Recently our Director of Marketing, CJ Maurer, was interviewed on the Inbound Back Office podcast to discuss drawing the line between insourcing and outsourcing from a marketing perspective. This is definitely a departure from our normal content which focuses on payroll and Human Capital Management, but we figured we'd share it for all the small business owners and marketing professionals out there.
Listen to the interview or read the full transcription below.
Amy Metherell: Welcome to the Inbound Back Office Podcast where we chat with smart agency owners about agency challenges. I'm Amy Metherell, co-founder of Inbound Back Office, plug and play back office support for your inbound marketing agency. Today I'm speaking with CJ Maurer of Complete Payroll about drawing the line between insourcing and outsourcing. Welcome CJ.
CJ Maurer: Hey, Amy, thanks for having me. I'm happy to be here.
Amy Metherell: Why don't you tell us a little bit about Complete Payroll?
CJ Maurer: Well, sure. Complete Payroll is a payroll processing company, headquartered in a small county in western New York. A town called Perry, New York. And we also have satellite offices in Buffalo, New York and Rochester, New York. We've been around for about 26 years and we do a lot of the things that you would expect a payroll company to do. Payroll, human resources services, timekeeping, time and attendance services, and then some other things related to insurance and benefits and taking care of your employees.
So, I am the Director of Marketing at Complete Payroll and I've been here just over two years. I actually really appreciate you having me on the show, because technically I am not an agency owner. I am on the client side as we like to say, but I did work on the agency side for about six years prior to working at Complete Payroll and in fact, Complete Payroll was one of my clients for about a year before I started to work for them as a full-time employee. And the only other thing I'll say of note before ... And I'll let you ask me to go into more detail one way or another, is we really got fully committed to the whole inbound marketing process, I would say, really late 2016, early 2017.
So it's really only been about a year and a half since we've been fully committed to inbound marketing and executing it at every level and we've definitely seen some success early on, which has been really encouraging, even though we realize it is more of a long term process and are aligning our strategy accordingly. It's been really nice to see some fairly short term success and of course, that's how are paths have crossed. So, yeah that's the skinny on Complete Payroll. Did that answer your question?
Amy Metherell: It absolutely did. Yeah. And being a Director of Marketing kind of feels like you're definitely not an agency owner, in that role, but you probably carry out a lot of the same things and make a lot of the same decisions. And I just love you so much that I just felt like let's have him on. I'm very certain that you have a lot of value to offer that agencies will appreciate.
Why not shake it up a little bit?
CJ Maurer: I'm glad this is a podcast so nobody can see me blush, so thank you. You're absolutely right. I do totally make a lot of the same decisions and, you know, are basically working on the same day to day challenges. You got that right.
Amy Metherell: Absolutely. Awesome. Well let's jump in. Okay. So, we are talking about drawing the line between insourcing and outsourcing. So, should companies do both insourcing and outsourcing in your experience?
CJ Maurer: Should they do both? I would say yes, actually. I guess my first response was well, they could do both, they could do either. Who am I to say? But I absolutely believe companies should do both and here's why. Number one, I think that companies should insource stuff, because I think it's really important, especially if you're applying the principles of inbound marketing, which is all about building up a database and asserting your influence on the basis of your own knowledge, expertise, or merit. And if none of that comes from you then I think you'd have a really difficult time asserting yourself accordingly.
So, when we're writing about payroll and human resources and insurance and benefits and timekeeping and all these other things related to, finger quotes, human capital management. Or really just taking care of your people and certain administrative aspects of running a business. When we're creating content about that the long term benefit is that people will take notice, search engines will take notice and realize that we really are an authority in this way and they will allow us to influence them and allow us to continue to share content with them and they will give us their contact information and engage with us in a deeper way. If none of that is produced by us it's really hard to actually be an authority.
And I believe that for that reason outsourcing everything, to me, just does not feel right. For example, it would be really hard and probably inefficient for me to replicate the subject matter knowledge and expertise that certain people in our organization have about say the Affordable Care Act or about how really advanced, complicated employee scheduling apps are run and things like that.
