How Much of Your Marketing Should You Outsource?

Lucy Railton

8/7/19 2:02 AM

Deciding which is the best resource for marketing your business is always a challenge. In the fast-paced marketing environment, many companies already appreciate the benefits of outsourcing.

From the ability to command the services of marketing experts that you may not be able to afford to hire on a full-time basis (especially when you consider wage burden and overhead costs) to the fresh ideas an external team can bring, the decision to outsource is usually a straight-forward one to make.

A recent study from the Canadian Marketing Association and Ipsos shows how prevalent marketing outsourcing is in Canada.The challenge for decision-makers is to work out how much of the marketing function should be outsourced and how much retained in house.

Customized solutions usually work best

Inevitably, the degree of control that you relinquish to an outside agency is dependent on many variables. There's no one-size-fits-all answer.

However, there are a number of considerations that may make it easier to determine whether you should engage an agency for niche services or outsource your entire marketing function to a third party.

Here are some of the pros and cons of each option, giving you the information you need to make decisions that are right for you and your business.

Outsourcing your marketing - clearer boundaries and dynamic results

There are a number of reasons why you might choose to outsource your entire marketing function. Doing this means that a third party will usually be responsible for everything from strategic marketing development through to planning, execution and evaluation.

Essentially, as long as your outcomes are delivered in line with the needs of your organization, how the work is achieved is up to the marketing company.

Common scenarios where an entire marketing department is outsourced include:

  • Established businesses with small teams who prefer to focus on the delivery of their products or services to their customers.
  • Companies that are evolving, growing rapidly, or have cyclical busy periods as outsourced marketing teams are typically able to respond flexibly to changing priorities and needs.
  • Businesses that do not employ full-time human resources employees
  • Companies that are able to commit to a consistent marketing budget for at least 12 months

Advantages of outsourcing the entire marketing function

  • There is a considerable savings in terms of HR (recruitment, staff training, sick pay etc) and overhead (technology, software licenses, rental space, furniture etc), because these responsibilities are borne by the company you contract with.
  • Because the company is responsible for all your marketing, no marketing management is required. That said, vendor management will still be needed to ensure that contracted objectives are met.
  • You get access to experts in their field and are usually able to contract with them for far less than the cost of having them in-house.
  • An outside company will bring a fresh perspective and new ideas to the table.

Things to consider when adopting a complete outsourcing solution

  • By outsourcing, you're not actually gaining competencies for your organization. Should you stop contracting with your marketing partner, you will have no one to fill the role until a new contract is finalized or until you hire internal resources. When the time comes to hire a marketing employee in house, the best practice in this scenario is to have your marketing company help train the new hire then re-evaluate your outsourcing needs.
  • There is no freedom to cherry-pick the best company for each part of the marketing work - once you've contracted out your marketing, the rest is up to them. This may mean that some parts of the work aren't done in the way that you would prefer.
  • Limited control. A good outsourcing company will provide regular updates and reports as well as opportunities for discussion, that can result in re-prioritization or modification of planned activities. However, ultimately you have handed over responsibility for your marketing to a third party and therefore you are relinquishing a degree of control over a key part of your business. For entrepreneurs who have nurtured their business since the start-up phase, the reduced control may not feel like the best course of action for them.

Agency Retainers

An agency retainer is, in some ways, a compromise between marketing that's conducted entirely in-house and marketing which is entirely contracted out. In an agency retainer scenario, a marketing agency is usually paid a fixed amount every month to provide specific marketing work.

This may include activities such as: search engine optimization; content development; graphic design; lead generation; campaign development; Google Ads management; conversion optimization; or social media management.

The work is often managed and complemented by internal marketing resources. In-house marketing teams typically manage the agency contract, as well as have responsibility for strategic development and delivery.

Here are some of the benefits an agency retainer can provide:

  • Often small- and medium-sized B2B companies require marketing expertise that their internal team does not have. An in-house team understands your product or service and market, and can provide the technical information and advice your agency may need to that's needed to ensure expectations are met.
  • Agencies can often manage the grunt work which frees up existing internal marketing professionals to concentrate on strategic priorities. Or vice versa, a junior internal marketing person can execute tactics while an agency provides strategy and planning resources.
  • The work which is contracted out will be completed by highly- skilled marketing staff, avoiding the problems which come with smaller in-house team having to cover a wide-range of competencies.

Considerations when adopting an agency retainer

  • The agency won't necessarily share your corporate culture and ways of working.
  • Gaps in internal marketing competency may become apparent as time goes on. The agency won't fill these without an additional contract.
  • The agency's responsibility is to deliver the scope of work only. Any additional work and or time that may unexpectedly be required will often require a contract addendum.
  • It's not possible to dictate who does what when it comes to the agency tasks.
  • Managing the relationship between your company and the agency in order to secure seamless delivery can be challenging.

Although there's no easy solution to the issue of where marketing work is best placed, taking some time to consider the pros and cons of outsourcing can ultimately lead to better outcomes for your business.

As an established marketing agency, we work with B2B companies in a variety of ways. If you would like to find out more about the benefits working with a skilled, enthusiastic third- party can bring to your business, contact us for a free consultation.