B2B digital marketing operates in a unique realm. Unlike B2C, B2B content often demands a deeper understanding of niche industries, complex products and multi-tiered decision-making processes.
Given that digital marketing impacts everything from lead generation to brand positioning, it’s no wonder B2B companies are more focused than ever on creating content that connects with target audiences. The question is, who should be creating and managing this increasingly important content? Should you bring your marketing efforts in-house, outsource to a digital marketing agency or try a combination of the two?
The truth is, it depends on a variety of factors, including your organization’s size, specific marketing goals and budget considerations. Let’s explore the benefits and drawbacks of both in-house and outsourcing to determine what works best for your B2B company.
In-House vs. Outsourcing: The Current State of B2B
Before we lay out the pros and cons, it’s helpful to understand the current state of content marketing outsourcing vs. in-house — especially regarding B2B companies.
According to the Content Marketing Institute/Marketing Profs 2022 B2B Content Marketing Benchmarks, Budgets and Trends report, 58% of all B2B companies have a small or one-person content marketing team serving the entire organization. That number jumps to 78% for companies with fewer than 100 employees.
The report also shows:
- Half of all B2B marketing teams outsource at least one of their content activities.
- Large companies (those with more than 1,000 employees) are more likely to outsource, while smaller organizations keep the bulk of their content creation in-house.
- The top challenge for B2B marketers who outsource is finding partners with adequate topical expertise.
The In-House Marketing Landscape
In-house marketing is when an internal team within the organization handles all marketing strategy and implementation. For large companies, this could mean an entire division dedicated to marketing. More often, it’s a small team wearing many hats within the communication and marketing space.
Pros of In-House Marketing
- Deep product/service understanding. A dedicated internal team will likely have a nuanced understanding of your product or service, enabling them to craft relevant, insightful content.
- Dedicated focus on the brand. Your internal marketing team doesn’t have any other clients. Your brand is their sole focus.
- Immediate feedback. Because your marketing team is part of your organization, they’re on-site and often integrated with sales and other teams, allowing for quick feedback and content adjustments.
- Control. When your content is produced in-house, you have more control over the entire production process.
Cons of In-House Marketing
- Limited resources. Content teams are continually stretched thin. According to CMI, 58% of B2B companies have a small or one-person content marketing team serving the entire organization. It can take a lot of work to keep up with the ever-increasing demands for content.
- Lack of specialization. When B2B in-house marketing is done by one person or a small group, in-house marketers are often generalists rather than niche specialists in things like SEO/SEM, copywriting, design, social media or UX. While they may be able to cover marketing at a high level, it’s harder to dig into some of the specialized tactics that really make digital marketing work.
- Potential for stagnation. Over time, even the most innovative teams can fall into a rut, producing content that adheres to the same templates, formats and viewpoints. Without the benefit of new ideas and perspectives that might come from external sources, there’s a risk of content becoming repetitive or out of touch.
- Cost. In-house marketing may seem like a cost savings since you’re not paying agency fees. But maintaining an in-house marketing team isn’t cheap. Additionally, if you opt to save money by assigning all your marketing tasks to a single individual— who is often a marketing generalist with more tasks than time in a day — chances are you won’t see strong ROI from those efforts. In the long run, it can end up being a costlier choice.
The Agency Marketing World
Working with an agency involves outsourcing marketing strategy and execution to a specialized external firm. Agencies are typically made up of experts from different facets of the marketing world, including SEO, content, design, UX and strategy. They are experts in the digital marketing process and know how to execute successful campaigns.
Many agencies specialize in a niche or industry like health care, tech or, more broadly, B2B. Regardless of industry specializations, agencies are experts in digital marketing. That means hiring an agency comes with a strategy and implementation expertise that might be missing from your internal team.
Pros of Partnering With an Agency
- Broad industry expertise. Agencies work with diverse clients, offering B2B companies insights into what other industries are doing effectively.
An agency specializing in B2B companies understands how to customize a marketing strategy for the longer sales cycle and unique marketing needs of B2Bs.
- Access to specialists. When you work with an agency, you have access to specialists in every area of digital marketing — from project management to copywriting to SEO. Hiring each of these individual positions on your own is often cost-prohibitive.
- Up-to-date tools and technologies. While in-house teams might not have the resources or time to learn and use the latest marketing tools, platforms and technologies, agencies specialize in keeping up to date.
- Flexibility. Large organizations often have slow approval processes. It can take months to get a project off the ground. Agencies are focused on the project and can thus be more nimble and can execute quickly, bypassing any internal conflicts an in-house team might face in executing campaigns.
- Strategy. According to the CMI, about 60% of B2B organizations don’t have a content marketing strategy. Without a strategy, companies are essentially throwing tactics at the wall to see what sticks. That can mean wasted resources, missed opportunities and misaligned marketing efforts. Strategy is one of the most important components of a marketing plan that yields ROI, and agencies specialize in it.
Cons of Engaging an Agency
- Cost. The upfront cost of working with an agency may be prohibitive if you’re operating with a single person or a small internal marketing team.
- Potential brand misalignment. There’s a learning curve to working with an agency, especially for B2B companies that have highly technical products or services. There is a risk the agency might miss capturing the specific tone or nuance of the brand.
Keep Reading: How to Know if Your Digital Marketing Agency Is the One
- Operational control. When you outsource some or all of your marketing to an agency, you naturally have less immediate oversight of campaigns and strategies. Finding an agency you trust that communicates well with your internal point person and has an approval process that works for you is important.
- Integration challenges. Merging workflows, management platforms and communication lines can be challenging and may lead to bottlenecks or misunderstandings.
A Blended Approach: The Best of Both Worlds
If handing over the reins of your marketing efforts isn’t feasible, you may consider combining an in-house team with agency support. With a blended approach, you can tap into an agency’s specific expertise and skill while ensuring that the in-house individual or team of experts champions the brand’s core voice and goals.
How an Agency Complements an In-House Team
- Complementary skills. In-house teams offer deep insight into the brand. Agencies have marketing expertise. Put them together, and you have a robust and dynamic marketing machine.
- Flexibility. Agency support can help businesses scale their marketing efforts as needed without the long-term commitment of hiring additional full-time staff.
- Cost efficiency over time. While there may be an initial investment when adding an agency to your marketing team, combining in-house and agency support can lead to more cost-effective campaigns and a better ROI on your marketing efforts.
- Free up your team. In-house marketers notoriously wear many hats within the company. Letting an agency handle specialized tasks allows your team to focus on internal communications and other necessary functions that often fall to in-house marketers.
Finding the Best Fit for Your B2B Marketing
There’s no one-size-fits-all model for B2B marketing. Whether you choose in-house, agency or a blend of both, the key is to align your choice with your company’s unique needs, resources and long-term strategic vision. And remember, we’re here to answer any questions about what a digital marketing agency could do for your business. Reach out any time!