Brand Strategy

When to Outsource Marketing and When to Hire Internally

by Bridgette Palm
5 min

As an industrial manufacturer, you likely have a niche product and an understanding of who benefits from it. Until the recent (and rapid) shifts in technology, you’ve probably done business using traditional sales strategies.

However, customers today expect companies to have a cohesive, branded digital presence, particularly when they are making a significant investment or capital purchase.

Put yourself in your customer’s shoes: Where is the first place you look for information? Would you spend a significant amount of any budget on anything that came from a company without a website? What about one that looks like it was (or actually was) built 20 years ago?

For many manufacturers, they feel there has not been much of a need for marketing beyond perhaps an industry trade show or two. They have likely had one person that marketing needs have fallen to over the years, often either in administration or IT, but marketing is not their primary concern.

There’s a good chance that without someone being strategic about marketing, it hasn’t had the attention it deserves and probably hasn’t delivered the expected results.

Businesses looking to remain relevant and competitive are beginning to invest in digital marketing. But without an in-house expert, what is the next step?

To Outsource or Not, That is the Question

Though the answer changes from business to business, it’s likely the answer is both. In a recent Sprout Social article covering this topic, the author wrapped up with that really is no definite answer on whether your company should outsource its social media: it depends—on you, on the company, and your business goals.

Ultimately, the post sprouted (we’re not above a bad pun) from the increase in people investing in social media. As technology has advanced, evolved, and purchasing habits have shifted as a result, “social media” as a tactic has also evolved into including website updates, email marketing, blogging, and all the other tactics that fall under the realm of digital marketing.

Each company has a distinct set of needs to be met by a digital strategy, and your choice to hire an agency or hire internally should depend on those needs.

How to Set Your New Marketing Department Up For Success

Start with strategy. If you’re finally investing in marketing, you want to be sure that your investment pays off. There are many ways to understand the ROI of your marketing, but to start you need to have clear data to set a baseline first.

Some key performance indicators (KPIs) you’ll want to track may include:

  • Visitor to Lead ratio
  • Lead to Customer ratio
  • Cost per Lead (CPL)
  • Customer Acquisition Cost (CAC)
  • Customer Lifetime Value (CLV)
  • Marketing Return on Investment (MROI)

Don’t know those numbers? Don’t worry, you’re not alone. Only recently have manufacturers been adopting the business intelligence tools to track these metrics. There’s still time for you to put the tools and systems in place to stay ahead of the competition.

If you don’t have a clear understanding of these numbers, this could be one reason to consider an external agency. These metrics are the type of thing that most agencies will help set and deliver metrics on; they’ll have the experience, tools, knowledge, and training to help you set up the processes to track the data.

Strategy Before Tactics

Often, one reason that companies hire a junior internal marketing person is to get started right away with a tactic. However, without an understanding of why you’re investing in that tactic, and if it’ll resonate with your ideal audience, you risk falling short of your goals.

To ensure your investment, in the tactic and your new hire, pays off, you need be sure your trying to attract and retain your ideal customers. Start by understanding your market, who your buyers are, what content will help them through the sales funnel, and how to convert your customers into raving fans.

A lot of strategy work with key stakeholders across the company has to happen to ensure you are marketing strategically.

However, if you’re investing in it, you likely need to prove the value of marketing. There will almost certainly be a few quick wins you can accomplish to demonstrate success.

Determine your Ability to Execute (ATE)

With the Ability to Execute (ATE) formula, there are five key factors to consider:

  • Time
  • Tech
  • Budget
  • Needs – Goals
  • Expertise

Once you’ve documented your ideas on what marketing tactics would be most effective, you should measure them against these five factors. List your content opportunities and campaign ideas, then rank them from 1 – 5, 1 being the easiest and 5 being the most difficult.

For example, a quick win we often execute for our clients is a LinkedIn content strategy. This is often a 1 in every category for us because we have a tried and true system for executing effectively, and seeing a return on investment for our clients who implement consistently.

When to Hire an Agency and When to Hire Internally

There is no clear answer to whether you should manage your marketing internally or externally, as it depends on your goals and internal resources. Considering many manufacturers have historically had small marketing departments, often the best solution for tackling your digital marketing strategy is likely a hybrid solution of internal and external resources.

Partnering staff within your company with an external expert or team means that your company gets the best of both worlds.

You’ll get a deep knowledge of the company from your employees, and a comprehensive understanding of social media marketing from your team of experts. Having an external resource to rely on means increased flexibility and scalability while freeing up your employees’ valuable time for other business growth projects.

And as long as you treat your external experts and your internal contacts as a single team with a structured process for communication and accountability, you’ll lower the risk of miscommunication that comes with truly outsourcing.

In a world where connecting is easily done, we aren’t limited to having to choose between an internal or external social media team. Choosing both is the best way to keep your strategy tuned, organic, growing, and developing.

If you’re interested in learning more about how Strategy House often helps manufacturers set a marketing strategy that ladders up to business goals, and is actively mentoring emerging leaders in small marketing departments within the industry, connect with us today to learn how we work.

Bridgette Palm
Bridgette has developed a career around content. Her work as a writer and editor began nearly ten years ago, and since she has harnessed her experience working as a ghostwriter for business owners to develop marketing strategies that connect businesses to their ideal audiences through content. When not devoting her eye to content revision and development, she can be found reading, enjoying the diverse and delicious Milwaukee restaurant scene, or taking long road trips to explore America.