In-House vs Outsourced Digital Marketing: What's The Best Option For Your Business?
In the competitive digital-first economy of the 2020s, having a robust digital marketing strategy in place is now essential for businesses of all sizes. However, the question of how best to implement that strategy is as relevant as it’s ever been. As a small business, is it better to ‘do your marketing yourself’, maybe with the support of a small in-house team, or outsource your digital marketing to an agency? As an established digital marketing agency, we are clearly strong supporters of the agency model, but are also aware that working with an agency isn’t the best choice for everybody – so in this article, we’ll look at the pros and cons of both approaches to help you make the right choice for your business.
In-house digital marketing: pros and cons
- Understanding of your business: probably the main advantage of doing your digital marketing in-house is that your in-house team will be inherently familiar with the ins and outs of your business – in a way that an agency won’t be at first. Your in-house team will live and breathe your company culture, vision, mission, and values, and this intimate knowledge can be advantageous when developing marketing messages that align with your customer’s needs.
- Control and flexibility: hosting your marketing team in-house gives you direct control over all your marketing operations, allowing you to oversee every aspect of your campaigns, from conceptualisation to execution. This level of control enhances your flexibility, allowing you to respond rapidly to market changes, internal shifts, and feedback from customers without having to go through lengthy communication chains with an agency. However, it should be noted that most small business owners don’t have the time for this level of micromanagement, and usually have more pressing things to do with their time. In fact, one of the key points in favour of working with an agency is the valuable time savings it brings for overstretched business owners and their teams.
- Team integration: with your in-house marketers working in the same office as other departments in the company, including sales, customer service, and product development, you’re well placed to promote a cohesive approach to marketing, aligning all facets of your business towards the same goals.
- Blind spots: deep familiarity with your business brings a greater risk of blind spots, in which in-house staff focus on what they think is great about the business, rather than what the customer actually needs. An agency partner will have an external and less biased perspective that can help you identify and overcome these blind spots to create a more customer-centric and insightful digital marketing approach.
- Higher costs: recruiting and sustaining an in-house marketing team can be extremely costly, with expenses that go beyond salaries to include physical office space, training, software, and computer equipment. These overhead costs can quickly add up, making a fully-tooled marketing team unattainable for most small and mid-sized businesses operating on a modest budget. Often the choice comes down to hiring one or maybe two marketing people in-house, or working with an entire team of specialists through an agency.
- Limited expertise: in-house marketing teams often lack the diverse skill sets and up-to-date knowledge required to cover all areas of digital marketing effectively, from content creation to data analysis, social media management, and SEO. An individual marketer can’t be a specialist in all areas. Furthermore, staying up-to-date with the latest changes in digital marketing can be challenging for an in-house team focused solely on your business, who may not have much time available for continual professional development (CPD) or networking with other marketers.
- Resource constraints: smaller businesses may struggle to hire a full-fledged marketing team due to financial limitations, and when hired, your marketing staff may not have the budget to do everything they need to deliver the best results for your company. These limitations could result in a small team juggling multiple roles and making difficult compromises, potentially undermining the effectiveness and quality of your marketing strategy.
Outsourcing to a digital marketing agency: pros and cons
- Cost effectiveness: outsourcing your digital marketing to an experienced agency can – perhaps counterintuitively – be a cost saving strategy for smaller businesses, helping your budget go further and avoiding expensive mistakes. An established agency, for example, will often provide a range of scalable services, allowing you to customise your service package to meet your budget and business objectives. This flexibility helps eliminate unnecessary overheads and ensures that you only pay for the services you need – unlike with an in-house team, which costs the same regardless of the results they bring in. Moreover, outsourcing avoids the cumbersome costs associated with recruiting staff in-house, including salaries, pensions, benefits, training, and retention, as well as the cost of purchasing, licensing, and updating specialist marketing software, not to mention maintaining the IT infrastructure necessary for housing an in-house team.
- Diverse expertise: marketing agencies typically employ a diverse team of marketing specialists with unique skill sets and experience levels in different areas of digital marketing, giving the agency a well-rounded approach and the capability of tackling any challenges your business may face. This gives you access to established expertise in strategic planning, commercial writing, branding, search engine optimisation, video creation, social media, data analysis, and more – in a way that you wouldn’t have with one or two in-house marketers.
- Focus on core competencies: outsourcing your digital marketing empowers your in-house team to stay focused on what they do the best, without splitting their time and attention into other areas. Whether it’s product development, sales, customer service, operations, allowing your senior team to use their working day to fulfil their critical functions can enhance productivity and operational efficiency, while also reducing stress levels.
- Outside perspective: working with an agency brings a fresh and unbiased perspective to your marketing strategy. Having worked with a wide range of clients across different industries, they will be strongly placed to give you unique insights and provide innovative solutions that might not occur to your in-house team immersed in your business’s internal culture and viewpoint.
- Access to advanced marketing tools: marketing agencies usually have access to state-of-the-art marketing tools and technologies, avoiding you having to invest in these technologies yourself. These tools include marketing automation platforms such as HubSpot, analytics tools, content management systems, CRM tools, and others, allowing the agency to give you valuable data driven insights, track your campaign performance, and enhance the effectiveness of your marketing strategy through predictive analytics and automation.
- Potential communication issues: a digital marketing agency partner is effectively an extension of your in-house team, so it’s essential to find an agency that’s a good fit with your business in terms of communication style, location, business ethos, and values. Communication issues can easily arise, leading to misunderstandings, duplicated effort, or delays in campaign execution. It may also take time for your agency partner to fully understand your business, unique selling propositions, and the needs of your customers.
- Mismatched company culture: an agency partner may not automatically comprehend your company culture, brand identity, or values, which are crucial elements in creating an authentic and effective marketing strategy. This cultural gap can lead to marketing campaigns that don’t fully represent your brand or resonate with your target audience, potentially affecting customer perception and engagement. However, these communication and cultural issues can normally be avoided through a thorough onboarding process with your agency that focuses on your business objectives and the genuine purchase motivations and pain points of your customers, and how your services and products align with these needs.
Given the increasing number of business owners who rely on search engines, mobile applications, and social media for the information they need to make business decisions, the importance of a well optimised digital marketing strategy cannot be overstated. A strong digital marketing presence can help you build greater brand awareness, generate leads, and drive growth – and unless you already have the resources, technologies, and knowledge in place to do this in house, you will achieve faster results and better value for money by outsourcing this function to an agency.
For a discussion of your digital marketing goals and to find out more about the benefits of working with an experienced agency, please get in touch with JDR today by clicking here.
Image Source: Canva