Digital Marketing – Outsource it or Keep it In-house?

Every day, billions of people use the internet and smartphones.  Because of this, digital marketing has become one of the most important aspects of an organization’s overall marketing strategy.

What is digital marketing?

Digital marketing can mean slightly different things to different people. For example, the tactics used by an e-commerce platform will be different from bricks and mortar businesses. 

The most common types of activity encompassed within digital marketing include: 

Content marketing

The shift towards content marketing has been significant over the last decade. Creating and distributing valuable content to your target audience to build awareness, trust, and inbound leads. 

Content marketing can take the form of blogs, whitepapers, video content, case studies, infographics, and podcasts.

Social media marketing

There are a number of social media platforms used by brands in order to drive traffic and engagement. While much of the activity on social media can be classed as content marketing, the chance to listen and engage with an audience makes it a viable marketing channel in its own rite. 

Social media continues to evolve as new platforms emerge. The most popular being Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, Snapchat, WeBo, and TikTok. 

Search engine optimization (SEO)

Gaining quality organic traffic through major search engines such as Google and Bing. Strategies can include optimizing websites, building backlinks, and SEO friendly content. 

Search engine marketing (SEM)

The other side of the search engine coin to SEO. Search engine marketing refers to the paid activities used to increase search engine visibility and drive traffic through Google Adwords or Bing Ads. 

Affiliate marketing 

This particular form of marketing is becoming extremely popular. Affiliate marketing is when a person or company is paid a set commission for every sale or traffic they generate for another company. This particular form of marketing is popular with bloggers and solopreneurs, who can pivot content quickly in order to showcase affiliate links. 

Every year Amazon pays out hundreds of millions of dollars in affiliate fees and is one of the most popular programs of its kind in the world. 

Pay per click (PPC)

Similar to paid search, you pay a pre-set amount whenever someone clicks on your ad. 

Email marketing 

The granddaddy of digital marketing. Every year we hear that email marketing is dead, but it is still a staple of a solid digital marketing strategy. When it’s done properly, regular or automated email marketing is still a powerful tool, especially combined with personalized marketing techniques. 

Instant messaging and bots

WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, and WeChat have, between them, billions of users all around the world. That is an unmissable opportunity for brands looking to get their messages out there. 

The use of bots, in particular on Facebook, is a great way of interacting with your audience in a scalable, on-brand way. 

What does it mean to outsource digital marketing? 

Outsourcing your digital marketing means that you are using a person, company, or companies to take care of those aspects of your overall marketing strategy. This could be for a number of reasons including a budget, lack of internal resources, or being too big or too small to be able to have the necessary resources in the house. 

What does in-house digital marketing mean?

An in-house team will plan, execute, and report on all digital marketing activities using a team employed by the organization. 

What are the benefits of outsourcing digital marketing 

There are many reasons that you might want to outsource your digital marketing, including: 

Budget  – smaller businesses know that they need to implement some form of digital marketing to grow, but cannot afford to hire a team full time to do this. Instead, they will use third-party/parties to plan and implement digital marketing on their behalf. Types of outsourcing could include web design, social media, SEO, and so on. 

Knowledge – because digital marketing companies make their money from just that, they need to keep their knowledge, skills, and technologies on the leading edge at all times. You can benefit from this continuing development without having to put yourself off your team through the recommended training or costs. 

What are the cons of outsourcing digital marketing? 

There are some potential downsides to turning over your digital marketing to a third party. 

Less personal – by handing over your marketing strategy to someone else, you might find that your brand begins to develop in different ways in order to attract new audiences and customers. If you’ve been responsible for your brand and marketing to date, it can be difficult to let go. 

Finding the right team can be difficult – while working with the right team can fundamentally change your business success for the better, choosing the wrong team can be damaging. 

It takes time to find the right people. You need to work with those that you connect with and work hard for you. There are plenty of horror stories out there that put people off hiring an outside agency. 

You need to commit to a strategy – in order to create a comprehensive digital marketing campaign, you need to commit to a budget, and strategy at the outset, as well as have. It is unfair for you to move the goalposts frequently. You’ll also need to sign something along the lines of a digital marketing proposal and it’d make sense to get acquainted with one prior to signing it.

You are one of a number of clients – your business may not be as important to them as you’d like it to be. That’s not to say that you won’t be treated professionally, but you cannot always expect to be a top priority. 

What are the benefits of in-house digital marketing?

Dedicated to one client, you – there are no other clients vying for your marketing team’s attention, so you know that your company always takes top priority. 

Quicker response times – if your marketing team works with others within your organization on various tasks, having a team on-site, dedicated to you can cut out a lot of red tapes. For example, if a certain department has an idea for a campaign or would like something promoted at short notice, you don’t have to try and negotiate with an outsourced team to try and bump your request to the top of the list. 

Better brand knowledge – because the team is part of your organization, they live and breath your brand every day. This can then be translated seamlessly into your campaigns. 

What are the cons of in-house digital marketing?

Costs – as covered earlier in the article, digital marketing encompasses a lot of different specialisms. Recruiting and training people in all of these areas can be very expensive. In addition to salaries, you also have to consider recruitment costs, benefits and ongoing training needs. 

Skill levels – each area of digital marketing could be done by one person full time. But it is usually down to a few people who are expected to do everything. They often end up gravitating towards the areas they prefer, or never developing in-depth knowledge in a number of areas. 

Potential to be overworked – if you hire a single person to do all of your digital marketing, as well as your traditional marketing tasks, you run the real risk of burning them out quickly. 

Fewer contacts and special deals – digital marketing agencies can often have great contacts and deals in place with other sites or providers. In house teams often don’t have the time of the financial clout to do this. 

Less strength in depth – if you are using an agency and someone is out sick, then there are usually other people who can take over the project at short notice. This usually isn’t the case with small in house teams. If someone in your team leaves, you are without any skill in certain areas until they are replaced. 

Does it make sense to combine the two? 

Many businesses find a good balance between in-house teams and outsourcing. It usually works best when there is an experienced marketing point person who can lead on the strategy development and then recruit and oversee the people or companies who will then actually implement the digital marketing campaigns. 

This works well for a number of reasons. Having a single point of contact who has overall responsibility for digital marketing helps to streamline planning and decisions. Small in-house teams can also take care of some of the days to day digital marketing tasks that need doing and respond to in house requests quickly. 

From a digital marketing agency perspective, it is always easier to deal with someone who knows what they are doing when it comes to leading a marketing function within a company and has realistic expectations. 

For those companies who are deciding whether or not to recruit an in-house team, or outsource, this article provides some of the pros and cons of each course of action. Remember, what works for one company will not always work for another. It might make sense to outsource your digital marketing requirements at the beginning, then move towards a blended team as you scale up. Alternatively, if you are large enough to recruit a full digital marketing team, then you will have an entire department dedicated only to your organization.

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