28 September 2023

For a cost conscious SME In-house vs Outsourcing: Striking the Right Balance

Shannon Mackey
Written by Shannon Mackey

Shannon is a marketer with experience in global agency and brand environments as well as medium sized SA businesses, bringing a diverse set of marketing skills to any organisation. With a family legacy of hospitality she has a natural flair for customer-centric strategies to engage with end users in all environments. Her experience coupled with strategic thinking and creative implementation integrates her marketing services and ensures that clients are guaranteed maximum return on investment. Shannon’s background includes senior marketing and communications roles at Reebok SA, TBWA Hunt Lascaris and The Marketing Centre (both SA and UK).

Finding the right balance between outsourcing and in-house marketing can be a difficult task. However, achieving this balance can help you maximize your marketing budget and yield better results.

Marketing teams often rely on outsourced specialists to handle specific tasks, from graphic designers to web developers to paid media managers. However, certain responsibilities should be kept in-house, as outsourcing them may lead to difficulties.

Which tasks should be outsourced and which should be handled in-house? How do you assess the outcome of outsourced work? These are critical questions to consider when measuring the effectiveness of your marketing strategy.

What to outsource

Outsourcing: A Rule of Thumb for Small Businesses is when you need specific expertise in a particular field but don't require it all the time, outsourcing is often the best option.


Tasks like:


  • Graphic design
  • Web development,
  • PPC & SEO,
  • Content creation
  • Copywriting

These are just some examples of roles that are commonly outsourced.

In addition to this, outsourcing work can also be a great interim solution while you're searching for a full-time candidate. It can take a while to find the perfect match for a full-time role, and some matters are too urgent to wait. In such cases, hiring a freelance specialist can be a viable option, especially if you can't afford to wait to find the ideal full-time candidate.


What not to outsource


When it comes to integral or strategic tasks, avoid outsourcing. Although agencies and freelancers can be helpful in executing specific duties, they can't determine your marketing plan or strategy, nor can they manage your core marketing operations. For these tasks, it's best to rely on an experienced Marketing Leader.

Tasks that your team should almost always handle in-house are:

  • Defining your value proposition
  • Creating a marketing plan
  • Designing your marketing and sales process
  • Managing your marketing operations
  • Budget management and measuring ROI
  • Setting goals and holding your team/partners accountable
  • Managing ‘always-on’ comms like email campaigns

We tend to find that effective marketing teams often have a similar in-house and outsourced structure: a marketing leader, who is supported by a marketing manager, who is supported by one or more outsourced specialists. 

Should you outsource social media?

This is an interesting one - the answer depends on what you’re trying to outsource.

While outsourcing the operational tasks of social media - such as writing, scheduling, and performance review - may be an easy solution, outsourcing your point of view is not recommended.


Authentic social media content requires real thoughts, ideas, and opinions from individuals who possess genuine passion and interest in the topic at hand. This is particularly true when it comes to personal social media accounts.


Working with partners to manage your social media is acceptable, but they should not be expected to dictate your opinions on your industry. Furthermore, interacting with others on social media - liking, commenting, etc. - may be outsourced, but doing it yourself will likely make the interactions feel more authentic.


Have a look at our Guide on some LinkedIn post ideas

Measuring the effectiveness of outsourced work

Regularly reviewing your performance against established goals and KPIs is crucial for maintaining a productive partnership. At least once a month, take time to assess your progress.

While different channels may require unique metrics, the most important thing is to ensure that you establish clear goals and expectations from the start and keep them top of mind throughout the partnership.


It is not uncommon for businesses to rely heavily on a specific skill set or task. In some cases, it may make sense to bring that skill in-house. A good rule of thumb is if your monthly expenses exceed the cost of hiring a single person who could independently carry out the work, it is worth considering. If you need more guidance on hiring marketers, be sure to check out our resources.

Finding and picking the right partner

Choosing the right agency or freelance partners is something our team have a lot of experience doing. Our marketing team has an impressive track record of driving business growth both as a group and individually. Each Marketing Director brings years of valuable experience to the table.

Outsource work - but do it wisely

If you're a small or one-person marketing team, outsourcing can be a game-changer. However, it's important to consider what work is being outsourced and why. Certain decisions that have long-term effects should always be made in-house. Should you choose to outsource, selecting the right partners and establishing clear goals and KPIs are crucial.


Deciding on partners and team structures can be challenging, which is where an experienced Marketing Director can offer valuable insight. If you're unsure about how to allocate your workload or what kind of hires and partners you require, please don't hesitate to Contact us. 

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