Time to hire a marketer?

At some stage, every business owner asks the question: How do I continue to grow my business?

A savy business owner will realize that in order to grow, they need to make more people aware of their product or service. This means engaging with a marketing professional to help promote the business, bring in new clientele, and ensure that current customers are aware of all the products and services on offer.

But, is it better to bring on a marketing professional to your staff, or, leave that service external and contract with a marketing agency? Below, we will look at some of the pros and cons to each option. The key variables will be cost, effectiveness, and efficiency.

When it comes to costs, we will compare the expenses of outsourcing vs hiring internally. For effectiveness, what option will produce the best results? And efficiency, which is is going to deliver the most efficient results, and the best ROI?

While this list is by no means exhaustive, nor does it consider each and every individual situation and circumstance, it will offer you some food for thought, and provide you with some guidance for your thought process.


Bringing on an Employee

Marketing campaigns vary in size, scope, and budget. Staff wages will vary as well, but, having an employee brings with it a certain number of fixed costs. Namely, a salary, vacation and sick day pay, benefits, overhead, and training and orientation time. As and example, according to payscale.com, the median salary for a SEO specialist is $45,083CAD, but the range runs from $34,265 up to $71,100, plus bonus. Of course salaries will vary by location and experience but, when hiring internally, staff training and retention are additional cost burdens placed on an employer that are rarely reflected in the basic salary numbers. It would not be unexpected for a novice SEO employee earning a base salary of $35,000 to cost over $50,000 in their first year of employment after training time and orientation, benefits, bonus and overhead are factored in. After a couple years of experience, and that number could jump to $75,000 annually, or higher. And, this if for only one single specialty. To put together a team would require 3 or 4 individuals.

The benefit of having someone already within the organization is that they will be well versed in the company culture, and know the product or service more intimately. If they are loyal, and eficient, and effective, the long term costs of an employee may be well worth the added cost risks, but, if there is a significant amount of turnover, the lost productivity of repeated training and on-boarding procedures, and time it requires to bring an individual into the team, could potentially be a fiscal blackhole.

Engaging an Agency

As with most contracts, all of the costs will be agreed upon upfront, and there will be no surprises. You will be covered by the terms of your contract, and having clear and concise figures on the costs from the get-go will allow you to budget appropriately for your campaign, and marketing needs. Typically, an Agency will work on a monthly retainer for ongoing services, with specific campaigns charged accordingly. Depending on your needs, an effective, ongoing service, is going to cost roughly $2500-$3000 per month.

Be very leery of any marketing agency who says they can deliver an ongoing monthly campaign for $200-$300/month… what exactly are their going to deliver, and, what are the terms of the contract? You may be saving a few dollars up front, but will they provide an effective ROI? And will you be locked in for a long term agreement that limits your ability to use other marketing service providers? In many cases, if your business is large enough to require marketing help beyond your own current internal staffing capabilities, you can expect to pay roughly a similar fee as you would for an employee’s wage. for quality campaigns and services. But, you will not have any of the risks and burdens, or overhead, of hiring an employee.


Bringing in an Employee

The main benefit of having an inhouse marketing person, or team, is the speed with which they can get things done. They will have a better understanding of your business cycles, and know when to ramp up marketing efforts to capitalize on internal market analysis. Having someone sitting at the next desk over also allows more staff members to be involved in, and engage ideas with your chief marketer.

The problem, however, with having a marketing team in-house, is that when times are slow, and marketing efforts aren’t in heavy demand, you still have the ongoing costs associated with that employee, or team. In addition, when there is only one service, or product to sell, teams can develop a bit of “tunnel vision”. They become so focused on one way of doing things for one product, that they don’t always think of doing something a little differently.

Engaging an Agency

While an in house marketing team can get things done immediately, it may take some time for an agency to be engaged, and for them to ramp up marketing efforts. They will need to spend a day or so with key team members, gaining an understanding of the business, and getting a feel for the product or service. This can be minimized by recurring service agreements, or, long term engagement, however, keep in mind, that these same hinderances will also exist with any new hire.

Furthermore, an agency will provide much more stability in the long term, as you will have less volatility, and expense with losing key personnel, than when compared to an internal hire.
And, much like any service provider, hiring an agency to handle your marketing work brings with it the benefit of scalability. A marketing agency will employee experts in many different fields, from SEO specialists as in the previous salary example, to designers, copy writers, content producers, PR specialists, web developers, and more. In addition, they will have the knowledge and expertise to leverage the various skill sets, and have them work together to ensure that every dollar spent is effective, and producing a measurable ROI.


Bringing in an Employee

An internal marketing team can provide a nucleus for generating ideas not just within itself, but, lend itself to generating ideas for marketing campaigns from other departments within your organization. Its much easier, and “safer” for Bob in accounting to pass Phil from marketing in the hallway, and bounce an idea off him that he had while in the shower for an upcoming company campaign than it would be for Bob to pick up the phone and contact an external agency.

But, if you can’t afford an entire marketing team, there are very few marketing professionals who can be effective in isolation. Depending on scale and scope of your marketing needs, one single person may not have the entire skill set required to achieve success. This becomes even more pronounced the more you rely on digital marketing. Can you expect a single person to know SEO, content creation and curation, website development and analytics, public relations, social media activation and engagement, and lead generation? Its the same as contacting a single person, and having them build you a new house. Sure, they may know a bit about everything, but, to effectively, and efficiently build that house on a timeline and budget, you’re going to want to engage a general contractor who then brings in specalists: carpenters, plumbers, electricians, roofers, landscapers, etc.

Engaging an Agency

An agency is already going to employee all of these experts. You will have a one stop shop for all of your needs, and won’t have to worry about the specifics of each sub-sector or niche. In addition, bringing on an agency will provide you with an outsider’s perspective; something that could be an invaluable resource. Think about the last time you hit a bit of creative block, or, struggled to come up with a solution to a relatively simple problem, and asking someone else helped unlock the key to the solution. If you need results, and quickly, a marketing agency will have the experience and understanding of all the various components of a successful campaign to deliver your results quickly and effectively.

There isn’t much to say about the cons of the effectiveness of a marketing agency. About the only con would be if the work is needed yesterday. With an employee, or team in-house, you can reprioritize their work load for them to make things happen. With an agency, they’ll have other clients also on deadlines, and their work loads and schedules will have been planned out weeks or even months in advance, and so immediate work may not be possible.

The Conclusion

At the end of the day, each business is going to be facing a unique set of circumstances. Market sector, economic cycle, and business size and budgets will be the most important inputs for determining the direction you take your business’s marketing efforts. Overall, larger companies will likely see a greater benefit from bringing their marketing efforts in-house, while small-to-medium sized businesses will benefit most from engaging an agency.

Key Take-aways

  • An agency can be used for short term projects or campaigns. This will keep costs down.
  • In-house teams can expedite timelines on projects, but, may require time to onboard employees.
  • Expenses are upfront and controlled with an agency.
  • An agency will offer an outside perspective, and have access to all of the required expertise that only the largest of inhouse teams will have.
  • In general, an agency will have a lower total cost less per year than a similarly experienced team in-house.