Marketing Your Construction Company: In-House or Outsource?

construction marketing Construction companies can greatly benefit from marketing initiatives however marketing isn’t always built into the DNA of a construction company. Companies who want to invest in a marketing team have to consider whether they want to build an in-house team or buy the services from a marketing agency.

“Generally speaking, smaller companies—if they do any kind of marketing—are more likely to do it in house,” says Brian M. Fraley, Heavy Construction Marketing Communications Consultant, Fraley Construction Marketing. “Although large construction companies can have complex in-house marketing with as many as five people.”

Marketing requires numerous and diverse skills. To build an effective in-house marketing team, a construction company would need to hire people to key positions, such as marketing manager, content writer, web designer, social media manager, paid advertising specialist, media relations specialist and events planner.

Alternatively, construction companies can choose to outsource all this work to a marketing agency. Marketing agencies employ people with the skill sets for all of the above, and they can have other advantages.

“There is nothing wrong with getting outside support, especially if your in-house marketing staff is exceptionally busy or new to your industry,” says Fraley. “It’s critical for companies to find an agency or freelancer that understands the construction industry since it is a unique and complex marketplace.”

In order to determine whether an in-house marketing team or a marketing agency will deliver the best results and return on investment, companies must define their marketing goals and evaluate their own marketing strengths and weaknesses to see the gaps between what the company wants and its in-house capabilities.

Both options have advantages. Here are some questions to ask when deciding whether to choose in-house or outsource for your marketing needs.

Who has the skills?

Brian FraleyAs mentioned above, marketing agencies are likely to employ many individuals who are specialists at one aspect of marketing so, collectively, the company can generally offer better marketing strategies than an in-house team.

“There are also agencies that specialize in marketing for a specific industry. Many construction companies hire recent college graduates and marketing staff from other industries. The ability to tap an outsider with expertise in your industry can be invaluable in those cases,” says Fraley.

Advantage: Outsource 

marketing your construction companyWho has the tools?

There are a lot of marketing tools that are free or low-cost. Then, there are some that cost more, but can provide more information about the people who are viewing the marketing, integrations with sales tools, automation and more. By using a marketing agency, companies can get access to these technologies for less cost than purchasing them. However, if your digital marketing only includes a website and popular social media sites, then marketing agencies lose that advantage compared to in-house marketing teams.

“Social media is essentially free; it just requires sweat equity and an understanding of best practices,” says Fraley. “As long as you know these platforms, it can be a good use of your time.”

Advantage: Outsource

What do they know?

In-house marketing personnel live and breathe your company 40 hours per week. They understand your products, services, culture, market, clients, etc. A marketing agency has other clients, and only spends some of its time learning and promoting your company. It can take more time for a marketing agency to fully understand your company and appreciate its unique perspective.

“Although some agencies shorten the learning curve with a thorough up-front analysis and dedication to learning your company and most will assign a single person to manage your account as well,” says Fraley.

Advantage: In-house

Across the hall or a world away?

Similar to having a better understanding of your company is having better access to company personnel and files. An in-house team can more quickly and easily reach other company staff than a marketing agency can in most cases. When you are not in the same building, you sometimes may as well be a world away. A face-to-face meeting can be more effective than email and phone calls. It is difficult for someone to ignore you when you knock on their office door. The ability to meet impromptu and have all the necessary people under one roof translates into shorter response times on numerous marketing activities.

“If you want to have access to company files or personnel, it is hard to do those kinds of activities remotely,” says Fraley, adding that this is especially problematic for companies considering outsourcing proposal development. “Getting a lot of people on board to collaborate is harder when their outsourced.”

Advantage: In-house

construction marketingAre your sales and marketing aligned?

One of the prime motivations for investing in marketing is to drive sales. If your marketing and sales initiatives are not working in conjunction, you are wasting marketing dollars and losing sales. When a company employs an in-house marketing team, they tend to have a better understanding of sales initiatives and can work more closely and cooperatively with the sales team than a marketing agency can. With that said, sales and marketing staff at the same company can struggle to see eye to eye.

Advantage: In-house

Who is the quickest draw?

Because in-house personnel have better access to company personnel and files, this can lead to getting some tasks completed more quickly. However, in-house marketing individuals can get bogged down in the day-to-day activities of a company and in activities that have nothing to do with marketing, including impromptu meetings. Therefore, activities related to long-term, big-campaign marketing initiatives can get delayed. Marketing agencies don’t have these kinds of distractions, so they are more likely to deliver on these kinds of marketing activities.

Advantage: Tie

Who is the most creative?

Marketing agencies make it a point to be aware of the latest marketing trends; their ability to successfully compete in their market space relies on them knowing what is new and what works well. Their staff attend marketing awards, conferences and seminars. Most other companies don’t put that same kind of investment in it. As good as your in-house marketing team is when you hire them, they will probably stagnate over time. Plus, marketing agencies generally have larger staffs than in-house marketing teams and therefore have more accumulative creativity.

Advantage: Outsource

construction marketing agencyThe chosen few or the anonymous many?

When you have an in-house marketing team, you get to personally vet the people who will be responsible for your company’s marketing. A great in-house team can be very powerful. You can work with each individual to bring out the best in each one, so they will give their best to your company. However, one bad player on a team can decrease the overall efficacy of your marketing initiatives. Or, if a person on the marketing team leaves, their experience goes with them, and your company won’t be at full marketing capacity until someone new is hired and trained. And finding someone with direct experience in an industry like construction can be difficult.

Advantage: It depends

Who hits the wallet the hardest?

Marketing agencies can be expensive, especially if your marketing budget is small. However, they can also drive value when companies want to take advantage of multiple marketing channels or the latest marketing technologies. For marketing agencies, the capital costs of purchasing the technology and training employees to use it has less on impact on them, because the cost of owning it is divided by the number of clients who use it.

Employees can be expensive, too—salary, benefits, office, computer, phone, etc. Outsourcing allows you to pay for service only when needed as opposed to the fixed ongoing costs of employment. Also, if your company needs to cut expenses, it is easier to cut your marketing agency than it is to fire someone.

Advantage: Outsource

Having one foot in each camp

Even if you choose a marketing agency, that agency will need to have a point of contact at your company. If that person is a professional marketer, it is easier for them to communicate with your team (use marketing speak), as well as decide which activities are worth pursuing and even which marketing agencies are delivering results and offering a great return on investment.

If you choose an in-house team, they will probably not have all the capabilities of a marketing agency and their production is near constant although marketing needs aren’t constant. Sometimes, you want to make a big marketing push, but other times there might not be enough marketing work to keep all of your team occupied. With an in-house team, it would be wise to outsource some activities either to fill the needs created by periods of more intense marketing activities or to compensate for skills or knowledge missing on the team.

“In my experience, companies often choose a combination of in and out,” says Fraley. “At the end of the day, it is a matter of preference and whether you can find someone with a thorough understanding of your industry.”

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