Deciding Between Insourcing and Outsourcing Creative

Follow these simple rules to make informed decisions on whether to take creative production in-house or outsource to an agency partner.

Every marketing department has different needs depending on the goals and state of their business. With objectives constantly changing and certain skill sets being needed at different times, there’s no perfect formula to decide what roles to fill or how to fill them.

Rather than trying to fill every need in-house, many businesses find success in outsourcing skills to external agencies, specialists, partners, or consultants. According to HubSpot, two-thirds of B2B companies are outsourcing at least some of their marketing. However, the decision to hire in-house or outsourced support for your creative needs is never clear. 

To give you some insight on what you should be thinking about, this simple framework first outlined in On Marketing by Forbes, offers an easy to follow guide for making creative resourcing decisions. In this post we’ll recap the three questions they suggest asking yourself when making resourcing decisions and provide some examples and scenarios where they could apply for your brand.

The skills: What do you need?

The first aspect of deciding whether to insource or outsource creative work is the skills required for the job at hand. These are the people and abilities your company requires to fulfill a specific objective or project. When weighing competency, consider if your company needs this skill on a regular basis or once in a while.

Let’s use videographers as an example. Not every company uses video the same way. If your company is putting out videos regularly, it would make sense to bring a team in-house to have access to them at all times. Having the same team creating your company’s video will also ensure that the content has a consistent style and abides by brand guidelines, as they’ll be more familiar with your branding than an outsider would be.

On the other hand, if your company is only using video for a certain campaign, outsourcing this skill could make more sense. Using an external source could also bring a new perspective if you’re looking to have a fresh take on a project. Location can come into play as well. If the skills you need are hard to come by in your area, outsourcing the work to an agency, partner, or freelancer can be a more efficient use of both time and money.

Regardless of whether you decide to hire more support in these roles or outsource them when a project comes up, it’s a good idea for your business to have a base level but wide variety of in-house creative competencies. This will help maintain consistency in your branding and content strategy, and also give you access to base level skill sets at all times.

The frequency: How often are these skills needed?

For frequency, look at how much output you will produce in addition to how often. This differs across all businesses due to the different sizes of the company, nature of the industry, and focus of their marketing efforts.

For example, a company’s demand-generation strategy may prioritize different channels, such as their blog rather than events. In this case, they would want to have copywriters in-house but consider outsourcing to an activation-focused partner to help staff events when needed.

Some questions to ask when considering frequency include:

What format of content generates the most ROI?
What channels do we need to put more focus towards?
Where are we struggling to keep up with regular posts?
What teams need more support?
Are we sacrificing quality for quantity?

The channels that your business chooses to prioritize will change over time. As well the amount of additional support that teams need will also vary. What’s important is that you keep control of the level of quality for content while meeting the demand.

The return: What’s the long tail ROI?

The third factor to consider when deciding to insource or outsource creative support is the return on investment and long term cost. Generally, you should invest in insourcing the skills that you will use often and outsourcing those you will need less frequently.

If the demand for a skill is strong and consistent, the greatest ROI will result from bringing that skill in-house. The reason for this is because in-house teams work for a salary. Their skills can stretch to work on additional projects when needed at no extra cost. Meanwhile, an outsourced solution would usually charge more for rush projects or hourly overages.

Take web developers for example. Especially with today’s digitally-driven market, the design and functionality of your business’ website is crucial. Having an in-house team to maintain your site regularly and make major updates when necessary could be more cost-efficient than outsourcing web development projects when they arise.

Analyzing cost really depends on the focus of your business. When deciding if you should bring a skill in-house or outsource, remember to consider overhead costs of licensing, technology, and equipment as well.

Putting it all together

Every organization is different and your needs will change over time. At a glance, you should bring the skill sets that are consistently needed in-house and outsource those that require an infrequent depth of expertise. Using a strategy that involves both insourcing and outsourcing often works best. And while no business decision is easy, we hope this model offers you some guidance in how to resource your needs.

Top image via A.Basler.

Want to learn more? Check these out.

Improving Your Brand-Agency Relationships
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5 Creative Requests You Should be Taking In-House and Why
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4 Visual Trends on Instagram to Inspire and Invigorate Your Feed

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