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How to Determine When to Outsource Your Marketing Strategy

November 30, 2020

marketing

It's important to keep your budget lean, but that typically puts you in a tough spot when you need to try a new tactic.

No matter how smart your team is, you simply can't implement every marketing strategy in-house in an effort to save a few bucks. You don’t have the time, and quite frankly, the world of marketing moves so fast that you probably don’t have all the skills required either. Each strategy you implement requires specific expertise, and if your team doesn't have that expertise, you have to find it elsewhere.

We'll examine various marketing channels, what sort of role/expert they demand, and the typical cost to hire that role in-house so you can determine what option makes the most sense for your budget.

What is outsourced marketing?

Before we dive into each channel, let's discuss what we mean by outsourcing. In this case, outsourced marketing refers to partnering with a team outside of your agency or company to complete various marketing initiatives.

This approach hinges on the notion that not everyone is an expert at everything and sometimes it’s more cost-effective to pay an external partner than to add another member to an in-house team. When companies want to explore a specific marketing approach or strategy, but they don’t have team members who excel in those areas or have the necessary tools, they start the process of vetting agencies that do have those tools and skill sets.

With today’s competitive landscape, it’s never wise to wait until the last minute to begin your outsourcing process. However, it’s not always easy to decipher when it’s time to expand your marketing strategy to an external partner. It’s best to start outsourcing the minute you see any one or more of these key indicators:

  • The number of closed deals is waning month over month.
  • Your sales pipeline is drying up.
  • Your social campaigns aren’t generating as many new leads as you hoped.
  • You’re not getting any new email subscribers.
  • You need to establish a brand identity.
  • You need creative designs and content, like infographics, white papers, and images for social, etc.
  • You’re making marketing choices that aren’t driven by strategy or data.
  • Your website needs an update.
  • You don’t have an SEO or linking strategy.
  • Your business is growing, and your budget is expanding.
  • Your marketing team’s capacity is limited.
  • Your audience and/or industry has shifted.

These are just a few instances. But when the time to outsource approaches, you’ll typically know. Just make sure you give yourself time to look into all possible partners before just going with whatever agency you find first.

7 marketing strategies you should outsource

Every company is different. Every marketing team is different. And every marketing team is assembled with different skill sets.

It’s very possible that you already have a team member who specializes in one of the seven different strategies we dive into below. If you do, that’s great! But that doesn’t mean they are the foremost expert in every channel. It’s still important for your team to dive deep into each strategy to fully understand if you have the means to carry out these methods effectively.

Let’s examine seven marketing initiatives you might consider outsourcing by digging into what they are and the various tools each entails for optimal results.

PPC

PPC stands for “pay-per-click”. It is a digital advertising strategy aimed at driving relevant paid traffic to your website, and each time one of your ads is clicked on, you pay a fee.

The most popular PPC method is to advertise based on search engine results. Say someone searches a term related to your industry or business. The first few results that pop up are typically sponsored posts, and PPC allows you to bid on those valuable top spots so your company becomes an option for that search query.

When using this approach, it’s important to bid on search terms that are related to your business in some way. You want your company to be relevant to what people are searching for, as that ensures you’re generating valuable bottom of the funnel site visitors who are interested in what your company has to offer.

A PPC strategy requires a few components to ensure success. You’ll want to make sure you assemble a keyword list that includes terms and phrases your audience searches when looking for solutions. Here are some other tools that can help you with your PPC strategy:

  • Google Ads: Formerly Google Keyword Planner, this tool helps you organize and pull the trigger on your Google PPC advertising.
  • Google Ads Editor: A free platform to help you edit your large Google Ads campaigns.
  • Microsoft Advertising Editor: For Windows or Mac, this editor allows you to streamline your PPC campaigns so you can make edits in bulk and manage multiple accounts.
  • SEMRush: If you want to keep up with your competitors, use this tool to determine what keywords they’re ranking for so you can use those to your PPC advantage. 
  • Google Analytics: Use this tool to track how your website is performing as well as your Google ads.
  • Landing page builder: Make sure you have something valuable to lead people to from your PPC ads. You want to create landing pages that are optimized and encourage visitors to enter their information so you can convert them to leads and continue to provide them with nurturing material and information.

It’s important to also keep in mind that there are various PPC campaigns within Google Ads to consider.

  • Search
  • Display
  • Shopping
  • Video
  • App

As you can see, when it comes to PPC, the options are endless, and each strategy has a lot that is involved with its success. Having a dedicated manager to keep an eye on these efforts and implement the most effective strategy for your business is never a bad idea.

