When Should You Outsource Marketing for Your Lab?

To outsource, or not to outsource? That is the question that nags at most small-business owners and managers when it comes to their marketing efforts — and as a water lab manager, your dilemma is likely no different.

Particularly in this age of accessible communications technology, there is a lot you can do on your own affordably without formal training. But there also comes a point where it makes more sense to call in the professionals. The trick is determining when.

Here are some tips to help you decide if and when outsourcing makes sense for your lab.

Take an Honest Assessment of Your Needs and Abilities

Determining whether to implement your marketing plan yourself or contract it to an outside marketer actually sits toward the end of the decision pipeline. The first step is to determine what you want your marketing plan to accomplish — whether you want to build email campaigns or boost your lab's social media presence.

Once you know what you're looking to accomplish, next comes the consideration of whether your lab has the capacity to build and sustain an effective marketing campaign using in-house staff or whether you need to outsource at least some of your efforts to a contractor.

To help make that determination, consider the following questions:

  • What is the scope of your marketing goals? Is this a short-term project that will require a set number of hours or a long-term project that will need a weekly or monthly commitment?
  • Do any members of your staff have bandwidth available to commit to adding ongoing marketing responsibilities? Set one-on-one meetings to discuss each team member's workload and gauge if they would be interested in additional responsibilities.
  • Do members of your staff have skills or interests that would enable them to take on marketing responsibilities?
  • What budget resources do you have to commit to marketing efforts? If you don't have a specific budget set, consider the projected return on investment for your marketing project and set a reasonable percentage of that number aside to go toward execution.

Understand the Benefits of Outsourcing

When determining if your in-house resources could take on a marketing project, it's also important to consider the potential benefits of outsourcing.

  • Potentially lower cost: You might assume that outsourcing services is more expensive than committing to them with in-house staff, but that's not necessarily the case. Although a contractor's hourly fee is likely to be more, perhaps much more, than an employee's salary calculated hourly, contractors assume most other employment costs themselves. For example, there's no cost to you for benefits such as paid sick days and health insurance, and there's no cost for overhead such as office space, equipment, and training. Additionally, remember that if you divert your staff's time and energy away from their main job, that incurs a cost, as well.
  • Long-term value: Outsourcing to a contractor could be a better investment long term. They're the specialists, so rather than paying your own staff to learn skills and gain experience in areas beyond their primary training, it is likely to yield better, more efficient results by hiring a contractor, particularly if your marketing goals are far-reaching.
  • Clear terms: With a contractor, the relationship can be much simpler than setting responsibilities and expectations with an existing employee, as you will negotiate a contract with clear terms. You can count on a solid deadline, a defined list of expected deliverables, and project termination terms should that be deemed necessary.

What to Consider When Deciding Whether to Outsource

Even with all the above considerations and questions taken into account, the decision to outsource your marketing is often far from a slam dunk and involves many factors. As you make your decision, keep the following points top of mind:

  • Time as money: First and foremost, consider the amount of time you and your staff would really have to execute this project, and then identify what projects would have to be put aside to work on this one. Even if you determine your staff has the bandwidth to take on more, it may not be the right move to dedicate time to marketing that could be dedicated to updating your lab's standard operating procedure or training for a new service offering.
  • Accessibility and ease of use: If there are DIY marketing tools available that are inexpensive, intuitive, and simple to use, leveraging them could be the right choice, especially if you have someone on the team with a marketing interest or background.

Take the time to understand the real cost of DIY marketing efforts and the real benefits of calling the experts. Then, you'll be on your way to making the best decision for your lab.

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Jeff Rowe
Writer and Editor

For the past 25 years, Jeff Rowe has worked as a writer and an editor for the nonfiction and professional markets, including researching, writing, and editing feature articles, blog posts, speeches, project reports, and magazine essays. He has published numerous articles and essays on developments in health care and health information technology, the home medical equipment market, natural resource and environmental issues, and food topics. He has also been editor and community manager for numerous industry-targeted websites, as well as author of a developing series of novels set in medieval Spain.