Recently, I heard an interesting bit of rhetoric from a small group of online marketers regarding the desire to fully in-source paid search because it has to be a "core competency." When asked to further explain this desire or this strategy, marketers often talk about how their investors, CEO, or board of directors believe that because the entity is so dependent on Google in particular and search as a whole, that the tasks and strategies are far too important to outsource. Sometimes management as an entity even thinks the technology shouldn't be outsourced and instead be built in-house.
If you or your organization believe that you "need" to manage paid search fully in-house because as an Internet savvy company, you must make search marketing a "core competency," you may be doing both yourself and your company a disservice. After looking at hundreds of paid search campaigns, I've found that the best campaigns from both a structural and performance basis have both a strong in-house individual (or team, if a large marketer) and a skilled external agency or consultant. If the spend under management is large enough, then an appropriate campaign management technology also adds significant time savings and performance enhancement. To understand why this combination of internal and external human capital is superior to a fully in-sourced solution, let's look at the strategic and tactical elements of running a great campaign.
First, let's look at the strategic rationale for a fully in-sourced SEM department handling search strategy with their VPs or CMO. The argument is that search marketing strategy is best handled exclusively by a team intimately involved in the business. Clearly, someone at the advertiser needs to be aware of the strategic goals and the specific objectives for a search marketing campaign. However, sometimes more brains result in a better strategy. Think of all the marketing-centric companies you respect and love, and how heavily those companies rely on outside wisdom and talent for their strategy refinement. Pick your favorite soft drink or water company, cosmetics company (they are all about perception, branding, and marketing, and most of their revenue goes to advertising, not cost of goods), telecommunications company, offline retailer, consumer packaged goods company, auto company, etc. It's very rare for these major marketers not to use an agency, or more than one agency, to advise on brand strategy and marketing strategy. Often, in addition to an agency, they will hire an Accenture or McKinsey.
Generally, when an advertiser hires an search marketing agency for some combination of tactical and strategic work, the incremental strategic value is part of that bundle. However, an even stronger argument for a strong internal and external team working on search marketing campaigns can be made at the tactical and operational level. Let's look at the day-to-day challenges and tasks that an individual or team managing an search marketing campaign face.
Along with all these benefits, having agencies work with an internal team means the team has personal insurance too. The agency has ultimate accountability for the campaign. Search marketers have to learn what the top advertisers in the world for offline advertising have learned many times over. Agencies can be an extension of an internal team, making them better.
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Kevin Lee, Didit cofounder and executive chairman, has been an acknowledged search engine marketing expert since 1995. His years of SEM expertise provide the foundation for Didit's proprietary Maestro search campaign technology. The company's unparalleled results, custom strategies, and client growth have earned it recognition not only among marketers but also as part of the 2007 Inc 500 (No. 137) as well as three-time Deloitte's Fast 500 placement. Kevin's latest book, "Search Engine Advertising" has been widely praised.
Industry leadership includes being a founding board member of SEMPO and its first elected chairman. "The Wall St. Journal," "BusinessWeek," "The New York Times," Bloomberg, CNET, "USA Today," "San Jose Mercury News," and other press quote Kevin regularly. Kevin lectures at leading industry conferences, plus New York, Columbia, Fordham, and Pace universities. Kevin earned his MBA from the Yale School of Management in 1992 and lives in Manhattan with his wife, a New York psychologist and children.