Ideation Digital


Insourcing vs Outsourcing the Digital Marketing Function of your Business

6th Oct, 2021

Insourcing vs Outsourcing the Digital Marketing Function of your Business

The massive growth in internet usage in South Africa is driving the need for businesses to transform entire operational procedures and processes to digital solutions, and marketing and sales is near the top of the list.


As increased data has become available on Internet Users in South Africa, Digital Marketing is becoming more targeted, cost effective and results driven where return on investment is easily measured through strategic planning and reporting.


Quicker response times and efficient adjustments of campaigns for maximum results is now possible, through highly skilled digital marketers and the newly accepted ways of communication between client and agency. Strategic advance planning is critical for any solid digital marketing campaign implementation, but the possibilities are endless with the latest technologies and real time response driven demands from customers.


Over and above the Human Capital and skilled labour required to effectively execute a digital marketing strategy, as well as the extensive knowledge and experience required to fully understand all digital publishers like Facebook, Instagram, Google & more, it is also important to note that a myriad of operational & reporting tools are required.


In this article we will unpack the technical tools, skills, cost, and time investment that you need to understand and be fully informed on, before making a final decision on embarking on a digital marketing journey and whether to insource or outsource or opt for a hybrid solution for your business.


Digital marketing skills demand is definitely increasing, and supply isn’t matching the demand, so what do business owners need to know?


What skills are required to run an effective digital marketing strategy?


First and foremost, the digital marketing function comprises of the following specialist fields and skills sets:

  • Strategic Marketing
  • Search Engine Marketing (better known as Pay-Per-Click or Google Ads)
  • Social Media Marketing
    (Owned – the social media platform/s you choose like Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn etc.
    Earned – the community or following you build up on these platform/s.
    Paid – objective based advertising on these platform/s)
  • Content Marketing – both content strategy and content production either written articles or video production
  • Search Engine Optimisation – better known as SEO
  • Google Analytics or specialist skills in accumulating and analysing data, for effective reporting to enable digital marketing teams to make strategic decisions on improving the over-all digital marketing function


Based on the above, a digital marketing strategy requires a vast skill set, which cannot be performed by one individual. A team of skilled digital marketers is required, to fully take advantage of the digital marketing opportunities available.


Availability of Digital Marketing Skills


Skills shortages are imminent due to the uptake in companies outsourcing Digital Marketing to independent contractors, working remotely, which is now an accepted norm, but also due to the fact that there is a lack in knowledge about how and where to get certified as well as which certifications actually belong to a qualification’s framework either in South Africa or across the globe.


We refer to the following interesting articles:



So, what does it cost to employ a Digital Marketing Team?


We refer to Pay Scale, for an estimate of what an internal digital marketing team will cost a business:


In summary, on average salary:

  • A Digital Marketing Specialist will cost a business R244 400 per annum
  • An SEO Specialist will cost a business R247 399 per annum
  • An Online Marketing generalist, which also has experience in Search Engine Marketing (Google Ads) & an element of Content Strategy, will cost a business R287 594 per annum
  • A Social Media Specialist will cost a business R218 727 per annum
  • A Google Analytics or online data specialist will cost a business R250 000 per annum


Therefore, a full team of Digital Marketing experts will cost a business a whopping R1,2 million rand per annum, and increase monthly operating costs by R104 010 per month, excluding advertising spend or cost of production on content.


What establishes the cost-effectiveness of insourcing your digital marketing team is the volume of work required to generate the expected income from digital marketing efforts or alternatively the size of your business in terms of revenue generated.


It is also important to note, that due to the ever-evolving nature of digital marketing and digital platforms available, regular training with minimum intervals of 6 months, is required for all digital marketing teams to stay abreast of industry updates. It is important to include a training or skills development budget to your digital marketing team cost.


What tools are required for Digital Marketing?


For any digital marketing team to perform at their best they need a selection of the latest AI powered software solutions for digital marketers. Time is valuable so it is important to have the right set of technical tools to automate mundane tasks; from content management, development and calendars to customer relationship management, analytics and metrics reporting to SEO and keyword research and the ultimate lead generation and enrichment tools.


