Operating a business requires business owners to put on many hats. It’s all too easy to get lost in the daily juggle and put off strategic long-term planning (working ‘on’ the business). Stop and think about all the different business hats you’ve had to wear this past week. How many of them utilise your strengths? Where are you having fun? What are your weaknesses, and what gaps do you need to fill?
Specifically, in marketing, some of the hats you may need to wear include:
- Marketing Manager – developing strategic brand campaigns and advertising strategies as well as overseeing all marketing activities
- Advertising Specialist – planning, preparing, developing and optimising advertising campaigns; either offline or online, sometimes this may be quite specialised in terms of managing Google Adwords, Facebook Advertising, etc
- Social Media Manager – creating, curating and managing all published content plus monitoring, listening and responding to followers
- Content Producer – auditing, designing, developing and publishing content in a variety of mediums
- Publicist – managing all media relations and generating media coverage
- Graphic Designer – creating visual concepts that inspire, inform or problem-solve, this may include advertisements, competition graphics, branding initiatives, etc
- SEO Specialist – analysing, reviewing and implementing website changes to help gain greater visibility with search engines, as well as managing content strategy, link building, keyword strategy etc
- Web Designer – creating and maintaining the look & feel of a website, the layout, content and features
Deciding to hire a full-time resource or outsource to an agency can be challenging. Here are signs you should consider hiring in-house:
- Access to workplace culture/brand values and insider knowledge
It can be difficult to cultivate a positive workplace culture, let alone to be able to articulate it to an external agency. If your culture is a critical component of your brand, you may find that having an in-house person who can hear and see changes in the business and collaborate across departments, is the fastest way for them to ‘get it’.
- Product expertise
Unless you’re using the product or service day in, day out, and you’re directly liaising with the customer service teams, it can be challenging to transfer product knowledge to an external company.
In certain industries, speed, timeliness and responsiveness are critical make-or-break scenarios. For example, if your business is entirely online, you may need to invest more in social media community management to ensure you have the resources to manage any sales enquiries or complaints promptly before it escalates.
- Flexibility and access to diverse skill sets; opportunity to learn from highly qualified and experienced marketers
Recruitment and training can be a lengthy and costly exercise, that’s in addition to software licences and various employee overhead costs. Depending on the size of your campaigns, your marketing channels and budgets, it may not be viable to hire an in-house expert for every skill set. Most experienced agencies will have a proven track record with experienced professionals so you can hit the ground running.
- External perspective
One of the most underrated benefits of having an external agency is being about to bounce ideas off them and also be able to validate certain business and marketing decisions. With this, comes fresh ideas without any internal biases that may influence your strategies and tactics. A good agency will be able to conduct a deep-audit to truly understand your product/service positioning, competitive landscape and identify areas for improvement.
- Cost effectiveness
With a marketing agency working across multiple clients, you’ll get instant access to a team of seasoned professionals who can work more efficiently and effectively. The value this brings would typically be equivalent to hiring 2 – 3 individuals you can utilise on retainer without having to worry about any on-going overheads and HR hassles. The cost comparison of an agency retainer may be to hire an entry-level professional in-house but how productive will they be if you’re having to deploy them to other tasks that don’t fall within their skill set?
Ultimately, there’s no right or wrong method to scaling your business. You may not even have to make an all-or-nothing decision. For example, an agency can manage the strategy and ideation and an in-house team can look after the execution of these strategies.
Furthermore, while marketing plays a fundamental role at the start of the sales funnel, the success of this will come down to the creative brief you give to the in-house team or agency. Before you take any action, make sure to take a step back and actually define your business and marketing objectives and goals. As my favourite quote (by Peter Drucker) goes, “what gets measured gets done”.