For small and medium-sized business owners, deciding who should take charge of your marketing – be it an in-house team or an external agency– is like navigating a maze.
We get it. As seasoned marketers, the TrafficSoda team has walked this maze from both sides. Yes, we provide digital marketing services. But we also do the bulk of our own marketing in-house, and we’ve outsourced things to other agencies, too.
The stakes are high, and options almost limitless. One wrong turn could leave you lost (not to mention out-of-pocket.) And with the current downturn, now more than ever, you need marketing solutions that are not only effective but also economical.
This guide is intended to help lead you toward the best path for your company.
While we often praise working with a marketing agency, we’re not here to sell you our services—because that doesn’t always make sense.
Instead, we want to empower you to make the best decision for your unique needs. Remember, this isn’t about making a snap decision—it’s about making the right decision.
Why Outsourcing to a Marketing Agency is a Game-Changer
While outsourcing isn't the perfect fit for every scenario, its benefits are hard to ignore.
From accessing a team of experts to gaining fresh perspectives, outsourcing your marketing efforts might just be the game-changer your business needs.
- More Marketing Talent Per Dollar. For the cost of one or two full-time employees, you tap into the collective knowledge, creativity, and expertise of an entire team of marketing professionals. A team that is always on top of the latest trends, algorithms, and strategies to stay relevant.
- Fresh Perspective. You know the saying, “Too close to the picture to see the frame?” Often, in-house marketers are so deeply immersed in the business’s day-to-day that it’s hard to step back and see the big picture. Marketing agencies, on the other hand, offer a fresh set of eyes and an outside-the-box perspective.
- Higher ROI. When you consider the added costs associated with onboarding, training, managing, and providing necessary tools for an in-house team, the value of outsourcing is evident. Essentially, you’re buying time, expertise, and results without the administrative burden (or stress.) Your budget goes further, ultimately driving a higher return on investment.
Working with an agency gets you access to a broader range of marketing talent, priceless perspective, and the potential for significant cost savings from day one.
The question is, is outsourcing the right choice for your unique business?
Navigating the Challenges of Agency Marketing
Hiring an agency comes with its share of potential obstacles.
We’ve worked with many companies who were recovering from less-than-ideal agency experiences, and three common problems stand out:
- Communication Barrier. Effective and timely communication can become a challenge when your marketing team isn’t right down the hall but across town (or even the globe).
- Lack of Business Context. While agencies bring a fresh perspective to your marketing strategy, they might lack the intricate knowledge of your business, product, or services that your in-house team has.
- Limited Scope for Smaller Projects. Agencies often work on multiple clients simultaneously and give priority to larger projects. They might not always have the bandwidth to accommodate smaller projects that fall outside their regular workload.
You can mitigate these concerns by making sure a potential marketing partner offers a level of expertise, transparency, and flexibility that fits your expectations. Read through their testimonials, reviews, and case studies, and if possible, talk to current and former clients.
- Clear Communication. Choose an agency that places high value on transparent and regular communication. Look for those that offer dedicated points of contact, regular updates, and robust customer service.
- Industry Understanding. Seek out agencies with experience in your specific industry or those willing to take the time to understand your business in depth. This will help ensure that they grasp your unique needs and can create strategies that are perfectly aligned with your goals.
- Flexible Approach. Look for agencies that have a flexible approach to their work, with the capability to accommodate smaller projects alongside larger ones. Having an understanding upfront about your needs, both big and small, can help you find an agency that's the right fit.
When you choose an agency that meets these criteria, you're more likely to have a successful partnership that gets you the marketing results you’re looking for.
Why an In-House Marketing Team is a Dream
Imagine a team of professionals who live and breathe your brand, who understand your business’s ins and outs better than anyone else…that is the essence of an in-house marketing team.
For them, your business isn’t just another name on their client list; it’s their singular focus, their ultimate priority. For this reason, some companies succeed with in-house teams despite their challenges.
The benefits of an in-house marketing team include:
- Know Your Brand Inside and Out. In-house marketers naturally understand and embody the values that define your brand. While a good agency will undoubtedly make an effort to understand your brand, it takes time and resources—resources that are, in essence, subtracted from your budget.
- At Your Fingertips. There’s something to be said for the ease of simply walking over to your marketing department to discuss a new campaign rather than wading through emails and phone calls. Seamless coordination and communication are the greatest strengths of an in-house team.
- In Laser Focus. While digital marketing agencies juggle multiple clients, an in-house team devotes full attention to your business. Ad-hoc requests are handled promptly, and you won’t have to wait in line for your marketing needs to be addressed. With an in-house team, you’re always the star of the show.
Your in-house marketing team can offer your business deep brand understanding, enhanced communication, undivided attention, and strategic flexibility.
But, like all things, it’s not without its challenges.
Navigating the Challenges of In-House Marketing
Despite the undeniable benefits, managing an in-house marketing team also has unique challenges.
