Buck The Trend To Only Hire In-House; Instead, Work Collaboratively With A Team Of Experts
A few months ago, I wrote this article on the benefits and challenges associated with hiring an in-house marketing person or hiring an outside digital agency team. Yet we still talk to companies that look at this as an or strategy when they should be looking at this as an and strategy.
In short, you might do fine with your in-house marketing director or manager. However, when you assess the complexities and daily challenges associated with creating revenue-generating strategy, tactics and analytics along with effectively leveraging technology, the reality is no single person has the skills and depth of experience to cover everything required.
Today’s Cyclonic Buyer Journey™ and the application across both marketing and sales makes this a team sport rather than an individual one.
Here’s why you should be looking to hire in-house and partner with an agency rather than simply hiring in-house instead of hiring an agency.
Experience Is Everything
Today’s marketing and sales execution requires practical experiences. You can’t read about this in a book, attend a conference or watch a video to know how to build revenue generation machines. Even running marketing for a company isn’t enough to know all the ins and outs associated with the complexity of today’s revenue growth tactics.
You really do need 10,000 hours of practical, program management, strategy and tactical experience to even be considered “capable” of running a client engagement at Square 2. Agencies bring many more hours and many more experiences. Instead of just working with one, two or even five different companies, agency people have worked with hundreds of companies and have the experience that comes from running hundreds of demand generation, lead generation and sales enablement engagements.
They know how to apply what worked in one industry for one company and adjust it to work in your industry for your company. They know how to create the strategy that will produce results because they’ve used the methodology and built the strategy 20 times previously. They know what to do when tactics underperform because they’ve taken underperforming tactics and adjusted 20 times before, generating improved results.
It’s not impossible, but it’s very challenging to find this same set of experiences when hiring for an in-house marketing role.
You Must Leverage Platform And Tactical Technology Solutions
The amount of automation, the variety of tactics and the analytics required to produce business results means marketing and sales technologies are mandatory. In-house people generally have experiences with the tools they’ve used in the past. Usually that means a narrow set of experiences with one or two tools and a predisposition to the same set of tools regardless of your company’s requirements.
Today, the leading agencies have technology practices, like we do at Square 2. In these technology teams, the agency has a wide set of experiences with a wide set of technologies. But more important, the agency helps their clients evaluate, select, install, configure and optimize the technology, so they know where the potholes and stop signs are hidden.
An agency’s involvement in your own technology and software journey means you make a better purchase decision. In addition, you get the tools set up quickly and gain the value sooner.
A Methodology To Support Strategy, Tactics, Analytics And Technology Is Mandatory
You might relate to this next story. One of the biggest comments we hear from prospects is they feel their marketing consists of “random acts of marketing.” Whether they’re doing it on their own or working with an agency, there’s no plan behind the tactics. They’re trying different marketing tactics with no overall strategy.
Yes, it’s very common. Tactics without strategy are going to waste a lot of time and a lot of money. Even worse, inexperienced marketers or leaders without the right marketing experience think the tactics are what drive business benefits like leads and sales opportunities. But that is not true.
If you don’t have the right story targeted at the right prospects, and if that story doesn’t quickly differentiate you from your competitors, you can spend hundreds or thousands of dollars on paid ads and never generate a single lead. Program failure is rarely about the tactics; it’s almost always about the strategy.
But as we’ve been saying, today’s revenue generation effort is highly complex and requires strategy, tactics, analytics and technology. It also includes a tight sales and marketing alignment, so your prospects get a seamlessly amazing experience from the first time they hear about your business and visit your website to the time they sign their paperwork and start working with your team.
Getting this alignment, integration and (as we like to say) orchestration requires a very specific methodology. No company brings a methodology to do this, and very few agencies care enough to create their own methodology. Most simply lean on their software company partners to borrow a methodology, whether it makes sense for their clients or not.