Social media

Not a lot of businesses know what to do with their social media. Too often, it becomes the last initiative to get any real attention, which means you may not have a consistent posting schedule.. But when you put the right strategy behind social, you can get a lot in return. So, instead of waiting for something to happen around the office that makes sense to post about, think proactively about what story you want your social media profiles to tell about your business.

An effective social media strategy is one that has a consistent presence and schedule. It’s perfectly fine if that schedule adjusts and shifts, but it’s key to have consistency and organization around what you’re posting, as well as a thought-out approach so you can capitalize on the content you’re creating and get it out to your networks. Here are some social tools that will help you achieve that.

  • Social media calendar: Create a schedule that you can reference time and time again and keep your efforts in check.
  • Twitter analytics: Twitter offers you some pretty incredible insights into how your profile and posts are doing, including your top tweets and profile visits.
  • LinkedIn analytics: This is a somewhat new feature that allows you to see a lot of detailed information about your LinkedIn engagement. I really love that they also provide you with your top followers' industry and job titles.
  • Instagram analytics: This is great to see what days you receive the most engagement from your followers, as well as a breakdown of your follower demographics. Keep in mind that you’ll only be able to track this information from the past week, though.
  • Facebook analytics: Gather insights on how far your posts are reaching, response rates, page likes, and more to determine what kind of content shines on this platform.
  • Social media management: Part of sticking to a consistent social strategy is finding a publishing tool that makes it easy. Use a social media management software tool to get your social posts scheduled so that you can track analytics that help you weigh in on each platform you have set up.

Content marketing

Exceptional content marketing is built on consistency. To maintain that consistency, you typically need a few key components, like a documented content strategy, an editorial calendar, a social media and distribution plan, and a content creation process that is reliable.

You also need some key players that will help you get the job done. Some traditional content marketing team members include:

  • Project manager
  • Writer
  • Editor
  • SEO specialist
  • Designer
  • Social media manager

Depending on your internal resources, you may not be able to support all these roles. This is why most content teams are small, and individuals end up splitting duties. Or, they simply outsource these efforts so they can get more hands and tools on deck for a bundled price.

Email marketing

A lot of businesses think as long as they’re sending a newsletter here and there that they’re actually implementing an email marketing strategy. While some communication is better than nothing, doing the bare minimum with your email strategy is a missed opportunity for your sales pipeline and your bottom line.

An email marketing strategy entails more than just one-off newsletters here and there. You also need to be tracking your leads with a CRM that tells you information on where prospects are in the buyer’s journey and the various interactions they’re having with your website. Having this information allows you to segment your leads and place them into buckets to send each segment personalized content specific to their particular needs.

To set up and facilitate this kind of regular email nurture, or drip campaigns as they’re often called, you need an email marketing automation tool that takes a lot of the heavy lifting off your shoulders.

Web design

A lot of companies can get by without hiring a designer in-house. However, once you have one at your disposal, it’s very beneficial. Your audience likes to take in content in various ways. Depending on your marketing strategy, that can include visual components like infographics, videos, and other interactive elements.

Also, having a web designer to help tweak your website so it’s more user-friendly and functional is never a bad idea. User experience contributes big time to whether or not a prospect will seriously consider your company as a solution to his or her needs.

Unless you have someone in-house with digital design and coding abilities, it can be challenging to perform any web design without hiring an agency. However, there are easy-to-use website building software solutions out there that you should look into.

Lead generation

Lead generation is one of the most important tactics for your business. Creating a steady stream of leads ensures you’ve always got a pipeline of people to nurture and move through the funnel. And if you’re constantly moving leads through the funnel, then you’ve got a healthy amount of opportunities to convert prospects into paying customers.

To generate leads, there are two broad strategies that encompass many of the other channels we’re covering in this article:

  • Inbound marketing strategy: Using owned or earned media, like content marketing, webinars and social media, to drive organic traffic to your site to capture and further nurture through your sales pipeline.
  • Outbound marketing strategy: This typically involves traditional outbound sales methods like cold-calling, networking, or vetting potential accounts that could be interested in what your company offers. It also includes using digital marketing tactics, like paid advertising, PPC and press mentions.

SEO

The online landscape is vast, and if you aren’t making certain moves, your content and website will never make it on potential new customers’ radars. To be effective with your SEO strategy and get your content to rank in search results over time, you have to do a few things:

  • Create a keyword list based on words and phrases your audience uses in searches online
  • Designate or create pillar pages. A pillar page is a page on your site that covers everything regarding a specific area of focus. They are also crucial in your linking strategy, as you’ll want to link other, more in-depth articles that touch on various aspects within that particular area of focus back to the corresponding pillar page.
  • Optimize past content and create an internal linking strategy using those keywords to link to your pillar pages
  • Facilitate earned media efforts, like a guest column in a reputable online publication where you can link back to your website and absorb some of that publication’s SEO juice

You can use some free and cost-efficient SEO tools if you choose to keep these efforts in-house.

