For most SME owners, identifying a need to focus on marketing swiftly leads to the in-house vs outsourcing debate. Even within the same industry, no two businesses are the same or employ people with identical skillsets. This means the type of marketing you need and who is most suited to do it will depend on your own unique set of circumstances.
The pros and cons of outsourcing marketing
The most obvious benefit of outsourcing marketing to an agency or a freelancer is the fact that delegating your marketing activities to an experienced external specialist frees you up to do what you do best – run your business.
However, if you or your staff members have existing skills and the time to use them in the area of marketing you wish to focus on, then it makes sense to use the resources you already have. For example, if you have an employee with the time and ability to write engaging blogs or newsletters or keep your social media channels relevant and up to date, there is no point in paying an agency or freelancer to do it for you. After all, no one knows your business like you, so when the right skills and the time to do them are in place, who better than you to do these jobs?
When should you outsource marketing?
When thinking about outsourcing marketing, it’s important to consider the following:
Time: Even if you are lucky enough to have some of the marketing know-how needed within your organisation, you also need to commit to the time needed to make your marketing succeed. All too often, marketing slips down the to-do list for busy SMEs who have to put the day-to-day running of their company first.
The big picture: It’s important to take a step back before you dive in; you may have some of the skills needed to do some aspects of your own marketing, but do you have the expertise to correctly identify which area of marketing will work best for you and why? After all, a marketing campaign is only going to work if someone with the necessary experience clearly defines the areas of marketing that are needed to drive a tangible ROI. In our experience, business owners often have a good idea of some of the things they need, but there may well be areas they haven’t thought of, or areas where they are unaware of the potential benefits.
Money: In-house marketing departments are expensive and if you are a small or newly established business, it may not be a good use of your time or budget to employ someone even on a part time basis in a marketing role. Of course, there is a cost associated with outsourcing, but there is no ongoing financial commitment associated with using a freelancer. Agencies usually work on a retainer basis, but again this is an arrangement that can be changed or cancelled within a notice period as and when your needs change, giving you peace of mind that you are not over-committing financially.
Comprehensive expertise: An experienced PR won’t be able to advise you on a digital marketing strategy and an SEO guru will not have the skills to craft the perfect article pitch. However, using a full-service marketing agency is like having your own marketing department where you can cherry pick the skills you need most, with the option to revise the strategy at any given time. Indeed, many companies with marketing managers successfully outsource aspects of their marketing that they don’t have the skills or time to do, with great results.
Proof: To justify your marketing spend, you need to demonstrate a positive impact on ROI to your stakeholders. As part of their service a good agency will provide you with regular reports showing the impact of your marketing, which will also be used to improve your marketing going forward.
When should you keep marketing in-house?
Keeping marketing in-house works well if you have the skills and time at your disposal either through a dedicated marketing department or through other staff members. As previously mentioned, a hybrid model can be a great idea when you have a marketing manager who cannot be expected to have the time and expertise to personally attend to every marketing task needed.
If you are a very small or start-up company, you may not yet have the budget to spend on marketing. This can be frustrating when you know that marketing would make a difference to your business. In this scenario, you can look to strengths you and your colleagues already have to at least cover some of the basics of your marketing. Even committing to a monthly email newsletter or making sure your social media channels are regularly updated can make a difference. You can also tap into your network for free podcasts, seminars and online courses in the areas of marketing you want to pursue. Not only will this help get your marketing off the ground, but it will also give you a valuable grounding in the kind of marketing you really need and why.
Choosing between an agency and a freelancer
Again, this choice depends on your needs. The crucial difference between an agency and a freelancer is that an agency will be able to come up with a bespoke marketing strategy which they can then pursue on your behalf as part of an agreed plan.
Freelancers can be a great resource for ad hoc work but to get the best from a designer or copywriter, you need to be clear about what you need from them and communicate that through a brief. So, unless you have already done the necessary research to find out what your marketing needs are, a freelancer can’t be expected to execute them for you. Also, unlike an agency, who will agree to do a certain amount of work for you on a retainer, a freelancer’s availability cannot be guaranteed, especially if a job needs to be done at short notice. That said, establishing relationships with trusted freelancers can be a great way to do certain aspects of your marketing.
How to get started with outsourcing
Once you’ve decided outsourcing is for you, it’s time to find the perfect partner. Again, your local network is a great way to find out more about the agencies and freelancers near you. Physical proximity isn’t necessarily a pre-requisite, but it can be incredibly beneficial for local businesses to team up with a local marketing company that understands the area and has a proven track record in working with other local companies. And of course, being geographically close to your marketing company makes meetings easier.
Most marketing companies will offer a free initial consultation. Taking advantage of this is a great way to get a sense of whether an agency can do the work you need and also if it feels like the right fit for you. As well as a marketing consultation, here at the Ideal Marketing Company, we also offer a free website review to give you an insight into how your website is performing and how it can be improved.
To arrange a free, no-obligation marketing consultation with the Ideal Marketing Company, or to find out how it works click here.
Louise is an experienced and versatile copywriter whose passion is bringing any subject to life through the written word. She thrives on using her imaginative approach to identify and implement exciting PR opportunities for clients. A career spent coming up with creative content for tight deadlines in consumer magazine journalism and PR means Louise doesn’t know the meaning of the term ‘writer’s block!’