Marketing’s Dilemma: In-House or Outsourced?
Brand management and messaging can be major challenges, especially for companies that must adapt their brand and messaging to the different cultures and geographies where they sell, Brenits adds. “The big brands, to deal with the scale, often use outside agencies that specialize in brand development and messaging and also in the adaptation of branding to different cultural and geographical venues. There are also companies with marketing departments of 25 or more people that both use large agencies and work across these different geographies themselves, so they have a hybrid brand and messaging model.”
KEEPING UP APPEARANCES
Another area that marketing commonly outsources is public relations.
“Many companies use outside PR agencies because they have the relationships with the media and journalists that are very difficult for them to fully cultivate on their own,” Payne points out. “PR agencies bring context, experience, and the nuance of the market to you and can also assist as you build your marketing strategy.”
Payne additionally mentions content development as an area likely to be outsourced, “because it’s always a good idea to have third parties, as well as your own internal experts, weighing in on issues and pain points that concern your customers.”
Sinclair also points to the need to use third parties for localizing content and messaging for international markets. “Working with foreign offices can be a challenge because you have to balance the requests from offices for localizing content against the need to protect the integrity of the brand,” she says. “We often bring in outside designers with experience in these markets, and we find that the managers of our foreign offices respect the decisions that these third parties make.”
Another area where a lot of marketing departments are using third-party help is technology.
“Marketing has changed as a discipline over the last three to five years, and today’s challenges are more complex,” Payne says. “Marketing collateral development is a good example. When I first started in the business, [Adobe] Pagemaker was the only application we used. Now there are thousands of marketing applications to choose from. It’s very difficult to keep up with all of the new technologies and tools, especially for smaller companies.
“New developments in marketing process automation are also requiring dedicated expertise,” he continues. “All of this gives marketers reasons to outsource when they have to—because you simply can’t master all of the new bells and whistles technology companies are continuously coming up with.”
In the end, Payne, Sinclair, and Brenits all agree that companies should be open to outsourcing when it comes to marketing.
“When it comes to in-sourcing or outsourcing, we all like to say yes to doing it in-house, but there’s often too much on our plate,” Sinclair says. “We have had to learn when to outsource because, as an engineering-driven organization, the natural tendency is always for us to figure out problems on our own.”
CANDIDATES TO KEEP
But even when a company’s marketing department outsources work, marketing strategy development should be kept in-house, a point on which Sinclair, Payne, and Brenits all agree.
“It is always a good idea to keep the strategic elements of marketing inside, but then to have the ability to outsource operational and project marketing tasks and activities as needed,” Brenits says.
For companies with sensitive information and intellectual property concerns, it is also a good idea to keep the projects and tasks centered on them in-house.
“An example is in the retail industry,” Brenits maintains. “There are trade secrets involved, and even a nondisclosure agreement that you might have a contractor sign is not necessarily iron-clad. You want to keep the matters concerning intellectual property in-house but then retain the flexibility to outsource as needed in the other areas that are not proprietary.”
This is probably not as big of a concern for smaller companies that don’t have intellectual property issues. “These companies can outsource as needed without having to think about IP issues,” he says.
Payne used his own custom measuring stick when making such marketing decisions. “What are hard to outsource are events that require physical presence, such as trade shows. I also keep demand management and email marketing in-house, since these are internal marketing strengths.”