In our recent survey of tech marketers, almost every company was outsourcing at least some marketing work. (Freelancers were more popular for companies with <$1M in ARR whereas companies making $25M+ were using multiple agencies.)
But when exactly does it make sense to outsource vs. when should certain tasks stay in-house? There’s not a simple formula, but here are some good indicators.
When does it make sense to keep work in-house?
You've got the talent in-house.
If you're a marketing department of one, it's just not fair for leadership to want you to be a writer, and designer, and developer, and project manager, and and and… But if you're lucky enough to work at a company where you have several marketing specialists vs. just a couple marketing generalists, then by all means take advantage of the skillsets you have internally!
Take a look at your organization as a whole. Are your sales and marketing teams aligned? Do you have a library of content? Is your CRM clean and easy to navigate? How’s your brand recognition? Are you utilizing PPC?
Any place that needs work can give insight into your team’s strengths and weaknesses, without them telling you.
You can also consider taking a survey of what your current team can do. On a scale of 1-5, how would they rate themselves on content marketing? Demand gen? Sales enablement? Wherever your team rates themselves as lacking is a great place to start divvying up tasks to either a freelancer or agency.
Your budget is tight.
Salaries and overhead are obviously "real" expenses, but most tech companies still think that keeping work in-house is "free" whereas sending work to an agency or freelancer is "expensive." That said, if you're working within a specific marketing budget for the year and the project in question is a "nice to have" vs. an absolute "must have," then odds are you're better off keeping it in-house.
You're anticipating lots of revisions.
The fastest way to go out of scope when working with an agency or freelancer is unforeseen revisions. If you're not quite sure about the scope of a project—or if you think there will be too many internal decision makers changing their minds constantly—best to keep it in-house…at least until you have a firm grasp on the specs.
The project is too confusing for an outsider.
The software/tech industry can be confusing for an outsider, which is why it’s not surprising that the #1 challenge cited in our recent survey was the learning curve: non-employees just don’t “get” the complexity of these businesses. If you've got a quick turn project that would take just as long to explain to an outside resource as it would to do it yourself, then save yourself the hassle and do it in-house.
(Of course if you work with an agency that specializes just in B2B SaaS and technology, that wouldn't be an issue!)
When should you send work to a freelancer?
You need a highly specialized skill.
If you only need help with one particular type of project (think paid social ads or website copywriting), then using a highly specialized freelancer is the way to go. Many skilled marketers prefer to freelance vs. being tied down to corporate life, so you'll have access to top talent if you're willing to use them on a contract-only basis.
When should you use a marketing agency?
You need a strategic, long-term partner.
Freelancers are great for a specific project, but often aren't involved in big-picture planning. An agency, on the other hand, can help you define KPIs and make sure all channels of your marketing plan are working toward that one goal over the long haul.
You need help in multiple areas.
If you end up needing more than a couple freelancers to help with your outsourced marketing, it's probably easier to hire an agency. This way, you'll still get access to multiple specialists, but you'll have an Account Manager to take care of budgeting, task assignment and revision requests…talk about saving you time with project management!
You need to communicate during normal working hours.
Freelancers often work at nights and on weekends…so if you need a reliable resource that can hop on a phone call in the middle of the day or make an emergency edit before your project goes to the printer, then an agency is the way to go.