In-House Director or Outsourced Team: Choosing the Right Marketing Path

In today’s dynamic business landscape, scalability is not merely about having a groundbreaking product or service; it’s about ensuring that potential customers understand, resonate with, and are drawn to what you offer. Central to this is the realm of marketing, a domain that shapes your brand’s voice, raises awareness about your offerings, drives lead generation, and fosters meaningful client interactions. 

A marketing team discussing a campaign.

Tragically, many innovative ideas and products, despite their inherent value, are overshadowed by poor or ineffective marketing strategies. As you evaluate the marketing landscape for your business, two pivotal options emerge. You can either bring on board an experienced external marketing team with an extensive skillset and broad perspective from working across sectors or choose to invest in an internal marketing director, deeply rooted in the ethos and nuances of your business. Each of these options has its own set of advantages and potential outcomes. Let’s delve deeper into understanding which might be the best fit for your unique business needs.

Why Hire an External Marketing Team?

A sophisticated external marketing team has expertise in multiple channels and sectors (e.g., SEO, Google ads, social advertising, and organic posting). They work like a well-oiled machine, which means you get results quickly and reliably.

You can also leverage the external team’s relationships with other agencies and businesses. If you’re a new company, leveraging an external marketing team’s network can accelerate your growth in ways you might not have envisioned or achieved on your own. You’ll gain introductions to business professionals (e.g., lawyers, venture capitalists, accountants, writing experts) who have already been vetted and are known to deliver flawlessly.

As your company grows, you will need a broad range of skillsets and business expertise to avoid falling behind your competition. That’s where a good external marketing agency can help you: they provide a suite of services such as advanced branding and content marketing, PR, lead generation campaigns, to keep your business ahead of the competition.

While you focus on your business, they can execute complex campaigns and streamline existing outreach, awareness, and lead generation efforts. You save valuable and critical time as you bypass the challenges of managing an internal team. Financially, you’re essentially accessing a diverse skill set across an entire team for the price of one director.

Furthermore, with a quality marketing firm at your side, you benefit from a foundational audit of your past and present marketing initiatives. Learn about best-in-class marketing practices, tools, and technologies. This audit will allow you and the marketing team to strategize short-term and long-term strategies to maximize and sustain growth.

A pawn on a chess-board illustrates the importance of strategy.
Just like a chess match, an external marketing team will be strategy-oriented and proactive.

Consider the vast array of skills at your disposal when partnering with an external agency. For the investment equivalent to hiring an internal marketing director, you tap into expertise spanning SEO, analytics, video editing, branding, and more. This approach can result in savings of hundreds of thousands of dollars in the long run. If you’re trying to raise money from investors (for example) a professional team may be more helpful in branding your pitch.

Most critically, an external marketing team can move you from a tactics-oriented (and reactive) method to a strategy-oriented (and proactive) method. While this approach may initially seem overwhelming, it ensures clarity about your future prospects and growth opportunities.

Hiring an external marketing firm can be a daunting task. You want to make sure you choose a company that understands your business and its needs. For instance, if you run a pharmaceutical company, you’d prefer a firm with experience in the pharmaceutical, clinical, or scientific space. If your company trains athletes, some background in physiology would be advantageous. While it’s beneficial for the external team to have an initial understanding, it’s vital they exhibit the aptitude to truly grasp what your business stands for. This comprehension is part of the foundational audit mentioned earlier.

Ultimately, initial conversations will be crucial in assessing if the external marketing team is right for you.

Ask the following questions to help you make the best decision:

  1.  Which experience do they have in your industry? While in-depth experience can be helpful, it’s the aptitude to learn your business that is crucial.
  2.  Which campaigns have they executed in the past? Can they provide specific results or case studies from those campaigns?
  3.  Do they mesh well with your company culture? This is more of a feeling – how do you feel when you interact with them? Do their values resonate with yours?
  4.  Can they synthesize strategies to leverage your strengths and minimize weaknesses? Honesty is key here. Can they be direct and accurate when assessing your weaknesses, or do they avoid candid conversations essential for growth?
  5.  How will they measure and report results? Will you have a dedicated account representative? What tools and platforms do they typically use? It’s crucial to clarify your expectations about communication from the outset. If their communication is not up to par during this initial stage, it might be a deal breaker.
  6.  How do they differentiate themselves from their competition? Can they provide testimonials or references from previous or current clients?
  7.  How adaptable are they to changes in the market or shifts in your business strategy?
  8.  What is their pricing structure? Do they work on a retainer basis, project basis, or something else?

The right marketing firm can help your business grow by developing a successful marketing plan that gains exposure and increases customers, sales, and revenue. However, this success hinges on making a wise choice.

Why Hire an Internal Marketing Director?

When considering the pros of hiring an internal marketing director, it’s vital to understand the potential benefits and challenges. If you desire day-to-day control over aspects like the strategic direction of campaigns and the intricacies of daily marketing operations, then an internal director may be a reasonable option. This role encompasses tasks such as overseeing content creation, managing advertising budgets, managing campaigns, reviewing and optimizing analytics, choosing the right marketing channels, and ensuring brand consistency. Of course, the person you hire must bring to the table experience and competency across the channels vital to your business, otherwise, it will be a drain on your company’s resources.

