Are you stuck trying to decide between hiring a contractor, in-house employee, or agency to handle your marketing needs? If so, you’ll want to read this.
All three options can make sense depending on your needs. And in many cases, a combination of two or three options will give you your best return.
Below are pros and cons for all three options: independent contractors, in-house marketing employees, and marketing agencies.
Internal Marketing Team
About internal marketing teams
The larger your company becomes, the more it warrants an internal marketing team. That is typically the school of thought in most larger organizations, but let’s see if it makes sense for your business.
Pros of building an internal marketing team
- Speed. When you have a team of marketers at your fingertips that are completely dedicated to working on your companies marketing, things will get done much quicker. That’s assuming you have the right hires in place.
- Brainstorming. You would assume that your own employees are 100 percent focused on helping you achieve your organizational goals, and working together to “brain dump” innovative ideas to help catapult your business to the next level. That’s if you can keep them away from social media, vacation time, texting, and trying to build their own portfolio.
- Culture and Voice. Having someone on your internal team helps to ensure that the marketing work is consistent and stays true to the culture and voice your company is trying to put forward.
Cons of building an internal marketing team
- It’s likely that you will have to make several hires to have every skill needed to run a complex marketing program that can compete in today’s climate. Just one director-level hire that has the knowledge and experience to strategically lead your internal marketing team will cost you at least $80,000 / year (depending on your market). This person will most likely need an assistant who can specialize in areas where they lack (e.g., social media, content creation, etc.). That can cost you anywhere from $35,000 – $45,000 / year (again, depending on your market).
- And even these two people will not likely have every skill you need to run the program, so they’ll likely outsource design or SEO, etc. to an independent contractor or an agency. After just running a few of those salary numbers, you can see how this would clearly be your most expensive option.
- Once you have an employee that means you can also take on the responsibility of employee issues. They can include turnover, reviews, promotion requests, benefits, workspace and equipment costs, and the list goes on. This is now adding additional costs to your most expensive option.
- The time it takes to find and hire the right people is much longer than using an independent contractor or marketing agency. Recruiting may take two weeks. Then running interviews will take another two weeks. Making the job offer (hopefully, they accept), if they do, they need to give notice to their other job, which takes 2-4 weeks. Next, they’ll need to get acclimated to your organization, which is different for everyone but could take another 2-4 weeks. Now you’re at roughly 8 weeks and no work has been done yet. An agency or an independent contractor can get started within a week or two. By week 8, they’ll probably already have your plan for the year completed and will have started executing on that plan.
- Of the three options, having to make a change is the hardest when dealing with an internal team. If there are performance issues, this means that instead of requesting that work stop for a period of time or stating that “the project has ended,” you actually have to fire people. And if you make hiring mistakes, it takes a lot more time, effort, and resources to make a change.
Option 2: Independent Marketing Contractors
About independent marketing contractors
For many business leaders, hiring an independent marketing contractor is a very popular option. They’re often hired for their expertise in a particular vertical or industry and typically provide a very consultative relationship. They’re also frequently hired for their ability to execute particular marketing activities.
Pros of hiring an independent marketing contractor
- As noted above, independent contractors have a wealth of knowledge. Many of them have left successful careers to start their own one-person operation and have a lot of talent.
- Independent contractors are not treated as employees; therefore, they are not subject to payroll taxes and state and federal employment laws, which is a benefit over hiring an internal team but not over hiring an agency.
- Really good independent contractors become a trusted advisor and provide a very personal level of service that many of their clients value. They can offer such things as unique perspectives, can help them avoid a missed opportunity, and educate them. Great independent contractors get invited to help their clients make significant business decisions.
- If need be, it’s typically easy to get out of an independent contractor agreement.
Cons of hiring an independent marketing contractor
- Independent contractors have capacity limits. Should they be unable to work for a period of time or other agreements they’ve made demand their time, it may slow down the progress of reaching your marketing objectives.
- An independent contractor can be limited in their ability to provide a full array of service offerings and instead just focus on their niche. They may have abundant ideas or a vision for how to reach your marketing objectives, however, they could lack the technical expertise to bring it to fruition. This may cause you to need multiple independent contractors (strategists, content creators, designers, developers) to really get the job done.
- If you think hiring an independent contractor is your least expensive option, I’m sorry to say, but that’s typically not the case. Someone with a high-level of expertise could run you around $200 / hour. If they’re providing you with 15 hours of service a week, that’s around $12,000 / month, which is more than a typical agency would cost you. And unfortunately, some of that time will go to activities that probably don’t warrant $200 / hour.
- You’re quite likely to need several contractors to support all of your marketing needs. And that means you need a process and people in place to supervise and manage those contractors.
