In my former life at Oliver Russell, I worked on many projects for Hewlett-Packard targeting small businesses for printers, toner, paper, etc. For HP, targeting small businesses is big business. In-house marketing is a smart consideration for many businesses (specifically smaller ones) -- the cost benefits are easy to see.
Using free (or cheap) templates a bad investment (HP offers free ones on their website). It's important for a smaller business to build a strong brand (it's not just for the "big guys" that have these needs). An investment in a unique visual language and messaging will help any company to differentiate. Why not spend money in the best way possible?
Carew Co. has many clients that have made an investment in good-looking marketing templates and a strategy for going to market. We're currently helping an engineering firm compete with the "big dogs" by creating solid proposal templates in Word (Just cuz it's in Word doesn't mean it has to be poorly designed!). We're also helping a commercial real estate firm differentiate with a high-touch email system that gives them the ability to blast branded email and track the results. When an agribusiness company needed to better brand and template technical sales sheets, they also looked to Carew Co.
It's smart for businesses to do things in-house, BUT, it's a natural first step is to hire a creative consultant to make it sing (and fit the strategy).