Another Take on the In-House vs. Outsourced Marketing Decision

by Jen Marino | August 31, 2023

We’re a learning-minded company, so we’re always eager to hear what our fellow marketers are saying about emerging trends and technologies. Because we’re passionate about maximizing our clients’ marketing ROI, this blog on in-house vs outsourced marketing and their respective abilities to drive ROI caught our attention.

We found a few points we agree with and some we view very differently based on our experience leading internal marketing functions and outsourced marketing teams as Fractional CMOs.

Here’s our take on what the author had to say about the critical in-house vs outsourced marketing decision.

Yes, it’s about budget and bandwidth. But that’s not all.

Jen: The author is spot-on that budget plays a big role in deciding whether to build a full marketing team in-house or adopt an outsourced model. Marketing salaries are skyrocketing, and the field is becoming more specialized, so it takes a team of well-compensated professionals to engage in marketing that drives growth. 

Even huge corporations struggle to get all the marketing bandwidth they need in-house; for middle market companies, it’s all but impossible. But there’s another important element that’s very hard to build in-house, and that’s the right expertise.

Deb: Think about all the specialists you need to do modern growth marketing, from strategy development to content, social media marketing, paid search, and on and on. Then think about how important it is for your marketers to have deep knowledge and experience in your industry, so they can make a business impact fast. 

Now, layer on the value of working with marketers who have a breadth of experience from their dealings with many different businesses. In today’s labor market, you just can’t build an in-house team with that mix of expertise.

Aligning your internal staff to campaign priorities? That’s a short-term view.

Deb: Aligning your marketing resources to your needs is key, but letting your campaign priorities drive the in-house vs outsourced decision is a bit dangerous. Campaigns are time-bound and can change quickly. You need to be agile, but you can’t see-saw between staffing up your marketing in-house and outsourcing it. Your FTEs wouldn’t be happy, and rightly so! Building the marketing function demands a longer-term view.

Jen: Agree! Your marketing strategy and go-to-market plan should drive how you staff the marketing function, whether that’s in-house, outsourced, or a mix.

Sure, your plan will include tactical campaigns, but you need to step back from any one tactic and take a broader view. What skills and capabilities do you need to build a marketing engine that accelerates your growth? That goes beyond next month’s campaign.

In-house vs. Outsourced doesn’t equate to strategic vs tactical.

Jen: It was interesting that more of the marketing roles the author advocated for outsourcing were tactical, which implies that the only way to get the strategic guidance you need is to hire in-house. Yes, you need a seasoned Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) to set your marketing strategy, develop a research-based marketing plan, and oversee the plan’s execution. But most middle market companies don’t need that role full time. When you tie up budget on an in-house CMO unnecessarily, it leaves much less to invest in marketing execution.

Deb: There’s a myth that a Fractional CMO won’t be embedded in the business the same way an internal employee is. But a strong Fractional CMO becomes an integral part of the leadership team and is just as effective at leading the marketing function as an internal hire. It’s really the best way to go for middle market companies that want to base their marketing on research and data, not hunches and assumptions. As far as the more tactical roles go, that can go either way depending on the marketing strategy and plan. But it’s definitely not split squarely along the lines of strategic = in-house and tactical = outsourced. Every situation is different.

Jen: True. The author used social media as an example of a tactical role you should always keep in-house and assign to a marketing generalist. Can anyone write a social post? Sure. Will it be strategic and engaging and move your target audience to act? If you don’t have an experienced social media marketer doing it, the answer is likely “no.”

Yes, business development needs internal staffing. But who’s accountable for revenue?

Jen: I’m completely on board with the idea that business development needs some level of internal staff. The problem is, we often see the business development team only focusing on one piece of the revenue funnel, and the marketing team focusing on a different piece, with no alignment.

When no one is wholly accountable for revenue, then no one is aligning and optimizing sales and marketing to drive growth. That’s when you lose opportunities and miss goals.

Deb: I’m noticing a lot more middle market companies adding a Fractional Chief Growth Officer (CGO) to fill that void. And much like the CMO role, adding a CGO on a fractional basis makes financial sense for middle market businesses.

For a fraction of the cost of an internal hire, they can get a slice of a C-level professional who becomes the catalyst that aligns all the internal groups it takes to drive predictable growth. With the right CGO leading the charge, you definitely see more qualified lead volume and velocity and more closed deals.

Maximizing ROI is spot-on.

Deb: The author’s main point is something any marketer can get behind – the fact that the marketing function has to be built to maximize ROI. No matter the size of the business or the budget, every marketing dollar needs to work hard to drive revenue. And that means every marketing team member must be accountable for maximizing ROI, whether it’s internal staff or an outsourced agency. But one isn’t inherently better at improving ROI than the other.

Jen: No, it’s really about building a best-in-class marketing function that brings together the right talent, technologies, and processes to drive predictable growth. An outsourced agency can be held just as accountable for delivering a high ROI as an in-house team. In fact, I’d argue that outsourced agencies are typically held more accountable because they have to earn their next contract renewal. That’s why outsourced firms like Marketri develop and execute marketing plans that are guided by research, grounded in strategy, and constantly optimized to get better and better results.

If you team up with an experienced marketing partner with deep B2B expertise and knowledge of your sector, and you empower them to do what they do best, you’re going to see the ROI you’re looking for. Marketri is the outsourced marketing partner that B2B companies choose when they want to accelerate their growth.

Schedule an introductory call with CEO & Fractional CMO Deb Andrews or Fractional CMO Jen Marino to learn how our Marketing Momentum Model can drive more revenue for your business and maximize your marketing ROI.

Read next: Is a Fractional CMO Different From an Outsourced CMO? →