All marketing teams are faced with limited time and resources, so it’s often a necessity to outsource digital marketing services so in-house marketers can focus on core competencies. The tricky part is deciding which digital marketing functions should be contracted out.
In this article, we’re exploring which digital marketing tasks are commonly outsourced and which are best left in-house, particularly for B2B companies. While there is no one-size-fits-all approach for delegating digital marketing tasks, some functions are easier to manage for internal members of a team, while bigger projects or specialized services often warrant the undivided attention of a third-party expert.
Before determining which parties will be responsible for your various digital marketing efforts, it’s crucial to define your marketing mix, budget, bandwidth and the capabilities of your in-house team. Your budget and your internal team’s proficiency will ultimately be the biggest factors in which services should be outsourced.
(We recently discussed a similar topic on our podcast – The Crux. You can listen to that episode below.)
The marketing services below are highly specialized or technical in nature, and are often delegated to a marketing agency or consultant.
1. Website Design and Development
Website development is probably the most technically demanding field out of any digital marketing need, and it’s a field that’s constantly evolving. In my opinion, it should be outsourced over any other digital marketing service. Your website is the centerpiece of your digital presence for lead generation, market positioning, brand recognition and customer service, so skimping on web development usually ends in agony.
The main reason for outsourcing this type of work is the technical skill and experience it requires to design a sleek, secure, accessible, intuitive, and conversion-oriented website. Third-party web designers and developers get to continuously hone their skills by working on new projects – a luxury that’s typically not afforded to in-house marketers. Agencies also focus heavily on professional development and keeping up with industry trends and technological advancements, and often leverage cutting-edge software and specialized plugins to maximize efficiency during the development process. In-house digital marketing teams would have to shell out beaucoup bucks just to keep up.
I know what you’re thinking – an in-house team can probably cobble together a basic block-builder website, but it often comes at the expense of aesthetics, lead generation, conversion rate optimization, security, and scalability. In-house website jobs are usually obvious. They’re difficult to navigate. They’re inflexible. They’re inaccessible to users with disabilities. They ignore the needs of SEO or conversion rate optimization. But most of all, they’re usually really, really ugly.
It’s also not often that an internal marketer can offer undivided attention to a massive undertaking like a web design or redesign project. There’s no guarantee an in-house approach will even allow you to save money – dedicated agencies and web developers can usually achieve the same amount of work in a fraction of the time. Think about delegating a web development project to a marketing coordinator who’s paid $50,000 annually – are you even saving money if they take three or four months to build it? Especially when you consider the final result?
Save yourself the time, effort and potential lost revenue by looking into quotes for your next web design or redesign project.
2. Creative and Branding
Marketers typically hire agencies or dedicated designers for major branding or rebranding projects, and for good reason: bad design is obvious. For smaller businesses, it’s tough to justify having a full-time designer on staff, and even then, in-house designers may not have significant experience with the intricacies of branding work like logo creation and style guide development.
Design is another field where practice makes perfect, so it’s often best to outsource major branding efforts or multi-channel design projects rather than hiring within. Third-party agencies and designers are consistently working on new projects and honing their craft. Additionally, branding agencies usually have designers with different specialties at their disposal, allowing them to excel at conceptualizing designs for all types of digital mediums.
That said, it’s often not cost-effective or timely to rely on a third-party designer for every social media, email, or blog graphic. Having basic graphic design proficiency in-house can help out in a pinch, even if it just involves adjusting templated designs or utilizing basic Adobe Photoshop skills.
3. Search Engine Optimization
Search engines are often the leading source of traffic and leads for B2B websites, making search engine optimization (SEO) a crucial component of any B2B marketing mix. SEO is a field that is constantly evolving and requires intimate familiarity with search engine algorithms, content strategy, and technical requirements for websites. Because of this, companies tend to hire SEO agencies or consultants to guide their search strategy.
Unless you have a wide array of website properties or a massive website presence with over 1,000 pages, it’s tough to justify having a full-time SEO expert. Search strategy is also guided in large part by cutting-edge software suites, some of which come with a hefty price tag.
This is one area you’ll probably want to outsource unless you have someone with substantial SEO experience on your team. Even then, you’ll likely be paying for software and professional development on an ongoing basis to keep up with your competition on search engines.
4. Digital Advertising
Like SEO, digital advertising is a specialized field that’s constantly evolving. It would require a considerable advertising budget to warrant hiring a full-time employee that’s solely dedicated to managing digital ad campaigns.
