In-house vs. outsourced marketing – which is best for you?
What may work best for B2B brands.
As a B2B brand, should you outsource marketing or keep it in-house? The general answer is you should do a bit of both.
There are some marketing skills you will have within your organisation that form part of its core competence. However, other marketing skills are better outsourced, either because they are commoditised or because they are specialist, and you’ll never get ROI on your training investment. There may also be times when you simply need a helping hand to meet extra capacity demands.
But the best solution for you will likely depend on your marketing strategy.
Marketing agency vs. in-house marketing staff
We should perhaps first highlight the costs and responsibilities involved in building a team in-house over outsourcing to a marketing agency or using flexible knowledge workers, such as contractors, interims, and freelancers. For example, you will have:
• employee recruitment and induction costs
• to draw up contracts of service or employment contracts, which are governed by employment law and come with ‘employment risk’
• the risk of absences for holidays, sickness, resignation, redundancy, breaches of confidentiality, fraud or theft
• to invest in training and development - if you want to retain employees and your competitive edge then you need to invest in them. Training and development costs money, as does the time out to learn
Like every profession, marketing has a range of specialisms that require different skills to deliver. One person, or a small team in-house, can’t be skilled across all these marketing disciplines. So, if you’re missing a vital skill in-house, you will need to find a marketing agency that can provide the skills you need.
Additionally, in-house teams can be difficult to scale quickly without hiring more people, and this has time and resource costs attached to it. You must also provide the infrastructure for your employees to do their job efficiently. This means an office, or a physical location for meetings, equipment supply and maintenance, such as laptops, tablets and phones, the software and tech platform licences that come with these, and the wider IT, finance, payroll, human resources and management infrastructure required to manage and resource employees.
The benefits of hiring a marketing agency
If you outsource to an agency, you’re not responsible for any of the above. Agencies typically have:
• no direct recruitment costs
• no employment contract or employment risk, and the agency is responsible for maintaining continuous service during periods of absence – your contract with the agency is for services and governed by contract law, not employment law
• access to relevant skills and expertise – you don’t need to assemble a skilled team as it has been done for you
• the ability to scale up at short notice
• no resourcing requirements, although you may choose to embed an agency team within your organisation physically, but the benefits of this arrangement may outweigh the additional space and infrastructure costs
Of course, your organisation will indirectly pay many of the costs of employing people via your agency fee, but you’ll be one of many clients covering the overheads and you don’t have the management headache of simply making it all happen. That’s worth a lot of money and time, meaning you can focus on managing your brand and strategy.
The value of having marketing skills in-house
Now, you might be thinking:
• you would say that wouldn’t you, you’re a marketing agency, and;
• why would anyone ever employ someone if they come with all these challenges?
However, this is not what we’re saying. Every B2B brand must retain certain skills and experience in-house and a body of corporate knowledge. This is vital for the continued growth and development of the brand. And the most effective way to do this is to employ people.
If you have some marketing personnel in-house, you will have people who know the ins and outs of the organisation and understand its products and services more fully. This will give them greater knowledge of how to market those products and services, which should prove invaluable. And you won’t need to spend time – and money - briefing an agency on a product or service.
The core marketing skills every B2B brand should have in-house
There are key marketing skills and activities you either can’t outsource or, for a variety of reasons, should not outsource. One of these marketing skills is strategic.
You should certainly lean on the expertise that experienced marketing consultants or an agency can provide, but you should control and manage the development and implementation of your marketing strategy in-house. Marketing and brand strategy are one of those core competencies, just like your operational or intellectual property, that deliver competitive advantage.
Every B2B brand needs at least one senior marketing and communications professional for this reason. How many people you need on your strategic marketing management team will depend on your organisation, but if you’re reading this as a CEO, managing director or owner-manager and you don’t have an in-house marketer, get one.
This may sound strange coming from a strategic marketing agency, and we’d love to take your money for delivering consultancy, but you – and we – benefit from that strategic insight and understanding that comes from having a senior marketer either on your senior leadership team or reporting directly into it.
Proposition, solution and product skills
At the other end of the spectrum, you will have product managers, product marketers or solutions champions – whatever you call the people closest to your core proposition. In a business that provides ‘things’, this role is usually called product manager or product marketer. In many B2B organisations, particularly those with a consultative sales process and smaller businesses, this is often labelled a sales function.
Only by being inside your organisation and living your proposition day-to-day can you really understand the benefits of a complex proposition and have the knowledge and experience to serve markets and your customers at one end, and the operations teams who develop and deliver your proposition at the other. Product marketers and sales consultants have a unique perspective and are a vital link between your business and customers.
This role, whether it’s a product manager or sales consultant, must be an employed position, and these are the types of employees you want to retain as they hold core knowledge assets and form part of your competitive advantage.
This sort of knowledge is also a key element of the human capital that adds value to your brand from a business value perspective. Any acquirer would want this unique blend of internal and external knowledge, although acquirers don’t always recognise the value of this asset and let go the very people who could optimise the true value of the acquired asset.
All other requirements can be outsourced to a marketing agency and managed by your in-house senior marketer and an agency/project management team.
Building the best marketing team for your business
It’s important to identify what core skills you need in-house, and which of those skills you have already. You can then decide what needs to be outsourced to build the best marketing team. In making these decisions, it can be useful to confer with an outside agency.
We can help you create the optimal balance between your in-house and outsourced marketing resource that will deliver your brand and business objectives.