Is it better to have an in-house web team, or outsourced?

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In these days of austerity many businesses big and small are reviewing how they resource their marketing/business processes and in particular, who is managing the marketing, the web build and the optimisation.

The conundrum is always that a company can hire an agency, but who in the company knows when the agency is talking rubbish, or at least advice that is good for them, and not necessarily good for the business? Of course the simple solutions to ensure your ecomms/web team is of a high calibre, with plenty of agency management experience and sufficient gravitas to ensure suppliers follow a strategy.

So, hire a team? The recent Marketing Week salary survey indicated the range of salary’s being paid in 2012.

Average annual salary
Head of Digital

£56,755

Digital Marketing Manager

£37,893

Head of customer marketing

£61,294

Graduate trainee

£21,462

Source; Marketing Week/Ball& Hoolahan salary survey 2012.

So if your business is in Leisure, Retail or pure New media you could be looking at a senior head of digital costing @£60k+. Throw in all your other costs (NI, bonus, pension etc.) and the cost to the business is likely to be nearer £85,000.

So, having decided to invest £85,000, you now need to find the person (recruitment fee, 15% of salary), interview, appoint, pay relocation perhaps? So now you’ve committed £100,000. The new expert starts…and after 6 months results are ho-hum; not bad enough to warrant sacking but not good enough to give you ROI on the investment to date. So you now want rid of the “web guru”… Notice period was 3 months? Garden leave ensues, so nothing out of the individual for that time. End result is that you have spent £63,000 and possibly learned nothing other than how much money can be swallowed by having an ambition to be something online…

There are obvious holes in the above scenario, but broadly if you hire a team to manage the web business you have a great deal of upfront cost, a great deal of ongoing cost and potentially a number of issues;

  • The team (if you hired more than 1!) are relatively comfortable; they have targets but are hard to sack.
  • Can you risk getting rid of a team who have all the knowledge, logins and data relating to your website?
  • Are your team still being run around by the agency?

So what are the options? There are a number, with different pros and cons;

You could move the agency onto an incentive rate; whereby there is a minimum fee that the agency doesn’t make money on, but just about covers costs. Then the incentive is based upon results, making the agency more inclined to for instance, apply SEO to design. Too often this is left off, and charged extra. That’s like selling a car with no wheel! Problem is, you may not be able to renegotiate the agency rates and they may have you in their hand already!

You could move the website entirely in-house, appointing a small team of developer, marketer and content person but they need guiding if you can only afford cheap staff (say, £28k per person?) Can you learn enough, quick enough to justify the cost?

Then there are the facilitators. Agency/consultants who act as the middle man. Paid by the client to direct/control the agency and to develop/implement marketing strategies. Braid Consulting Ltd are an example of this type of agency.  As the client, you can limit your cost (say, 8 days a month) and can have the peace of mind that someone who knows the score can push the agency…because of course they will as the success of retaining their contract relies of delivering visible results, improvements and plans. Furthermore, you can learn from such an intermediary. Build into the deal that the consultant trains you/your team on the basics of web marketing on an on-going basis.

In short, you hire in a senior web team, on a daily rate, at a fraction of an in-house team with the flexibility that now your suppliers are trying to impress each other. After all the web agency want to prove how good they are, and the consultant needs to prove their results.

So do such consultants exist? Well, of course they do; because there a lot of senior people mistakenly let go by big companies over the last few years. These senior people are now available of a day rate, and their previous employees are fumbling around with not direction, or maturity in the management. So test the theory. Look at Linked-in and see who’s available. Google “web management consultants” or “Ecommerce consultants” and see who crops up. At the very least you’re going to get a free initial analysis of the website which might tell you more than you think!