At some point, you likely concluded that marketing your firm to prospects, stakeholders and even your own employees is a good idea. With that decision now made, the next question becomes how to do it—specifically, should your firm’s marketing activities be driven by in-house marketing personnel, or should some of them be outsourced?
There are pros and cons to each approach—but the right answer depends on which will best serve your firm. That means taking stock of your firm’s marketing needs–then deciding how to accomplish your marketing goals in the most cost effectively.
Every firm is different. From staff size and capabilities to niche focus, clients and revenues, no two corporate cultures are alike. These are some key variables to consider right up front.
For large firms with many practice specialties and substantial revenues and resources, keeping marketing in-house to some degree (whether it’s with a staff of 10 or a staff of one) can potentially be beneficial. In-house marketing pros are focused solely on serving their only client—their own firm. They’re also immersed in that firm every day, so they know the products, services, culture and industry inside and out.
Additionally, in-house marketing staffs are often charged with developing and nurturing strategic industry relationships as well as executing creative marketing strategies. A traditional marketing agency certainly possesses the creative skills; but it generally executes on a predefined strategy or program, and any change could necessitate restructuring the program.
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The Alternative: Outsourcing
For small or midsize firms, it still may be advantageous to have someone in-house who quarterbacks marketing—whether that’s a director of marketing or a marketing coordinator. But so often, one person simply can’t handle all the marketing requirements of a firm, no matter its size. That’s why we believe there are many advantages to outsourcing.
Outsourced marketing firms are paid to produce. They can’t bill if they don’t, so if your outsourced marketing isn’t completing projects – or if it’s late in turning work around – then ideally, they share the pain.
Consider a back-of-the-napkin scenario: Take a typical professional-level marketing salary—say $50,000. Add an additional 20% of that (i.e., $10,000) for benefits. Now you’re at $60,000. What does that get you?
Well, as we said earlier, you have a full-time dedicated marketing professional on staff, focused exclusively on positioning your firm to those audiences that you need to reach; implementing programs and projects; and measuring success.
Next, let’s consider a fairly broad list of marketing skills that are essential to drive marketing for any modern firm: strategic marketing planning, content marketing/copywriting, web development (including coding), inbound marketing (including SEO), public relations, graphic and art design, creative direction, social media management, branding, analytics, research and market intelligence—the list goes on.
Now ask yourself, how many of these essential skills does that one full-time marketing professional have? And how many are actually core skills?
The likely answer is, your full-time marketing pro will have some experience in several of these areas, and he/she may be proficient in a select few. But realistically, you won’t attract someone with high competency in all of these areas for $60,000. Even if you do, there’s a limit to the number of projects that this individual can manage at one time. And if one project takes up the lion’s share of that person’s time, what marketing opportunities are falling by the wayside as a result?
Related: Why Does My Competitor Outrank Me?
The Outsourced Approach
Conversely, take that same $60,000, and apply it toward an annual budget for a marketing firm that you hire. Here’s what you’ll get:
- Spot-on strategic planning and recommendations. An outside agency can provide an unbiased, expert analysis of your marketing challenges and opportunities, along with tactics designed to accomplish specific goals—on time and on budget.
- Execution by seasoned pros. Need a new website with optimized content? An outside marketing agency employs experienced designers, coders, copywriters and account supervisors. Chances are, they’ve worked on top-tier brands, and potentially, other companies in your target sector(s). Now, they’re working for you. You’ll gain comfort knowing these experienced pros are doing their job right.
- New ideas and best practices: Hiring an agency to handle your marketing needs allows you to leverage professionals who are immersed in the marketing realm; who are paid to bring new ideas to the table; stay ahead of the curve; and utilize best practices in ways that can energize your firm’s marketing and enable it to really move the needle.
- Fresh outsiders’ perspectives: You know how it goes…you’re living and breathing your business 24/7/365, and perhaps you’re finding it tough to look at your marketing challenges and opportunities through a fresh lens. Outsourced marketing professionals cast fresh eyes on your business; they may propose ideas, strategies and tactics you would have never considered.
Find the Right Outsourced Marketing Agency—Here’s How:
- Match expertise and experience to your needs: Your firm may specialize in serving particular industries. Look for an outsourced marketing partner with experience in many, if not all, of those industries. Additionally, if your firm does have an in-house marketing professional, it’s important to note that person’s strengths and skills, and complement them with marketing skills they may lack.
- Get a handle on costs up front: A marketing agency may seem like an ideal fit—until sky-high estimated program costs make a relationship unfeasible. You need a capable marketing agency with the requisite experience and skills to execute across multiple marketing channels on your behalf—and, their pricing must fit within your budgetary parameters.
- Establish plans, expectations and roles early on: As with any business discipline, planning is essential in marketing. Make sure the outsourced marketing partner you choose is plan and detail-oriented; defines project scopes and costs clearly; establishes deadlines; and delineates who’s responsible for what at each step along the way.
- Embrace the notion of “fit”: If you opt for an outsourced marketing partner, you’ll be working closely with the professionals on its staff. They should be likeable, and you should respect their experience, abilities and resources. This should be someone you want to do business with—in other words, a true business partner.