The true cost of internal outsourcing in marcomms (and what marketers can do about it when setting next year's budget)
By Sam Voysey, Concep APAC
Early this year both EY and Deloitte announced the acquisition of design agencies following on a growing trend in the consultancy sector to bring design capabilities in house. The main reason for these million-dollar merges is to create a new-found ability to compete more holistically as they work with clients that are looking to them to drive digital transformation. The added benefits of having an inhouse agency include communicating thought-leadership and IP in a more powerful and differentiated way, as well as cost savings. In short, it makes business sense.
The news that a firm now has internal design capabilities generally comes with the dictate from the boardroom that the marketing team should be looking internally for their design requirements and therefore save on external agencies. The idea of having an in-house design services at in-house prices will make a marketer’s heart soar and leave other less client-driven professional service organisations green with envy. However, it comes with a catch.
Traditionally inhouse design services were cost centres and generally the first thing to be ‘streamlined’ when looking to trim budgets. Not so with these acquisitions. These design agencies are expected to drive revenue and be profitable. They work closely with consultants and their practice areas, even having a role to play in pitching and winning work.
That means their top priority isn’t working on internal campaigns, designing email templates or content for their colleagues in the marketing team. Internal outsourcing in marcomms comes at a cost.
#1 Overlong lead times
I’ve known of marketing teams that need as much as two weeks lead time from their design department to design and format an email design. In professional services this can mean that ready-to-go content is out of date by the time it gets into the format it needs to be distributed. This detracts from their position as thought-leader especially if competing firms are getting out there and creating the conversation first.
#2 Pressure on resources
Many professional services’ marketing teams are often pushed to their limits with the resources they have while facing increasing demands to do more with less. Think how many hours a team spends in briefing the design team, often going back and forth multiple times before content can go out. Can this time be better spent elsewhere? Very likely.
#3 Puts the brakes on continual improvement
Let’s face it, if it takes two weeks to get content out, marketers are going to think twice about making any tweaks or changes to the design or format that may enhance their campaign engagement levels. Achieving best-practice – or what is right for your firm’s needs and its clients - relies on testing, trialling and testing again. This is just not practical when you need to go back to an internal design team that has other – more immediately profitable work to do.
It’s a situation that leaves marketers frustrated. Often the only solution is to find the extra budget and revert to using an external design agency. Regional branches relying on central marketing to deliver their templates are sometimes the first to lose patience and start working with a local design agency which can lead to inconsistencies in branding. Think about how you pay external developers to design and build campaign templates. What does this look like in terms of in medium to long term costs? Anecdotal evidence suggests that this can be as much as US$10,000 a year.
Regardless of whether your team are using internal or external agencies to digitally package your firm’s content, when setting the budget it’s worth looking at an alternative solution:
Source a hybrid design solution for your templates
Find a cloud-based vendor who offers an online design service that will help you select the building blocks you need to create a branded template that you can later manage, change and add to, using a drag-and-drop functionality. Many email providers offer ready-made templates, but these are often geared more to retail or commercial offers than thought-leadership or professional services event invitations. Concep analysed their clients most successful campaigns – the ones with the highest levels of engagement - and used them to develop a template menu tailored to the needs of professional services firms. This means your marketing team can quickly create a drag-and-drop template that is on brand and flexible to use and easy to make changes to, at a fraction of the cost.
Automate your content distribution at source – your website
When content is ready to go, the first place it gets published is in a digital format on the website. Smart firms are tagging their content and building their subscriber lists around them using preference management tools. Imagine being able to by-pass formatting templates altogether and knowing that as soon as content is published it gets sent automatically, in a template that you have built, to your contacts when they want it. No more lengthy lead times! Automating content like this also ensures your email marketing practices are data protection compliant. More importantly, you will experience higher levels of campaign engagement.
Finally, don’t stop there. Your martech vendor should have an intimate understanding of the best-in-class apps, tools and platforms that you need as a professional services firm and be able to integrate with them. Make sure you make the most of their technology partnerships and expertise. These partnerships are only ever made to bring value to mutual clients – you. It’s worth having a conversation with your account manager to see how they can help you bundle innovative products that will save your team time and move your team from ‘headless chicken status’ to strategic internal partner.