Cost of outsourcing vs. in-house hiring

When evaluating potential strategies, a big part of moving forward involves deciding whether or not you’ll hire an agency that specializes in a channel or if you’ll attempt to tackle those projects in-house. And when you have a small team with limited resources, bringing these strategies in-house means you’ll have to find potential candidates to hire that will fulfill your needs.

Let’s address each strategy, looking at how much it can cost to outsource (work with an agency) against what it would cost your company to hire people to implement these efforts. Note that the salaries listed below are national averages. Individual salaries can vary based on experience, location, and the cost of living within a particular city the job is being filled in.

PPC

It depends on the pricing model of the particular agency you choose to work with. Some agencies charge a flat fee, while others take a percentage of ad spend.

Outsourced
  • Some agencies charge as much as 20% of ad spend. Depending on your strategy, this could add a significant additional price tag to your allotted PPC budget.
  • Other agencies focus on a flat management fee, meaning you could spend somewhere around $5,000 (or more).
  • Again, most of these numbers just depend on various factors, like the agency you’re working with and the amount of money you’re willing to put into a PPC strategy to see results.
In-house

Social media

When it comes to your social media strategy, often, agencies do more than just schedule your social posts. They strategize on various campaigns, monitor competitor activity and put together compelling creative material for your brand to use. They can also incorporate social ads into the mix for more bang for the buck.

Outsourced
In-house

Content marketing

Content marketing agency cost depends on the size of your company, the extent of your strategy, and the services the agency offers. Some only offer to create blog and white paper content. While others can add email marketing, social media, and guest-contributed content to the mix.

Outsourced
In-house

You could hire a few roles for your content strategy, or you could stick to one. Here are some of the typical roles behind a content marketing strategy so you can get an idea of in-house costs.

Email marketing

Email marketing is one of those efforts that really makes more sense to do yourself. It’s relatively cost-efficient, as long as you have software that has basic capabilities and doesn’t cost too much to use. However, that doesn’t mean there aren’t dedicated agencies out there for you to look into.

Outsourced
In-house

Web design

For web design, you could go the freelancer route, or you could hire a team.

Outsourced
  • Freelancers typically cost $1,000 to $3,000, and agencies can be anywhere from $10,000 to $15,000 (or more, depending on needs and timeline).
In-house

Lead generation

Lead generation is another initiative that can entail many different approaches or can stay nimble depending on the size of your budget.

Outsourced
In-house

SEO

Because the world of SEO is often changing or just plain confusing to most people, it’s pretty common to outsource these efforts. However, taking them in-house is a great option if you want to own these efforts and have a deeper understanding of how SEO impacts your content, website, and lead flow.

Outsourced
  • Hourly consulting can be about $100 to $300 an hour, and retainers can get up to $5,000 a month.
In-house

What to look for in an outsourced agency

After looking through these numbers and evaluating where your business is financially, you may be thinking that outsourcing is the way to go. But before you start looking for agencies to partner with, there are a few things you’ll want to keep in mind to ensure your expectations are set appropriately.

They have thorough case studies on their website

You’ll want to make sure that the agency you go with is one that can deliver. A great way to determine this is to review their case studies with previous or existing clients and see what sort of experience those brands had and what kinds of results they saw.

They have solid reviews

Scope sites like G2 and Glassdoor to get an idea of what kind of company they are and what other customers and employees have to say about them.

They practice what they preach

If you’re looking for a company to help you with your content marketing, check to see what their own content marketing efforts look like. A lot of times, agencies put their own efforts on the back burner. Still, if you can find an agency that can prioritize their own strategies, it proves they’re serious about showing potential customers what they’re capable of.

They’re transparent

A lot of agencies don’t list their pricing on their website, and that’s fine. But don’t partner with a company that beats around the bush when it comes to providing you with cost details. Make sure they outline exactly what you’ll be getting for the price they’ll be charging. Setting up this kind of transparency upfront will ensure you get what you expect to get and aren’t charged any hidden fees.

They’re responsive and organized

No one wants to feel like they’re managing themselves when it comes to outsourced services. Keep an eye on how upfront communication is with your potential new agency. Are they responding to your inquiries in a timely manner? Do they appear to be organized and have the answers to your questions? Are they able to supply you with the resources you need to help you make an informed decision?

Conclusion

Ultimately, whether your decision to go the outsourced route or keep your projects in-house will come down to budget, needs, and capacity. You have to make sure your company is in the right place to either hire someone new to fulfill these needs or that there’s enough room in your marketing budget to bring an agency in. Make sure you also consider the cost of various tools and software that certain efforts hinge on.

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