There’s no single answer about whether outsourcing or inhousing marketing is the right way to go. It all depends on the company. The right structure will also change over time – outsource is right for some points in a company’s evolution, while in-house is a better option at different stages of growth.
To help you evaluate what’s right for your company, right now, here are 6 scenarios. Read each one and judge which option you think is best for the situation described.
One caveat before you start reading – real business situations always have more grey than black and white examples. Use your judgement to determine the nuances between and amongst the different scenarios.
6 scenarios for outsourced or in-house marketing
1. Walking over to chat is the way things get done
Some companies are built on face-to-face contact. There is a lot of water-cooler chat, and staff are in the office every day from 9 – 5. They don’t use a lot of technology to communicate, and working from home is a rarity. People stop by each others’ desks to check on project timelines, and to bounce ideas around. It’s the way that things happen.
There’s nothing wrong with this structure – lots of businesses work this way. When it comes to marketing, it can be difficult for outsourcing to work in this structure. Since outsourced marketers won’t be in the office every day, it can be tough for them to get things done.
If your team works based on walking over to a colleague’s desk to discuss an idea or update a situation, outsourced marketing will require a dedicated effort by management to try different ways of working. That might not be a bad thing – the world of work is changing after all – but it’s not to be undertaken lightly.
Which option is best? In this case, in-house marketer is more likely to work, unless management wants (really wants) to try new ways of working.
2. You’ve had high turnover of marketers
Your company has a solid track record and customer base. You’ve had a few in-house marketers over the last 5 years but they haven’t stuck. Either they left to pursue more growth in a company where there were more marketing opportunities, or they didn’t perform well and you let them go.
B2B companies often hire junior marketers because they’re inexpensive. Unfortunately, they’re also inexperienced and can end up wasting more time and money than they save.
In this situation, outsourced marketing is the better bet. Outsourcing avoids the risk of a single in-house hire. It means a company gets a team of marketers who have breadth and depth of skill. They don’t need hand-holding because they’re senior. And they’re less likely to drop your business for a better learning environment elsewhere.
3. It’s difficult to stick to a plan in your business
Some industries change very quickly, which means the companies in those industry need to change just as fast, if not faster. In some other situations, companies like to adapt on a dime to new ideas and options.
If this is the case for your company – in short, your business prefers to make changes week to week or month to month – then outsourcing your marketing will be difficult.
Outsourced marketing companies need to put plans in place in order to scope the relationships they have with their clients. That’s how they know how much to charge, how many staff they’ll need, and what skills are needed. As a result, they can’t make changes on a dime. Yes, they will change and evolve with the company’s needs, but they won’t be able to make significant changes on a weekly basis.
In this scenario, in-house marketer is the better bet.
4. You’re still perfecting your offering
Start-ups and new businesses that are still perfecting their service or product need marketing basics (website, pitch deck) to be credible to potential customers. But they don’t need a significant amount of marketing, because things are likely to be very different just 3 months down the road. Spending a lot on marketing is a recipe for wasting precious dollars in the early stages of a B2B company’s growth.
At this stage, there’s more value in the sales and management team going out and talking to new customers and getting feedback, and making changes to the company’s offering based on what customers say and do.
In this situation, a full-time marketer is overkill. Better to hire a marketing consultant or outsourced company for a short period of time to help you get the marketing basics in place. But don’t spend too much or too long on outsourced marketing at this stage – you’re better to focus on sales and product development until your value proposition and target market is clear.
5. You aren't sure what skills you need in a marketer
Your company knows that it’s time to implement a real marketing function. The problem is, what skills do you need? And what level of skills? Should you hire a single senior person and get them to do everything, or a junior person and hope that they’ll learn quickly? How do you recruit effectively when you aren’t sure what kind of marketing you need to be doing, and how to measure the success of your marketer?
In this situation, outsourced marketing is the better option. An outsourcing company will be able to provide a breadth and depth of skills and experience (more than a single person can), and over the course of working with them you’ll learn what skills you need.
6. You need a senior marketer, but can’t afford one
There’s a distressingly common scenario in mid-sized B2B companies who decide to initiate a marketing function. They hire junior in-house marketers because they come with a price-tag that’s half (or less) of what a senior marketer costs.
The problem with this is that junior marketers rarely know how to lead a strategic B2B marketing function, and they fail to accomplish much and leave the business with wasted time and money, and skepticism towards marketing.
A better option for companies who need serious marketing leadership and execution but don’t need a full-time senior (expensive) marketer is outsourcing. They can get access to the expertise they need, on a fractional basis. This saves money on the senior hire, and leaves budget available for a junior resource to execute the marketing activities.
Outsourced marketing works best when a B2B company:
- has a good handle on what it offers and to whom
- is comfortable operating against a plan
- is at the early stages of its marketing evolution – ie, isn’t sure what marketing skills it needs, what level and what breadth
- has a limited budget
An in-house marketing team works best when a B2B company:
- prefers a highly-flexible marketer who will always be on-site, but might have less experience
- existing management can offer guidance and leadership for the marketing function
- has a budget for a multi-person team
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