In-house or outsource?
A fundamental question that many businesses are now having to address is whether their digital marketing strategy, planning and execution should be delivered in house, outsourced completely or the solution found somewhere in the middle of the two. It’s a very difficult question to answer as it very much depends on internal resource available, inhouse skills & knowledge level etc. It also depends on the nature of the business, the sector and the growth objectives. For some companies the web will be integral to who they are, what they do and how they reach their customers. For others, the web may simply be a supportive tool or one of many routes to their market.
In reality, due to the changing nature of online marketing, it’s very likely that businesses that want to reach customers via the web will need to become more hands on with their online marketing activities. This is due to the fact that effective online marketing now requires lots of off-site interaction involving expressing knowledge and expertise and placing content in other places on the web such as forums, blogs, social sites and so on. This means these ongoing activities become very difficult to outsource and so the case for in-house delivery become stronger. The strategic and planning side of digital marketing however is something that most businesses will need external help with. This step would involve the online market research, competitor analysis, keyword research, customer targeting, choice of online media channels, analytics, monitoring etc.
While some companies may be in the position where they can hire digital marketing managers and executives the majority of companies who are serious about the web will look at a blended approach, bringing in expertise to help them on some aspects on the strategic side of online marketing. This introduces many other challenges such as – how to find the best and most cost effective agencies to work with, how to write a brief for a digital marketing supplier, what questions to ask and how to make a decision on which supplier to use.
Reasons not to choose a Digital Marketing Supplier
Any suppliers who try to blind you with technical science or claim they have secret techniques that will get you results should not be trusted. This ‘black box’ approach to search engine optimisation and online marketing is a sure sign that they either don’t know much about what they are doing or worse still they are using some dubious techniques which may deliver short term benefits but get your site blacklisted in the future. Any good supplier should be able to explain in plain English the exact steps they will take to help you develop & implement your online strategy.
Key questions & criteria to asses a digital marketing Agency
The most important question you can ask is – “what relevant experience they have and what they have delivered successfully for others in the past.?”
- Have they worked with businesses in your industry and if so what were the key challenges and learning’s from these projects?
- Results, Results, Results – What have they delivered for others digitally and how has this has directly impacted on new customers, sales, turnover, profit?
Writing a brief for a digital marketing Agency
The brief will vary depending on you market/audience and objectives however here are some general suggestions for a digital marketing brief. It’s obvious from some of these points that this is not a straight outsource arrangement and you will need to work closely with any agency providing key knowledge about target markets, helping them to understand your market proposition etc
Help to better understand our your market form an online perspective incorporating keyword research, identification of authority industry websites, web 2.0 properties which allow interaction – forums, blogs, video sites, relevant groups within social/professional networks etc
- Understand the key players within target audience (decision makers, influencers) and determine the best way to communicate with these individuals (both tone off communication and mechanism of communication)
- Evaluate and select the best suited digital marketing channels to reach your target audience – SEO, paid online ads, social media, video marketing, blended approach…
- Develop a ‘hit list’ of web properties to interact with over time in order to get key message in front of your target audience and develop your company as authority in your particular industry/area of specialism.
- Develop plan to integrate online marketing strategy and related activities to staff working practices i.e. get them engaging in the right set of online discussions, writing & publishing seo friendly content to multiple channels, building smart back links to website etc
- A set of KPI’s to work towards relating to targeted traffic, conversion to enquiry, newsletter sign up
- A set of defined online marketing targets including things like, number of back links to build, number of online press releases, number of interactions in web 2.0 properties etc.