We’ve seen it all firsthand, from overstretched staff juggling multiple roles to unbalanced marketing strategies.
- Overworked and Understaffed. One of the most common pitfalls of in-house marketing, especially for small businesses, is that marketing responsibilities often fall on the shoulders of one or two individuals who already have their hands full with non-marketing tasks. Critical marketing initiatives always take a backseat to other work.
- Staff Departures Cause Turmoil. Another significant problem surfaces when key members of the marketing team leave the company. From losing access to social media accounts to a foggy understanding of ongoing marketing initiatives, the remaining team members are left adrift.
- Fewer Checks and Balances. Finally, measuring the effectiveness of marketing efforts often proves to be a challenge for in-house teams. Unlike an external agency, in-house teams might not have the pressure to demonstrate results. When combined with a lack of time, this crucial task of monitoring and evaluation is often the first casualty.
- Lack of Expertise. The marketing landscape evolves at lightning speed. It’s tough to find one person, or even a small team, who can expertly navigate this dynamic terrain alone. You're more likely to get a jack-of-all-trades who's 'okay’ at everything. This results in a marketing approach that lacks depth and nuance, which could lead to a lower return on investment.
Careful planning and foresight is the key to mitigating these obstacles is. Below are a few strategic steps that can help avoid the common pitfalls:
- Prevent Overwork and Understaffing. Avoid placing the entirety of your marketing responsibility on a select few. Instead, consider training a broader group of employees on essential marketing tasks or hiring dedicated marketing staff if budget allows.
- Prepare for Staff Departures. Always maintain up-to-date documentation for all marketing processes, social media account access, and ongoing initiatives. Have a policy that access to crucial accounts and platforms is not exclusively controlled by one person.
- Track, Measure, Evaluate. Establish a comprehensive system for tracking, measuring, and evaluating the effectiveness of your marketing efforts. Regularly review and adjust your strategies based on these evaluations.
With these steps in mind, you can position your marketing team for success.
In-House and Agency Marketing: A Winning Combination?
Sometimes, it’s not about choosing path one over the other. As digital marketing experts, we submit that there’s a strong case for a hybrid strategy that involves both in-house and agency marketers working together as a team.
If you have a full-time marketing team, you might not require constant external support—but there are times when joining forces with a marketing agency can significantly bolster your efforts.
- Outsourcing highly specialized work, such as Pay-Per-Click (PPC) advertising or Search Engine Optimization (SEO), frees up your in-house marketing team to focus on branding, managing social media, or leading offline marketing initiatives like brochures and billboards.
- Say you’re preparing to launch a new product or venture into a market that’s new to you. Having an agency with relevant experience on your side can make this transition much smoother and more successful. Their guidance and insights could be the difference between a successful launch and a rough start.
- A marketing agency can be a valuable training, consultation, or feedback resource. Just as a seasoned coach can help athletes fine-tune their performance, a competent agency can provide your in-house team with the tools and knowledge to amplify their effectiveness.
From our perspective as an agency, combining in-house and outsourced marketing is, more often than not, both hugely successful and rewarding.
At TrafficSoda, we love working with an in-house marketing contact who knows your brand like the back of their hand and gives us consistent updates and feedback to keep things moving. It lets us focus on the tasks we excel at while your team handles the rest, creating a synergy that can boost your marketing performance.
Plus, having someone on your side who is not only versed in marketing but also has in-depth knowledge of your company really enhances our brainstorming sessions. The unique insights and understanding they bring to the table help spark innovative ideas and winning strategies.
Combining in-house and outsourced marketing isn’t a compromise—it’s a strategic advantage.
By drawing from the strengths of both approaches, we can work together to create a versatile, responsive, and effective marketing strategy that adapts to your business needs.
In the marketing game, it’s the ace that could tip the scales in your favour.
Make Decisions that Shape Your Marketing Success
Understanding your business needs, objectives, and resources can provide the necessary clarity to make this pivotal decision.
Let’s consider a startup on a shoestring budget. The costs of assembling and maintaining an in-house marketing team might prove overwhelming. Here, an agency could offer a more cost-effective solution, delivering professional expertise without the burden of significant upfront investment.
On the other hand, a large company with a diverse array of products or services might require the specialized knowledge and dedicated focus that only an in-house team or a blend of both can provide. In this case, the initial investment in an in-house team could pay off through a tailor-made marketing strategy that caters precisely to the company’s unique needs.
When deciding your course of action, it’s essential to take stock of your existing resources. What is your budget? What skills do your current staff possess? And crucially, how much time do you have to dedicate to your marketing efforts? Answering these questions can provide you with valuable insights that guide your decision.
At the end of the day, the right path is the one that aligns most closely with your business’s unique needs and capacities. Having a solid understanding of them will allow you to make more informed and strategic marketing decisions.