The other day I was speaking to a client and I was asked something that got me thinking: “I’m considering hiring a marketing manager to help out with things. What are your thoughts?”
This isn’t the first time I’ve been asked this and it certainly won’t be the last. Forward-thinking business owners understand the countless growth benefits that a solid marketing strategy can offer. But in the business world, there’s been a long-standing debate over whether it’s better to hire a marketing manager or a marketing agency. I thought I’d share my thoughts to help anyone else who’s currently in this predicament.
The first point I want to make — and probably the most important — is that there’s no right or wrong answer.
There are advantages and disadvantages to both, and it really depends on your individual circumstances.
The size of your budget, how fast your company is growing, the type of industry you’re in, and your marketing goals are all important things that will need to be considered before making any decision.
So, let’s dive into the good stuff.
Hiring a marketing manager
One of the main perks of hiring a marketing manager is that they’ll be devoted entirely to your organization. That means as they settle into your business, they’ll become extremely clued up on your services, unique selling points and other important elements of your organization that most other people don’t know.
Another great thing when you hire a marketing manager is that they’ll always be on-hand at your place of work. If you ever experience a lightbulb moment or need a quick strategy meeting, you’ll be able to get things moving there and then.
On the other side of the coin, one of the most common obstacles when you hire a marketing manager is time.
With the responsibility of putting together and implementing a full marketing strategy, it’s likely that your in-house marketer will eventually become overwhelmed by the amount of work on their plate and quality might gradually decrease.
This problem can be eliminated by adding additional members to your marketing team, but that means using up extra budget — budget that could be spent on a marketing campaign.
It’s also important to remember that, unless you’re lucky enough to find the marketing equivalent of Superman, your marketing manager won’t be an expert across all areas of digital. Like anyone, they’ll have their strengths and weaknesses.
Another potential downside of hiring a marketing manager is that you might not be getting the most from your money. According to Glassdoor, the average salary for a marketing manager is $93,125. Of course, you can always offer less than this but then you risk sacrificing quality. Add additional benefits and your marketing budget on top of this and that’s a good $99,000-plus that could have been spent with an agency.
There’s also the turnover risk. As you might have already experienced, hiring and training new staff can be expensive. If you want to guarantee a low staff turnover then odds are you’ll have to invest a decent part of your budget into maintaining a strong company culture.
Going back to my first point — the fact that your marketing manager will be devoted entirely to your business. This isn’t always a good thing. After working on the same campaigns for a while, there’s every chance they might start to run out of new ideas or hit writer’s block. Opting for an agency will guarantee constant fresh ideas and unique perspectives.
Hiring a marketing agency
One great thing when you hire a marketing agency is that you can always count on deadlines being met. Whereas your marketing manager might run out of time to complete something on their own, agencies can always throw additional resources at the project to ensure you get what you need when you need it.
Another benefit of hiring a digital agency is that you’ll generally get more for your money.
Pensions, additional benefits and salaries are simply not your problems. All you need to worry about is a straight-up monthly fee and whether the agency is meeting your KPIs.
There’s also no need to stress about “filling in the gaps” either — agencies tend to have different departments with different specialties, especially if you’re working with an integrated agency. One account usually has around three to four people working on it, each with different areas of expertise. This means that you’ll essentially have a full marketing team at your service, but for less than the cost of one full-time marketer.
Leading on from this, you won’t need to invest any time or budget into the recruitment process.
Whereas you might spend months trying to find a marketing manager with the specific skills that your business requires, you should have no problem finding a marketing agency with a proven track record of the services you’re after. It’s still important to take time with the process to ensure you find the right agency for you.
Another benefit of working with an agency is since they tend to work with numerous clients, they’ll likely be working with bigger budgets. This means that you might be able to get early access to new features or ad formats before your competitors. Did you know that paid advertising platforms such as Google offer partner perks? You'll probably never experience these perks unless your organization is working with large budgets.
This doesn’t mean that agencies come without their disadvantages. They’ll be located off-site which means they’re not always going to be on-hand for quick catch-ups, especially if you’re one of their lower-tier clients.
Saying that, most agencies aim to be easy to communicate with and transparent with everything they do. And if you choose an agency that’s fairly local then you shouldn’t have a problem with popping over for a face-to-face meeting.
Another downside of hiring a digital marketing agency is that they might not be as clued up on your organization as when you hire a marketing manager. However, if they’ve worked with similar brands in the past they might actually have more market knowledge than your in-house team. Even if they don’t have experience in your niche, they’ll work alongside your team and carry out research to ensure they know the ins-and-outs of your business and industry.
If your agency isn’t working hard to do this then it could be time to switch.
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The ideal scenario
As the owner of a full-service digital marketing agency, I’m sure you can guess what my advice would be if you only have the budget for one of these routes. Call me biased, but I do genuinely believe that if you have a limited budget then a marketing agency can give you loads more bang for your buck than an in-house marketer would. Saying that, this still wouldn’t be my ideal scenario.
As a digital marketing agency, it really does make our job easier if we’re working with someone who’s on the same page as us. CEOs are becoming increasingly digitally-aware, but with limited time on their hands, it isn’t always easy to have them on-hand when we need a fast response on an important marketing decision.
Hiring a full-time marketing manager to put together your brand’s marketing strategy and then finding an agency to implement the different strategies is becoming more and more common.
It gives the agency someone who’s easy to contact and completely understands what they’re talking about, whilst freeing up your marketing manager’s time to focus on strategy and ensure that everything goes to plan.
If you're tight on cash flow in this post-recession era, then you could use an agency to fill in the gaps of your in-house team. An agency is also helpful if you can pick-and-choose certain aspects of marketing that you could outsource. For example, you probably won’t need a full-time pay-per-click expert unless you’re running campaigns that use up tens of thousands of dollars each month.
Whichever route you decide to go down, it’s important to take your time with the process.
There’s no point rushing into hiring a marketing manager, only to discover they lack the skills that you require. There’s also no point rushing into working with a marketing agency, only to discover they’re not as skillful as they claim to be. Take the time to research some of options and you’ll have no problem finding the perfect marketing strategy to grow your business.