If you’re getting a marketing strategy off the ground, you’ll have a key question to address early on. Should you use the services of an agency or build an in-house marketing function?
Given that your marketing budget is ideally around 11% of your turnover, this isn’t a decision you’ll make lightly. However, there is no right or wrong answer, and there are pros and cons for either choice. It’s a case of weighing up the benefits and ramifications in the context of your business, industry and plans for the future. Here are some key points to consider.
The reassurance of proximity
Having a marketing person in-house can be a comforting proposition for those in charge. The idea that there is always someone on-hand to cover any eventualities can sound reassuring; if there is an unplanned issue or you simply have a question, the person with the answers is just down the hall.
However, there’s a lot to be said for getting an objective, external view of your company too. Often, the day-to-day occurrences that seen so unimportant to those who work in the business are untapped potential to an external agency. An agency team, being on the outside looking in, is more likely to notice the details you take for granted but which make you unique and will help you build a loyal following. A bonus is that because they aren’t your employee, they aren’t afraid to push back if there is a difference of opinion.
A different kind of skillset
When you hire a marketing employee, you can tailor your job ad to target someone with the skills that fit your business. Some of the things employers look for in candidates are previous experience in a particular sector, or perhaps skills in a specific area. That’s because they already have a picture of their marketing strategy in their head, and that is typically based on what was done in the past.
When you hire an agency, you hire a team, not a person. This team will have the combined talent and skills that few people have. If you were able to hire a unicorn with that kind of experience, expertise, and interests, you’d be looking at a six-figure salary expectation. And would such a person be happy working for your company? Or maybe it’s a whole team that you’ll need. Building a marketing team that’s talented, motivated and works well together is HARD, trust me. You also won’t run the expensive risk of hiring the wrong person.
Marketing never stops
Something new happens in the marketing world every single day. Our Slack channels never stop buzzing with new trends, tools, policies, channels, formats, and best practice. It’s a cliché for me to tell you that marketing is constantly evolving, but it’s absolutely true.
Staying on top of all this is a full-time job in itself. A lot of discussion in our office is just about what has recently changed or is about to change in the marketing landscape. Tactics that worked yesterday will have stopped working by the time we’ve finished our first cup of coffee.
We also experiment constantly with new tools, and then evaluate if any of them are a must-have for a particular client. I probably sign up to 100 free trials per year, so I can be sure we’re using the right solution. I’ve tested payment gateways, CRMs, data dashboards, NPS tools, event platforms, chatbots, you name it. We also use our own marketing presence to test out ways of doing things, and feed those insights back into our client strategies.
We analyse our progress weekly and discuss what has gone right or wrong in the past days, what we’ve noticed and what ideas we’ve had. We’re not one person working in a bubble and we don’t suffer from tunnel-vision. We get to work as a team, with all the creative impetus and collaborative advantage that this carries. Because we work on multiple projects, we also bring perspective and context to our decision-making.
We know other people in our industry and related sectors. If you need to work on other projects, we have the network and contacts to help you get it done. We can also ensure that whatever you do in other areas of the business is coherent with what’s being done by your various service providers. Managing large numbers of stakeholders is an everyday situation for us, but it may not be familiar territory for your marketing employee.
Hidden costs & management
There are many and varied hidden costs to employing someone, which can outweigh the convenience of having an employee in the same building as you. Recruitment, training and upskilling, holidays and illness, office and computers, and insurance all add up. The end cost of an employee may well be more than the outsourced fee required to have an agency team work on your marketing.
And don’t forget that your employee will need managing. Project management is typically considered to be at least 15% of a project cost, so let’s say for the sake of argument that oversight of your employee will take 15% of a manager’s time. If that manager is on €70,000 per year, that represents a cost of €10,500 in oversight. Whatever the actual salary of a manager in your organisation, remember that it, in turn, has its own ‘hidden’ costs to the business as any employee does. So, €10,500 is probably at the low end.
We work in a more structured way to someone who is only and solely responsible for a company’s marketing – we use tools and checks and balances as part of our structure. Where a marketing executive might just log onto Twitter and send a tweet, we have prepared that tweet in advance, scheduled it in a social media tool and used a project management tool to track the client’s sign-off. We have a process for everything we do, one that’s been honed and refined over years to make the best use of resources and get the best results.
Access to the right tools
I mentioned above all the trials I sign up to in a year. These are often for clients, but they are also for ourselves. We use a wide range of tools in the day-to-day delivery of our services and all have been picked after careful evaluation and testing. In fact, software as a service (SaaS) and platform as a service (PaaS) are one of our most significant costs as a business.
Yes, we do use these tools for all our clients. However, a lot of these tools have either a minimum or flat fee, so even if you only used them for one company, the cost would be similar. We also have hardware that we’ve invested in: cameras, mics, tripods, lighting, etc.
- Project Management tool
- Collaboration tool
- Stock photo, video & graphics library
- Icon library
- News aggregator
- Social media scheduler
- Data dashboards
- Graphic design tool
- Photo and video editing software (we use 4 different video tools)
The flexibility to grow
As a small business owner or senior manager, you have a thousand things on your plate daily. Even if you never sleep, there aren’t enough hours in the day to give your full attention to every aspect of the business. There are a few key areas where outsourcing makes perfect sense; it gives you room to grow and will ultimately save you money. These tend to be HR, accounting and marketing, although there may be other areas depending on your industry, such as distribution.
Outsourcing gives you great flexibility. If you need to increase your activity overnight, this can be done without delay. Perhaps your competition has started to take your market share, or you have a new product, or you have a time-sensitive campaign to run. No need to post a job ad and then start the time-consuming process of recruitment, no need to be running around wondering if the broom cupboard could be turned into a new office. Need the marketing ramped up right away? It’s done.