It’s the age-old question when it comes to social selling or any new program: Should you outsource or should you hire in-house?
Nobody can understand your business like your employees who live and breathe it every day but social selling requires a wide and varied skillset (and those skills need constant refreshing to stay ahead of the latest changes). There are therefore times when outsourcing can fast-track your success and even be more cost-effective.
As with everything, it’s a balance.
This blog isn’t here to present a list of pros and cons thinly disguising a social selling agency as a more attractive option than doing it in-house. It even explains why if you do outsource your social selling, it should never be a long-term solution.
So if you want an honest appraisal of when to hire in-house for social selling and when to outsource to an agency or consultancy partner, you’ve come to the right place!
Scalable Skill Sets
One of the biggest challenges of developing any kind of social selling strategy is that the skill sets required are so varied and constantly need updating.
Hiring in-house makes sense when you require a few all-rounders or specialised core skills that you will use daily (and employees won’t be left scrolling through Facebook with lots of spare time on their hands,
Hiring a social selling agency is usually a better option when you need to access niche expertise or when the work is ad-hoc or project-based in nature. Not only will they employ a range of specialist skills sets, they’ll also have great working relationships with contractors too. They will utilise the right people at the right time, meaning you can scale up or down for the skill sets you need, as you need them.
It’s easy to balk at an agency’s prices and assume hiring an employee will be cheaper in the long-run. Again, it will depend on the skills you need and for how long.
As Rand Fishkin points out in his blog, Why You Should Hire Agencies & Consultants (for everything you can) , trying to build a full team of employees to cover varied skill sets will generally be more expensive than hiring an agency to cover what you do need.
If you do have a need for regular, ongoing work with a single, niche focus or a generalist then hiring more in-house resources is usually more cost-effective.
HOWEVER, using agencies as the go-to solution each time you need to scale your skill sets can become costly. They should be able to partner with you to help you with an initial ramp-up of support and then help you scale expertise in-house without the need for full-time roles dedicated to specific skill sets. (We’ll go into this later, or just click here to read why and how.)
Knowledge And Innovative Thinking
As we said, no one knows your business like your employees do. Employees will always have a greater in-depth knowledge of your industry, sector, key accounts and technical expertise AND the right social selling skills are going to be a better option for standard, established campaigns. (IF those skills are needed regularly - see above!)
But if you’re tackling a novel problem, such as rolling out a new social selling program, that’s where an agency can help.
Social selling agencies have worked with companies just like yours (as well as in different sectors). They’ve seen the same issues and challenges every day that you’re experiencing and know what works and what doesn’t. They can bring industry-specific knowledge as well as suggesting fresh ideas they’ve used by clients in “ahead of the curve” industries.
In short, they can bring a tried-and-tested yet innovative approach to solving new challenges for your company.
But you really do need both - deep, internal knowledge/expertise and external support that can give you that outside perspective and tried-and-tested experience.
Again, more on how to get the best of both later!
Deliverables Vs Flexibility
If meeting tight deliverables is a must, then generally a social selling agency, consultancy or contractor is more likely to deliver. They don’t have competing company interests at play and they only get paid when they deliver what they’ve promised.
It’s not that an employee isn’t delivering but they will often juggle many hats within their role. But that can be a positive thing - when something more urgent comes up, an employee can be more flexible. Although an agency may be able to reallocate your resources to more pressing projects, It’s easier to put your social selling project on the backburner with an employee if needed.
The question is: Do you want your project to potentially slide? Or do you need an external influence to keep it on track and prevent it being another project “shelved for now”?! (This isn’t a rhetorical question as not every organisation can go full-throttle with change projects.)
Final Thoughts - A Complementary Match
External social selling agencies or consultants should never replace your in-house team - they should complement it. As it’s probably clear by now, there’s a general trend in the decision on whether to outsource work or go in-house:
- Hire employees for consistent, ongoing work with a specific focus if their time will be filled by those skill sets OR if you need a generalist that needs to dive deep into your business and sector such as a Marketing Manager or Director.
- Outsource for niche skill sets (or when you need to flexibly scale requirements up and down). And when you need tried-and-tested strategies for new projects and fresh perspectives.
But it’s not quite that simple! In our opinion, outsourcing should never be a long-term goal. An external partner should partner with you to provide initial support to drive change and scale your skills but the long-term goal should be to get you to a point where you can go it alone.
But how do you eventually go it alone when you require niche skills?
You will need a network of trainers and coaches to tap into - but it doesn’t need to be a dedicated role. Your socially savvy employees (or as we call them, your “social champions”) can help as an additional responsibility - whether they’re in marketing, sales or even HR.
They just need the right enablement training to help them do so.
And so when outsourcing work one of the key questions you should ask is:
How will you help us eventually help us stand on our own two feet?
If you want to discover how we can do so, our Coach the Coach for Social Media Champions and Train the Trainer will give you an idea as to how! Our philosophy is Train the Masses, Train the Many, Train the Few - with the end goal that you can eventually do the same in-house as you scale.