I read an article recently on Why You Should Outsource Digital Marketing, here. At the end of the piece, Robin Ayoub’s sign-off (quoted later) made me smile – and prompted me to write this post. Accordingly, I would like to discuss some ways to make the best of digital activity. In the main, we will look at whether businesses should be outsourcing or insourcing the online element of their marketing plans.
Allow me to point out upfront that, I don’t really like the description digital marketing because, in O’C&K, we firmly believe that marketing, in essence, has not changed. It’s just that nowadays, marketers must operate in an increasingly digital environment.
So, I’m using the term digital activity in this post in the understanding that it is an important constituent of any marketing activity. The second thing I’d like to elaborate on is what we mean by insourcing vs. outsourcing.
O’C&K – Insourcing means hiring team members in-house and outsourcing means working with an agency.
It recent times, a trend has been suggested of corporates insourcing more of their digital activity. Of course, these corporates may have specific and good reasons for doing so, including:
a) the spend on online marketing is rising and they want more supervision of it, or
b) because agency talent is moving across the divide! or
c) because as agencies have grown over the last 10/15 years they might not be nimble enough for ‘lean’ marketing departments. These departments constantly have to respond rapidly to their changing customer’s online behaviour, so flexibility is desirable.
Another point worth remembering is that digital activity is more than just advertising online. A move to an inbound strategy needs to reflect this i.e. inbound marketing is not a campaign.
Digital activity is more than just advertising online. An inbound strategy needs to reflect this i.e. inbound marketing is not a campaign.Click to tweet
I spoke with an SME (SMB) owner recently and his fear of outsourcing digital was really about outsourcing his personal relationships. He was also worried that some ‘youngster’s’ lack of commitment / knowledge in an agency might damage a long-term relationship that he had built up. Both are legitimate worries that must be attended to genuinely.
Thinking positively, though, I believe that the suggested trend might not be all bad for agencies. For me, it shows that businesses are thinking more about, and understanding, their marketing activity, be it online or offline.
Do you Insource the Chicken or Outsource the Eggs?
Robin Ayoub’s sign-off mentioned above: “Think about this: You need a dozen eggs. Do you go to the super/farmer’s market and pick up a carton, or buy a space to farm chickens and pay for all of their expenses?”
Of course, we can all see that digital is changing how we engage customers, measure marketing activity and develop strategies. Whatever the size of the business, being smarter about marketing is key and being online is part of that.
Be honest when answering this question, though, how many SMEs really have the time, experience or the resources to develop and implement their comprehensive digital marketing activity?
In such cases, and many of our own customers’ cases, outsourcing is a good way to put their toe-in-the-water. Jumping straight into building an in-house team mostly comes with a hefty price tag e.g. experience, technology and salary+.
Outsourcing to a small, flexible marketing agency can add productivity to your business team and provide measurable results.
We know that outsourcing is not opportune in all business scenarios and In a previous post on Inbound Marketing, here, we discussed the pros and cons of same. Here are a few questions again that might help you determine whether it makes sense for your business:
- Does your marketing activity need a general overhaul anyway?
- Do you understand online marketing but just don’t have the time to implement campaigns?
- Do you know nothing about online marketing and want to start small and learn?
- Do you want to scale up your existing online activity to drive business growth?
If you have answered, yes, to any of the above – you should probably outsource your digital activity. With the risk of this sounding like a business pitch, outsourcing can be a great way to get just the right expert that is already skilled at what you want to do. Your marketing capacity will increase, it will be fresher and, if applicable, your staff member looking after marketing will have the opportunity for continuous learning.
At the end of the day – as a business owner – outsourcing allows you to concentrate on growing the business, safe in the knowledge that the marketing is in good hands. An agency can help you understand where you are with your current digital activity, and strategise where you need to go with it.
Outsourcing can provide the business nous necessary to create value and successful delivery of online marketing objectives.Click to tweet
Pros and Cons of Outsourcing Digital Activity
There is one simple way of determining whether you should outsource. Ask yourself – what is a core competency for my business? If digital or marketing (or both) are not – then you probably should look at bringing in this skill.
Some downsides of outsourcing are, that 1) you must be willing to trust the agency implicitly by sharing data, strategies etc. Also, if the agency is paid by the hour – the fees may add up. 2) you might not get the senior operator at the agency on an ongoing basis (alluded to above) and 3) an agency may not be as passionate about your business as you / in-house team are.
A few of the main advantages are (some mentioned above) that i) outsourcing can bring in the exact skill that you require, ii) the agency will have substitutes in case of illness etc; iii) agencies learn from other customers and can transfer their learnings and iv) agencies may well have existing platforms / IT that can be used for you without extra expense.
The decision whether to outsource or not is not an easy one because of individual businesses’ variables. It is our opinion though that quite often, due to time constraints, the decision is not even being contemplated.
Outsourcing tips and timesavers for SMEs
We predict that outsourcing will continue to be a good option, especially for SMEs, in the immediate future. With the advances in marketing tools and channels, funds can be allocated to measurable activity that will help grow the business.
Here are 5 overall benefits why we think outsourcing will be favoured over insourcing for the foreseeable future and 4 ways how a business might maximise results from doing so:
- Productivity increase – people are free to concentrate on core competencies
- Cost effective – less finance required for outsourcing and savings / cost reduction are paramount for start-ups
- Low risk – marketing accountability is passed on to the agency with the project
- Time management – outsourcing ensures measurable activity / milestones at a relatable cost
- Expertise – Outsourcing opens access to a range of other expertise that agencies use
Maximising the results:
- Treat the agency as a partner
- Provide the agency with very clear objectives
- Be passionate about the project and expect the agency to be as passionate
- Agree up-front whether hourly rates or a project fee suits both parties equally
Availed of at the right time and for the right reasons, outsourcing can provide the knowledge, and the experience, for focused marketing execution. In particular, it can provide the business nous necessary to create value and to successfully deliver upon online marketing objectives.
“Thank you for reading our blog post today” – Aidan & Jim.
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