One of the best questions you should consider asking your agency before you hire them is, “Do you have a methodology to align and orchestrate strategy, tactics, analytics and technology?” And then ask them, “Can you explain it to us, so we know what to expect when working with you?” You’ll probably find most agencies are unable to answer the question in a reasonable way.
Access To Tactical Experts Produces Better Results And Less Wasted Effort
So many tactics are available to marketers today, and another large set of tactics can be leveraged to improve sales results. When you break it all down, you can apply more than 100 different tactics across sales and marketing.
What becomes challenging is that no single team member on your internal marketing team is going to be an expert at everything. Unless you have a large team that is strategically designed and grown to give you experience across all of the tactics, having an agency on your program will extend the expertise in a wide variety of areas, including those tactics that you need but have never executed before.
Instead of having someone learn pay-per-click, the agency has a team of PPC experts. Instead of having an internal team member take a class on conversion rate optimization and then experiment and learn on your company website, the agency has a team of people who have been executing CRO on a wide variety of websites for years.
The results are going to come faster and be more significant if you leverage the experiences of people who have been doing it for longer, enjoying more success and getting regular training.
It’s Less Expensive When You Look At All Costs
Deciding between an in-house hire and an outside agency almost always involves a cost component. Many people believe outside agencies are more costly than in-house teams. However, I think the opposite is true. When you stack up all of the costs associated with an in-house team versus the invoiced cost of an agency, you’ll see the investment is lower on the agency side.
The $30,000 for program costs is what most people miss when they start building their own internal team. Your single person won’t be able to do everything you need, and they won’t have the expertise to do it all either. In short order, you’ll be talking about needing website work, SEO work, paid social campaigns and video creation or content writing.
At that point, you’ll need to hire a new person, making the in-house financials even more out of whack, or you’ll need help from some outside resources to help your in-house person. Instead, just consider having an agency apply the skill sets you need, when you need them. You’ll only pay for services as they relate to your program and your results.
Analytics, Insights, Recommendations And Actions Are The Deliverables
This decision shouldn’t be about costs. It should be about results. Which configuration is going to produce better results and better business outcomes for your company? The answer almost every time is the agency.
Why? If this is about results, then the key skill is being able to analyze program performance, sift through the data, come up with insights from the data, and then create a set of recommendations and an action plan to improve performance of your program quickly. This skill set is difficult to find.
Yes, you can find people who can run email campaigns, write blog articles and post content to social media. But it’s hard to find people who can improve lead generation and help your sales team close more of their existing sales opportunities.
An agency should be stocked with analytical people who are capable of quickly evaluating program performance and knowing exactly how to upgrade the strategy and tactics to produce better results. Their ability to do this in days or even weeks will far outperform an internal team’s ability to do this in months, and the resulting business outcomes would far outweigh any increases in investment.
Outside People Make Your Inside People Smarter
There is one very good reason to have your own internal team. Well, at least on the surface it appears to be a good reason: “If we hire our own people, we’ll have ownership of the expertise, but if we hire an agency, we’re really just renting the expertise.”
This is a true statement. But keep in mind that you don’t own the expertise, your employee does. An employee can leave at any time, taking all of that training and expertise with them. You should consider that if you hire the right agency, like Square 2, we will train your team as part of our engagement so that they get smarter as the engagement progresses.
It’s like getting the best of both worlds, and I’d argue that training with us during an engagement is better, more practical experience than any outside training program.
I feel like I’m telling business leaders that revenue generation is the hardest, most complex and most challenging part of your business day in and day out. This comment always resonates with CEOs. They recognize the pain associated with repeatable, predictable and scalable revenue growth, but the lure of doing what they’ve always done is hard to break.
Your in-house team (if you have one or if you’re planning on hiring one) isn’t enough to get you to your goals. Not because they’re bad, inexperienced or don’t work hard enough, but because what’s required today is too complex for most internal teams.
This is especially relevant around analytics, insights and creating action plans designed to take those insights and drive program performance. Knowing what your program is doing, how to evaluate it and then turning those insights into actions is key to driving results and business outcomes.
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