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The Opportunity Cost of Doing Digital Marketing Yourself

By Scott Ginsberg, Head of Content, Metric Digital

As a performance marketing agency, we don't do the accounting.

Because we're not accountants.

In the early years, we might have been able get by on our own wits. But there came a certain point when it was absolutely worth our time to pay an expert professional to execute the financial tasks for us. That way, our firm could focus on what we did best, and what mattered most: Growing client businesses and building our agency team.

When it comes to the ecommerce world, brands are confronted with a similar challenge. It's basic opportunity cost. Especially early on in the life of the company, it's extremely important to pick a few things to really focus on and own and reprioritize or outsource the rest. For most founders, technical performance marketing skills are unlikely to be one of those few things that differentiate them. Product, web experience and customer service are more likely candidates.

The challenge is, ecommerce companies are often run by entrepreneurs, and to them, their company is their baby. Meaning, they may feel the need to both manage and execute every single aspect of their business closely. Which is understandable. And in fact, if the founder or their marketing team does have deep domain expertise in digital marketing, and the company isn't in a position to dedicate the requisite spend to make an outside agency pay off, then their opportunity cost would be low. 

In which case, keep the marketing as an inside job.

On the other end of the spectrum, for an ecommerce company that is growing quickly and has significant scaling aspirations, the opportunity cost may differ.

Shopify published a fascinating blog post a few years back about the day in the life of an ecommerce entrepreneur. Sophia's journey is inspiring and gives us a helpful window into the daily schedule of an online merchant. 

Shopify's profile also serves as a reminder for any online seller. There's only so much you can do. Opportunity cost can be high, and if certain tasks are not within your wheelhouse, then it might be smarter to get help and stay focused on what you do best.

Taylor Sicard, Co-Founder of Brand Value Growth and one of Metric Digital's colleagues, sat down with me to chat about opportunity cost. We talked about the massive daily operational tasks that every seller must to attend to. He rifled off a quick list:

Order issues, inventory management, content generation, customer service, planning, public relations, managing the brand and visioning for the future, and so on.

That's a ton, and it's not even an exhaustive list. Now, many of those tasks can be outsourced or automated. But entrepreneurs may find it overwhelming to even think about issues like keywords, custom audiences, conversion rate and return on ad spend, much less manage and optimize their campaigns.

For those merchants, they probably don't have room in their busy schedule to manage their digital marketing efforts alone. And it wouldn't be financially wise for them to do so.

Question is, where do you stand on the opportunity cost continuum?

Ultimately, there are as many ways to run an ecommerce business as there are people to run them. Opportunity cost varies for each seller.

Before moving forward with your digital marketing efforts, think closely about the intersection of your top goals and your top talents. And you'll be able to make the best decision about whether digital marketing should be an inside or outside job.

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Scott Ginsberg Head of Content, Metric Digital The Metric Digital Blog A Blog on All Things Digital Marketing