Should you hire a marketing agency or expand your marketing team? When it comes to growing your business, this can be a tough call to make.
Now, as the Fifth Ring marketing manager, I'll confess to being a bit biased on the issue. However, having worked in-house and hiring marketing agencies over the course of my career, I've experienced the highs and lows of both options.
So with that in mind, I'm going to get off my agency soapbox and give you an honest breakdown of the benefits of in-house and agency hiring.
When looking for marketing support, it is important to consider whether you need a marketing specialist or someone with a broader skillset.
In-house hires will often be asked to wear multiple hats. In their job description they may be tasked with improving SEO, regular blogging, creating social media content, optimising conversion rates… and the list goes on. This marketing strategy requires a lot of time and effort to be done well.
Agencies will have specialists responsible for each of the tasks listed above. They will have someone responsible for SEO and paid search, a content team regularly churning out social media posts and a project manager coordinating everything.
When determining what direction to go, you should review your business goals and have a clear outline of your marketing strategy. Companies with in-house teams often struggle to diversify their marketing strategy. They may have had success in the past with a particular approach but it might not be working as well now.
Investing in a new channel is a risk. And if you hire someone to manage the new channel and it doesn't work, then you have just created another difficult situation for yourself.
That's where an agency comes in useful. If you hire a good one you will have access to a wide range of skills and minimise the risk if things don't work out.
Marketing managers come with a lot of experience and great ideas. They've worked their way up through the junior roles and have experience managing multi media marketing campaigns and building effective strategies.
Communications between the in-house team will be streamlined, as they are regularly meeting and working together. The sign off process will also be smoother as the team has direct relationships with the decision makers. And all of this saves time.
For many marketing managers, taking on the activation phase of their marketing plan seems like a logical, natural part of doing their job. They likely have far more experience and skills and know what's best for their company and their clients.
This works in the short term. But in the long term it can become unmanageable. As your business grows so does the workload.
Marketing agencies are equipped with the tools and expertise to provide marketing solutions to the unique problems a client brings to them. Projects are taking from the initial planning stages through to the final execution and are usually time bound. This stops things from overrunning or going over budget. The agency team has experienced difficult projects and can use this experience to minimise the impact of the likely roadblocks that will come up on the way.
No one is a superhero and you will eventually run out of time to do it all. You don't deliver your own mail - you hire a postman (mailman) to do it. It makes sense to outsource the work that you can't do yourself. It is the same with marketing.
In-house teams have real passion. They work for your company, they have received full training on your products and services and they have first hand experience of the internal dynamic of your business. The in-house team will be fully aligned with the company vision, mission and goals and as a result well equipped to help build the brand from the ground up.
They are passionate about their products/services and passionate about how their business is performing this lowers the risk of experiencing a conflict of interest as the team has shared goals and a united vision.
Marketing agencies are also passionate. The good ones will be experts in their fields (e.g. PR, inbound, branding, campaign design) and will continually be looking at ways to innovate and learn more. Not only that, but marketing agencies often specialise in specific industries (ours is energy). Specialist agencies will have a strong understanding of the audiences they are targeting and the markets they operate in. This should result in more effective communications.
It is unlikely that an agency will be able to develop the same internal relationships as an in-house team. They won’t experience the same internal politics as the in-house team or be under the same pressure to deliver the business KPI’s. But, a good agency will work hard to develop a solid relationship, they will understand the internal politics and help alleviate some of the pressure on the internal team.
When should you call an agency?
There are a lot of reasons why people pick an agency or prefer to keep things in-house. Both work well.
But from my experience there is a time call in an agency to provide support.
More often than not, there are multiple things that need done at the same time. And, it's only natural that something might slip, or worse, not get done. The right agency will expand the skillset of your team, bring a fresh mind-set, and help relieve some of the pressures the in-house teams face. When things are slipping it's probably the right time to bring in some support.