Hire Staff or Contract with a Marketing Agency?
Contrary to what some marketing agencies might suggest, there’s no real right or wrong answer when it comes to making a decision about hiring your own marketers as staff versus contracting out your marketing needs to an agency. At a time when marketers are leaving jobs in droves – something known currently as the Great Resignation – you might have a couple different thoughts: a.) There’s a great pool of talent available to hire or; b.) To avoid that happening to my company, let’s just hire an agency.
Much will depend on your specific needs and circumstances. In general, most marketing agencies will cost less than hiring a full-time staffer for any particular task you need but there will also likely be less time commitment that agencies will provide. (They generally make their money by scaling their services across multiple clients). At Marketing Nice Guys, our mission is to help you excel at digital marketing and that means, regardless of whether you choose us or hire your own staff, we want to help you make the right decision. With that, here are four factors to consider as you think about the hire-versus-contract question. They are:
Factor No. 1: Your Marketing Strategy & Core Competencies
Have you planned out a marketing strategy? Do you understand your audience and the marketing “funnel” for how to you make customers aware of your products and services and then convert them? One mistake that many small or even larger businesses can make is that they “just do it” – they take the proverbial Nike approach in that they watch another competitor produce content and they immediately think: “We have to produce content.” Or, “we need a social media presence.” But all those considerations should be part of a larger strategy. The reason this is important from a hiring perspective is that your strategy should dictate your resource allocation. If content, for example, is going to play a big role in your marketing and you want someone who both understands your specific business expertise and industry, and/or work with your internal team more easily, it might be more effective for you to hire someone full-time or do it yourself.
Marketing agencies can, of course, do content for you, but many times they will use a more junior-level associate (we at Marketing Nice Guys don’t do that) who might not produce the type or quality of content you need. On the contrary, for example, if your strategy dictates you need more video content and you don’t foresee having the expertise to produce the type of video you need internally, the best route might be to hire an agency. In this respect, your strategy and what you outsource should ultimately reflect what you see as being your core competencies – what you do well versus what you don’t.
If you need additional help crafting a marketing strategy, download our free marketing strategy template.
Factor No. 2: Your Budget
The amount of money you’re willing to spend on a role also plays an obvious factor in your decision. As mentioned above, marketing agencies will be more inexpensive in general than hiring someone full-time for a particular task. If you do hire someone, you also have expenses for recruiting, training and, in many cases, other healthcare costs/benefits, that will likely take some chunk out of your budget. But evaluating the cost factor alone leaves out a number of different nuances. Marketing agencies generally charge by the hour (so when they work up estimates, it’s likely they won’t be charging 40 hours per week as that would get more expensive than a full-time person.) What they will do is allocate staff for a certain number of hours they will estimate for particular tasks.
As you think about budgets, one thing to keep in mind is the importance of understanding how long something will generally take. If you don’t know, it’s good to ask either an agency or perhaps another small business who may be doing similar marketing efforts. (See also factor no. 3 below.) Another thing to consider here on the question of budget is your time. In other words, if dealing with an agency is going to need a lot more of your time than hiring someone internally, then that’s also something you have to factor in, as your time is really the most valuable commodity you have. The goal of hiring anyone (full-time or contracting) for a role is to help free up your time to focus on ways you can best grow the business. So, it’s important to think about that as you envision working with either internal staff or agencies.
Factor No. 3: Your Tasks / Time Requirements
If you hire someone, what will this individual do? Will they have multiple responsibilities? How much time is required for each? For example, let’s say you want to a. Develop regular content; b. Run a few social media channels; and c. Send out regular your emails. Could one staff person your hire do all of this work? Maybe if you find the right skillset (see factor no. 4). An agency could also provide these services for you, but by the time you add up the various hours and the charge per hour, it might become more costly than an individual with the right skills. Which leads us to the next consideration.
