Inbound Marketing: In-House or Outsource?

Posted on: August 5, 2012

Traditional marketing is out. Inbound marketing is in. No matter what size business you have or the industry you’re in, at some point, you’ll start to wonder whether it’s better to build your own in-house marketing team or outsource it to a specialist. Inbound marketing is the economic engine of your company, so making the right choice is extremely important.

I’ve been on both sides…

When I worked for DrinkMore Water, I was the vice president of sales and marketing. Today, I run a top inbound marketing company. I’ve built an inbound marketing team from the ground up and we serve as a surrogate team for nearly 100 companies.

Both arrangements can work very well… and both can fail miserably. To determine which is best for your company, you have to consider the following:

1. Your budget, requirements, and timeframe

To build an awesome inbound marketing team, you need a pretty diverse set of skills (analytical, writing, web savvy, technical) and a variety of tools. It’s tough to get either with a budget less than $15,000 per month. If your budget is $3,000 per month and your need for leads is high, you really don’t have much of a choice. You’re going to have to outsource your inbound marketing. You can’t get a good writer for $3,000 per month—let alone a web-savvy individual who knows the ins and outs of SEO, content marketing, conversion rate optimization, etc.

Another thing to consider is that building a good inbound marketing team takes time. Online marketing, content marketing, and inbound marketing are new concepts. If your budget is small, you’re likely considering entry-level people. If you’re 45 years old or older, you probably think all kids are technically astute—the internet generation. I’m 36 and I can tell you that 96 percent of kids coming straight out of college don’t know jack about online marketing. To get them ramped up, you’re going to have to hire someone like me to train and coach them or pay for online web marketing courses.

So, if your budget is limited, your need for leads is high, and you need things to get moving ASAP, I think it’s unreasonable to think that you’ll be able to build an internal team. You’ve got to start interviewing external inbound marketing companies.

If you’re lucky enough to have a substantial budget and you’re a true CEO (working on the business vs. in the business), you might consider building your own internal team—perhaps with the help of someone like me to flatten the learning curve.

2. Your company culture, industry, and customers

There are two aspects to company culture worth considering—internal and external. Let’s talk about external first. If you have a strong culture and you want to convey it accurately to your prospects, it’s going to be easier to get the voice you want from an in-house team. When I say internal culture, I’m referring to getting your employees onboard with inbound marketing. If you have a strong culture, you—even as the big cheese—might not be able to get your people to “buy in.” That’s where someone like me can help—as an agent of change.

Switching gears to industry and your customers…

A big part of inbound marketing is what I refer to as content marketing. At the most simplistic level, content marketing could be blogging to bring people to your website, using various calls to action to engage them and get them to give you their contact info, and then following up with them via an email drip campaign. If you’re in a technical industry, outsourcing your inbound marketing is going to be more difficult (notice, I said, “more difficult”—not impossible).

For example, let’s say you’re an executive recruiting firm that places technical people at companies like McKinsey, Keane, BAH, etc. Companies like these are filled with smart people. The content you create as part of your inbound marketing campaigns must resonate with them. It’s going to take A LOT of conversations to get a copywriter—no matter how experienced—up to speed on your business and target audience.

Similarly, content marketing for attorneys is also notoriously difficult.

A large part of what makes an attorney great is specialized experience. If you’re one of the world’s top trademark attorneys, what are the odds that the copywriter you hire is going to know 1/1000 of what you know? Somewhere between slim and none. In addition to the knowledge gap, you also have to worry about compliance issues. If you outsource content creation, you’re going to get far more “generic” content than if you convince your associates that regular blogging is a necessary part of making partner. Generic content can work, but it’s far less likely to be remarkable.

So, regardless of your budget, if you have a strong company culture that you’re trying to convey to prospects and/or you have very technical customers, outsourcing your inbound marketing is going to be more difficult/expensive (of course, it might still be cheaper to hire and train an outsourced marketing partner than to take a producing attorney and have him/her researching keywords and writing blogs five hours per week).


Deciding whether to outsource inbound marketing or build an internal team, can be a difficult decision. In my experience, business owners frequently minimize the cost of their time. Whatever time you think it’s going to take to recruit, interview, hire, train, and equip an inbound marketing team, triple it and you’ll have a far more accurate estimate!

Contact me if you’d like to learn more about having me consult with you to build an internal inbound marketing team or you’re considering outsourcing it.

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