Inbound Marketing – should you do it yourself?

Inbound Marketing – should you do it yourself?

Inbound Marketing is still relatively new in the UK. We have our friends across the pond to thank for this innovative approach to online and digital marketing, and it works. 

As you’re reading this article now, it’s fair to assume you have a pretty good idea what inbound marketing is all about. I’ll indulge myself with a quick recap below.

You’ve done the groundwork, and you know that inbound marketing isn’t just for the global mega corps or the biggest brands – it can work wonders for any business, regardless of size or industry. In fact, the question isn’t “should my business use inbound marketing?” – it’s “how should my business implement it?”

One thing we should get straight from the start is this – running an inbound marketing campaign is a long term commitment, in terms of time, money and resource. We’ll explore this a little further on.

The big decision is whether you manage inbound marketing inhouse, or engage the services of an agency. You may expect me to shout “agency! agency!” but that might not necessarily be the right choice for your business.

Yes, I do work for an agency. In fact, as head of the inbound team at Catalyst, it’s part of my job to create inbound marketing that nurtures and delivers qualified leads for our clients. However, I’ve also spent over 10 years working client-side in a variety of industries, which means I know how a corporate marketing team works. 

So, just to make it clear, this article isn’t about persuading you to hire an agency or convincing you that doing it all yourself is the way forward – it’s about helping you make

the right choice.

A quick recap

Inbound marketing brings quality visitors to your website, converts them into leads, closes them as customers and makes them happy customers. It focuses on your ideal customer – that perfect customer profile – and uses content (including blogs, infographics, guides, white papers and videos) to answer their questions and solve their problems before they even enter the sales cycle. It turns your website into a “supersalesman”, working 24/7/365 to convert visitors into happy customers, qualifying them at every stage of their inbound journey.

It works because customers know how to take control of information. They know how to search for what they want, they know how to filter out the quality information from the rubbish. Inbound marketing makes it easy for businesses to make that shift towards customer control and adapt it to work for them.


It’s all about content. It’s about helping prospective clients find the solutions to their problems, and developing a relationship built on trust and expertise. It certainly isn’t about the hard sell – inbound doesn’t help businesses sell their products and services, it helps customers buy what’s right for them.


The ultimate opt-in marketing

Inbound is non-intrusive. It invites prospects to engage with you on their own terms. They won’t be constantly bombarded with emails that are of little or no relevance to them. In fact, inbound marketing identifies and focuses on what your prospects want (based on their behaviours and interactions) and sends them content they’ll look forward to receiving. As they move through the buying process, it uses your website, blog, content and social media to deliver the right content at the right time. It uses behavioural data to create intelligent campaigns and uses personal data to customise content for the individual.

The big question – who should do your inbound marketing? 

It’s not like any other marketing project. There will always be a question of inhouse versus agency for any marketing project – whether you’re looking at running a big event, launching a new product, rebranding, building a website – it all comes down to three things – time, money and expertise. 

Let’s look at all the elements that go into an inbound campaign – 

Buyer persona – identify who it is you’re speaking to and using messages they want to hear

Blog article – give them an insight into the problems you can solve and the questions you can answer

PR – position yourself as an expert in your field, as someone they can turn to who has the answers and information they need

Call to action – create a compelling offer that drives them to investigate further

Landing page – convert that click into a lead by isolating them from the main website or blog, reminding them what’s on offer and giving them limited options other than submitting a few details on a simple form

Form –  the important part, the data capture.  Keep it simple and short to encourage participation


Content offer – top tips, user guides, introductory papers, detailed white papers, ebooks, case studies etc.


Social media – publish your content socially, let your visitors share your content socially, and make it easy for them to follow you for even more offers and information


SEO – add the right keywords and other information to make sure your content ranks well in searches


Data lists – create, segment and manage prospects depending on their behaviours or properties


Other media – webinars, videos, presentations, slide shows, etc.


Monitoring, measuring and reporting


CRM integration

Any marketer will be familiar with all of the above, but generally in isolation. They will use different systems for each element. There will be one platform for the website, one for your blog, more for your social media account(s), and another for your email sender – all of which have different log ins, functionality, formats and, possible, pricing structures. It’s also likely they’ll be limited in their interaction with each other, so your campaign won’t benefit from full integration.

Inbound marketing brings all of these elements together in one centrally co-ordinated, specialist system, minimising the processes needed to create fully integrated digital campaigns that are packed with great content, and can be measured and reported on.

So if we take a typical inbound marketing campaign, look at the work that’s involved in creating it, and the time spent on putting it all together, we’d come out with something like this:


Hours (Inhouse)

Cost (Agency)

Buyer persona development



Content planning



Blog article creation (4 articles)



Content offer (white paper)



Call to action (button creation)



Landing page



Form set up



List creation



Social media publishing (Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Google+



Monitoring, measuring, reporting




31 hours


If you were to run this campaign internally, you’d need to have a member of your
marketing team with a spare 30 hours in the month to run one campaign.  Or, you’d need to find a budget of just under £4000 to get an agency to do it for you.

That’s one single campaign. And one campaign just isn’t enough. Realistically you’ll need to get two or three campaigns running each month to maximise the inbound opportunity, and then you can see how time and money really start to mount up.

