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Checklist for Agencies: What to Outsource & What Not To

Are you struggling with deciding which digital marketing activity to outsource and which ones to insource? Then you are at the right place!...

So, you have researched and read about different options for meeting your digital marketing needs and finally zeroed down on partnering with an offshore marketing partner. There are many questions that you might still be seeking answers to.

You might want to know the nature of digital marketing activities that you should consider outsourcing to a third party and those that are best kept in-house. You might also want to know the differentiating factor and a general formula of sorts to decide the best possible route, whether insourcing, outsourcing, or following a hybrid model for each of your digital marketing activities. 

Though we are an offshore marketing agency and have helped hundreds of agencies achieve their KPIs over the past 12+ years through outsourced processes, we are dedicated to helping you choose between outsourced activities and those that should be tackled in-house. 

As you make your way through this blog, you will gain clarity on the following pointers and better understand the deciding factors behind choosing to outsource specific digital marketing services. 

  • Enabling factors or reasons behind outsourcing
  • Tasks that digital marketing agencies generally outsource
  • Activities that should not be outsourced & how to make that decision for your firm

Enabling factors or reasons behind outsourcing

While reasons for outsourcing can vary from reducing costs to utilizing specialist expertise available with third parties to a lack of in-house talent to handle the job, your company size can also have a major role in the tasks you decide to outsource. Let’s delve deeper into this as we progress through the blog.

Reasons for small business outsourcing

Source

While medium and large companies outsource regularly, small digital marketing agencies have also joined the bandwagon for similar reasons. This can guarantee efficient handling of workflows during peak season, save costs, and free up resources to focus on core processes.

What are the tasks that digital marketing agencies generally outsource?

Now, coming to the main question, let’s take a look at the digital marketing activities that are generally outsourced.

1. Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

It can be a fruitful decision to outsource your firm’s SEO tasks, such as

  • Keyword research
  • SEO analytics & report creation,
  • Researching competitors,
  • Link building,
  • Carrying out A/B tests
  • Local SEO activities such as submitting NAP (name, address, place) to directories
  • Executing technical SEO audits

A handy tip here would be to retain the SEO strategy in your hand and outsource the execution part to the right offshore agency. Interestingly, some digital marketing agencies might outsource their own SEO needs while some may outsource those of their clients.

2. Search Engine Marketing (SEM)

Many of the Search Engine Marketing activities, including Paid search, can be outsourced to digital marketing agencies. Other than strategic parts, you can always reduce your workload by outsourcing the following SEM activities:

  • Manage PPC campaigns
  • Keep track of website analytics
  • Set up keyword discovery
  • Identify and fix discrepancies in spending
  • Landing page optimization for paid search

Before outsourcing your SEM needs, identifying the right channel that works best for your product/service is the first step. If you have a B2B service, it makes sense to market the same on LinkedIn and Google Ads and not on Instagram, TikTok, or Facebook, which are more of a B2C channel. Knowing your buyer persona or industry persona is also very important before outsourcing any digital marketing service to get the maximum ROI.

3. Email marketing activities

While only 3 out of 10 marketers periodically outsource their email work, here is an infographic illustrating the top 10 use cases for which brands outsource their work to email agencies.

Top 10 reasons brands outsource to email agencies
top ten use cases for which brands outsource their work to email agencies

Source

We strongly recommend maintaining control over the strategy, content, and distribution channel of your email marketing campaigns, while elements such as designing email templates, email list management (checking for inactive email IDs, dummy IDs, list segmentation according to geography, time zones, demographics, etc.,), email development, campaign management, automation, workflow setup,  you can always outsource. 

4. Front-end development activities

A major pain point for medium and large-scale digital agencies, front-end development activities are best outsourced. This will not only save time and money but also help you scale your business up or down. Ever since remote working became the norm rather than the exception, the need for front-end development activities went up proportionally. 

5. Web development:

While 71% of companies are known to outsource their web development needs, including software development, they usually prefer to outsource the technical part of it while retaining control of the graphics and the copy. 

6. UI/UX development

Research has shown that for every dollar spent on the UX of your website, you stand to gain returns to the tune of a hundred dollars. Thus, some agencies prefer to outsource this part of front-end development, specifically to smaller agencies that specialize in UI/UX niches. This saves the in-house team a lot of hours, which would have been spent on focused research otherwise. 

7. Business Analytics

Agencies offering business analytics services are also known to outsource their own analytics needs to other companies. The idea behind this is to free up resources for their core skills and processes. 

So, what are the activities that I should not outsource? How do I make that decision for my firm?

The next important question that this blog seeks to answer is how to decide which activities shouldn’t be outsourced.