The digital marketing function of any business remains operationally intense:


  • Search Engine Optimisation requires regular scanning and analysing the data in order to implement the next tasks
  • Google Ads campaigns need to be re-analysed monthly, based on data generated within the account/s and the information used to apply either campaign amendments, optimisations or at a worst case, rebuilding campaigns.
  • Social Media is often the most complicated of all digital marketing channels to run. Not only do you have to contend with each social media platform independently, but you also need to regularly post content (which requires both content production and the action of posting), community management also needs to be done daily on consumer engagement and enquiries. Over and above, much like Google Ads, paid social campaigns need to be re-analysed monthly, based on data generated within the accounts/s and the information used to apply either campaign amendments, optimisations or at worst case, rebuilding the campaigns.
  • Produced written and video content need to be loaded to your website, SEO’d and circulated through applicable digital channels
  • And finally, all of these tasks and the results thereof, need to be reported on for analysation and iteration on your over-arching digital strategy.


The tools required to effectively manage these operational tasks, include but are not limited to:


  • A website and produced content scanning tool, like Screaming Frog, WebCEO, SEMRush and more.
  • A social media cross-posting tool, which preferably includes a single “inbox” so that you can manage engagement and queries in one place, rather than checking each individual platform daily. Options include HootSuite, MeetEdgar or Sendible.
  • A website Content Management System or a development resource/supplier that will be able to upload and manage content produced.
  • A reporting tool to compile all the necessary data from all digital marketing platforms. Options include SuperMetrics, Swydo, Power My Analytics or more.


Each of these tools unfortunately don’t have a local supplier and therefore are billed in foreign currencies, with minimum contract durations, billable in advance. A realistic estimate of what the digital marketing tools will cost per month, is R30 000 – R40 000.


How much time is needed to execute a digital market strategy?


In general, there are 2 aspects that need to be considered:

  1. Always-On Digital Marketing:

Every business making use of digital marketing to execute the business’s marketing strategy, should have an element of “always-on” campaigns. Reason being, the effectiveness of digital marketing is derived by the data accumulated from the campaigns. There is never a “one-size fits all” approach, and each digital marketing strategy needs to be refined to the specific business it is being utilised for.

  1. Digital Marketing Campaigns:

Planning, implementing, and managing promotions, seasonality campaigns or any campaign of sorts that are strategically implemented to mitigate sales risk in business down-times, re-stocking, changes in business strategy or more.


In order to facilitate either of the above, requires strategic thinking, 24/7 management, 24/7 monitoring, 24/7 customer relationship management and 24/7 lead generation management and facilitation. Afterall, anything “online” never sleeps!


What do you need to know about Outsourcing your Digital Marketing Function?


Digital connection and interconnectedness in the world and country today has drastically increased the connectivity between marketing teams and agencies. There is a range of platforms like WhatsApp, Zoom, Microsoft Teams, etc. that are easily accessible communication platforms. These communication platforms have opened up new opportunities and ways of doing business more efficiently.


But why is communication so important when you outsource your digital marketing function? The answer is simple – the agency or freelance team you employ, are digital marketing experts and need effective collaboration with a senior management team within your business, to fully understand how to match the digital marketing operations to achieve your overall marketing strategy and ultimately assist you in achieving your business strategy. The only person/people who can convey what the ultimate goals for the business are, and how the relative market either posses a threat or opportunity, is YOU.


It is also important to note that Digital Marketing, although innovative and the most cost-effective marketing vessel in history, is still only a vessel to execute your overall marketing strategy. A good agency or team of professionals will aim to understand what your business objectives and brand strategy are, ahead of proposing a digital marketing strategy & applicable execution.


However, the question still remains - what is best for your business? An internal team will always understand business objectives and brand strategy better, so should you insource or outsource or opt for a hybrid solution of your digital marketing function? Below, we have listed the pro’s & cons of each.


