In a webinar led by social media strategy guru Gini Dietrich, she reminded me of a very simple tip that most forget now and then: When writing blogs, cover topics and questions people actually ask and seek answers to.
Last week, Claire Dillard, BEM’s marketing coordinator, participated in a panel discussion hosted by UNC-Wilmington’s Advertising Chapter. There, she and a group of other marketing professionals answered pressing questions that often arise in business. One audience member asked about the difference between relying on an in-house (internal) marketing department versus hiring an outside agency.
BEM hears this question often from existing and prospective business owners. Many are unsure whether it is best to keep their PR efforts under their roof by hiring a full-time director. Or, should they reach outside of their home and hire an independent agency?
Well, there is no straight answer. Instead, the choice depends on each business’s specific situation. Here are factors to consider when struggling with this decision:
- Size of the company
- Budget available for overall marketing efforts / salaried position
- Amount of marketing efforts desired / time to be spent on these efforts
- Specific needs (website development, online marketing, brand development, message development, PR strategy, media relations, etc.)
Next, educate yourself on the pros and cons of both scenarios. Typically, we conduct this exercise with businesses on the fence about how to handle their marketing. While the cons may differ based on immediate needs at the time, the pros often go something like this:
Pros of Hiring an Agency:
- Depending on the flexibility of the contract, businesses can choose to spend more money during certain months and less during others. The budget is based on needs at the time.
- An agency offers access to multiple professionals with a mixture of skillsets (i.e. graphic design, professional writing, SEO strategy, etc.), as opposed to a single director who may not possess these varied talents.
- Clients are not responsible for benefits – like insurance, paid vacation, retirement savings, etc. – for agency employees. The same might not be true for salaried staff.
- An agency offers a team with many mindsets, resulting in a range of different creative ideas and insights.
Pros of Hiring an In-House Director:
- An internal director can serve as the singular face of marketing for the business, unlike an agency team that represents multiple companies.
- An internal marketer can be hired with specific experience / knowledge of the company and industry, while an agency may not have “insider” knowledge of the field and cannot always dedicate the time for constant research of industry updates.
- Some business owners prefer the physical presence of hired employees so they know they have access to them whenever they need anything. Agency employees will meet face-to-face with clients, but typically do not see them on a daily basis.
- Unless clarified in the contract, agencies do have a right to work with clients of their choice and can work for multiple companies in the same industry. This situation can make business owners uncomfortable if they see it as “helping the enemy.”
As we mentioned before, there is no definite right or wrong answer when deciding to go with an agency or an internal marketer. But know that if you are a business owner actively seeking to market your brand, you are already a step further than many.