Social Media Marketing: Outsource or In-house?

$22,000 over 22 months: That’s how much I’d invested into my coach by March 2020 without having seen any return from it. I was a bootstrapping marketing agency owner in a program that focused on building revenue streams from digital products. Compared to my readiness to launch this business unit, I had jumped in a bit early. I justified the decision with the mantra learning-through-osmosis, which was fine when business was good and terrifying when it wasn’t. At some point during every single week for 22 months, I would lose sleep over it. 

Then the pandemic rolled in, putting my business and employee paychecks at risk. The time had come, so I pulled my team together and told them what I knew of the work to launch a digital product. I started hitting my coach up every single day and connected my teammates with other support coaches we had access to. We launched Strong Brand Social’s first product in three weeks with their help, and in the past 18 months, our business has completely transformed. 

Notably, there are a ton of agencies out there that specialize in supporting people like me launch their digital products successfully. They probably would have cost me about $20k for the scope of work that we needed for that initial launch, but then I wouldn’t be any closer to having the skillset in-house — I’d need to pay that fee every time I launched something new.

I’m about 40k into this business investment and so far it has returned 1m in *annual* revenue which is a 25x return that will continue to grow as long as SBS is healthy. We’ve launched seven more products since, and we can deliver new products to the market with relative ease. The decision I made to invest in acquiring the skills and knowledge to do this on repeat and drive our success from within has been by far the most strategic decision I’ve made for my business up to this point. 

Why am I telling you this? 

As business owners or department managers, arguably our most important job is resource allocation, inclusive of deciding when to outsource work versus build capacity in-house.  When it comes to the success of the organizations we are leading, nothing is more important. As time-strapped entrepreneurs who hear a lot of blanket advice about how important delegating and outsourcing are, it’s equally important to know when to get your hands dirty and invest in a skillset. 

How do you know when you should in-source versus outsource? Ask yourself:

  • Is this a one-time project or a skill that I’ll need to tap for the long term? 
  • Will it be a regular and ongoing part of my success in the years to come, versus a couple of times per year?  
  • Is this a skill that demands a high premium when outsourced? For example, administrative assistant work will be ongoing, but won’t be as expensive as advertising to outsource. 
  • Is this a skill that heavily influences my brand equity? 

If at least three out of four of the answers are yes, consider building the skills of leadership in-house. Meaning, you don’t have to be executing everything, but you need to know what’s what. I’ll give you another example to illustrate that distinction.

When I hired my first employee, we were an organic social marketing company only. I knew I wanted to be able to bridge the gap between creative and performance, so I invested in learning everything I possibly could about social advertising strategy, offering my teammate years of training, and investing in support groups for her. She went from having zero experience in digital marketing to being in the top percent of social media advertisers with a skillset that moved our business forward. 

She recently moved on to the next phase of her career, but I still have all of the experience I gained along the way of observing how certain campaigns, funnels, creatives, and copy worked for brands in different industries at different budgets. I can confidently hire someone in-house to backfill her to serve our customers and clients knowing exactly what I’m looking for. I can hire a media buying company to help with Strong Brand Social’s customer acquisition and know exactly what benchmarks I should use to measure their success due to the time I invested in getting my hands dirty with it. 

It’s not the fast-and-flashy story we hear in entrepreneurial marketing but it’s more of the truth: The thing about investments worth making is that they take a while to realize their full potential. So if you’re in the mud right now learning something new and it feels really messy, that might very well be a sign that you’re doing something right. 

In your corner,

Katie

PS If you want to build a content strategy for your brand that transcends the algorithm, aligns your social media to your business goals, and helps you effectively delegate and lead your digital marketing efforts, don’t miss the upcoming opportunity to work with me inside of Content Strategy Accelerator.

KW Content is a global content and social media marketing agency that develops and launches content and social media programs for purpose-driven brands. Strong Brand Social is our favorite place to hang out! That’s where we provide the absolute best (and most accessible) social media marketing education that empowers small brands to develop their own high-performing marketing programs that are guaranteed to drive growth. Teaching from our proven agency methodologies, we simplify the process and demystify the art of social media marketing to offer focus, efficiency, and measurable results to small business owners, brand directors, and social media marketers. [Learn more.]

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