The pros and cons of insourcing the digital marketing function:


The Pros of insourcing:

  • You will have complete control over your digital marketing function
  • An in-house team provides the ability to instantly respond to market demands
  • Your in-house team should be most effective at living the brand culture
  • Your in-house team will only be focusing on your brand, rather than a mix of brands.
  • You will have real-time and efficient customer relationship management
  • The in-house team can efficiently and directly support your sales team and sales processes


The Cons of insourcing:

  • Ineffective management of digital marketers, due to lack of skill or knowledge in the digital marketing field.
  • High operational costs (Salaries, equipment and paying for the necessary digital marketing tools, such as SEO scanning tools, social media management tools, etc.)


An insourced team will still require clear direction and support from the management team, to execute their roles and responsibilities effectively. A lack of knowledge on how to effectively handle the intricacies and time investment required to strategize, produce, implement and manage any digital marketing campaign, is hugely detrimental to the effectiveness of a digital marketing strategy and digital marketing team.


A good place to start managing an in-house team, is to determine what your requirements are by setting objectives and using them to develop a strategy. Your strategy then needs to be executed through the various digital marketing opportunities that are available, in each area of expertise (as mentioned above), as well as the applicable platforms available.


The pros and cons of outsourcing the digital marketing function:


The Pros of outsourcing:

  • In an agency, accountability is taken seriously. Digital marketing agencies are fully aware that they are paid to deliver and won’t be paid if they don’t.
  • An agency will be able to report on output vs investment needed, in terms of measurability as most will conduct in-depth research of your business, in relation to its market as well as its competitors.
  • The cost of investment is generally much more affordable than funding your own team.
  • An agency tends to bring fresh ideas and opportunities to the forefront.
  • Due to market experience and the collaboration of skill sets, agencies are best to advise on what content performs and what doesn’t, cross-referenced to industry best practice standards and knowledge of the multitude of digital marketing platforms available, as well as how each platform works.
  • Agencies have superior knowledge of what digital marketing functions work best and which don’t, due to the intense focus on results across multiple markets and platforms, for various clients.
  • As a business, you will have access to a multitude of skills, in one place.
  • An agency brings a clear understanding of integrating all digital assets for the best possible performance of your digital marketing strategy.
  • Agencies have a clear understanding of reporting metrics and improved response to adjust campaigns to maximize results, again, because they know, if they don’t produce, they run the risk of losing your business.


The Cons of outsourcing:

  • An agency will never know and understand your business better than you will, and as agencies are measured on performance they will often make on-the-fly decisions, if they see something going wrong. This can lead to a loss of control for the business owner.
  • Some agencies lack the ability to fully understand your brand essence and company culture
  • Because agencies serve a multitude of clients, this can lead to reduced response times. This needs to be well-managed from the onset of your relationship with an agency, so as not to upset current and potential customers who are used to instant responses from your business.
  • Many business owners perceive a high cost when working with agencies relative to the output they produce. This is not the case. Many business owners often don’t understand what happens behind the scenes in an agency environment and due to lack of knowledge or experience, understand the operational requirements it takes to fully execute a digital marketing strategy.


It is important to note, that whether your decision is to insource or outsource your digital marketing function, as a business owner, you need to be heavily invested in the initial stages of executing your digital marketing function. Your team or your agency will require effective regular collaboration and communication from you, to ensure they are executing your digital marketing strategy effectively.


Digital marketing is challenging, innovative, and fun, and definitely is the most cost effective when compared to other marketing channels. The downside is that it is hugely administrative and requires constant iteration for improved results.


At Ideation Digital, we pride ourselves on taking every single client through a “hands-on” educational journey.


Our Promise to every customer is to partner with you and guide you on your digital marketing journey. We will improve your digital performance and increase your digital footprint. We will help your company embrace digitisation with the ultimate objective of delivering measurable results for a better future.


For any assistance or further questions about insourcing or outsourcing your digital marketing function, feel free to contact us.


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