So companies should definitely insource some things. And also just because it's great practice. And if you want to become a prolific content platform then I believe those habits need to be developed internally and they should be aligned with what you are trying to outsource. That being said, and why, obviously, we got connected and why we continue to work together is when you're really trying to become a content powerhouse the economies of scale significantly favor outsourcing in a lot of instances. I am a big fan of outsourcing period, because I don't ever want to be, or even try to become even a little bit of an expert in something that I am not in love with, or can't be the best at.
So I have no desire ... It is not a badge of honor for me to do things on my own that I'm not necessarily inclined to do well and that I know can be done so much more efficiently and more effectively by having an expert do it. And sometimes that gets me in trouble at home, because my wife would rather have me tinker around with it instead of calling the plumber, but at the end of the day I just know that to allow somebody who knows what they're doing do what they're going to do and the 90 bucks or whatever I spend for the plumber, right, you get it, is worth way more knowing it's done right. So I just have that general philosophy about outsourcing and in business and I think it applies especially to marketing and inbound marketing when you're really committed to an endeavor where I believe content is the nucleus of everything.
All of our metrics are good not just because we sent the most provocative emails or we created the most sophisticated workflow automation sequences or anything like that. At the end of the day the reason why we saw, in my opinion, a significant uptick in our results in terms of website traffic, new contacts generated, leads turned over to sales, is because we were providing value through content and content was the nucleus, whether they be blog posts or newsletters or gated content offers, PDFs, resource pages, fill in the blank, it's just because we created good content. And when you are operating under that premise there really is no such thing as a shortage of good content. So the more you add onto it, the more you layer onto it is only going to help you and when you're in that type of situation where your growth can scale through content creating then outsourcing makes a ton of sense.
And I think that many organizations should probably even look to it as a way to lean into inbound marketing for the first time because as much as I believe in it to be the nucleus of the whole inbound marketing, it's also the number one thing that prevents organizations from doing inbound marketing effectively is they can't figure out who, internally, is going to write the blog post, or layout the PDF, or whatever it is, and they just never get going. It's not for lack of understanding how to be a good inbound marketer, it's not having the content resources. So, that is a really, really long walk for a short drink of water. Just to say that yes organizations should do both. But clearly I wanted to give you a little bit more context and clearly I feel very passionate about it, so I hope that was a helpful response to your question.
Amy Metherell: Yeah. Absolutely. So where is that line that companies should draw when they're deciding insourcing versus outsourcing or how much to insource and how much to outsource?
CJ Maurer: Yeah, so I've thought about that a lot leading up to this conversation and unfortunately I don't think there's going to be an easy answer to that question. I think that every organization has a line, but I think that line could change based on the company, based on the project, and also based on how new the endeavor is. I'll give you an example, we outsource blog posts, but sometimes we write them. We do our own just because we want to continue staying in practice and sometimes we know something that we learned really quickly, we want it turned around right away, and we just know that we know the right way to say it, so we just do it.
But also, because we want to scale our content platform, we outsource. So that's one simultaneous objective that is both insourced and outsourced. Where the line is drawn is really very situational. We, in the scenario that I just described, draw the line based on a couple of things. One, proximity. The subject was very close to us. We knew what it was and how to articulate it properly, very confidently. And two, it was time sensitive. You want to get something out right away. Like literally, you think of it and you want that post out 90 minutes later. Well, then in that instance, probably insourcing is the best way to do it. Keep it in house. Just get it done.
Outsourcing though, can actually be accomplished on the same merit, really, in terms of if you know what it is, but maybe you just don't have the time, and if turnaround time and immediacy isn't as important but you still understand what you want to talk about and how you want to articulate it, outsourcing can still be a good option. I really like outsourcing for exploration. Sometimes I know what I want to create content about, but I'm really sure exactly how I want to do it or what tone of voice, or how I ... Basically, I know what I want to do, but I haven't tried it on for size and I'm willing to see how somebody else would approach it who's not me.