Increased control is a double-edged sword. While it aligns the marketing direction closely with company objectives, there’s a risk of micromanagement, which could stifle creativity and innovation. Your internal director must have a solid grasp of all essential marketing channels. If they lack expertise and competency in certain areas, you’d need a budget to bring in experts with specific competencies, such as Google Ads specialists, analytics pros, or social media advertisers.

A standout advantage of having an internal marketing director is brand ownership. Such a director, imbued with a deep and broad sense of the brand’s essence, can make faster decisions. This results in a shorter path to brand consistency and more genuine company representation in marketing messages.

Company culture, with its nuanced and specific nature, plays an integral role. Having someone internal could streamline communications and organizational tasks. An internal director should be deeply rooted in the company’s culture, which is especially advantageous if you offer niche products. They understand these products extensively, allowing them to devise specialized campaigns.

However, challenges exist. The initial phase after hiring might see the director adjusting to company dynamics, grasping the nuances of products or services, forging relationships with other departments, understanding the necessary marketing channels, and hiring relevant staff. This learning curve might postpone the launch of high-impact marketing campaigns.

From a financial perspective, hiring an internal marketing director can have costs comparable to contracting an external marketing firm. However, this comparison can vary based on the range of services the marketing firm provides. This does not include the cost of the expertise that the internal marketing director will have to hire to fill in the gaps.

When hiring an internal marketing director, it’s essential to look beyond mere marketing expertise. Your internal director should have strong leadership skills, a profound understanding of the company’s industry, and excellent collaboration skills. They should also be adept at evaluating and hiring talent tailored to specific marketing goals.

Lastly, evaluating the effectiveness of an internal marketing director mirrors that of an external team. Key metrics include the ROI of marketing campaigns, brand awareness figures, customer engagement rates, and stakeholder feedback regarding the director’s collaborative prowess and leadership. A pivotal question to ponder is: Are they propelling the company forward?

How Do You Hire an Internal Marketing Director?

If you prefer to work with an internal marketing director, it is even more important to choose the right person for the job. You must set goals and expectations, or require the internal marketing director to propose goals as part of the hiring or onboarding process. Keep in mind the risk of wasting time and money on a badly-chosen director who works without clear goals.

Some good questions to ask a potential hire:

  1. What is their experience with specific marketing channels? Ultimately, there will not be one person who is an expert in all channels.
  2. What are their weaknesses (e.g., will you have to hire a web developer to supplement skillset)?
  3. Do they understand the company culture? It is also worth asking about times they’ve adapted to or helped shape a company’s culture in their past roles.
  4. In what way will they measure and report data? And which specific metrics do they consider essential for tracking and why?
  5. How often do they expect to consult you about their short- and long-term projects?
  6. Are they able to collaborate with external consultants and also lead and inspire an internal marketing team if one is in place or in future plans?
  7. Do they have a specific niche skillset that is valuable for your company?
  8. What, in their opinion, differentiates them from an external marketing firm?
  9. How do they stay updated with the constantly evolving field of marketing, and what are their views on continuous learning?
  10. How proficient are they in managing marketing budgets?
  11. How do they handle multiple projects, and how do they prioritize them?
  12. Present them with hypothetical marketing challenges specific to your industry and see how they would address them.
  13. How do they handle feedback, especially if a marketing campaign doesn’t yield the desired results? And how would they pivot in such scenarios?

The right internal marketing director can engage the company culture and the brand in a more hands-on and intimate manner. They can additionally work with other departments (e.g., sales) to provide a complementary perspective.

Which One to Choose: Internal or External?

Whichever road you choose, your company will benefit. However, for most businesses, an external marketing team is often the superior choice, unless you have a substantial budget to accommodate the variety of roles essential for a comprehensive marketing strategy.

As we’ve pointed out, you don’t want to cut corners on marketing. But regarding budget considerations, an external marketing team with a flexible fee structure could be more economical. Consider this: to match the expertise and diversity of an external team, you might need to hire up to 10 full-time staff members, which can significantly escalate costs.

One notable advantage external teams bring is their access to a myriad of specialized tools and resources. They often have at their disposal programmatic advertising platforms, dedicated Google Support agents, and Meta support agents, which might be out of reach or less accessible for an individual or internal team.

For those seeking a middle ground, a hybrid approach might be worth exploring. In this model, you’d hire an internal marketing director who liaises with an external marketing team. This way, you get the best of both worlds: a dedicated internal representative and the broad expertise of an external agency.

Given the low barrier to enter the marketing field — where essentially anyone with an internet connection and a phone can offer services — the distinction between a novice and a master is stark. Mastery in marketing is no small feat. With so many claiming expertise, discerning true quality can be challenging, which underscores the importance of starting your search now. It takes time for businesses to distinguish between those who genuinely excel and those who merely get by.

If you’re contemplating bolstering your marketing efforts, begin your search immediately. And if you have any questions or uncertainties, don’t hesitate to contact us. As a token of our commitment, we offer a free consultation to help guide you.

To conclude, the landscape of marketing is vast and varied. However, in the current climate, leaning on the expertise of an external marketing team is becoming increasingly critical for many businesses, whether they opt for a direct hire or a combination of internal and external teams that collaborate.

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