The modern-day short-handed marketing department staffs their teams with digital marketing specialists. This reaffirms that businesses understand digital marketing's significance. It reaffirms another thing too.
Lots of small marketing departments are clueless about digital marketing.
Full disclosure, I manage a digital agency, but that doesn't change some harsh realities. SMBs perceive an in-house digital marketing person replaces their agency, saves money and improves results. They don't understand that digital marketers specialize in certain areas (eg; development, SEO, design) the same way doctors do (surgeons, pediatricians, OBGYNs). The agency-for-individual trade means swapping a hospital of specialized doctors for a potentially superstar General Physician to handle your health. Also, when you hire a digital marketer expect the budget to increase in:
1 - Ad buys (digital ad spend usually increases when in-house).
2 - Agency fees (to assist with work the employee can't do on their own).
3 - Training and
4 - Replacement costs every 1-2 yrs (average marketing turnover).
You need a point person at your business to manage the agency relationship instead. Agencies and SMBs can work harmoniously if activities and expectations are clear. Below are things to flip to an agency and do internally.
What should I outsource and what can my small business handle in house?
Content Creation - In House
Don't ask your vegetarian web developer to copy-write for your steakhouse. As the Marketing VP you know what makes your steak great. Talk with your staff, devise acontent calendar and write about specific topics (eg; a 'Why our steak is great' page).
Content Design - Outsource
For most businesses design is a back-of-house function; you don't sell your creative. Don't hire a designer unless you make money selling creative design services. Use that money to generate leads. Not on someone to debate Calibri or Times New Roman with. Consider this. Most designs take 3-4 iterations before completing regardless if the designer is in house or not. With an in-house designer you're paying for the effortin those iterations. With an outsource designer you're paying for delivery. Not time. Talented designers are everywhere.
Digital Strategy Development - In House
Don't worry if you don't know the latest and greatest social media platform. As the marketing lead at the steakhouse you know your business and why people should eat your steak. Create a marketing plan to get more female customers -- online and offline. How the goal is achieved isn't as important as identifying what needs to be achieved. Remember New York to Philadelphia? Determine your destination, then method of travel -- Millennium Falcon, Party Van, Train, Car, Roller skates etc. Print, TV, digital, radio are all viable options depending on your budget and strategy.
Digital Strategy Implementation - Outsource
Get an agency for the how once you know the what. Again, don't ask a digital agency for help on selling steaks to women. They won't know. Ask them to promote a message and create tangible results that can be validated with statistical data. A good customer (you) approaches a digital agency with a problem to solve (visits by women to the steakhouse) and an agreed-to-metric (eg; reservations made by women) to track effectiveness. The VP of Marketing is the architect of the house and the agency are the builders.
Marketing/Lead Generation - In-House
Marketing contributes to revenue and needs to be done in-house. You can outsource specific functions or activities like prospecting, digital etc, but you need to own the entire process. Activities can be outsourced, but messaging can't. What and how you promote your products or services is key to your success. Leaving that in the hands of third-party agencies is dangerous.
Technical Work - Outsource
Track utilization and you'll conclude that in-house technical resources (developers, digital marketers etc;) are under-utilized. They'll spend 1 hour completing a technical task, another hour tweeting the assignment's completion and add the task as one of their LinkedIn portfolio pieces to wrap up the social media lap. Fully-utilized technical resources also present issues. They firefight your activities full-time at the expense of learning new skills in a dynamic field. They're a bottleneck and single-point of failure. How long before they lag behind? Or, if they learn independently, they'll invariably leave you for, wait for it, a digital agency with more challenging work and like-minded people. Protect yourself against these scenarios by initially hiring an agency. The work is guaranteed, an SLA signed and training/turnover isn't your problem.
Consider this, if costs are identical, would you hire a lawyer (technical work in a different field) full time or a law firm with a team of experts in corporate litigation, mergers, acquisitions, errors/omissions and patents? How many lawsuits do you really go through OJ?
Digital marketing is a key component of a business' overall marketing plan, but you don't need a lot of in house resources to implement. Do you want to be responsible for training, hiring, supporting and budgeting digital marketing people when it's not directly related to your product or service? If so, then you better open up your wallet because you're not buying orange juice anymore...
...you're buying orange trees.