And most of the time I have not been disappointed. Most of the time, the vast majority of the time, I've actually really appreciated how somebody looked at a challenge or a topic or a piece of content differently and it's actually given us more ideas for ways to approach things differently moving forward. So, I think what it really requires is a healthy understanding of what needs to be created and when and what your budget is because that could also be a thing. You could want to outsource your entire marketing operation, but if you don't have the budget for it then it doesn't really matter where you draw the line, the line has been drawn for you.
But then I also think outsourcing around your weaknesses or gaps. So by trade I ... So I'm a Director of Marketing, what does that mean? By trade I am a writer and a strategist. Those are the things that I focused on that lead me to where I am now. And I can use some really simple, cloud based design apps to help myself try to package a piece of content, but I am at a significant deficit when it comes to graphic design. So graphic design is something that I outsource. I outsource animation and video. I outsource sometimes writing, even though I am a strong writer, sometimes it comes down to time. And it's not just that you don't have the time, but that you can justify your time ... It's hard to justify your time doing something when you know that time is significantly better spent doing something else.
Another example would be researching and compiling a database for a sales driven project. Again that's not really something that would be the best use of my time. What's the best use of my time is coming up with content, creating and executing campaigns, fostering relationships with referral partners and content partners, and working with my team to produce more content layer and support for people who take advantage of our content, things like that. So I think the line can be drawn by, to kind of summarize, proximity. How comfortable you feel with the subject and whether that's something that you know that only you can do the way you can do it and the way you want it. Or if you know what you need to do, but you're willing to set it free and see how somebody else re-imagines it.
Immediacy. How quickly does something need to be done? If it doesn't need to be done the same day then outsourcing could be a really good option. Weaknesses or gaps. Rather than trying to hire and bring everything in house. Quick, seamless, and in a lot of cases just as much if not an even more accomplished, professional expert doing that. And then the final was really just time. Priority. Is this something that, even though you can do, does that mean you should be doing it? And is your time better spent elsewhere? A lot of times the answer is yes, your time is better spent elsewhere, in which case it's a great thing to outsource. That's why a lot of CEOs don't write blog posts.
Amy Metherell: Yeah. Sure. I want to go back to your point about getting a different perspective and using outsourcing for that. That is something that I have ... I mean, I've talked to several people about outsourcing and that's something that has never been mentioned before and I love that. So you find that it actually, more times than not, is beneficial to get that other perspective?
CJ Maurer: Absolutely. What is it? Like the old Steve Jobs quote that somebody makes a meme out of and it circulates on LinkedIn, something about we hire smart people so they can tell us what to do. Something like that. We don't hire smart people and tell them what to do. Yeah. So I kind of have the same approach with our third-party vendors and partners. I hire people who I have talent crushes on, who I think are awesome and accomplished and know what the heck they're talking about, and I lean on them and I let then do what they do best and I let them shine lights in dark corners and show me where I'm inadequate and help me do my job better.
So, yes, I try to wring every last drop out of that wash cloth when it comes to working with partners and I have absolutely no shame in letting our strategy be influenced, or at least my mind be expanded, by those people. And I feel that sometimes even if you do not engage somebody and say "Here, I am engaging you specifically on the basis of helping me develop a strategy." But if you maybe are engaging them on a design project or a writing project or a development project, a lot of times if they're good and the back and forth they add new things with the project that help you illuminate strategy and you just really realize how to approach projects differently and more effectively and so absolutely. Again, going back to my general philosophy of outsourcing, I've always been a huge believer in it. Long before I ever met you. And what you just talked about is definitely another reason why.
Amy Metherell: That's really interesting. So it sounds like the short answer of drawing that line is it's really situation based. So you wouldn't say that there are certain roles that should always insourced or always be outsourced, instead they should look at it situationally from several different angles to decide where you're going to insource and where you're going to outsource?