Option 3: Marketing Agencies
About hiring a marketing agency
As the owner of a growth agency, I am trying not to be biased, but really provide you useful insight that I believe will help you make the right decision for your business. Many organizations have had great success bringing on a marketing agency or even having an agency collaborate with their internal marketing team, while there are others who have not figured out how to make an agency work for them.
Pros of hiring a marketing agency
- Agencies have the ability to provide you with a comprehensive array of talent, including strategy, tactical implementation, software expertise, content creation, graphic design, web development, and integration capabilities.
- Agencies have the ability to be very adaptable. Even if your organization has full-time marketing employees and/or outsources some of your marketing efforts to a contractor, a marketing agency can provide an expert strategy to supplement the strengths of your internal team. Agencies make it so that your company never misses a beat as the agency’s services can respond to fill any gaps, thus moving your organization forward to meet its growth objectives.
- Agencies also typically have a great amount of recent experience working with companies like yours, meaning that they’ll able to quickly execute the right activities with less trial and error.
- Agencies tend to be very good at managing their capacities. Should a few people working on your account have vacationed at the same time, an agency can typically adapt to make sure all of the activities required don’t skip a beat.
- More advanced agencies have sophisticated ways of managing their costs. So unlike the independent marketing contractor that has one cost, say $200 / hour, for all of the activities they perform, agencies will estimate their work charging the right amount and placing the right people on activities in order to provide the optimal value for clients.
- If you’re not happy with the style or performance of the work being produced, agencies can typically switch out people on your account quickly and without the need to cancel an agreement, fire someone, or tons of time and paperwork.
Cons of hiring a marketing agency
- It’s typically harder to get out of an agency agreement opposed to an agreement with an independent contractor. Many agencies like to lock you in for a 12-month agreement since that’s when they typically start producing inbound marketing results. As a growth agency ourselves, however, we do not require our clients to sign long-term contracts. Many agencies I know also like to front-load the work (setup, development, content creation) and spread the payments out over 12-months.
- Agencies can be slow to respond. This can be a common complaint in that it can take a week for a response back to the client because they have other tasks and responsibilities that might fall outside of your organization. To mitigate this risk, we use a comprehensive project management tool and agile approach to marketing that allows us to shift focus and update the tasks and objectives of our clients at a swift pace.
- For it to be a successful partnership, there still has to be someone at the company that is available to work with the agency to ensure alignment with organizational goals, especially in those very important beginning months where the relationship is starting.
The Agency / Internal Team Partnership
Inevitably, as a company grows they add additional resources and one of those resources is often a full-time marketing person. Does that mean you no longer need an agency?
In fact, companies that have small marketing teams are perfect candidates to work with a marketing agency. There is a perfect synergy between having someone dedicated on the team who can be the voice of the company and coordinate internal marketing activities along with the overall strategic guidance and diversified resources an agency.
Typically, the internal marketing team has a couple of areas where they excel. And the gaps that remain can be filled in by agency personnel.
Additionally, small marketing teams are typically comprised of less experienced or at least more tactical professionals. So an agency with the ability to provide overall guidance and act as an outsourced Chief Marketing Officer provides enormous value.
Crush My Market – Growth/Marketing Agency
Crush My Market has made some fundamental changes and really embraced the agile marketing approach, which has helped us become a true Growth Agency. We sought feedback from clients on what was working and where we could achieve even greater results, and we’ve positioned ourselves into something that makes us genuinely unique for our clients.
Strategic guidance on growth initiatives. Getting things done is certainly part of an agency’s role. But so is providing insight into a higher level, strategic decisions that can help shape the future growth of the company. And as a Growth Agency focused not only on marketing results but how we can move the revenue needle through sales enablement and customer value optimization efforts, we’re able to offer a very different and more valuable perspective.
We provide tactical skills, capabilities, and expertise. We pride ourselves on our strong content creation abilities, our thorough knowledge of marketing software platforms, SEO and conversion optimization abilities, creative and design skills, and our expertise in using all functions in HubSpot. We are very strong in each of these areas, however, we are always looking to improve, grow, and innovate.
Maintaining speed of response and getting things done. One of the things I am most proud of is our responsiveness and speed of completing tasks and requests. Each of us has a clear understanding of what our role is in the company, and we focus our efforts on where our talents lie, thus making it quite simple to achieve what our clients ask of us.
Responsiveness is one of the things I believe our clients value the most about us. This is a big priority for our team and will continue to be.
We ensure that our clients don’t feel locked into long-term agreements
We do not require long-term contracts. We believe in long-term relationships by delivering great value and performance, not because of a legal agreement.