Then you need to consider the expertise. Getting to know a new inbound marketing system and all its intricacies will take time. In my personal experience – and while I do not consider myself to be a programmer or coder, I’m certainly able to pick up new technology and systems easily – it’s taken me a fair few months to fully understand how inbound marketing platforms work. But it’s been worth the time I’ve invested to do so.

What follows is a break down of the pros and cons of agency vs inhouse. In a recent article, Matthew Bivens, from US inbound agency 98toGo, lays out some insightful pros and cons to consider:

Inhouse – For

You retain control, you have the benefit of being able to respond quickly when things need to be changed, and you’re already an expert in your industry so you have a valuable knowledge resource to call on. 


Control – you’re in charge. You (or your marketing team) have complete control over the format, the content, the tone of voice, appearance and publication channels. 


Input – you’re the expert. You know more about your business than an agency does, and you have a great channel for pushing this expertise out to your prospects.


Management – you oversee everything from the start. You don’t just get a delivered campaign that’s ready to go. You get to see how every part is put together and make decisions about who in your team is responsible for what. 


Decision making – quite simply, it’s quicker. You don’t need to rely on speaking to your agency account manager, who needs to speak to the studio or the digital team to get your project underway. There’s less risk of Chinese whispers. 


Understanding – you’ll know your inbound marketing system inside out and front to back because you and your team built it from the start. You’ll know what content is available, what’s needed and what campaigns, lists and automation programmes are already set up. 


Reaction – you can change on demand. You don’t need to go to the agency to implement changes that need a quick response. If part of your campaign isn’t working, you can address it straight away. 

Inhouse – Against

You’ll need to commit time to learning inbound marketing, creating content and you’ll be limited in terms of technical expertise. 


Time – you’ll need lots of this to get to grips with inbound marketing and master the many parts that make it work. This is a big investment of resource, and you need to be prepared to make mistakes as you learn how it all works. 


Limitations – you have a narrower perspective. While you may know your own industry inside out, you won’t have a broad understanding of how inbound marketing works in other industries. And just because their business isn’t like yours, doesn’t mean that their approach to inbound marketing won’t work for you. An agency will be better placed to bring experience from a broader industry set and apply it to your own business. 


Sacrifice – what happens to the other areas of the business you’re responsible for? You may get pulled away from them to focus on implementing and developing inbound marketing. 

Agency – For
You get a team of marketing experts who already know inbound marketing inside out. They will have specialists on hand for copywriting, designing and other skills that you may not have. An agency will be able to get your inbound marketing up and running much quicker. 


Expertise – you’re hiring inbound marketing experts. 


Resource – an agency will have specialists who can contribute to your inbound marketing. Whether it’s copywriters, designers, planners, strategists or data experts, an agency will have a larger amount of resource to commit to delivering your inbound campaigns. 


Time – it’s a simple division of labour. What takes one person 20 hours to do would take five people 4 hours each. 


Your day job – you are free to concentrate on your day to day business, and your marketing team can concentrate on its other projects outside the inbound marketing remit. 


Delegate – you get to set the original brief and goals, and control the end result without having to concern yourself with the nitty-gritty. 

Agency – Against

You relinquish control to an outsider, and there is a risk of it not working out. 


Cost – hiring an agency – or any expert or consultant – is an additional cost for your business and can be expensive. 


Control – some control must be relinquished and you won’t have a close view of each step in the process. 


Trust – you need to trust the agency to create content that is a true representation of your business. 


Risk – what if it all goes wrong? You might pick the wrong agency, or you might get let down by performance. In this case, it’s going to cost you money, time and effort for very little return on your investment. 


Knowledge – unless the agency has experience or specialises in working in your industry, you run the risk of putting your marketing in the hands of people who don’t know your business well. 

Bivens then asks you to imagine how things would unfold over a 12 month period – 

“What I want you to do now is envision what life will be like over the next 12 months as you execute your own inbound marketing strategy, or as you partner with an agency.
Literally close your eyes and think about the two scenarios.
In one scenario you’re tasked with learning the inbound process, developing your personas, generating ideas, creating content, and sharing it with the world. You’re executing all of this yourself, or leading an in-house team.
How much time will you need to devote each day or week to inbound marketing?
How much time can you spare?
How much learning do you need to do before you feel confident to begin?
Who will be writing your content?
Who will be designing and formatting your content?

Do you have an in-house team that you can delegate to? What pieces of the team will you need to assemble?

In the other scenario you’re researching potential agencies, participating in strategy and content meetings, providing feedback and ideas, allowing access to your customer information and sharing your business processes.
How much control are you willing to place in the hands of an agency?
How comfortable are you stepping back and letting others run the show?
How much time do you have for weekly meetings and phone calls?
Are you the type that can work well with others?

Are you open to not only giving but also receiving feedback and suggestions?

Will you be the primary point of contact with the agency, or will someone else?
All of these are questions to consider while making your decision.” 

In terms of that big question – doing inbound yourself or hiring a specialist agency – you’ve probably got your answer in mind already. As I said at the start, this article isn’t about convincing you one way or the other, but I do hope that it’s given you food for thought and, above all, the confidence to make the right decision for your business.