When to Send Online Outside
To outsource or not to outsource online direct response
Deciding whether to outsource online direct response efforts or build an in-house marketing team is a decision every marketer faces at some stage in the development of its online strategy. Some marketers need to outsource immediately; others establish a marketing practice internally before outsourcing; and still others find that building an internal marketing team is best for the long term.
Today marketers can select from a variety of specialist agencies offering outsourced solutions for services such as affiliate marketing, media partnerships, search marketing, direct response creative, CRM and e-mail. To start the evaluation process, marketers must consider their goals, timing and staffing.
Outsourcing is less important when goals are of a more passive nature. For instance, some marketers run online campaigns with a “whatever I get, I get” attitude, letting the market and natural flow of traffic through advertising dictate results. Outsourcing can be difficult when goal metrics are not clearly defined or are frequently changing. But for marketers dependent on an aggressive online strategy with clearly defined goals, it often makes sense to outsource the program.
Specialists offer the greatest capacity to deliver on aggressive online goals, because they begin the program with extensive knowledge of what works and what doesn’t. Knowledge of the most current best practices is a complement to the negotiation leverage with publishers and network of established relationships that specialists provide.
Additionally, outsourcing to a specialist allows the marketer to shift internal resource decisions and staffing needs to its partner for a fixed period. Ultimately, if the program’s goals are not being met in an appropriate evaluation time, the marketer has the added benefit of severing the outsourcing relationship in a less costly and disruptive way than if an in-house team was used.
Time to market normally is a challenge for every marketer building an in-house marketing team. Marketers with aggressive time-to-market goals—say, two to six weeks—significantly benefit from outsourcing partners that get efforts up and running quickly on an established learning curve. For marketers choosing not to outsource, the most common roadblocks to speedy setup include: hiring time, planning, learning curve, technology integration, etc.
Often, it takes several extra months to launch an online direct response program in house. This could be shorter if qualified staff is available internally. But even in these cases, the smoothest resource transitions rarely match the speed of an experienced outsourcer. If a quick start time is not a priority, an in-house solution may still be a viable option, provided that other external circumstances don’t hinder program uptake.
The beauty of online marketing is the degree to which technology has increased the efficiencies at the baseline of all interactive programs. Even so, technology can’t replace the honed thinking of experienced staff. Most online direct response efforts show a direct correlation between staff time and results. Staffing resources must deliberately be allocated with the aim of achieving aggressive volume, quality or efficiency goals.
Hiring qualified staff, however, is increasingly difficult and costly. Just try to hire an experienced search marketer or affiliate manager for less than six figures! Unless the resources are available, hiring a staff for an in-house effort is expensive. Similarly, a single mid-/high-level hire won’t maximize his or her value when performing necessary low-level tasks. Outsourcing provides advertisers the ability to acquire an experienced team of professionals with diverse skill sets.
The matrix shown on page 26 should help identify other points of differentiation when comparing typical in-house vs. outsource options.
After the in-house vs. outsource question has been answered, it’s beneficial to revisit the decision periodically to determine if the route you chose still is the best option.
Peter Figueredo is co-founder and CEO of NYC-based NETexponent (www.NETexponent.com), an online direct response agency for companies looking to maximize their online customer acquisitions. He can be reached at (212) 981-2700 or peter@NETexponent.com.