In-house or outsource? That is the question.
Recently, the Association of National Advertisers reported that 78% of its members now have an in-house team, compared with 58% in 2013. The primary driver for this increase was a desire to save money.
But from my experience moving projects in-house often doesn’t work out to be as cost-effective as we hope.
In fact, done right, it’s the outsourced projects that actually end up saving money.
1. Marketing is becoming too fragmented to be handled in-house
It’s increasingly unrealistic to expect one team to be the jack-of-all-trades. Take digital marketing as an example. You have website and experience (UX) designers, programmers, content developers, social media marketers, digital advertisers and search engine optimisers. It’s not feasible for one team to do them all at the highest level.
This isn’t just my view, but that of the industry as whole.
A 2017 survey by the Institute of Direct and Digital Marketing found the industry is moving away from all-purpose marketing. One third of responders expected their teams to become more specialised, versus just 3% who thought they would be more generalised.
Specialist agencies give you everything you need
Agencies already have the talent and knowledge in place. You don’t have to deal with all the HR, hiring, and overheads required to fill increasingly fragmented roles. You gain instant access to all the experts you need.
2. In-house teams struggle to stay up-to-date
Beyond cost, a second argument made for taking work in-house is that this will foster a better understanding of the brand. This may well be true. But does it foster a better understanding of marketing? Tactics, trends, concepts – is the in-house team at the cutting edge when it comes to what is currently working well and what is not?
Content marketing is a great example here. Sure, the concept has been around for decades, even centuries. Benjamin Franklin was a (very) early adopter. But only in the last few years has its potential started to be realised.
The Content Marketing Institute didn’t even exist until 2007. A decade later and it’s collected enough data to show just how things are changing. Let’s take one example: In 2013, just 38% of business to business (B2B) marketers used infographics. In 2018, this had shot up to 65%.
Outsourcing lets you stay ahead of the game
Keeping the skills and knowledge required to stay on-trend can be expensive and time consuming. Even more so if you’re trying to do everything. The more you struggle to keep up, the more things spiral, the more costly it gets.
Specialist agencies have training in place to make sure everyone is up-to-date. In fact, the very best ones will be setting the trends, not following them.
3. In-house marketing eats away at time and creativity
Sure, sometimes the great idea just pops into your head during the drive home. But most creative thinking takes time, something a lot of in-house departments don’t have.
You actually have less, not more, control over the time of your in-house team. This is because everyone in the company wants to use them for every little thing. Their easy access becomes a problem, rather than the advantage it should be.
Outsourcing will give you freedom
By outsourcing you save yourself time. You can concentrate your efforts on leading the company with the right strategy and tactics, rather than getting caught up in the day-to-day intricacies of marketing campaigns.
Back in 2002, a longitudinal study of creativity and time pressures was undertaken on 177 people over 30 weeks by Harvard University. It found that time pressures severely hindered our cognitive processes related to creative thinking.
Great creativity will cut costs down the line. Your campaign gets the desired results, so you don’t have to spend more money trying something different.
4. Going in-house doesn’t necessarily mean you get a better ROI
Some people take marketing in-house because it’s easier to track the work done by employees and get a handle on the return of investment (ROI).
In the past this was probably true. But the digital revolution has swiftly changed not just how we work, and how we keep track of the work done.
Agency spend can be easily justified
There are now a huge range of digital metrics that can be used to monitor agency effectiveness. You can ask to see timesheets for a start. And you can monitor weekly website traffic, searches, referrals, and click-throughs.
Analysing this data will give you a very accurate feel for just how much work your agency is doing and how effective it is. This way you will be able to measure ROI and justify your spending.
In reality, some projects are going to be better off in-house, some better off at an agency. The real challenge is deciding which will garner the best results in the long run – both in terms of cost and effectiveness.