Determining when to invest in a new employee can be difficult, especially if your business is eager to grow but needs to be strategic with spend.
As an entrepreneur, I've had to make decisions about when to hire, when to outsource, and when to contract with freelancers. As a marketing professional, I advise prospects and clients about which marketing resources make the most sense for their current situation and ultimate goals.
The decision to go with in-house marketing vs. an agency (or both—I've seen plenty of that, too) depends on several factors, including your current strengths, short- and long-term goals, and availability of resources.
When to Use an Internal Resource
1. Your marketing efforts are working
If you've got tons of website traffic and you manage to keep your sales pipeline full of qualified leads, keep it up! Do what you can to keep that marketing team happy and engaged.
But if you're reading this article, that's probably not the case.
That said, even having a killer marketing team doesn't mean you wouldn't also benefit from partnering with an outside firm. Sometimes, highly competent B2B marketing teams partner with agencies at the forefront of marketing strategy to upskill their teams or test new strategies.
2. You have the money and resources to support additional staff
Some people, especially in the B2B enterprise or SaaS space, think their product or industry is simply too complex to outsource. They would rather have dedicated marketing resources who spend all of their time learning the workings of the company versus an agency that typically juggles multiple clients and industries.
If your company can afford to hire an internal resource (with salary and benefits) and dedicate training and support resources, you may feel more comfortable with in-house marketing vs. an agency.
However, one marketing resource is typically not enough. Marketing requires a wide range of skills that you often cannot find in one person. And if you spend all of your time training one employee and that employee leaves, you'll end up back at square one.
3. You already have marketing expertise
CEOs and founders often wear a lot of hats, and perhaps in your company one of those hats says "Marketer Extraordinaire." If you have prior experience with B2B demand generation or content marketing, you may be able to quickly identify opportunities to optimize your strategy.
A word of caution, however: B2B marketing requires a different strategy from B2C marketing. Previous experience with social media marketing, B2C marketing, SEO, or other marketing strategies doesn't always translate when you're targeting a B2B buyer within a complex buying cycle.
When in doubt, consultation with an outside agency can help you spot where your weaknesses are to ensure you hire a team member with the right skills.
When to Hire a Marketing Agency
1. You need to grow quickly
Generating results from marketing campaigns takes time, but it takes a lot longer if you don't know where to start.
Building and executing an effective marketing strategy requires a lot of research, planning, and testing. There's plenty of B2B marketing advice online, but does any of it fit your own company's goals? Often not.
Marketing agencies have already done all of that work, and they can quickly map out a plan. They've worked with companies like yours before and can immediately offer recommendations for strategies that will help you meet your goals.
At my agency, we always test new practices on ourselves first so that any recommendation comes from a place of experience. Effective marketing naturally requires some trial and error, but why spend your time (and money) starting from scratch when you can easily and affordably bring in a full marketing team's expertise?
2. You can't afford mistakes
Hiring a team of experienced marketers to execute your strategy decreases the risk of something going wrong—sometimes catastrophically. The best marketing agencies must stay on top of trends and new strategies to be successful.
When you interview agencies, ask them how often they roll out new services and how they do so. Are they guessing or winging it? If so, that's not the agency for you.
Also, partnering with a third party minimizes any risk that might impact your company should a customer or competitor challenge something in your content.
Startups and growing B2B companies are especially vulnerable to risk, so any steps you can take to mitigate that risk—even in your marketing—can make building your business easier.
3. You want quality content without the big spend
This is probably the most obvious reason that a B2B company would outsource its marketing. Outsourcing provides you with quality, results-driven marketing at a fraction of the price of a full in-house marketing team.
The true value of the marketing agency you partner with is the talent and experience it provides. Through it, for a few thousand dollars a month, you can add a dedicated team of marketers:
- Strategic marketing program manager
- Industry-specific and conversion-oriented copywriter
- Technology and data specialist
- Brand-conscious designer
Even with the most inclusive agency retainer, the cost is much less than paying salary plus overhead for five employees. Many startups and scale-ups (and even mature businesses) simply can't afford that many people on their payroll.
In-House vs. Agency: Choosing the Marketing Resource That's Right for You
I may run a marketing agency, but I recognize that outsourcing may not always be the right option. Moreover, agencies and all outsourcing options aren't all the same; each company deserves to find the solution that fits its needs, whether that's in-house marketing or agency options.
Don't let indecision result in leaving marketing on the backburner. Whether you choose insourcing or outsourcing, your company's brand should always be in the care of a marketing professional.
Do your research to explore the available options, and weigh the investment (and potential return) that best fits your business.
More Resources on In-House Marketing vs. Agency Hires
In-House vs. Agency: The Path to Boosting Your In-House Marketing Team
Social Media Staffing: Employee, Agency, or Consultant? The Pros and Cons of Hiring Each
Employing Marketing Freelancers: Top Trends and Challenges [Infographic]
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