that burden on one person has the potential to overwhelm, and lead to stress and exhaustion – dependent on how much there is to do, if you can’t afford to pay a whole team to share the load, then an in-house marketing executive might not be the best solution for you.
1 – A Marketing Timeshare
The primary advantage of outsourcing your marketing to an agency is that you’re sharing the cost of their employment with other businesses. You gain the benefits of having a whole team, while acknowledging that you don’t need all of their services every single hour of the week. This means the agency can work for you when you need them but can focus on other clients the rest of the time.
2 – Range of skills and experience
We’ve already mentioned the range of skillsets required of the modern-day marketer. Gone are the days of just sticking an advert in a newspaper and that was that. Now you’ve got to consider print, digital, video, blog writing and more.
Are you going to employ a full-time graphic designer for the two times a year you put out a brochure? No.
A decent agency will have a design team capable of producing any artwork you need when you need it. They’ll also have their own copywriters, who can provide wording for brochures, blogs, websites, social media, etc…
An experienced digital team will also be able to plan, produce, and manage content for all your social media platforms.
Some agencies will also have an events team to produce networking evenings, product launches, thank you dinners, discussion roundtables, anniversary parties, and more.
You get all these services, while only paying one fee to the agency. Dependent on your workload, that fee could be significantly less than the cost of a full-time hire.
3 – Multiple heads
An agency comes with more than one voice. It’s a team that can offer more suggestions, opinions, and range of experience than any one person could offer alone. It will generate more ideas, consult on best practices that are relevant to you, and manage every element of your campaign, allowing you time to focus on what you’re good at.
It also offers institutional memory. If one person leaves an agency, its other employees will be able to pick up what they were working on and continue your marketing without missing a beat. This is a benefit you wouldn’t get if your sole in-house marketing executive suddenly left your company.
4 – Wellbeing Protection
An agency futureproofs you against the possibility of illness or wellbeing issues in your marketing team. With one employee, if they’re ill or struggling outside of work, they won’t be available to get their work done – if they’re a specialist, there may not be anyone else in the company who can pick it up. An agency will have other employees who can step in to handle the responsibility. Having access to a full team to share the load ensures your business continuity.
1 – No affordability for new businesses
The brutal truth of the matter is that a marketing agency is unlikely to be a viable expense for a start-up. Most new businesses require the founder to become a jack-of-all-trades, learning every aspect of their business very quickly – including their marketing. Once the business grows to the point where you can afford to consider recruiting, that’s the time to evaluate your marketing options.
2 – You’re not their number one priority
If you choose to hire an agency, you will have to accept that you are one of several clients, and therefore there maybe times where you’re in a queue. Any good agency will attend to your requirements in good time, but it may not be as instantaneous as it would be with an internal executive.
While the team should/will care about their work, as you’re one of several clients they’re unlikely to develop the same level of emotional investment as you’d get from an employee. They’ll do the best work they can for you, but if your contract were to end, they’d simply move on to the next thing.
3 – Reliance on business to generate content
No matter what option you pick, it’s vital that you continue to engage with your marketing team, so they know what you need/want them to cover and promote. With an agency, this is even more important, as they’re not going to be working on site with you, so you have to be an excellent communicator. If you want regular updates on your social media, you’ll need to provide photos, content ideas, company news, and thought leader pieces. While the agency can manage your marketing for you, they can only do so much without your input.
An agency is not a “hands-off” approach to marketing – that does not exist. They can help you, but you need to help them too.
4 – Conflict of interest
As an agency needs to sign all the clients they can, they may end up signing another client that’s in the same field/industry as your business. The effect of this could be that they’re giving the same support to one of your competitors as they give to you – meaning neither of you are gaining an edge on the other. You may both be gaining more visibility, awareness and leads, but neither is pulling ahead.
There’s no one-size fits all. The needs of one business will be different to another, so we can’t tell you, “This is what you should do”. Choose the path that is right for your needs.