Should I Hire an Employee or a Marketing Agency?
Hiring an employee vs. a marketing agency is a question that’s existed as long as agencies have existed. If you’re in charge of marketing for your company, you’re probably familiar with having more on your plate than you can actually get done in any given month. You may also find that you don’t have the skills needed to accomplish many of the required tasks.
No doubt you you need more help. The question becomes whether to hire an employee or to work with an outside agency. Deciding between these options can be tricky. You’ll want to consider carefully, because your choice can have long term consequences for your company.
Considerations for Decision Making
Subjects to consider when deciding between hiring a new employee vs. working with a marketing agency:
- Skills Required
- Team Capabilities
- Flexibility in Approach
- Time to Results
- Access to Tools and Tech
- Ideas and Perspective
- Integration with Team
The Benefits of Hiring a Marketing Employee
The benefits of hiring a full-time employee include having someone you can count on to be there who can swiftly accomplish marketing tasks with a minimum of communication overhead. If your company has an established internal marketing department with clearly established roles and responsibilities, then hiring additional personnel may be the obvious choice.
“While it’s best to always have another team member on staff for easier and faster results, you should always have a scope of what your project entails. How many hours will it take, what are the skills required, etc.” says Gina A., North American Director of Marketing for a manufacturer of gas fireplaces.
Integration with Company and Team
With an employee, you can ask them to work with the tools you are comfortable with and to follow the protocols and norms of your company. If you are dealing with valuable internal IP, then working with staff as opposed to outsiders may help you feel more secure that company secrets will stay within the company. Additionally, with an employee it’s easier to build a sense of teamwork with the rest of the full-time employees on your team and in the company as a whole.
Risks of Hiring a Marketing Employee
However, in many small to midsize companies, the choice of whether to hire an employee versus outside help is not so straightforward. In companies with only one or two employees focused on marketing, adding an additional full time employee to the marketing department could cost more than they are able to comfortably take on.
Diana Khoury, Marketing Communications Manager for a midsize healthcare organization, says, “For the same cost as hiring an assistant, I can hire a whole team of marketers through an agency. They have expertise that I don’t have and can complement my other marketing initiatives to create a full marketing program. Also, I like that I can engage my vendors more (or less) as my needs fluctuate.”
Costs of Hiring a Marketing Employee
As you make your calculations, keep in mind that base salary is only the beginning when it comes to costs associated with a new hire. You will also need to account for employee benefits, computer hardware and software costs, office space, training and development, added overhead for HR staff, and the very real costs of finding, interviewing and onboarding the right candidate.
After all that, what if you get it wrong? What if the person you hire doesn’t work out? The costs of making a bad hire are steep. The U.S. Department of Labor estimates that a a bad hire can cost your business 30 percent of their yearly salary. In addition, firing an employee brings with it risks to reputation management for your organization and the small but real risk of litigation.
Benefits of Working With a Marketing Agency
When working with an agency you have none of the overhead and associated risks of hiring an employee. In addition you get numerous benefits, such as having access to a full team of professionals without having to do any training and without having to actively manage that team.
Specialized Skill Sets
“I find that agencies are great when needing differentiated skills like web development or graphic design. Most companies I’ve worked for do not have enough tasks to justify a full time position for a graphic designer, or a web developer would not be needed after a project is complete. It really varies,” says Gina A. “There’s also the project management aspect [that must be considered].”
Agencies Self Manage
Agencies are responsible for managing their own team to get the needed work done and delivered on time. While you may be giving up control as to how the work gets done, you always retain control over whether or not to accept the work.
A good agency will begin the relationship by getting to know you, your company, your brand and your needs and expectations. Clear communication is important in this process. An experienced agency will have owners and staff who are skilled at client communication and have established methods for ensuring that your needs are well understood and feedback channels remain open so there are no surprises with deliverables.
"I love working with people who bring ideas to the table. Working with a team that can listen to our ideas, provide their own ideas, then prioritize and bring those ideas to reality has been invaluable. We’ve been able to work in steps, at a pace that is comfortable for us. The scope has expanded as our business has grown."
