2023 Guide for Outsourced Marketing

Outsourcing is in – but it’s not the end-all be-all. Find out when and why to put it to work.

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As the challenges of 2023 come into focus, doing more with less is the name of the game. Companies are tightening their belts and smaller teams are having to take on bigger challenges. The result? Marketing departments will be looking for agency partners to help shoulder the load, instead of adding headcount. 

After all, Deloitte reports 70% of businesses view outsourcing as a central cost-cutting tool. As Nachum Langsner of Mind Your Business puts it, “When outsourcing, you’re paying for the content and designer time, but not for the full cost of having an employee (or team of employees).” And this is especially relevant in the case of roles that aren’t truly needed on a full-time basis.

“When outsourcing, you’re paying for the content and designer time, but not for the full cost of having an employee (or team of employees).”

~Mind Your Business

So with outsourcing, savings abound. Huzzah! But what’s the trade-off? Well, when it comes down to it, it’s summed up in the words heard in marketing department’s around the globe: “It’ll take me longer to brief the agency than to do the work myself.”

Your in-house team knows the brand inside and out and can often complete the work in half the time of an external vendor. Translation: getting outsourced partners up to speed on the brand, the project, and the myriad nuances of the business can cannibalize those savings everyone is so excited about.

“It’ll take me longer to brief the agency than to do the work myself.”

~Every marketing department ever

Suffice it to say, the pressure to outsource needs to be met with a measured response. A thoughtful plan needs to be put in place to prioritize the work that can be handled by an outside resource and the work that needs to stay in-house.

Where do you start?

It’s important to verify that outsourcing a job or project will definitely save the business money. Consider all factors. For instance, the cost of hiring in specialized skillsets or purchasing equipment might be points against insourcing, while time-intensive training to integrate external staff with the sales team might be a point against outsourcing.

But there are many variables to consider beyond cost: 

  1. Schedule. Outsourcing will limit your control over when work is done. But if there’s a cushion in the schedule, this may not be an issue.
  2. Quality. Outsourcing to newbies will almost certainly result in work that falls short of expectations. Finding a partner who knows the products, services, and business landscape is the key to outsourcing success.
  3. Flexibility. If the only available partner has rigid policies around rounds of revisions, ownership of the work product, or other variables, you may want to keep the work in-house.
  4. Access to the people doing the work. If kickoffs and reviews are conducted without the creative team present, it could slow the flow of information. Depending on how your business is set up and how your marketing partner’s business is set up, this could be a point for outsourcing or insourcing.
  5. Communication challenges. Communication barriers are common – especially with off-shored resources. If this complication is present, be sure to weigh its impact against time and quality considerations.
  6. Responsiveness. Impromptu touchbases make the business world go around. If an external partner is prone to scheduling every interaction days out, it could be detrimental. But in some cases, they may actually be more responsive than your in-house options.
  7. Rapid pivots. Priorities change constantly. Will your external partner be flexible enough to start and stop work as needed, reallocate budgets, etc.? If not, there could be friction.

The priority of these variables will differ from business to business, and other variables may need to be taken into consideration to suit your business’s unique needs and challenges.

What About Overflow?

Unfortunately, when the planning and rationale are all in place, you may find that your in-house team is overwhelmed by their piece of the pie. That means that some of the work that’s best suited to your in-house team will have to go out-of-house. So it’s critical to identify the partners that can come closest to solving that problem. As established, external teams will never be quite as knowledgeable or quick as experienced FTEs. But how can you reduce the gap? The biggest variable is the business model. 

Look for companies with a “do more for fewer clients” model. You want a dedicated account manager handling no more than a few clients. This will provide a bona fide brand steward, overseeing a diverse team with varied expertise.

Agencies that do more work for fewer clients give your brand more brain share.


Yes, the creative staff will be shared by other managers and other clients, but the macro model will trickle down, and everyone touching your projects will be more likely to have the pre-baked know-how to get the job done right. All in all, you’ll end up with a partner who can take a handoff earlier in a project’s life and ask fewer questions as they carry it to the finish line. In other words – you’ll end up with an agency that functions less like an agency and more like an internal resource.

That said, even Forbes’ article ”Four Reasons Why Outsourcing is Marketing’s Modern Solution” concedes that “There are very few all-in-one marketing consultants. Usually, they offer a few focused specialties…” 

So the right partner should acknowledge that they’re not the right partner for everything. In fact, they should be a collaborative resource to help you shape your plan for what goes to them, what goes to someone else, and what stays in-house.

“There are very few all-in-one marketing consultants. Usually, they offer a few focused specialties…”


Our agency is a case in point. As a long-time partner to a select group of clients, we spend a fair amount of time helping those clients figure out the best way to get projects done – even when it’s not through us. 

Wrapping Up

While it may be increasingly relevant in 2023, attending to your outsourced marketing model is not a short-term initiative. Gartner stresses the care that should go into balancing outsourcing and insourcing over the long haul. And successful businesses know one key is cultivating long-term relationships that transcend the present moment. 

Our select client list includes industry leaders like Salesforce, Slack, and Postman – folks who know their stuff. And naturally, they rely on us more during lean cycles, but they’re also careful to keep us engaged even when budgets allow for increased FTE count. Certainly, loyalty is a big factor, but a bigger factor is the foresight to maintain our investment in their brand and business and prevent wasteful re-onboarding when the tide shifts.

No question, there’s a lot to consider here. And your approach won’t be perfect off the blocks. But the most important thing is having an approach. So make sure your team and your management understand the value of taking the time to thoughtfully shape your criteria for outsourcing versus insourcing.

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At Iron, we’ve been developing marketing assets and experiences for twenty years for some of the leading names in technology, retail, and fitness. Email us if you’d like to find out more.

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