This article will explore the benefits of outsourcing marketing tasks such as graphic design, Web design, and Web development. Written specifically for B2B organizations of roughly 100 employees and a relatively small marketing footprint, this article will summarize some areas that need to be considered when determining whether to outsource graphic design, branding, or multimedia work to an agency.
The question of whether to outsource varies depending on the specific factors at play in an organization. Though outsourcing may bring significant cost savings to some, for others the workload just might not be sufficient enough to justify going with an agency.
Regardless, there are significant benefits—including the following—that should be considered when contemplating the outsourcing of creative marketing functions.
1. Higher-Quality Output
Because of the highly competitive nature of the graphic design/Web industry, outsourced firms must perform at a very high level to keep clients satisfied. That means going the extra mile, working "over budget," and meeting the high demands of the client. The relative ease with which clients can move from one firm to another makes high-quality output an imperative.
2. Cost Efficiency
Although outsourcing might not necessarily provide cost savings (at least in the short term), significant savings are a reality, as you pay only for time used. In an outsourced environment, there is no downtime that eats away at budget. In addition, if there are no projects, there are no costs; whereas with in-house staff, overhead costs remain constant regardless of how much work is available.
3. Economies of Scale
More often than not, in-house teams are backlogged on projects due to numerous initiatives happening at once or a simple lack of resources to get things done. Outsourced firms, on the other hand, must complete projects on time—and, therefore, ensure that they have the resources to start and finish projects efficiently.
4. More Collaboration
By nature, outsourced firms are much more conducive to collaboration and problem-solving. An in-house team is often limited to the opinions of an immediate group or manager, whereas outsourced firms tend to call on a vast array of experts, professionals, and colleagues to assist in developing new materials or designing Web materials.
5. Faster Work
Outsourced firms can simply work faster. They have the ability to collaborate, pull in additional resources as needed, and delegate work to subject-matter experts. In-house staff, on the other hand, often must find solutions on their own, self-teach to fill any gaps in expertise, and sacrifice initiatives when resources get tight.
6. A Bigger Pool of Talented Professionals
Outsourced firms have specialists on hand in important niches such as usability, information architecture, accessibility, etc., and can use those skills to produce higher quality, on-target materials.
7. More Flexibility
Outsourcing provides the ability to upscale and downscale resources based on the projects at hand. That flexibility allows for additional cost savings in the long term.
8. Helps Companies Focus on Core Competencies
Graphic design and Web design may not be a core competency at your organization. Similar to where I work, some companies are not set up to foster creative outreach or collaborative design; hence, their options are limited. But outsourcing to an organization with a core competency in graphic and Web design removes the burden of managing styles and expectations that we are not necessarily equipped to handle.
9. Better Technical Expertise
From a Web design perspective, even with the most robust, feature-packed Web development software (e.g., Joomla), a tremendous learning curve is involved in developing a technically sound Web experience. Expecting that a small in-house team remain aware and current of all emerging technologies is unrealistic. For an outsourced firm, however, that expectation is valid.
Why Proceed In-House?
There are also advantages that need to be considered when deciding to keep Web and graphic development in-house:
1. Closer to the Organization
Because in-house teams work within the business, they might be able to grasp some concepts quicker than an agency. For example, briefing an in-house group could take less time than briefing an outside group.
2. Small Changes Faster
An internal team (or resource) is better aligned to make small changes, such as to a website or to an email template. The very nature of small projects sometimes renders them incompatible with outsourcing them to an agency (e.g., briefing an agency on a website change could take longer than the change itself).
Which Is Better: Outsourcing or Staying In-House?
As noted, one of the main benefits of outsourcing is that you gain access to subject-matter experts, additional resources when required, and people who help foster collaboration and new ideas.
Though outsourcing certainly holds the potential to take your creative marketing to the next level, if not managed properly it can very quickly drain your budget. A poorly managed agency can lead to increased stress, projects that run way over budget, and frustration on both sides of the table.
Nor are agencies necessarily set up for small-scale projects, the costs of which can add up very quickly if they are outsourced. Having a junior resource on-staff to assist with basic graphic design, brochure-copy layout, HTML email creation, etc., could be an effective way to contain costs as you move forward with an agency.
Although outsourcing holds the potential to take your brand to the next level, the high propensity for sticker shock on the cost of projects could quickly throw a wet blanket on your initiatives. Therefore, tread carefully.