Some SME owners think that in-house marketing is their only option. We beg to differ.

Here’s a nice irony: many marketing agencies have a problem in marketing themselves to certain clients. Specifically, when they’re marketing to smaller businesses, they often have difficulties getting to first base.

Is it because they don’t know what they’re doing? Not in our view. The problem is more that marketers are swimming upstream against an outdated (but persistent) view found in many small businesses. Some SME owners still look at outsourcing their marketing as a crazily unaffordable luxury, like buying a company car from Lamborghini. According to this view, outsourced marketing is strictly for big companies with five or six figure marketing budgets. It’s not for ordinary businesses like theirs. They will just have to muddle along with what they can do in-house.

To be fair, many marketing agencies have helped this perception along. Focusing on big contracts, they’re too inflexible to consider small-scale work, and their eye-watering fees actively discourage smaller businesses. SMEs with modest needs have to hunt for providers willing to accommodate them.

Our advice to small businesses: keep hunting. Because far from being a luxury, our view is that outsourcing marketing can be a great option for SMEs — one that gets round many of the pitfalls of in-house marketing. Let’s see why.

So what’s wrong with in-house marketing?

Undoubtedly, in-house marketing has some major advantages for SMEs. It’s familiar and convenient, you’re dealing with people you know, and it fits flexibly around other jobs. Unfortunately, in-house marketing also brings with it four major disadvantages:

In-house teams often have skills gaps.

Because of the way companies grow, the people who end up marketing in SMEs often don’t have any background in the subject. Typically, they move into marketing from administrative or technical roles. Now, we’re not knocking learning on the job. But lack of formal training or wide experience is bound to leave some gaps in their knowledge. These show up in everything from marketing strategy to campaign evaluation. It also leads to our second problem, that of efficiency.

In-house marketing is often inefficient.

In many cases, marketing is simply not an efficient use of the team’s time. The skills gap means that the in-house team may be slower in key areas such as identifying the target audience, using social media effectively, writing compelling advertising copy, or evaluating how that strategy is succeeding. Think of it this way: with some dedication, and a bit of practice, most of us could probably plaster a wall. But a professional, someone who does this everyday, will do it four times quicker and twice as well.

In-house marketing makes it hard to assess your return on investment.

When marketing is carried out in-house, it becomes difficult to keep tabs on exactly how much a campaign is costing. Tracking time on tasks can be problematic: for example, responding to clients on social media often takes place in short but frequent bursts. And on top of calculating the employees’ hourly rate, there are associated employment costs (e.g. pensions, holiday pay), and any time taken away from other revenue-generating activities. All of this muddies the waters when it comes to evaluating ROI.

In-house marketing never gets done.

For thousands of UK micro-companies, the ‘marketing team’ is actually the business owner. Slightly larger enterprises may have one or two employees wearing several different hats. In either case, marketing has a tendency to keep slipping down the to-do list. The problem for small companies is that there’s always something more pressing to do!

Outsourcing: a better solution?

Certainly, outsourcing marketing to a specialist offers a solution to these shortcomings.

  • As specialists, the marketing providers can plug any gaps in skills or knowledge that are lacking in-house.
  • Given their expertise (and not having the distraction of other tasks), external providers can produce more effective marketing material in less time than the in-house team.
  • As the providers are not employees, calculating marketing costs becomes easier and more accurate.
  • Employing an external provider keeps marketing on the agenda. It no longer gets sidelined and fitted around everything else that’s going on.

The last point is key. Every business owner realises that marketing is an investment in the company’s future. They also know that it requires a regular investment of time. But that’s all in theory. In the busy environment of a small business, marketing is fitted in on an ad hoc basis. And that’s where, in our view, outsourcing really scores. When an SME outsources — even if it’s on a small scale – that ensures there’s a systematic, continuous input into the company’s future.

MV Marketing specialise in providing marketing solutions for smaller and medium-sized businesses. We focus on providing an affordable, flexible service that adapts to your needs. To find out what we can do for your small enterprise, contact us.