CJ Maurer: Yes. That's exactly right. I do not believe that one thing should always be insourced and one thing should always be outsourced. If you had to press me on projects that I think lend themselves better to being outsourced more frequently, I could certainly do that. But again, I mean, I've seen cases made for both. I mean, let's just talk about this. Complete Payroll, when they were my client, I was consultant. I was guiding and developing their brand development and subsequent marketing strategy. And I replaced me with me.
I went from them outsourcing to me to them insourcing to me. I've always been a big fan of outsourcing in the role that I was in, because of economies of scale and a lot of other reasons, but they made the decision when they approached me that they thought insourcing my role would be a better idea and quite honestly I have to agree with them. It's been a really good fit. It's been two years and everything is continuing to build and grow. So, that is just a perfect example for insourcing and I know a lot of businesses that do prefer insourcing. I think, usually, it comes down to the owner of the company or the hiring manager kind of having a better understanding of what they want.
I mean, also workload does factor into it. Here's another wrinkle. We're in the process of hiring a Marketing Coordinator. So now the marketing department went from outsourced to insourced department of one, is now going to be insourced department of two. Is that going to change what we outsource? Maybe. Are we going to continue to outsource? Absolutely. So it's something that's growing, because it's just a matter of once you get a better understanding for your workload you realize, like okay, even while having a full-time employee, they'll take things off my plate, they'll put new things on the marketing department's plate. In other words it's not just a matter of taking things off my plate, it's really a matter of expanding the overall output of the marketing department, but there are still other things that are going to make a heck of a lot more sense to outsource.
I'm a huge fan of a case by case basis and really knowing where your gaps are, your efficiencies are, and really just ... Sometimes it's just worth it if you just don't want to do it. What if you just don't want to do it? Whatever happened to that? Whatever happened to good old-fashioned laziness? Honestly though, again, long answer, but I want to really kind of reveal my thinking on this, but absolutely it's a case by case basis. There's no one thing that I would say this should or should not be insourced or outsourced.
Amy Metherell: Sure. Awesome. So is there anything else about insourcing and outsourcing that maybe we didn't cover that you think is important to note?
CJ Maurer: Well I could say that ... I will also actually say that you did not ask me to do this at any point in this conversation or leading up to this conversation, but I will say that we have partnered with Inbound Back Office on a number occasions and that you guys are a really great outsourcing partner in a lot of ways. I have also shared that with other people. So that is something of note, that whether agency owners or marketing leads on the client side like me, I would definitely encourage to get in touch with Amy and figure out what you guys can do. That is really the only thing of note that I can think that I didn't share, unless you have any other questions for me.
Amy Metherell: Awesome. No, thank you. That's a great way to end. I really appreciate the compliment. Thank you so much for joining me today CJ. This has been some really incredible information. Why don't you tell our listeners where they can find you online.
CJ Maurer: Sure. You can find Complete Payroll at completepayroll.com. So if you are a small business owner or a small business manager or something and you're running a business or in an HR capacity taking care of people and things like that, you'll find a ton of information, whether it be through our blog, through our resource library, our email newsletter, that can help you with a lot of the things that you have to do on a daily basis, whether it be complying with certain labor laws or hiring an employee, things like that. We just have a lot of really good free resources so you should definitely check that out. Find me online on LinkedIn. I have a LinkedIn profile. My name is CJ Maurer. I don't have memorized my LinkedIn public profile URL off the top of my head so just search me out and if you have any questions, maybe Amy could link to it somewhere and you can connect and drop me a message. I'd be happy to answer any questions. I would say that would be the best way to find me.
Amy Metherell: Awesome. Great. Well, and thank you all for listening to the Inbound Back Office podcast, brought to you by Inbound Back Office, plug and play back office support for your inbound marketing agency. You can find Inbound Back Office at inboundbackoffice.com and if you enjoyed this episode it would mean so much to me if you left a rating or review on iTunes.