Digital marketing should be at the forefront of every business - if your customers are online (and they are), you should be there too. The difficulty many businesses have, especially while growing, is having the time or expertise to effectively implement a digital marketing strategy. Take a look at our post on the digital marketing skills your business needs, and see how many you can tick off.
There are, of course, plenty of activities that can be carried out in-house, but it's often more efficient and cost-effective to outsource some or all of your marketing activity.
What does your budget say?
You might be surprised to know that outsourcing your marketing can often be more cost-effective than managing it in-house. That's because you get a marketing team with a wider range of skills - if you employ one person for marketing, they will have to look after the content strategy, maintain the website, social media, email marketing, landing pages, SEO, PR and reporting. One person may not have all the skills you need, so you either need to spread them thin or accept that not everything can get done.
When you compare the costs, the scope of the work, and the quality, you’re often getting a much better value for money by outsourcing to a digital marketing agency. Not only do you get access to skills across the board, you often get more senior and experienced people than you'd be able to bring in yourself.
If your budget doesn't allow for a new member of staff - because, don't forget, there are significant costs beyond salary - outsourcing can be the only way to get professional marketing support. You can often scale what your agency works on, so you can start with one area and add more as budget allows.
If you have no budget at all, it's time for the hard graft of learning everything you can and trying to do it yourself - not impossible, but it will take you away from the activities you'd usually be focused on.
Can you be competitive?
Digital marketing is all about identifying trends and the behaviours of consumers. Using old SEO tactics can actually result in your website being penalised in search, while obvious email subjects can see your emails deleted into the abyss or caught up in a spam filter. Things change rapidly online, and keeping up with what's in and what's out is a key part of a marketing person's job.
Marketing agencies and consultants spend time staying current, learning the latest tools, tricks, and traps. We're constantly reading up and learning about what Google's done now, why last month's technique is now a complete non-starter, and what the latest trends are and how long they'll last.
By combining your industry knowledge with expert marketing, your strategy will be more competitive. You won't be stuck following the leaders in your field, trying to emulate what worked for them in the past - you'll be ahead of the pack, using strategies that are new and innovative.
When you outsource, you're not just bringing in resource, you're getting expertise in areas that you didn't even know you didn't know about.
Will you be able to scale?
When your business grows, there's always a balancing act between needing more resource and having the income to pay for it. Every time you take on someone new, that scale tips. It's a quality problem - business growth is what we're all here for, after all - but it can cause stress.
What if you're at capacity but you're not quite there yet when it comes to recruiting another team member? How do you get that balance right? Do you invest in extra people, knowing there is always a level of risk, or do you wait until your growth reaches the next level and you can justify that new person?
Or, do you bring in outside resource to help smooth over those peaks and make sure you can meet your business needs without putting undue pressure on existing staff or taking the risk of recruitment?
Outsourcing allows you to scale easily and safely - you can scale up your marketing activities when budget allows, without having to tie it up in additional people, and you have an easier time removing cost if that becomes necessary.
Can you be efficient?
Digital marketing companies that have been operating for many years have developed processes that save time and maximise output. They're able to tweak tactics and implement proven procedures, and have the ability to understand results and evaluate them quickly.
If your in-house resources are super skilled, then you have the ability to be efficient already, but if you have an inexperienced team or people doing bits of marketing around their main roles, you're probably spending twice as long on tasks as an agency would.
You might find they get more done in a few hours than you'd expect from a whole day's work. It's because they've been doing this for a long time and know how things fit together, where efficiencies can be found, and where it matters to spend extra time on something.
Do you know where to spend your time?
If you spend time researching digital marketing, you'll find plenty of advice on how you absolutely have to do certain activities. You'll end up with a list of tasks you must do, and spend all your time trying to catch up. Perhaps you know that's not going to work, so you pick the ones that most of your research highlighted as high priority and focus on those.
It's not a bad idea - most businesses don't have time to do everything all the time - but how do you know which ones to choose? Is it because you feel that, say, social media works better than email marketing? Or maybe all of the advice online said you should do video over long form content.
There's so much information out there on what activities to prioritise, but the answer is almost never found in one-size-fits-all advice. A marketing agency will look at your data and come up with a tailored plan for your business, based on what's actually going to make the most difference to your bottom line.
We might take a look and find that email marketing has a three-fold improvement in conversions compared to social media. We'd therefore focus on that area. But we could also see from your data that emails with white papers get higher engagement than those without, so we'd build content creation into your strategy.
Alternatively, we might find that your audience are highly engaged with brand content on Instagram, but rarely check Facebook or Twitter. We'd focus our strategy on building and optimising content for the platform your audience is using and engaging on.
Marketing agencies don't follow lists of activities (at least, the good ones don't), we work with your data to create a list that matches your business goals with activities that will get you there.
Outsourcing your digital marketing is a big decision but ensure that you research your options and work with a company that has your best interests at heart.