As mentioned earlier in the blog, your company size can affect this crucial decision of whether to outsource, insource, or adopt a mix of both. Let’s delve into the unique requirements and pain points of each:

1. Micro-level agencies:

So these are organizations that comprise one to seven personnel and usually don’t build on their execution capacities. Generally speaking, they mostly dedicate their resources to client relationship building and management, acquiring new business opportunities, etc. Such companies are known to outsource all their execution-related work to third parties. The reasons are varied.

The first one is the inevitable cost factor. Young startups are usually wary of investing in hiring in-house talent and prefer to get the work done at low costs from third-party agencies. 

Secondly, they don’t have the capability or execution team members to carry out specific digital marketing tasks. So they prefer to outsource email creation, SEO-related tasks, running paid campaigns, website development, etc, to reputed third parties with the requisite expertise. 

Such companies also usually seek to outsource their strategy and planning because they don’t have subject matter expertise in-house. They might also expect the third-party agency to help them gather more business leads in addition to advice on planning and strategy along with execution-based activities.

2. Small or medium-level companies: 

With a team size of ten to fifty members, they usually have a mixed management team replete with client-facing teams, decision-making C-level executives, project managers, and account managers, as well as subject matter experts or SMEs in-house who can ensure that the deliverables given to the client are of the expected quality and help achieve the client KPIs. 

Such companies usually have the resources to cater to the strategy and planning needs of different in-house digital marketing services; however, they might be lacking on the execution front, which they prefer to outsource. They have the strategy in place and just need to get the spade work done as per the demands of a pre-crafted strategic task checklist.

 For example, if a medium-level company would like to build a business website, they would have proper planning and KPIs in place. All they now need to do is hire a website development agency replete with professional SEO services to help them achieve their desired results. 

3. Enterprise-level agencies:

They utilize the services of third-party agencies for non-core business activities or areas in which they don’t seek to build their in-house capabilities.

Now, such agencies usually have a well-rounded in-house team that can cater to strategizing as well as the execution part. However, they might not have the expertise or the resources for every single digital marketing niche out there.

 For instance, an enterprise-level agency might focus on web development but not on email marketing. So, for their non-core activities, they choose to outsource. This makes more sense than investing in building an in-house team for a non-core service that doesn’t have a regular inflow of work/demand. 

Simply said, based on your capabilities and cost constraints, it is recommended that you keep the planning and strategy in-house. At the same time, you can always outsource the execution with the right feedback mechanism in place. 

Here are the tasks that you shouldn’t think of outsourcing:

1. Content

Content is the first yardstick by which your target audience resonates with and judges your brand. You do not want to outsource your web copy, social media copy, and other content needs to other agencies who might not be able to mirror your exact brand tonality and flavor.

Also, your in-house team, who are well versed in the local dialect, slang, and jargon, might be able to do a better job of it than someone who lives and works in a different culture. 

You can create a content calendar in-house, get the blogs written by your employees, and then maybe outsource the design part to an offshore agency to get the extra bells and whistles. 

2. Database and customer relationship management:

You shouldn’t outsource these segments to other agencies. These are tasks best handled in-house. The first reason is to maintain the confidentiality of your company’s client database. 

Secondly, your database will hold a huge amount of value in your eyes as you will know exactly how to cater to their needs, whereas, for the third party, it’s just a list of data that they may misuse or cater to in an unsuitable way such as bombarding them with relevant as well as irrelevant marketing messages/emails. 

This is in addition to the obvious risk of data pilferage, leads poaching, or other forms of data misuse. You also might not know whether the third party has the requisite data compliance regulations in place or not. Therefore, restricting the tasks related to database management to in-house resources who know the value of it is a sensible decision to make. 

3. Strategy

Planning and strategy for all your campaigns (PPC, email, etc.) are also best done in-house because they involve an element of control that shouldn’t be ceded to outsiders! You know your end consumer/client better than the offshore outsourcing agency, which might not be aligned with the needs and preferences of your end client/target audience. The offshore marketing agency will also likely not be aligned with your business goals, mission, vision, and the long-term impact that you might seek to have in your community. 

For them, it will just be another task. These missing elements will create a disconnect between the deliverables of the third party and the expectations of the brand’s end users. Therefore, all the strategic parts, business-level decisions, and client communication should be managed in-house. 

Check out our ready reference infographic on the activities that you may outsource and those that should be catered to in-house.

So what’s next?

Now that we are clear on which activities to outsource and the ones that are best catered to in-house, you are in a better position to plan your campaign strategies and then proceed to outsource the remaining execution parts of it to the right agency or freelancers. You could also check out our blog on “Insourcing vs outsourcing – a guide on how to make the right choice” for further clarity. 

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Naina Sandhir

A content writer at Mavlers, Naina pens quirky, inimitable, and damn relatable content after an in-depth and critical dissection of the topic in question. When not hiking across the Himalayas, she can be found buried in a book with spectacles dangling off her nose!

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