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Outsource or in-house?

Marie-Josée Legault
Oct, 2017
6 mins

Deciding whether you hire one more in-house marketing person or outsource to an agency can be challenging. There are lots of factors at play and we’ve had several conversations with clients confused about the best solution for them. While there are no easy answers here (sorry), the following are some guidelines that might help you make a better decision for your organization.

Why bring a new marketing specialist in-house?

Here are a few factors that would push the in-house decision. Keep in mind here, we’re talking mostly about bringing something to your organization that you don’t currently have (social media expertise, digital marketing, website content strategy, etc):

Long-term needs

Pros of in-house: If you’re feeling like your organization will benefit from this service in the long-term, it might make sense to integrate that person and have a long-term plan to grow them into the role. If that’s the case, be careful to plan out the vision for this role within the department or the organization. Especially in the outdoor industry where marketing teams are lean, it can be really challenging for a motivated marketer to stay in one place without a clear path for growth opportunities.

Cons of in-house: Lack of talent/qualified applicants/skills in-house

I’m lumping these three together but they’re unique issues that we’ve heard from many of our clients in the outdoor and mountain resort industries. The reality is that, unless you’re in an urban environment with a pool of available talent, it can be extremely challenging to recruit the kind of talent and expertise you need.

Cultural Immersion and fit

Pros of in-house: Unless your agency is fully immersed in your industry (shameless plug for Origin here), you’ll find that bringing a marketing expert in house means you really need to focus on cultural fit. Cultural fit is the starting point but it also is a commitment. It is defined as the ability “to conform and adapt to the core values and collective behaviors that make up an organization”. We all know what it feels like when the fit isn’t there. Bringing a full time member to your team means giving them access to the tools and people so they can become immersed in the business culture and values. Your brand has a unique history, mission and vision that you’ll want to explain clearly to anyone (including an outside agency) if you want to meet your goals. An in-house team has an easier job of making that connection with your brand and your customers.

Cons of in-house: Lack of time / Lack of direction

This one is a big one and requires the head of marketing or brand services to really think honestly about their ability to contribute to training, onboarding and directing a new full-time marketing employee. This person will require your time, your focus and your direction. It’s often times a deciding factor in the choice to outsource.

Access to internal business intel and data

That’s a huge pro in getting someone internal. They’ll have specific insights when it comes to analytics, data crunching and systematic reporting that will be harder to give access to an outside agency. If that’s not a huge factor in your business, you might want to consider why.

Cons of in-house: Internal budgets and HR procedures

Let’s face it, many of your organizations have complex systems in play making it cumbersome to get budget approval and HR approval to even start the recruitment process for a new full time role. If your project or product launch or initiative is requiring fast, nimble and fairly immediate action - this factor might be the one to help make your choice for you.

Access to your other teams

Regardless of adding a person in house or going the agency route, a head of marketing needs to realize that marketing is no longer a silo’ed department. The most successful brands have integrated marketing teams to collaborate and share with the product, operations, sales and customer service teams. This access to your wider organization is a must. That means ensuring a proper onboarding with your agency if you chose to go that route and ensuring they are familiar with, have met and are able to communicate with more than the CMO. Same goes for a new employee.

The typical pros of going the agency route include the access to both a wider skill set (you get the agency’s team of brand specialist, digital marketers, content strategists, writers, art directors, designers, project managers, etc) and of specialization. The right agency will also give you a chance to grow your knowledge and challenge the status quo, which is nearly impossible for a new team member to do in the short term.  

While this post isn’t meant to pitch Origin or to make a case against in-house personnel, it really does all come down to fit.