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Achieving the right balance between building in-house capability and outsourcing is one of the defining questions of modern marketing.

Research conducted for Econsultancy’s new Best Practice Guide to Insourcing and Outsourcing indicates that this is an ever-shifting dynamic.  

When combined with variations by sector and digital maturity, it means greater complexity for marketers and greater difficulty in establishing exactly what good looks like.

The research did, however, identify some key patterns for the type of functions that are more typically outsourced and those for which clients are increasingly developing in-house competency.

One shift identified was a key trend toward taking certain functions, notably content related functions including SEO, Analytics and Data and social media, more in-house.

This is supported by findings from the research conducted for the Econsultancy Digital Marketing Structures and Resourcing Best Practice Guide late last year which similarly indicated a shift towards key content-related functions being increasingly in-sourced. 

In fact, broader findings from the insourcing/outsourcing research showed that whilst a healthy number (32%) believed that more functions would be outsourced over the next few years, the largest proportion of respondents (45%) anticipated that more would come in-house:

Thinking about the next few years, overall, do you think more digital work will be carried out in-house or outsourced?


Many research participants spoke of the cyclical nature of this dynamic, with functions initially outsourced whilst capability is developed, then taken in-house once this has been achieved, then perhaps outsourced again in order to gain efficiencies or specialist skills.

Yet despite this, the overarching trend seems to be clear - more capability being developed in-house.

So is this the biggest marketing trend that no-ones talks about? One thing is for sure, this is a dynamic that will continue to change.

For more detail on the balance between in-sourcing and outsourcing for key functions and the different criteria that is of most significance to marketers in the decision-making process, you can download the report here.

Econsultancy currently has a range of services available that can help guide organisational change, business restructuring and digital transformation strategy

Neil Perkin

Published 4 March, 2014 by Neil Perkin

Neil Perkin is the founder of Only Dead Fish, and a consultant and contributor to Econsultancy. You can read his blog, and follow him on Twitter.

14 more posts from this author

Comments (1)


Carl Ebanks

As a director in a small web company we are seeing, and actively encouraging, this trend among our clients.

We are finding a really cost effective and efficient use of agency to client resource being split with Tundra implementing projects work, supporting that with a level of consultancy and the client then taking on board the day-to-day strategy implementation.

This is working particularly well on SEO backed web projects.

over 2 years ago

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