What are the benefits of outsourcing marketing versus building an in-house team?

An objective, outside perspective is an invaluable asset. Being too close to something, like our own business, can create a “curse of knowledge” bias that prevents us from seeing other solutions or being open to exploring them. An outside perspective can ignite fresh ideas and shed light on gaps in current strategies or approaches. Agencies also come armed with a breadth of experience on running campaigns across a wide variety of channels, and provide insight into what’s working, what’s not, and what’s new. That compounded knowledge is a noteworthy benefit.

Additionally, it can be more cost-effective to outsource marketing. Think about the overheads that go into building a robust internal team — salaries, health benefits, PTO, management of employees, etc. It all adds up.

With an agency, you get an entire marketing team without the burden of overheads and management expenses. Moreover, you get the added bonus of being able to work with experts across key areas: strategists, SEO, social media, PR, copywriting, design, etc.

If a company already has a marketing team, why would they outsource additional support?

The hybrid approach provides specialized expertise and support to complement a company’s internal team. You never want a lack of time or resources to inhibit business growth or prevent you from hitting your marketing goals. Bringing on an agency helps prevent this. A hybrid approach can also be very customizable and flexible. It allows a company to scale its marketing team up and down to meet their current needs or budget while tailoring outsourced work to fill internal gaps or to address specialization.

How can companies with an internal team and external support ensure alignment on strategy?

Great question. First of all, find an agency that puts strategy first — one that fundamentally believes strategy drives creative, and not the other way around. Those agencies will likely already have an approach in place that sets the two organizations up for alignment.

Apart from that, communication is crucial. Be sure to establish clear communication channels and share your business goals. Make planning an integrated and collaborative process. Effective and strategic marketing plans can’t be developed in a silo. Clear communication of objectives is essential so that everyone is working toward a common purpose. It is also important to ensure both teams have access to data and analytics. Marketing isn’t a set-it-and-leave-it activity.

Therefore, this collaboration needs to be ongoing and proactive in order to build trust. Consistent feedback loops help identify what is working, what isn’t, and how to pivot accordingly.

How important is it to work with a partner with experience in the industry?

It definitely has an upside. You wouldn’t hire a marathon runner to coach you in sprinting simply because she knows how to run. Context is important, and an agency partner with industry experience has already collected a lot of that context. It’s not just about hiring an expert; it’s about hiring the right expert. If you partner with an agency with a foundation in the industry, you will be able to focus your valuable time on sharing insights around the nuances and goals of your unique business. This ultimately translates into spending a lot less time and money educating your partner, and getting time to focus on solutions to get your business closer to its goals, faster.

While looking for the right agency partner, what are some key questions one must ask an agency?

Start with the basics. What is the agency’s experience in the industry? What is the breadth of services it offers? How big is their team, and how many of those are full-time employees? Is the work all done in-house or does the agency have partners they outsource work to?

Beyond that, it is important to understand how the agency operates and what you can expect as a client. What is the agency’s approach to strategy and creative development? How does their team define success and how do they report on it? How does the agency manage client communication and collaboration? How often can you expect updates, and is there a designated point of contact? What is the pricing structure and how does the agency handle changes in scope?

You should also get a sense of culture. You will be working closely with the agency’s team, so meet and talk to them. This really needs to be a two-sided conversation. There is no “silver bullet” in marketing. Therefore, make sure you’ll be working with an agency that is truly solution-oriented, and that there is a strong alignment of values and philosophy.

What can companies do to set themselves up for success in their marketing partnerships?

It is essential to invest in developing a strong relationship with the team. That foundation of trust will ultimately create a more open, creative, and transparent environment — and that’s the kind of environment that marketing teams flourish in. Again, communication is key. Establish clear goals, communicate when those goals change, be transparent with expectations, and always begin with strategy.

About the Author

Kate Covalt

VP, Client Services & Executive Strategist

Kate manages key global health science accounts at SCORR, functioning as the main point of contact for her clients and as the liaison to SCORR’s internal team of researchers, copywriters, designers, and developers. Her reliable and diligent work ethic provides solutions for clients, using specialized strategy and creative to bridge the gap between their goals and tangible results. Kate’s focus is on ensuring that integrated campaigns, launches, and all marketing initiatives are orchestrated on strategy and in a seamless manner that improves ROI for her clients. Kate’s client experience includes Advarra, Crown Bioscience, Cryoport, Grand River Aseptic Manufacturing, MPI Research, Recro Gainesville, SNBL, and Theorem Clinical Research.