Many companies around the world find themselves facing this dilemma. Your company, or you, have concluded that you need help with marketing and need to determine the best way to handle it. For many, the first reaction is to hire someone to do marketing for you; we will refer to this as "in-house" marketing. However, more and more companies are finding that outsourcing your marketing works just as well, if not better.
Let's take a look at the pros and cons of each option. Sometimes one is a better option than the other, and sometimes it is a matter of personal preference. It may be that the timing is better for one solution over the other. One option does not necessarily preclude the other, and a hybrid solution might be best. Every company has different needs and having all of the information can help you to make the right decision for your organization.
Some companies might find that having a marketing director or marketing team on staff allows you to have more control over the process. Other companies might determine that there is greater value in engaging an agency that might bring more diverse talent, expertise, and experience. Let's examine both options.
Hiring a person or a team to provide in-house means they are employees on your payroll. Today, the average cost of hiring a marketing manager is about $4,000, with an average salary range of about $63-$132k. This cost is impacted by the individual's experience and the cost of living in your area. Of course, you want someone with great negotiating skills, so that might increase the cost of hiring them as well. It might seem strange we mention negotiating skills, but this demonstrates self-confidence in their abilities and that they can think for themselves. It is possible that you could make an offer that is accepted right away, but is that someone you want heading your marketing efforts, to move your company forward?
You need to determine if you are hiring one person that can be a jack of all trades or if you want them to focus on one area.
Hiring an In-House Marketing Specialist or a Team
The Pros of In-house Marketing:
- Knowledge about the company: They will be immersed in your environment. They will get to know how the company operates, what drives it, and your mission. They will be invested in the company and have a better understanding of the company.
- Internal Communication: Because they will work within the walls of the company, communication can be better. You will bump into them in the hall or break room; you can walk to their office and speak with them, it can be easier.
- Brand Loyalty: Because you "butter their bread," they will be loyal to just your company, you can trust them because of this. Some companies have significant concerns about Intellectual Property and just prefer having people on staff, although a good legal agreement can usually address that adequately.
- Focus: As an employee, they will only be focused on your company. Some hire in-house, so they have more control over the process. This is not always an advantage if they are given less ability to do their job as they see fit as the "expert." You really should let them do what they do.
The Cons of In House Marketing:
- The Expense: We mentioned the cost of hiring and salary, but you also need to consider the cost of making the wrong hire. It may take 60 days or more to make that determination. The average cost of making this mistake is about $16.5k, and then you get to start all over again. Searching through resumes and performing job interviews. You also need to consider the other cost of in-house marketing such as benefits, industry and company training, and of course, the investment in your time and that of your other employees to get them on-board and up to speed.
- Recruitment Costs: As we started to address above, the cost of time to post a job, screen candidates, interviewing, on-boarding, payroll, and employee training. If, after 2-3 months, you determine that they are not the right fit, you have to start over. Sometimes you have to deal with the moral of other employees that befriended that person.
- Lack of Expertise: Herein lies the greatest con of hiring in-house. As the founder of aha! I consider myself to be a jack-of-all-trades when it comes to marketing. I can do most of the tasks my employees do, but in their areas of expertise, they are much better than I am. I cannot be an expert in all areas of marketing, and keeping up with changes in each area of the industry is more difficult. Let's use Google as an example. They have a number of departments making changes to algorithms, layouts, tools, and processes. They are changing Google My Business, Google Ads, Google Shopping, Google Tag Manager, Google Analytics, and on and on. Now consider also staying on top of the changes to Bing, Yahoo, Instagram. Facebook, WordPress, GDPR, CCPA, etcetera, etcetera. Do you think you can find someone that has knowledge of all of this and can keep up with it all? You would need to invest in training, this could be days at a time, and could be out of state, taking them away from doing their job.
The other option we are looking at is Outsourcing. We do not mean hiring someone from the other side of the planet that makes little money. I mean hiring a firm based here in the USA. This can be very rewarding and can save you a good deal of money, time, and headache. You do need to be sure that your agency is not just acting as a middleman and then outsourcing the work halfway around the world. In fact, many companies that do hire an outside agency are able to put some of the money they save in staffing into more marketing.