If you find yourself in a time crunch, it’s much faster to get started with an agency than it is to engage in a full talent search for a new employee. The talent hiring cycle can typically take several months, not including the onboarding process to get your new hire up to speed. With an agency you can get started much faster. With the right agency you can hand off even complex projects and trust it to get done on the agreed timeline, without you needing to oversee every detail.
Modern Tools and Tech
Hiring a marketing agency can help you modernize your own internal marketing department. An outside agency will usually be up to date with tools and technology that you might not have had the time or resources to invest in learning. As you work with an outside agency you can take notes and learn what might be worthwhile to adopt for your own employees.
Fresh Ideas and Perspective
An outside agency will bring in fresh ideas, new perspectives and valuable insight that is difficult to generate from an internal team. An agency can also be invaluable when it comes to fleshing out nascent ideas. This is because the talent at the agency will have worked with many different clients and will have a vastly different work experience than employees who have only worked at your company or at other companies like yours.
Access to Talent
Additionally, agencies have relationships with a rich network and can bring in new talent and specialized skills as needed. Many agencies work with other agencies who may have complementary services and capabilities.
Motivation to Show Success
Finally, an agency is motivated to show success, not just in the first 90 days or around annual review time. An agency must prove their value with each project, on an ongoing basis.
Common Fears and Desires Business Leaders Have When Considering Whether to Hire a Marketing Agency:
“I want to make sure that I can lean on them and trust they will be available when we need the work done.”
This is a major reason cited by employers hiring a full-time employee vs. going with a marketing agency. However, a monthly retainer agreement with an agency will guarantee you access to key talent and will keep your company top of mind with time cleared on the schedule for your needs. They can also tap into their tapestry of talent when needed to get work done on time.
“I don’t want to be hit with surprise charges. I want to know the cost up front.”
With a retainer agreement in place, you won’t need to worry about being charged by the hour, for ongoing work. You will have a predictable monthly expense. For a specific, defined project that is beyond the scope of the retained service level, an agency should be able to give you an accurate quote before beginning the work.
“I want somebody who can take on this work and just get it done, without a lot of direction from me.”
This is a great reason to hire a marketing agency vs. an employee. Most employees expect to step into a role that is fairly defined with ample direction and guardrails on what to do and what not to do. Whereas an agency can take charge of the work and deliver without you needing to give detailed guidance on the process.
“I’m afraid that the external agency won’t take the time to understand my situation and learn about my organization.”
With either a new employee or a marketing agency there will always be a learning curve regarding your organization and any special technology or specific things that are unique to your company. With a retainer in place an agency will be incentivized to invest the needed time to more deeply learn your organization and understand your specific situation.
“I’m concerned about revealing company secrets to outsiders.”
While this is a legitimate concern, it is easily addressed by having the agency sign a non-disclosure agreement before beginning work.
“I see this marketing vacancy as an opportunity to redefine and expand the role.”
If you need to redefine and expand a role on your team, it is probably safer to start out by working with an agency to find out what really needs to be done and how the work can be best handled, versus trying to hire somebody to fill an undefined role. By hiring an agency on a temporary basis you can discover what really needs to happen. You could even use the agency to help define the role and document as much as possible before you make a hire. Many agencies will gladly work on a temporary basis, and defining the role and requirements for an incoming employee could be part of their task.
Where do I even begin to hire a marketing agency?
If you’ve carefully reviewed hiring an employee vs. a marketing agency and are leaning toward a marketing agency then you’ll need to take the next step. Where do you begin? Start with your need. If you need to put a digital marketing strategy in place or revitalize an existing digital marketing effort then start there. If you need graphic design or communications help, let that be your guide. This is the advantage of using a full-service marketing agency like the JUG Team. Not only can we address your current needs we can anticipate what’s needed next and help you create a path to get there.
"Coming together is a beginning, staying together is progress, and working together is success."