However, outsourcing digital advertising is highly dependent on budget – it might not make sense to hire a consultant if their management fees amount to half of your monthly ad budget. Though for medium-sized businesses and up, digital advertising experts typically provide significant cost-per-click savings, more precise targeting, and are dedicated to constantly improving performance.
It’s important for in-house teams to be familiar with the basics of pay-per-click (PPC) and programmatic advertising, bidding, and budgeting to ensure they’re getting their money’s worth from an agency or consultant. However, the day-to-day management and nuances of bidding and targeting are typically best left to advertising experts.
On the Fence:
These marketing efforts could be satisfied by agencies or in-house depending on your marketing mix, budget, and internal prowess. They’re often managed internally with strategic guidance or support from a third-party marketing expert.
Copywriting is one of the most common skills among marketing professionals, and it’s often largely handled in house. In-house employees typically have more familiarity with the industry and closer access to subject matter experts within the company, so day-to-day content tasks tend to be handled internally.
However, outsourcing longer-form content projects often makes sense. For content initiatives like eBooks, white papers, case studies, video scripts, or website content, it may be best to work with a dedicated copywriter for their expertise and commitment to a schedule. It’s also helpful to get an outside perspective from time to time for ideating new messaging.
2. Social Media Marketing
B2B brands often lean on agencies or consultants for strategic social media guidance, audits, or paid advertising strategy, but it may not be cost-effective to rely on a third party for all of your company’s social media activity. Even with an outside agency managing your social platforms, it still typically requires an internal team member to define the editorial calendar and provide authentic customer, employee, and stakeholder experiences. Without intimate access to day-to-day operations and genuine multimedia assets, social media channels can feel somewhat robotic.
Especially for deeper niches in the B2B space, organic reach on social media can be somewhat limited and may not be a major driver of qualified leads. Outsourcing the technical pieces like advertising targeting and bidding makes sense, but otherwise, it’s probably best left in house.
3. Email Marketing & Marketing Automation
Almost any small business can manage basic email marketing campaigns through platforms like MailChimp and Constant Contact. However, configuring marketing automation platforms like SharpSpring and Pardot is a totally different beast. There are also a host of privacy implications for more rigorous marketing automation workflows due to regulations like GDPR and CCPA.
B2B brands often lean on agencies or experts for the initial configuration and implementation of marketing automation or CRM workflows, and then are able to manage these platforms on their own over time. However, this service really varies based on internal competency and the level of complexity of your email workflow and automation.
Best Left In-House:
No one knows a business better than its own employees, so it’s best to handle big-picture strategy, goal setting, and performance tracking internally.
1. Overarching Strategy
It’s impossible to implement a sensible digital marketing strategy without intimate knowledge of the industry, market positioning, and the long-term goals of the organization. Marketing managers can lean on third-party experts for sanity checks for their digital marketing mix or a review of an individual channel or campaign, but the strategic direction and long-term goal setting should ultimately come from within the organization.
2. Content Strategy
Similar to the broader marketing strategy, content marketing efforts should align with your organization’s goals and relate to your target market. In-house digital marketers deeply understand the competitive advantages of their products or services along with their target market’s needs, concerns, and pain points. They also are intimately familiar with direction from leadership, company culture, sales, and industry news. Without a pulse on the authentic happenings within the company and industry at large, content initiatives can ring hollow.
3. Analytics & Measurement
How can you gauge the ROI of your digital marketing initiatives without any data on performance? How can you justify hiring a digital marketing agency or consultant without evidence of their value? All internal marketing teams need a basic understanding of digital analytics, and should be able to identify the sources of online traffic and leads.
It’s also crucial that you have a properly implemented analytics platform to begin with to ensure you’re able to capture accurate data. Without a strong grasp on reporting within Google Analytics, a CRM, or another digital analytics platform, it makes it incredibly difficult to defend your digital marketing budget or justify working with consultants.
Define Your Plan and Delegate
The best in-house marketing directors are able to clearly plan their digital marketing mix and delegate effectively. Determining which services should be outsourced is much easier after defining a budget, channel priorities, and the internal proficiencies within your team. There’s no one-size-fits-all answer for outsourcing digital marketing services, so really consider your budget, marketing mix, and the strengths within your team to guide your decisions.
If you’re looking for more guidance on defining a digital marketing plan, please contact us for a free consultation. We’ll help you define your digital marketing opportunities, strengths, and weaknesses, and can help to determine which services make the most sense to outsource for your team.