Outsourced Marketing vs. Internal Marketing Hire: Which is Right for You?

Hiring is not always about finding a full-time or permanent solution for your organization, especially in the fast-paced and ever-evolving world of marketing.

With technology, tactics and strategies evolving at a rapid pace, it’s important for you to be flexible. And this has an impact on the approach you may take to hiring.

Sometimes, it’s better to hire a consultant, contract worker, or freelancer for your marketing rather than hire a full-time marketer.

Before doing so, you should understand your needs and the internal capabilities of your organization.

After doing so, you should continue to understand the difference between a non-in-house hire versus an outside specialist so your working relationship proceeds smoothly, efficiently, and delivers results for all parties.

Why You Might Consider Hiring an Outsourced Marketing Provider

Depending on the type of marketer you need to hire, you can often find a professional who can work on a part-time, freelance or contract basis. This provides your company with a number of advantages:

  • Flexibility: You have flexibility in terms of how you use the professional. You can use them for a project, as a sub-contractor, or on an as-needed basis.

  • Specialization: You can hire a marketer who addresses your specific needs. Many full-time hires come with one or two specialization areas. Outsourced hires may often come with an array of services depending on whether you are speaking to a freelancer, consultant or Agency.

  • Lower cost: Perhaps the biggest benefit to companies is that outsourcing costs less than full-time employees. You are not on the hook for benefits or PTO. And, Outsourced Marketers tend to be more efficient because they are paid based on the work they are contracted to do or work they are being paid directly for, so you theoretically get more bang for your buck.

Why You Might Consider Hiring a Full-Time Marketer

Many companies choose to hire marketers full time because this is what they have always done. There are some advantages to hiring people full time:

  • Stability: You (hopefully) won’t have to worry about hiring a replacement, and you can save time and effort associated with ramping up new team members.

  • Long term solution: You will have a long term person in place who could potentially move up in the company over time.

  • Consistency: You will have someone who can offer a consistent marketing voice and will be familiar with your organization’s marketing strategies, what has been tried, and what direction to take things in the future.

​At the end of the day, there are advantages and disadvantages to each hiring approach. To better help you decide between the in-house hire versus outsourced debate, let’s look at some Pros and Cons.

Option 1: Outsourced Marketing

Hiring an Outsourced Marketing Provider is a very popular option for many business leaders. They’re often hired for their expertise in a particular vertical or industry and typically provide a very consultative relationship. They’re also frequently hired for their ability to execute particular marketing activities.

Pros of hiring an Outsourced Marketing Provider

As mentioned above, Outsourced Marketing Providers have a wealth of knowledge. Many of them have left successful careers to start their own one-person operations and have a lot of talent.

Really good Outsourced Marketing Providers provide a very personal level of service that's valued by their clients. They become trusted advisers that provide unique perspectives, challenge their clients, help to avoid missed opportunities or potential disasters, and educate. Great independent contractors are those that – as a business owner – you can truly rely on to get things done.

Outsourced Marketing Providers are not treated as employees, therefore, they are not subject to payroll taxes or state and federal employment laws, which is a benefit over hiring an internal team but not over hiring an agency.

Outsourced Marketing Providers tend to be very good at managing their capacities. From managing workloads to personal time off, an Outsourced Marketing Provider can typically adapt to make sure all of the activities you require don’t skip a beat.

Some Outsourced Marketing Providers have the ability to provide you with a holistic array of talent, including strategy, tactical implementation, software experience, content creation, graphic design, web design, and knowledge of current trends in an evolving media landscape.

Good Outsourced Marketing Providers have access to a great amount of recent experience working with businesses like yours, meaning that they are better equipped to quickly execute the right activities with less trial and error.

More advanced Outsourced Marketing Providers have sophisticated ways of managing their costs. So unlike the independent Outsourced Marketing that has one cost, say $200 / hour, for all of the activities they perform, Outsourced Marketing Providers will estimate their work charging the right amount on the right activities in order to provide you optimal value.

It’s typically easy to get out of an Outsourced Marketing Provider agreement if need be.

Cons of hiring an Outsourced Marketing Provider

An Outsourced Marketing Provider can be limited in their ability to provide a full array of service offerings. For example, they may have great ideas and a vision for how to help you reach your marketing objectives, but they may lack the technical expertise to execute it.

TIP: You Outsourced Marketing provider should be upfront about any limitations in the array of services they offer during the discovery phase. And they should have a solid plan in place for how to procure these services should you need them. That way you are getting as comprehensive a service-offering as possible.

An Outsourced Marketing Provider is not part of the internal team. As such, business leaders may need to invest more time cultivating this relationship. A good outsourced provider will seek to deliver the same work output as any in-house hire. The great outsourced providers will seek to exceed expectations. But Outsourced Marketing Providers are not employees. You cannot expect for them to behave like one, nor should they feel obligated to act like one. Worth mentioning here is that Outsourced Marketing Providers, while there to serve, are not your inferiors. You are not their superior. The relationship should feel like a partnership. If it does not, examine why that could be and consider opening up a dialogue about it.

Outsourced Marketing Providers may be limited by their own capacities. Should they be unable to work for a period of time, or other agreements they’ve made demand their time, it may slow down their output. An Outsourced Marketing Provider should not be taking on more work than they can handle. And should they be aware of an upcoming backlog because work requests are being made by multiple clients at the same time, reasonable estimated deliver-by dates should be communicated to you.

You may think that an Outsourced Marketing Provider is your least expensive option, but that’s often not the case. Someone that has the a high-level of expertise that you need could run you around $200 / hour. If they’re providing you with 15 hours of service a week, that’s around $13,000 / month which is more than a typical agency would cost you. And unfortunately, some of that time will go to activities that probably don’t warrant $200 / hour.

