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How to Determine Whether to Outsource Web Marketing or Do-it-Yourself

Once you make the decision to promote your businesses through web marketing, the next step is deciding whether to outsource the work or to do it yourself.  Some small businesses are highly proficient in using website marketing tactics and tools, while others lack either the expertise or the time to execute the tasks required.  Hiring a professional web marketing services provider is an effective alternative. Depending on your internal resources and structure, it may make sense to outsource only specific tasks rather than to outsource your entire web marketing program. Once you carefully evaluate your company’s internal abilities and knowledge of internet marketing, as well as the time available to dedicate to marketing campaigns, you will be able to determine the best course for your business.

Unless you have deep web marketing experience and knowledge in-house, it is always best to hire professionals you can trust to help you at first, until you are prepared to maintain this on your own (or you decide to continue outsourcing certain functions). Even if you hire a marketing agency however, you should assign someone internally to drive the initiative and manage the process if possible. You also need to be careful in choosing your marketing service provider and make sure that you choose someone you can trust and who can provide you with measurable value and help you get results.

Typical Areas that Can be Outsourced

The seven areas below are the most typical where companies benefit from outsourcing their marketing needs:

  • Web Strategy Planning - Developing a Strategic Plan, Web Strategy and/or Website Marketing Plan
  • Website Design – Graphic design, information architecture design and development of a website
  • Content Development - Definition and creation of content to be used onsite or offsite
  • SEO - Keyword research, on-site optimization (headings, text, meta tags, internal links) and external link building
  • Web Marketing Software Implementation - Implementing a content management and web marketing system for your website, migrating your current site to it and providing the tools necessary to market effectively online
  • Social Media - Blogging, optimizing social media profiles, indentifying key influencers, socially promoting expert content, engaging followers, monitoring brand mentions
  • PPC Advertising - Managing PPC (pay-per-click) search engine marketing campaigns

Unless you have internal expertise in these areas of website marketing, it’s best to outsource (at least in the short term) until you are able to hire or develop that capability internally through training and coaching. You can choose between a comprehensive service that handles everything from planning to reporting results or a different service for each part of web marketing. However, the more companies you hire, the more challenging it is for you to coordinate efforts between them and to achieve synergies from the different programs. If you outsource your work, your ultimate goal should be is to understand what you are outsourcing and make sure that you manage the process.

Quantifying Your Decision

As your web marketing efforts expand, additional tasks, campaigns and programs will need to be assessed for outsourcing or internal assignment. As a framework to help quantify your decision, here are three areas to consider in evaluating your costs, benefits and budgets:

Time Savings Benefits

  • Research and software selection time - Will this solution decrease your time to search for the different types of software you need? If so, how much time would you estimate you need to research?
  • Time to learn what services and strategies you need - Will this web marketing solution reduce your time to search for the services and strategies you need? If so, how much time would you estimate you need to research?
  • Speed/productivity - Will this solution help you get tasks done faster, and if so, can you quantify that time savings?
  • Maintenance time - Will the solution you are selecting help you cut the cost of maintaining your own website in the future?

Time is money. Therefore, if a vendor can save you time by managing specialty or detail work, you can focus on other areas of growing your business.

Financial Benefits

Below are different financial impacts from outsourcing that can help you quantify budget benefits:

  • Strategic planning costs -  How much benefit will derive from help defining your strategic plan so you have a structured roadmapyou’re your web marketing efforts? Too often, businesses react and get piecemeal solutions for their marketing efforts without planning how they want to strategically grow their business. This approach usually ends up costing more money than taking the time to bring in expert outside help to develop a plan that outlines their direction, competitive strategy and goals for success.  
  • Website development -  How much benefit will you get for the development of the site if you were to compare it to what others would provide you for the service? Be sure to compare apples to apples. Many web developers and design firms only provide a pretty design, without any focus on tools or sales process behind it. An effective website begins with a website plan that takes into account what you need to effectively sell through your website and the necessary web marketing tools to support it. The goal of your website is to help you generate leads and revenue—to realize that benefit, make sure the solution helps you develop the content, structure and processes you need to sell through your website. Set a goal for how much additional revenue would you realistically think you can increase as a result. Also determine how much can the solution help reduce maintenance expenses you are currently paying to an outside webmaster or consulting firm. 
  • Promotional costs - How much will it benefit you to get a company to help promote your website; develop articles, video, and blog posts customized to your business; and post them on popular sites so you can increase your rankings and drive traffic to your site through search and social media? Will it benefit you to have a social networking assistant who will set up and optimize your business profile on popular social networks such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn to build your online network, drive discussions, participate in the conversation and keep you engaged with your fans?
  • Training and/or coaching costs - How much will it benefit you to get trained on specific tasks, and to use coaching and online learning resources to keep building your knowledge and skills?
  • Software, hosting and subscription fees - How much benefit are you getting from this solution compared to purchasing all the pieces separately? How much can you save if you are to replace what you are currently paying for subscription fees, software, upgrades, hosting, etc.?

Service, Quality and Value-Add Benefits

There are also benefits that you can quantify related to service, quality and value-added. Use the questions below to assess the overall value for you in less tangible areas.

Consider the value in having:

  • Full control over your web marketing so that you can maintain your website and make an informed choice on which tasks to outsource and which to perform internally?
  • A service provider that can produce an effective web marketing strategy roadmap for you and supply ongoing education?
  • A customer support portal that provides the latest trends, tips, articles, videos, tools and training guides; the ability to ask questions and engage in conversations on different topics; and access to support at all times?
  • A service provider that offers personalized support and a single point of contact you can call directly for help or advice?
  • The ability to measure results and get ideas on how to continually improve them?

Although it may not be straight forward to quantify each of these areas, going through this exercise will give you a framework to help with your decision.

You know that "to make money, you need to spend money." The questions above will help you quantify the benefits of your web marketing investments. However, you also need to set a budget for how much you need to spend for marketing. Typically the benchmark of a marketing budget is 10-20% of your revenue, depending on how effective you are at marketing. The more effective you are, the closer it is to 10%. This budget includes only expenses you pay out for services—not internal salaries.

Using this framework can help you base your decision on facts, data and quantifiable benefit. It helps transform your choices into "business decisions" and keeps you focused on value as YOU define it.



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