Read This Before You Hire a Marketing Team

You’ve heard about search engine optimization, but you’re not sure where to start. You want to run a new email marketing campaign, but you don’t know how to draft compelling content. You know your brand is in need of an upgrade, but you aren’t sure if the designers on your team can manage all of the work. As a small business leader, you feel the pressure of marketing and design weighing on your shoulders—and if you don’t perform, the business might suffer because of it. If situations like these plague your thoughts around your business, you might wonder whether or not now is the right time to hire a marketing team.

When it comes to marketing, branding and strategizing, businesses small and large consistently face the same paradox: handle it in-house, or outsource it to a designated agency. On the one hand, handling marketing and creative services in-house can give you complete control over the entire process. On the other hand, outsourcing these services can ensure the best professionals in the field provide the highest quality, rather than trying to manage it yourself.

According to Gartner’s 2016 Marketing Organizational Design and Strategy Survey, one-third of marketing leaders said they would like to strike a better insource/outsource balance. More than half said their current organization relies heavily on agencies and third parties, while only 19% said they have a strong in-house focus. Additionally, over 40% of marketers surveyed plan to increase their use of agencies, which they see as providing superior performance, breadth and depth of skills.

A common misconception exists that hiring a marketing or creative agency is much more expensive than handling things internally; however, when looked at strategically—and in the long run—this is often untrue. Deciding between insourcing and outsourcing isn’t as simple as looking at the budget and determining which method will save the most money. Instead, quality, capacity and control must be taken into consideration.

As Forbes contributor Joshua Steimle says, there is no standard rule of thumb for deciding what to outsource. He writes, “I wish I could tell you that based on my experience you should always outsource in Situation A, but always take it in-house in Situation B, but I can’t.” The only way to make smart marketing decisions is to look at each situation independently, and decide what works best for your business. The truth is there are both pros and cons of insourcing or outsourcing any marketing, branding or creative service, which any successful business owner should understand.

Cons of Insourcing

Forbes estimates running a successful online marketing program usually requires a team of 2-3 individuals, making the in-house cost approximately $200,000 per year on the low end, up to $300,000 per year for an expert team. Unless the costs of paying an agency exceeds about $15,000 per month, it doesn’t make much financial or resourceful sense to focus all of your efforts on in-house marketing.

Instinctively, you might think doing all of your creative and marketing efforts in-house would be the best move, depending on your budget and resources. However, there are definitely some cons when it comes to keeping your marketing in-house. The greatest con? Simply the sheer mass of everything marketing can include.

There’s content and market strategizing, domain research, product positioning and messaging; brand identity includes everything from typography to iconography; or creative work, which can be a constant struggle with web design, copywriting, content marketing, photography or pitch decks. Not to mention other online marketing efforts such as search engine optimization, email marketing, mobile marketing, social media or online PR. Depending on the size and breadth of a business, this can be a lot to take in and try to successfully manage.

Looking at the broad width of everything a business needs to examine in marketing, you could consider hiring a new employee—say, a marketing director. However, more often than not, when looking at the salary, benefits and overhead of paying a new position, it ends up being more expensive than simply outsourcing the work to an agency. As Inc. states, just the cost of hiring an in-house SEO professional runs the average company at least $50,000 per year. Then, even if you do hire on a new team member, there’s no guarantee that he or she will have the professional expertise needed for every avenue of marketing you may want to explore.

If your new team member doesn’t have the experience necessary for a different marketing field, then the business is right back where it started again, only now you’re paying for this team member and paying for an agency on top of it. With all of the various components of marketing and creative services—plus the additional costs of maintaining these services, e.g. blogging, website, social media, etc.—it’s extremely difficult for a small team to handle the workload at an exceptional quality level.

Pros of Insourcing

On the other hand, if you do have an expert marketing team already built up and big enough to handle much of the work and responsibility, insourcing your creative work can have huge benefits. The greatest advantage: your company’s control over the entire situation. When working with an in-house team, you have complete control over individuals’ time, activity and the quality of work they produce.

If your business works in a very particular field, you can also feel confident that the marketing and creative materials you design are specifically targeted to fit your distinct needs. When employees handle your marketing work, they have a complete background and insider knowledge to the workings of your organization, your target audience and even how best to reach that audience. While outsourcing services can definitely reach a high level of industry intimacy, it might take a longer amount of time or never quite reach that same background knowledge as an inside team member has.

