In-house or outsourcing? 5 helpful tips for renovating your digital marketing output

Spring is here at last. Hurrah! A time of new beginnings, re-birth, Easter, spring-cleaning, or even renovating. A time for greater productivity and increased output. But how do we achieve this? Normally by bringing on new staff, which in turn begs the question. Which way to go? In-house or outsourcing?

1. Learn from Television Renovation Programmes

We love those programmes, don’t we? It might sound strange, but we can learn so much in life from them. Learn from people like Sue and Nigel – a couple with a grand vision, endless budget and thirst for five minutes of fame.
How envious we are of their daring-do, the gushing self-confidence – laughingly finishing each other’s sentences to camera. They will transform their hum-drum, bland, suburban-semi into the envy of the neighbours, nay, the entire suburb.
But, very soon they run into problems. Not only do they not have any of the prerequisite skills for a renovation project, but – as the voiceover now smugly reveals – their endless budget turns out to be decidedly finite. In fact, they hadn’t ever really understood the numbers – the basic economics of grand vision versus available resources.
So, they frantically jettison plans for the marble entrance hall, in-door jacuzzi, red acrylic kitchen and basement cinema and end up living in the garage. Next to a half-finished, uninhabitable shell – having trashed a perfectly good home in the process.
Never mind, they’ll finish eventually – 5 years late, having plunged themselves deep into negative equity and personalised their property beyond saleability.

2. Refresh your understanding of basic economics

So, what was the problem? Failure to budget, failure to form a plan. Failure to understand the basics of economics.
So, what is economics? Incentive for action. The study of how people make and should make choices under scarcity. The allocation and use of scarce resources. Which is exactly where Sue and Nigel fell down. To make efficient choices you need a deliverable plan and a sound undersanding of your scarce resources. We all saw it coming with Sue and Nigel, but do we recognise it in our own business decisions?
So, returning to your digital marketing spring cleaning – and the drive for increased output and greater productivity for the coming year. We’ve suggested 5 steps to take previously. But, have you considered how to achieve the goal?
Thankfully, we can recall the disasters of several series of renovation programmes and apply the lesson to our business thinking. The lesson of appreciating the real cost of things…

3. Balance up the options. In-house or outsourcing?

For small businesses embarking on digital marketing projects, the key question is whether to take on new staff or use an agency or freelance staff?
We could now wade through the various considerations of outsourcing versus staying in-house.
Probably, we’d start with the pros and cons of in-house – covering the time and costs issues of recruiting, training and development. We could mention the business risk and time and cost of keeping up with developments in digital marketing, SEO, PPC, analytics and software. Then, we could run through a business needs analysis, or time and motion studies, to help calculate your desired output versus time taken and cost.
Following this, we could then run you through outsourcing issues of budgetary control, the strategic issues of accountability, creative control of digital content and crisis management of your social media feeds. The basic elements of needing something done now and getting it done how you want it done.
But you’ve probably thought through all these issues already. They’ve been the subject of countless meetings and conversations at the water-cooler. You’ve probably ruined a few good bottles of red, while scratching out pros and cons lists.
But, as we learned from our renovation programme with Sue and Nigel, it really just comes down to basic economics.

4. Assess your resources

Remember how we defined economics? Incentive for action. How much do you want/need, but how much can you afford? How you make, or should make, choices of allocating and using scarce resources.
What resources? You may look like you have plenty of staff to cover the tasks, but consider this:
In the UK we are experiencing the highest employment levels since the 1970s. Sounds great, but not so much when considering that real wages are still below 2007 levels and the high levels of part-time, underemployed workers.
In times of uncertainty (like now!) investment is held back, both in capital and labour. For every day investment is withheld, the economy edges in the wrong direction. Machines can learn quickly, but people can’t. They will take time to catch up when investment flows start again.
Productivity is the life blood of economic growth – net sales relative to employee labour hours. But when investment falls, productivity follows – which is why it is so important to get decisions right on outsourcing or staying in-house.

5. Know your actual business costs

We recently discussed how to pick a winning social media team, and also last time we offered some basic steps to calculate your digital marketing ROI, discussing the danger of not calculating real costs or returns.
But staff costs are often overlooked in the team skills/ROI conversations. Do you really know how much your digital marketing staff time costs?
You’ll need to calculate the real cost of employee. That calculation needs to include: salary, pension, NI, recruiting costs (in-house HR or agency), office & equipment costs, support staff attribution, training costs, holidays (paying other staff to cover) and any other that may include: maternity leave, company cars, sick pay and software licences.
If the average salary of a senior digital marketer is around £35k, you will need to allow much more than that to cover your costs and maintain productivity. You may be surprised to know that you can double, yes double, that cost in the first year and still need to allow for 1.4 times salary costs thereafter….
If you go junior, the productivity calculation remains difficult, purely because of the productivity they may draw from other staff in managing, mentoring and training. This not only takes time, but a certain skillset.
So, in-house is not always a no-brainer, especially if you don’t have the complete skillsets needed. You may need to invest both money and time to get them up to speed.

So, what’s the solution: In-house or outsourcing?

The reality is, few can afford to leave everything in the hands of an agency – it would be a full-time job in itself to prevent cost overruns, loss of accountability and creative control of your digital output.
But on the other hand, fully costed in-house staff can weigh on productivity levels and present long-term expense, even in modern low-wage Britain. In the face of extreme Brexit economic uncertainty, where figures of benefits or detriments are simply plucked from the sky, who can decide?
Like most things in life, the probably lies somewhere in the middle – a subtle mix of the two. Don’t always assume that a full-time post will fulfil your economic needs and increase productivity. Outsource the specialist skills that drain your time and resources and that require specific skills sets. SEO, analytics, content writing, base-line social media, blogwriting. You can then decide whether you need help creating strategy and ongoing content management.
So, before you start your digital marketing renovation, maybe take a life lesson from a television renovation programme, ditch the false promise marble hallway of endless productivity, dig out your economics textbook and work out some real numbers…

If this blog has got you thinking about your own digital marketing renovation and you need some help with the figures, WebAdept have renovating digital marketing strategies for 20 yrs! Get in touch with, we’d love to hear from you!

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