For an Outsourced Marketing Provider to be successful, they have dedicated a large amount of time in the beginning of the working relationship to explore your goals and objectives to ensure alignment of your marketing plan to your unique needs. As the relationship with the Marketing Provider matures, they’ll still need some of your time each week for review of work performed, feedback, or to answer questions. This could be said for working with an in-house hire as well, but if you go into a relationship with an Outsourced Marketing Provider thinking you’ll have either a full-time resource or a resource you can wash your hands of, you really need to consider the middle-ground. As that is where most relationships will stay.

A common complaint of Outsourced Marketing Providers is that they can be slow to respond and get things done, a client will request a website change, a revision, or for a return email and have to wait a week for a response. If this sounds like the relationship you have with your Marketing Provider you may wish to look more closely at that relationship. Communication your expectations for communication can help. Also, remember that "slow" is subjective. If you have a complaint regarding speed of service I can assure you your Marketing Provider would prefer to hear about it so they can fix it or you can up your communication game so everyone is on the same page when it comes to expectations. If turnaround time is still not meeting your expectations, you may want to consider whether it is your Provider or whether you need to consider an in-house alternative.

Option 2: Internal Marketing Hires

The larger your company becomes, the more it warrants an internal marketing team. I share most of these pros and cons from my own experience of managing internal marketing teams and being a contributing member to marketing teams at New York City-based Marketing Agencies serving Fortune 100 Companies.

Pros of building an Internal Marketing Team

• Mindshare. When you have an internal marketing team, you're "their only client" and they'll be focused solely on the performance of your company's marketing.

• Speed of getting things done. When you have a team of marketing employees 100% dedicated to working on your company’s marketing, things should get done faster.

• An in-house team is just that, in house. They are part of your team and part of your culture. By default they should be more invested in your success than an outsourced solution. It is not only their career but it is the career of their colleagues, peers, co-workers and friends on the line. As such, a full-time internal marketing hire may go to greater lengths to deliver on the same work as their outsourced counter-part.

Cons of building an Internal Marketing Team

It's almost impossible to bring on one hire that has all the skills you need to run a high performing marketing program. To do this, you need (at a bare minimum) someone with 2-3 years of proven digital marketing success, can create effective persuasive copy and educational content, understands a variety of digital channels, is strong with analytics and can turn data > insights > action. They'll also most likely need to know how to design and code a bit.

These people are extremely hard to find, and will cost at least $85,000 / year plus taxes and benefits (depending on your market). And of course, these types of people are very desirable and will need significant salary increases, promising career opportunities, and an investment in their continuous learning if you're going to retain them, or else they will be poached.

If you really want to build a high performing team completely in-house, you most likely have to make several hires. One director-level hire that has the knowledge and experience to strategically lead your internal marketing team will cost between $90,000 and $150,000 / year (again, depending on your market), plus taxes and benefits. And it’s likely they will need an associate some other support to complete the activities that they either don’t specialize in or it doesn't make sense for them to do, like social media and content creation. That’ll run you at least another $40,000 / year, plus taxes and benefits. And even with two people, it’s still not likely that you’ll have all the skills you need to run the entire program and may still look to outsource design and development work to an independent contractor or an agency. All in, this is clearly your most expensive option.

You take on the responsibility of having employees, which includes paperwork, on-boarding, one on ones, up-to-date job descriptions, performance reviews, raises, career-path conversations, supplies / tools, and so much more. You also have to manage employee issues, including hiring mistakes, personnel conflicts, employee turnover, unplanned time-off, and so on and so on and so on, adding costs to your already most expensive option.

It takes much longer to find and hire the right people than it does to startup with an independent marketing contractor or marketing agency. Recruiting may take 2 weeks. Then running interviews will take another two weeks. Then you have to make a job offer and hope they accept, if they do, they need to give notice to their other job which takes 2-4 weeks. Then they need to get acclimated to your organization which takes another 2-4 weeks, and here you are 8 weeks (conservatively) into the process and you haven’t even done anything yet. An agency or an independent contractor can get started within a week or two. By week 8, they’ll probably already have your plan for the year completed and will have started executing on that plan.

Of the three options, having to make a change is the hardest when dealing with an internal team. If there are performance issues, this means that instead of requesting that work stop for a period of time or stating that “the project has ended,” you actually have to fire people. And if you make hiring mistakes, it takes a lot more time, effort, and resources to make a change.

PHANTOM POWER Marketing: Ensuring Client Satisfaction

By actively seeking feedback from our clients and listening to what prospects want and value during the sales process, PHANTOM POWER Marketing has made some fundamental decisions on how we want to position our marketing solutions into something that makes us truly unique for our clients.

To ensure that we retain our clients, we simply have to do a good job. That means setting and agreeing on clear expectations in no uncertain terms before the work starts, and consistently delivering on those expectations month after month.

We believe if we do a good job, our clients will want to continue with the program, possibly even grow it, and refer us to their peers.

If we’re not doing a good job helping our clients, it’s against everything we stand for. We consistently encourage open dialogue and communication with our clients and regularly “take the temperature” of your marketing goals and objectives to ensure as our clients businesses evolve, so do their Marketing Plans. We truly want our clients to see us as an indispensable part of their team. Which means we strive to be: indispensable.

And while we are an Outsourced Marketing Provider, we take pride in delivering on as many items as possible that would normally fall within the in-house Marketing Hire category. We maintain an excellent speed of responsiveness. We get things done, on time and most often under budget. And we always avail ourselves to our clients as a resource for information. We will be here for you if you are interested in growing your Marketing Theory knowledge-base.

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