Often, I work with many organizations that don’t always have marketing departments (or may have one person on staff wearing multiple hats, marketing included). So when is it appropriate to keep your marketing in-house and when should you hire it out? Here are five suggestions:

1. Leave design work to professionals
Microsoft Word is not a design program. Hiring out your design work, whether a brochure, a business card or an entire brand identity package will not only save you time, but will put you in the hands of someone who works directly with printers, has knowledge of correct file formats and can give you expert opinions on color trends and typography.

2. The jury is out on social media. Do what is right for you.
If you’re looking for custom landing pages, social media strategy development or measurement, you may want to work with an outside agency to get you started. You many even want help in the beginning stages to learn about listening, monitoring and placing your content online. Once you have established a plan, it’s a good idea to be the keeper of your own content; you know your business best and can speak in your own voice.
3. E-marketing is most successful when using third-party services.
Though you may have the capability to send mass email messages to your contact lists, you’ll get better bang for your buck (and time) if you use a third party. You can go full-out and hire someone to provide e-marketing strategies, plans and content calendars or just manage the physical e-marketing campaigns (just like the e-news you’re reading now). You’ll be able to track results, test subject lines, see who is clicking on your links and run your content through spam filters.

4. Hire out for your initial Web needs; manage the daily content yourself.
If you’re in business, you need a website. And your website can be a huge selling tool and easy way to engage your audience and provide a one-stop-shop of information. Our suggestion? Work with a designer and/or programmer to set up your initial site and conduct key word searches to optimize for SEO (search engine optimization). Once the development is complete, you can be the owner of your content and Web updates. There are great options for easy-to-use content management systems (no programming or coding skills required).

5. Two heads are better than one.
If you have a small staff or are having a hard time “thinking outside the box” when it comes to your marketing plan, don’t be afraid to bring in a consultant.  Someone on the outside may be just what your organization needs to get you excited about new ideas and initiatives to kick-start your marketing plan. However, if it’s just a matter of making time to sit down and craft your plan, start there first. Get together with key decision makers at your organization and see what needs to be done. If it’s outside the scope of your own capabilities, then you may want to look outside.

The bottom line? It can be a mixed bag of sorts. If you have the time, the energy and the expertise, there are some aspects of marketing that you can keep in-house. If you’re not sure where to start, if you need specific campaign help, or if you just need some creative marketing collateral, hiring out may be the way to go. Do what you’re good at and leave the rest to the experts.

And if you’re still not sure, ask. Sometimes looking through a proposal of what someone else could offer is helpful in making that decision whether or not to hire out.

Melissa Harrison is principal at Allée, a strategic communications and branding company.

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