Signs You Need to Outsource Your Digital Marketing

06/26/2015 05:02 pm ET | Updated Jun 26, 2016

Digital marketing budgets are going through the roof, but do most departments understand how to allocate their money? Not really.

Do marketing department hiring practices match the goals ownership has for the marketing department? Computan surveyed 100 businesses with small marketing departments.   The criteria for respondents were:

  • Small marketing departments - at least 2 full-time marketing employees, but no more than 6.
  • No marketing agencies
  • The marketing department head had a boss - the owner, President, Operations VP etc.

The survey consisted of 3 questions asked to the boss and marketing manager:

  1. What's the goal of your marketing department?
  2. What statistic/metric best tracks your marketing department's effectiveness?
  3. Describe the other individual(s) in your department

Below are the responses:

Marketing Department Goals:




Conclusion - Businesses view marketing and sales as two distinct things. They see marketing's job as to get business opportunities, but not grow sales. 

Describe The Other Individuals In Your Department:


Conclusion - Most departments hire designers and coordinators first (after the marketing managers).  Followed by search-marketers and web developers. 

The problem

Of those four hires only the search-marketing specialist will have lead-generating expertise.  Nothing a graphic designer can do independently generates leads without someone else's help.  A coordinator/social-media specialist may get leads by increasing social media reach, but with platforms like Facebook and Twitter becoming more pay-to-play than ever this is also unlikely.   

Design, copywriting and web development are key activities marketers need, but remember the goal of the department is to create opportunities. Shouldn't the in-house marketing people be a team that can use those activities (among others) to get leads instead of one that pays a premium for in-house people to do those activities on demand?

To put it another way, where does a restaurant get its milk from? A grocery store or their own cow in the back? In the marketing world the grocery store is the marketing agency.  Marketing agencies are the partner small marketing departments should outsource these activities to while the in-house staff focuses on building lead generation strategies. 

Here are the questions to consider when making the decision to outsource these activities:   

 1 - Can someone do this better than you? - Every industry has its 'major leagues.' Where are the best basketball players? The NBA, where are the best software developers? Silicon Valley, best stock brokers? Wall Street investment banks (or Omaha if you're Warren Buffet), the best 90's rock bands? Seattle. The best digital marketers? Digital marketing agencies. Good digital marketers don't want to work at a car dealership! They want to work for the car addition to loads of other businesses. Which is the environment a marketing agency environment gives them.  Similar to how corporate lawyers would rather be a partner in a huge law firm helping many clients instead of just being general counsel for one business.  The marketing agency is a hospital full of pediatricians, cardiologists, neurosurgeons and other specialists capable of getting you the right resource for what ails you.  Can your General Practitioner really do brain surgery better than a neurosurgeon?   

2 -Can someone do this faster than you? - Great digital marketers are masters in failure.  They fail often and they fail quickly.   Marketing agencies work at a break-neck pace.  They spin up new ideas, try them and measure their success/failure.  Then, they tweak activities based on what works and what doesn't.  They don't need to look at the instruction manual when implementing marketing campaigns.  They do it every day and it's what they're wired to do.  Is your organization wired to help market businesses or make burgers? If it's make burgers than you need a partner that can marry their passion for marketing with your passion for burgers.  

3 - Can someone do this cheaper than you? If you've got in-house people then you know digital marketing help isn't cheap.  To make matters worse is you're in-house people still depend on agencies and outside help since they can't handle everything you need done.  Not to mention training and turnover expenses - 2 huge marketing costs.  Agencies can probably do your work cheaper for you because they have knowledgeable staff in-house and benefit from economies of scale.  They perform more marketing activities than your team and their production cost per activity decreases as a result.  Usually the cost for those activities is fixed and forecast-able. 

So why do companies hire marketing people then? Finally, the right question! In-house marketing people live and breathe the business every day.  They're your marketing strategy architects while the agency is your builders.   It's unfair to think an outsourced agency can really help you sell more Magnum PI DVDs.  They don't have your in-house people's passion for the product and barely know who Tom Selleck is.  If they had the passion and knowledge they'd be your competition.  Not your agency of record.  Use this marketing budget planner to decide whether to take your marketing project in-house or outsource it.