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5 min read

Hiring a Marketing Agency Versus Finding a Unicorn

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Finding the right person for an open position in your business has always been challenging and over the past year and a half, it’s become increasingly difficult to simply fill job openings. If you’re looking for a digital marketer for your business it’s important to know your greatest needs and what you need that person to do. Do you need someone with a writing background who can blog? A search engine optimization (SEO) expert? Someone who understands pay-per-click (PPC) and search engine marketing (SEM)? How about marketing automation, lead capture and email marketing? Is data analytics important to you? Reporting on success metrics and return on investment (ROI)? Notice, we haven’t even started to mention video, social media, website management and website updates! No doubt, if you are trying to hire a digital marketing manager to handle all things digital you’ll have more luck finding a unicorn.

The simple truth is that digital marketing is much more than writing some text and finding a cute image to post on Facebook. You might also be surprised to know that the same person who can write blogs and website content may struggle to write a compelling social post. And the accomplished writer you hired doesn’t know SEO and the marketing automation specialist struggles to string a sentence together. Are you ready to build a digital marketing team? If not, you may want to pause before you write that job description. Chances are, the person you think you’re going to find may not exist. Oh sure, job candidates typically will tell you they can do all the things you’re asking for in the job description, but in reality, you’ll get someone who has one or two of the skills you’re looking for - not all 10.

If you stop and think about it, this job isn’t much different from a lot of other jobs you may hire for. You don’t hire an accountant to do supply chain management just because both jobs may deal with numbers, right? The difference is that digital marketing responsibilities are relatively new. Heck, you may still be stuck in the first paragraph trying to differentiate between SEO and SEM. Terminology, the tools and the technique are much different in the digital world than they were back when businesses bought advertisements and sales people made cold calls. So, what’s the solution?

If you are a sales and marketing leader looking to fill a marketing position, you may want to assess your needs and either hire for your most important need or consider hiring an outside marketing firm to help. While many bristle at the idea of hiring an outside agency to support their marketing efforts, there is no shortage of good reasons to consider this option.

Breadth of marketing acumen

From the beginning of time, many businesses struggle to find new customers. Identifying and attracting new prospects is a primary function of marketing. However, in this new world of online marketing where your website should be your best salesperson, your website should drive new leads. It’s also smart that you stay in contact with your new prospects via email and then track your new leads in your CRM. As you can tell, the role of the modern marketer has grown as expectations for this role have increased. Again, you’re looking for a unicorn before you know it.

Unlike hiring one person, digital marketing firms often have specialists to help with the many facets of online marketing. Need an SEO specialist? Agencies will have one. Blog writers? Most likely they have a team of people who can assist with all sorts of content. Email marketing? Got that covered too. A client once mentioned that with an agency they get a bunch of skills in one, at the same cost of an employee.

Cost of hiring full-time Employees

You most likely have a budget for a marketing role and it’s important to know what your budget will get you. In extremely general terms, if you’re hoping to spend between $40,000 and $60,000 per year, you will probably attract someone who has limited experience in a specific area of online marketing. If you’re spending between $60,000 to $80,000 it’s fair to expect to hire someone who offers degrees of strategic thinking and tactical experience. Even so, you’ll probably find that their expertise will lie in some areas of digital marketing and not others. For example, it’s not uncommon for someone to have strong experience in PPC and social media. However, they may lack experience in marketing automation. 

With an agency, you could spend in the same range and have a team that includes a strategist and a team of implementers who get the work done. In some cases, a marketing firm may cost more than an employee with a $50,000 salary, but what you’ll receive in the form of expertise and acumen for that investment is tenfold. Once you start to dive into online marketing the world will begin to open and you’ll see opportunities you hadn’t considered before. That’s when you go to your employee who looks at you as if to say, “I’m one person” and now you’re adding staff to support that person.

Training and development

For many businesses, training and development is a gap especially when it comes to sales and marketing processes. Understanding the company brand, target demographic, psychographic, strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats (SWOT) takes time. If you are new to online marketing then there’s a world of training that needs to take place. Even if you have established processes, you’ll need to onboard your new hire. Training and certifications are just the start, becoming proficient is the next level. Sure it can be done, but what happens if your employee goes through the training and then finds another opportunity? You’re back to square one. 

Working with an outside digital marketing firm, they’ve taken care of the hiring, training and development. They are also responsible for finding the replacement should one of their people leave. No question, when the contact at your agency leaves, it can be disruptive but if they have built in redundancy with their staff, there should be other people who can step in so you don’t miss a beat!

Employee management and engagement

Managing employees can be rewarding and it can also be time consuming. In small and medium sized businesses, the marketing manager may report to the CEO or a sales and marketing leader who has revenue generating responsibilities as well. Taking time to train, develop and manage a new marketing employee is time consuming and could come at the expense of new business development. We all want to hire someone who can “hit the ground running” without training, but that doesn’t happen too often.

Working with an agency partner, there is communication that is recommended and yet direct oversight with quarterly or annual feedback, performance plans and recognition is not an issue with an outside firm. For managers, life is a bit easier and frees up more time to drive new revenue.

Terminating Employees

For many managers, having to fire an employee is the most stressful part of their job. Having to develop a file to document employee incidents, discussing “growth opportunities” and putting employees on performance plans is a pain in the neck. Letting an agency go is usually not quite as excruciating. Sure, firing an agency partner still requires a courageous conversation, but unlike with employees there is usually an out clause that will release your company from the agreement. Better yet, if your business is on a month-to-month relationship with the marketing firm, you may need to provide 30 or 60 days notice and then you’re done 

In some ways, the decision to hire an in-house marketing employee versus retaining an outside marketing firm is similar to renting or owning. Both have their advantages and disadvantages. However, when trying to navigate the ever changing landscape of online marketing you want to have confidence that your organization is staying current and taking advantage of the many opportunities that are available to attract new prospects, drive new leads and increase revenue. Is an outside marketing firm right for your business? Only you can answer that question, just be sure to take the time to understand your greatest needs and explore the options and associated costs.

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