There are also lots of ways to manage your in-house marketing for little to no business expense, through various online programs and tools, such as Google AdWordsHubSpot and Hootsuite. If your current team members have the experience, knowledge base and talent to manage marketing and creative services, then insourcing the work can be a great way to meet your needs without having to rely on outside agencies.

Cons of Outsourcing

Probably the greatest struggle many businesses find with hiring an agency is their lack of control in the process. Sure, you have control when it comes to the product, but pricing, time management and quality all depend on which agency you work with. For example, take this experience Dale Traxler shares from Practical Ecommerce:

Another challenge is that good service providers tend to be very busy. I used a talented graphic designer, for example, that I enjoyed. As his clientele grew, it was more difficult to get his time when I needed it. Eventually I was forced to find a new service provider with more flexibility. While the majority of agencies and creative proprietors do have strong time management skills, there’s no guarantee when or how they will be able to handle the work you need.

Additionally, service providers will generally cost more per hour than someone working in-house. However, this depends on the amount of work the company requires. While outsourcing costs more per hour, it can be cheaper for smaller projects, but end up being more expensive for large projects that require a significant amount of work. If your business has a large variety of creative marketing needs, then consistently working with an agency may end up being more expensive than hiring a professional for the team. Your business could also run other risks when outsourcing to an agency, such as: (1) lack of your industry’s knowledge or (2) data breaches. According to Hostgator, studies have shown that 63% of data breaches occur as a result of outsourcing work. When it comes to outsourcing, a lack of a personal relationship and trust with the marketing agency can be difficult for businesses to manage.

Pros of Outsourcing

Ultimately, outsourcing marketing and creative services can also have a wide variety of benefits for a business. The greatest benefit comes in the knowledge, expertise and quality that a professional marketing agency can provide. When insourcing work, team members might not be as well-versed on all the necessary avenues of marketing. Agencies, however, have the experience necessary to successfully build—and maintain—your brand marketing strategy. Marketers stay up to date on current best practices, trends and technology, so your business doesn’t have to. They provide resources which may otherwise be unattainable, such as Google or Hubspot partnerships. And of course, they free up much of the company’s time and assets to be better spent in other areas.

When you work with a marketing agency, you gain a significant amount of “bench depth.” As Venture Beat says:

The best teams in the world have incredible talent, but they also have depth so they can readily adapt to change and adversity. In sports, they call this ‘bench strength.’ The teams with the deepest bench often win championships because they can overcome injury, fatigue and unknowns where other teams fold under this kind of adversity.

Hiring a marketing agency gives your business stronger bench depth, meaning you have a wide variety of skills and services at your fingertips, which no single employee could have alone. To get the same variety of skills an agency can provide, your business would need to hire multiple team members internally.

Depending on the type of project, scope and length of time, outsourcing can also be remarkably less expensive than working in-house. Rather than paying a large sum for a new employee, you instead pay one agency for one specific project at a time. More often than not, this ends up being the more cost-effective solution for businesses. It also frees up time for your own employees to focus on more pressing issues within the company, instead of overloading their capacity with marketing work.

Finally, there exists a certain amount of value in bringing in an outside perspective on a project. Sometimes when a business is working on a marketing or creative piece, the team members involved are so close to the project that they can miss a bigger picture, or an important piece of information. By bringing in a marketing agency, you gain a greater sense of the outside perspective from potential consumers, and can have a deeper look into the best possible option for your project.

As Forbes expresses, there’s no all-encompassing solution to deciding on insourcing vs. outsourcing. The three Cs of critical decision making for every business include competency, capacity and cost. Do the individuals on your team have the competency to achieve your marketing goals? Do they have the capacity to take on more work? Finally, is it more cost-effective for the business to stay in-house? If you answer no to any of these questions, then it may be time to consider outsourcing the services to an agency. Many businesses find that the best method comes from a hybrid of the two. While companies polled by Gartner desired “balance” between insourcing and outsourcing, this balance will look different in every organization. Some services may be managed in-house, while others are better left to an agency. When a business finds an agency it can trust, with prices in its budget and produces high-caliber work, then working through the everyday decisions of insourcing vs. outsourcing becomes less challenging.

At Method Mark, we focus on providing strategic and creative work to launch and communicate our clients’ ideas. We work with high potential small businesses from all sorts of backgrounds to help them execute. As your business works through the decision of outsourcing vs. insourcing, you can feel confident in our ability to provide high-quality work that meets your marketing needs. Consider these pros and cons as you move forward and accelerate your growth through strategy, brand and marketing.

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