Yes, this is posted on the website of a marketing agency, so we may be a bit biased, but we are trying to be objective here. There are times when we just do not think we are a good fit for a company and will let you know that they need to continue to look for the right agency. If we ascertain, we can make our prospective client happy then great! If not, we move forward. It's all about the "win-win!" The last thing we want to do is go into something that is not going to be mutually beneficial. Our goal is we want every client to be happy with the work we do. As Phil, my business partner, says, "Our clients become our friends, and we don't let our friends down." So, let's look at the pros and cons of outsourced marketing.
Pros of Outsourced Marketing:
- A Pool of Talent: A marketing firm brings a team with various and complementary talents to the table. They come to you with fresh eyes and will see things you do not. We can see what you did, look at why it was successful or failed. Our team has a variety of backgrounds, with experiences in different industries and approaches. There is no office drama or politics that might exist within your company (although we might have our own, LOL!), and that could be a huge factor at some companies.
- Providing Proof: We, like many agencies, are proud of the work we produce, and we can track and measure much of what we do with analytics. This allows you the freedom of not standing over us to see what we're doing, but being able to evaluate our work product based on data.
- The ROI: The biggest factor is the Return on Investment. If you pay me a dollar and I return five to you, you're going to try to find every nickel you can to further invest in marketing with us. We know if you do not see results, there is another agency ready to take on your work.
- Training: This falls on us. We are responsible for the ongoing training and the associated costs. That saves your company the time and the money involved. Just make sure that there is someone at the agency that can do the job for you when your account manager is out sick or on vacation.
Let's see if I have to resign from telling you why you should not hire an agency by looking at the cons of doing so.
The Cons of Outsourcing Your Marketing
- You are not the only client: At least not if they are a good agency. You may not get a response immediately, but the agency should be responsive.
- Disclosure: When it comes to sharing your Intellectual Property, make sure you have an agency with a good reputation and that there is a good NDA in place.
- Communication: You need to be sure that you are able to talk to the team members that are hands-on with your work. They may be outsourcing the work overseas if they do not have answers for you and are constantly saying, "let me get back to you."
- Choose the Right Agency: We don't have enough room here for what we could write about this con. Do your homework, find the right people, meet with the owners, not just an account manager. Make sure they share your values as a company. You are putting your company's future in their hands to an extent, make sure they are the right fit.
How to Decide Which Option is Right for Your Company
There is a lot to consider here when making the decision to handle your marketing in-house or outsourcing it. Hopefully, this has helped to inform you enough to make the decision that is most comfortable for you. Keep in mind that there is no one solution for every company or even every industry. The timing could also be a factor. Let's speak about the hybrid approach that we mentioned earlier.
We have had success in outsourcing work to an agency to get things in order, refine the brand, and messaging and then moving to hire an in-house person.
I have seen successes in Outsourcing with an agency to get the marketing set up, once you notice the ROI and have enough data it may be clear to hire in-house for some services, like social media. However, you may continue to outsource your SEO and PPC. You can keep costs down by hiring just for social media, or event planning, trade show preparation, etc. This means you can hire someone that is less experienced and maybe not a marketing professional, but they are able to focus on those efforts.
Other companies do hire an experienced marketing professional to work on staff but continue to outsource work to an agency so that they do not have to hire graphic designers and others. The marketing person will work with and direct the agency.
It is not necessarily a clear choice for all companies. But at least you have some food for thought to help you make the right choice for your business. You know to consider the hidden costs of doing your marketing in-house, and that salary is just a part of the cost. Marketing, especially with the technologies available, is constantly changing, and not keeping up can be detrimental to your companies success. Keep that training cost in mind as well. Take the time to educate yourself, talk to experts, shop around, look at different agencies. When you find one that you believe is a good fit, try them out. Using a hybrid option is always a great solution.