Factor No. 4: The Skillset / Specialization Needed
Based on your marketing strategy, what are those core competencies you have in-house or want to have in-house? Do you need a generalist or a specialist? Can you find what you’re looking for with one person or a couple people? The hardest part in finding talent these days is that marketing specialization has become the norm because many of the tools and channels require in-depth knowledge. In other words, specialization has taken over in terms of skill set in marketing where perhaps a decade or so ago, you could find more jack-of-all-trade types.
On the one hand, that’s not a terrible thing. But the harder part is that, if you’re hiring for a particular role and you want to bring that role in-house, you’ll want to make sure the tasks and the responsibilities warrant that full-time attention. That’s where thinking about factor no. 3 and no. 4 together will help you. Agencies certainly have specialized experts in all the different marketing channels you may need, but their time adds up, the more you add different specializations as well.
So, Which Is It: Agency or Full-Time?
There’s no single answer for every single company. A lot of it depends, as seen above, on your consideration of a number of factors. And even in the same circumstance, different companies might choose different options. It’s also not unheard of to do a mix of hiring full-time staff and then an agency for a particular specialized service, such as paid media ads, which do require in-depth knowledge. If you go the agency route, make sure to choose one that fits well with your company and needs. If you decide to hire a full-time marketer, here’s a quick way to make sure you find the right talent.
How to Find Great Marketing Talent
As roles have become increasingly specialized, HR professionals have steadily moved away from job-site aggregators to find specific professional talent. While Monster, Career Builder, and Indeed still have large volumes of job seekers and traffic often the volume of applications that come from such sources flood recruiters’ inboxes, causing them to pore through stacks of often irrelevant resumes.
To save money and time, we would encourage HR professionals or small business owners to “think like a marketer” and ask themselves the following questions to target the right talent: What are the characteristics of a talented marketer? Where do they hang out? How do I attract them to my “product” (company)? Are they needed “in the office”? (While COVID-19 has tilted the playing field toward remote work, your role may require someone local.) Here are a few tips to find great marketing talent.
No. 1. Don’t just look for marketing bachelor degrees, look for follow-up certifications and education.
Great marketers will invest in their own professional development. College degrees alone won’t teach everything related to a real-life marketing job. Many great marketers came into the field from other areas and could’ve decided on their career well after their college graduation. Hence, it’s key to look at any follow-on education such as certifications (such as Google Analytics or Google Ads), which show initiative and the drive to develop concrete, specialized skills. On the flipside, if your company offers professional development and you can highlight such opportunities, great marketers will take often be attracted to you and will stand out in the screening process.
No. 2. Look for writing skills. Ask for a sample.
Marketers need to be able to communicate. Period. Whether they have to write copy for an email, website headlines, or even help draft or edit whitepapers, the end user has to be able to understand what’s written and take action. Too many companies hire marketers that can’t (or won’t learn) to write. While this isn’t a strict requirement for those in analytics or operations (internal-facing) roles, good analysts or marketing operations managers also communicate well within the company and/or to clients. Hence, it’s important to ask to see a writing sample with your application.
No. 3. Start thinking about remote opportunities to widen the pool of great candidates.
If you weren’t convinced that marketers could work at home before COVID-19, you’re probably convinced now. With virtual meeting technology and access to shared drives, remote work is easier than ever. And while in-person camaraderie and team-building is important in any organization, marketing roles are perhaps the easiest to make remote in that very few functions absolutely require staff to be at a headquarters. Companies that previously recruited only locally can and should expand their reach (especially now) to help them land the best candidate for the role. Allowing for remote work also has the benefit of communicating the company’s flexibility and trust with marketing staff.
No. 4. Look at specialized job boards and even universities.
It’s important to target talent in a place that shares content or community on a particular specialized topic. In addition to specific job boards, the other source are professional graduate programs, especially at universities that offer masters programs in marketing for working professionals. While in-person job fairs at such places are still limited due to the COVID-19, there are other ways to reach out to faculty deans or program leads that can ensure your company a steady supply of great talent.
At Marketing Nice Guys, our mission is to help you excel in digital marketing. If you’re working through your marketing strategy or even starting over, don’t hesitate to give us a call at 703-609-7091 or contact us for a free consultation.