1 July 2022

What marketing should you outsource - and what should you always do yourself?

Pete Jakob
Written by Pete Jakob

Pete is UK Marketing Director for The Marketing Centre and specialises in marketing systems, data and processes for small and mid-size businesses. He has over 35 years’ experience working in technology and a variety of other sectors.

Outsource or inhouse? Getting the right execution balance across the marketing activity is something our marketing directors frequently advise upon for the businesses with which we work.

Most marketing teams rely on specialist partners to get the job done. From graphic designers to web developers and paid-media managers, there are a wide range of marketing roles that SMBs typically outsource.

That said, there are some tasks you should always do yourself. And if you do outsource them, you’re likely to get questionable results.

So what should you outsource, what should you do yourself and how should you measure the effectiveness of outsourced work?

What to outsource

The best rule of thumb is to outsource work when you require deep expertise in a specific area, but not necessarily all the time - or enough to fill a full-time role.

Tasks that people commonly outsource are:

  • Graphic design
  • Web development
  • PPC & SEO
  • Content creation
  • Copywriting

Another good reason for outsourcing work is in the interim while you’re looking for a full-time candidate. Hiring full-time staff can take a while - especially at the moment - and some things can’t wait.

Freelance specialists can be a good option if you can’t afford to wait around to find the ideal full-time candidate.

What not to outsource

Don’t outsource work that is integral to the business or strategic in nature. Agencies and freelancers can help you execute or complete specific tasks, but they can’t tell you what your marketing plan or strategy should be. 

Tasks that your team should almost always handle in-house are:

  • Defining your value proposition
  • Creating a marketing plan
  • Designing your marketing and sales process
  • Managing your marketing team
  • Setting goals and holding your team/partners accountable
  • Managing ‘always-on’ comms like email campaigns

Should you outsource social media?

This is an interesting one - the answer depends on what you’re trying to outsource.

The operational parts of social media - writing and scheduling posts and then reviewing performance - are easy to outsource and a lot of people choose to do so.

But you shouldn’t outsource your point of view. The best social media activity is the result of real thoughts, ideas and opinions from people with genuine passion and interest in what they’re talking about.

This is especially true if the social account you’re outsourcing is your personal account. Partners can help you manage social media, but they shouldn’t be expected to tell you what your opinion is on your industry. 

Measuring the effectiveness of outsourced work

Setting clear goals and KPIs is essential if you want a productive partnership. You should be reviewing your performance against your goals and KPIs at least once a month. 

Different channels will have different metrics to report on, but the key thing is to make sure that at the outset of the partnership you set clear goals and expectations and that you keep those goals and expectations front of mind as much as possible.

Get a deep dive on how to set goals and brief an agency or partner here.

When should you bring work in-house?

Businesses can become so reliant on a particular skill set or task that it makes sense to bring it in-house. A typical way of making this decision is if you’re spending more per month than it would cost to hire and one person could self-sufficiently do the work, it may be worth considering. 

Finding and picking the right partner

Choosing the right agency or freelance partners is something our team have a lot of experience doing. We’ve shared some great guides on this in the past:

Outsource work - but do it wisely

Outsourcing can increase the impact your marketing team has - especially if your marketing is small or just one person. That said, you need to be mindful of what’s being outsourced and why. Some decisions should always be made internally, especially strategic ones with long-term impact. If you do decide to outsource work, make sure you choose your partners wisely and set clear goals and KPIs. 

Choosing partners and structuring teams are decisions where a seasoned Marketing Director can come in very handy. If you’d like a second opinion on how best to divide up your work or what kind of hires and partners you need, get in touch anytime.

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