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“Am I getting the marketing results I want?”

“Are we getting a good enough ROI on the invested resources?”

“Are we creating additional long-term brand value?”

If the answer is no to any of these questions, the next question is, “What are the missing resources needed to generate the results I want?” When confronted with this question, brands face the decision of keeping their marketing in-house, or outsourcing it to an agency or several independent contractors. Some brands take the hybrid approach and do a little of both. So, what is best for you?

Over my 25 years in the industry, I’ve seen the trends ebb and flow from outsourcing marketing to building large in-house marketing divisions. In times of change and economic uncertainty, this question comes up quite often. What are the pros and cons? What approach will deliver better results? Which is more effective? Which is more efficient?

From my perspective, there are reasons for each approach, and I’ve highlighted a few of them below.

Keep marketing in-house when:

  1. Your brand is in its infancy stage: Most start-ups have limited capital to invest. During this time, brands can grow in a grass-roots way using word of mouth and connections to generate awareness and activity. You can test messaging and work through some initial tactics to determine what sticks.
  2. You have task-oriented marketing work: Work that is routine and task-oriented in nature AND is enough to keep a staff member busy full time may create efficiencies when brought in-house. 
  3. You have one primary communication vehicle for driving sales: If you rely solely on one channel for sales, you can hire a uniquely skilled individual to do only that and focus their efforts on being that specific guru for your organization.
  4. You want hands-on 100% control and are willing to pay for it: This is a viable approach when an organization wants their team to be exclusively immersed in their brand and has the financial resources to support a fully expressed, highly creative and skilled in-house team.

Outsource marketing when:

  1. You want an outside perspective: It’s valuable to have an outside perspective to challenge and question the status quo. Many times, brands are so close to their product/service, they miss key opportunities, or they get stuck in doing what they’ve always done. An outside perspective will view challenges and opportunities in new and creative ways.
  2. You want experts in your industry or niche: Experts provide a strategic approach to tackling challenges similar to yours. They quickly bring solutions because they have experienced industry nuances and specific marketing challenges and solved them in the past.
  3. You want an expert with particular skillsets: Most agencies invest in ongoing skill and training development to keep up with the changes in the fast-paced marketing environment. When working with an agency, you have the benefit of deep skill in a variety of disciplines across the agency team. 
  4. You want top talent that is not readily willing or available to work for you full-time: Great talent can be hard to find. Many creative individuals desire variety in the projects they work on, rather than working on one brand day in and day out. Agencies provide that. In addition, having the perspective of someone that has solved many creative challenges in a variety of ways gives you access to additional insight and innovative solutions.
  5. You want the flexibility of using a highly skilled team without the headache of a large in-house staff: Assembling a team of in-house resources is difficult, time consuming and costly. It also involves taking on the burden of managing these additional resources full-time, which presents a greater risk from an HR perspective. Acting as an extension of your team, agencies allow you to connect with a team of dedicated designers, copywriters, social media strategists and more, without having to account for, hire, train and manage a handful or more of team members.

Keep in mind that it’s not necessarily an either/or approach. You don’t have to choose between in-house or outsourcing – you can implement a mixture of both. I’ve seen many brands take a hybrid approach where in-house marketing teams collaborate with an outside agency or outside resources. No matter the mix, it’s important to focus on the results. Reviewing and analyzing your marketing KPIs to see what’s working, what’s not and why will provide you with the viable solution you desire.

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Founded in 1972

As Orange County’s longest-standing, privately held response marketing agency, we have witnessed dynamic shifts in the world of marketing. Through it all, we have ensured our clients stay at the forefront of communication and technology, driving response and value with every new endeavor.