Do I even need to hire an internet marketing agency?

This is a question I often get asked

My answer will always depend on how much I know about the particular business. Unfortunately, there is no hard and fast rule whether you should be appointing an internet marketing agency, or building a team in-house. Sometimes the answer depends on the life stage and scale of the business, other times it depends on the product(s) the business produces and the routes to market the business wants to employ.

Often times, is not a clear black or white choice and I often get involved both creating RFPs for internet marketing agencies, as well as advising how to build an in-house team. Hopefully the following article, will help you make the right decision.

Not every business needs a David Ogilvy in their organisation.

Why don't I hire a team internally?

The truth is that it will probably depend on the type of company you have, what your motivations are and the size of the business that you hope to build. There are obviously pros and cons of both approaches, so hopefully I can help you make an informed decision based on your circumstances. 

Usually for larger organisations and global consumer brands they tend to outsource to an internet marketing agency for very practical reasons. Most of these departments will have an operational expediture line in their budgets. This means they have very tight limits in terms of their expenses including wages, rent, utilities and our general overheads. As wages are included in this usually it prohibits recruiting new teams due to Ope and CapEx budget restrictions.

Even if you have the latitude to recruit into your team it will still be important to consider the additional costs of, software, training, NICs & pension contributions, and other benefits before making the leap. In the long run this could be a better route for your business and could produce better considered and more effecient campaigns.

Sometimes external, more objective thinking is a benefit to a business, other times specialists who are ingrained in the business itself are required to understand the nuances of operations and the market. 

How do I make the choice?

Let’s have a look at why smaller businesses choose to recruit internet marketing agency vs internal staff.  

Firstly – most businesses have no idea what they’re doing when it comes to anything digital marketing – let alone specific marketing activities such as Facebook advertising.  The platforms and tactics are so new and ever changing that, unless you’re on top of it all the time, you get left behind. As this is the case ask yourself the following questions:

  • Do you understand conceptually want needs to happen to create a successful campaign?
  • How do you intend to measure whether the person you hire is doing a good job?
  • How do you intend to mentor and develop this person if they are the only person undertaking this function in your business?

If you have good answers for these question then maybe you are better off hiring internally. For many founders and business owners trying to become competent and understanding this is something that would just consume a lot of their time makes no sense.

If you feel that you don’t have the knowledge to even know how/who to hire for such a role, or if you don’t have the time and patience to try and manage them, then you have your answer..

Next undertake a rough audit of the digital marketing services that you think you will need. From this you will be able to create job descriptions for the people you will need. For fully rounded or scalable campaigns you will need people with a wide range of skills. Once you have done this you may realise that you are looking for a unicorn, and may need to hire more than one person.

As an example, take a simple Facebook campaign. This might take the following skills to produce and deliver:

  • The ability to write engaging copy
  • Understanding visual content and eye selecting enaging visuals if not the ability to create them as well
  • An understanding of conversion funnels, how to use them, and the ability to improve them
  • The ability to interpret data, take insights from data and create new campaign ideas based on them
  • The ability to work at a very detailed level without making mistakes, as well as the ability to stand back and be strategic when required

You’ll ideally need someone that can use both their left and right brain.

Finally think about you appetite for failure and supporting a new recruit. If you need to scale quickly, or have small margins, the time and effort for someone to bed in and become competent maybe a luxury you cannot afford. Sometimes getting the whole package and someone where the buck stops is what an entreprenuer needs.

So in summary, if this all feels like a headache, and you just want results, you should probably consider outsourcing.

Internet marketing agency - Pros & Cons

Pros

  • Less headaches
  • Faster results
  • Access to bigger suite of skills
  • “Round the clock” service
  • Oftentimes cheaper than internal staff

Cons

  • Long term, once Opex stabilised, wiser to hire internally
  • As business scales, can get costly
  • Human resource not “owned”
  • Learnings are not embedded within the business

SO WHAT’S RIGHT FOR YOU?

As I mention before, every business is different and will require a slightly different solution based on where you are at. However, as a general rule:

If you still consider yourself a startup –  Consider hiring a contractor, and then possibly an agency. It’s the same thought process you would use when thinking about leasing vs buying a building, doesn’t make sense to put a commitment of additional on your shoulders when you’re in a volatile stage of growth and you need to focus on the core value proposition of your business.

However if you are a well established business and you already have case studies from your digital marketing activities, and you are already spending more then £15k/mth on an internet marketing agency, it may be time to start bringing the function in-house.  

Either way, drop me a line if you would like to consider hiring in digital marketing services, or you want to understand how to go about cutting your agency links (in the right way) and building an award winning team in-house.

Drop me a line, I'll get back to you.

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About Me

I’m an on-demand Digital Director consulting for a wide range of direct to consumer brands. If you like what you read here, feel free to drop me a line for some informal advice.

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