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To outsource, or not to outsource – that is the question? Marketing managers under the cosh

By Jan Quant, CEO at Screendragon

Managers today are faced with an increasing number of challenges, financial pressure, time constraints and a market rife with competition. This becomes almost impossible to manage alone - which means finding others to delegate responsibility. This poses a very timely question: In-house vs. outsource, or in the world of marketing, in-house vs. agency?

Enterprise marketing teams have a varying degree of need to use outsourcers, whether planning overall strategy, a new campaign, or developing visual brand assets as part of an existing one.

In-house marketers are very much aligned with the company ethos and business objectives. They understand the company from the inside, and have insight into the direction in which the senior executives want to pull. They are also a solid asset in assessing the market, developing a campaign and spreading the brand’s message. This is all well and good, but when it’s time to revamp the company website, develop several social media campaigns and integrate those together, can we rely on in-house talent to execute at cost, on time and without affecting more pressing, business critical tasks?

Agencies can offer exponential benefits. These include the strategy and business acumen, graphic design talent, strong writers, capable web developers and social media gurus. But more importantly dedicated resources. They have an insight into the market, and a critical and different perspective into their client’s position within the market.

Now that’s not to say an in-house marketing position isn’t valuable. Both offer alternative benefits, but an increasing amount of businesses are turning to in-house teams to develop and handle their brand assets. Over the last five years there has been a growth in financial constraints from a damaged economy. This means enterprises have reacted with cost cutting at every corner, and in many cases delegating a number of creative tasks internally. Thanks to a growing digital culture, the amount of content-rich deliverables has exploded. This includes banner advertisements, web sites, videos, smartphone apps, tweets, Facebook posts, LinkedIn articles and blog posts; every one of these needs to be integrated into over-arching strategy and messaging.

It is yet to be worked out whether enterprises and their marketing teams are structured enough to handle the ebb and flow of creative project work without it impacting on brand growth. Agencies are well used to expanding and contracting based on workload, an in-house team cannot adapt as readily due different HR and legal constraints, as well as the obvious cost issues.

Whatever the needs and constraints of a business, the interactions with an agency need to be centrally and efficiently managed. It's the simplest of changes that can generate the biggest of benefits. For example, in practically every CPG business there are now integrated marketing directors whose job it is to orchestrate work in-house and across agencies. These resources can easily get bogged down in low value activities. The menial task of cut and pasting partner plans together to form a consolidated plan, or manually amalgamating different assets from different share drives. This type of work absorbs too much time than it should. There exists a great opportunity to transform the supply chain by introducing improved working processes supported by simple to use technology designed for the marketing mindset.

In essence, the right answer for the business, requires support from the right software. Whether in-house or agency, it is the processes which save time and money.