Online marketing offers a compelling value proposition. In a recent study of 500 professional services firms we found online marketing is associated with faster growth and higher profits.

More specifically, we found that firms that generate at least 40% of their leads online grow up to four times faster than their peers.

But these amazing findings weren’t limited to growth alone. The study also showed that this same group was 2X more profitable than firms that produced lower levels of online leads.

The challenge for most firms, though, is implementing these programs in a way that guarantees results and delivers a meaningful return on investment. One answer is to outsource some or all of the functions.

But how much will it cost to do it right? Below, I lay out a few common scenarios and give you some working budget ranges:

Scenario 1. A firm that wants to try out online marketing before making a major commitment
Services: Basic on-site and off-site search engine optimization (SEO), including link building. SEO is often the best place to start outsourcing as it requires both time and specific expertise.
Typical costs: $3-5,000 per month

Scenario 2: A firm that wants to publish valuable content on a regular basis and generate a steady stream of new leads
Services: Ghost writing two blog posts per week using viable SEO keywords and techniques. By adding steady content generation to the mix, the SEO impact is accelerated.
Typical costs: $5-7000 per month.

Scenario 3: A firm that wants online marketing to produce a majority of its leads
Services: To further support its SEO and content generation strategy, this firm will need high-credibility, longer-format pieces such as white papers and ebooks, as well as a strong social media presence. Services might include developing and maintaining a robust social media presence to help distribute the valuable content and increase the firm’s visibility within it’s target markets. The cumulative impact of this combined strategy is substantial.
Typical costs: $10-20,000 per month.

If this sounds like a lot of money to spend on an outsourced program, keep in mind that online marketing can produce a regular stream of high-quality leads that translate into new clients. The resulting revenue may allow you to reduce other marketing expenses. But before you jump into outsourcing, consider your alternatives.

The In-House Approach

The most obvious alternative is to tackle online marketing with your existing staff. There are usually a couple of hurdles you have to clear when you take the in-house route. Will you be able to find the required skills on staff? Will they be able to find sufficient time to do an adequate job? If you do not allocate sufficient time, you will not see the desired results. Also, would you actually save any money in the process? This is an important question when you are diverting staff from billable work.

The Blended Approach

The other alternative is to take a blended approach. You could start by completely outsourcing a function. Then over time you can pick up additional responsibilities for the in-house staff as they become more knowledgeable and proficient.

Which is the appropriate plan for your firm? I’ll tackle that question in my next post. In the meantime, check out the online lead generation guide below.