Should you hire an in-house marketing manager or outsource to a marketing agency?


I’m often asked whether a business should hire its own in-house marketing person, or outsource their activity to a digital marketing agency.

You might expect that I’d be biased. After all, I run a marketing agency.

But let’s assume that we are all adults in the room, and that I’m not about to offer up some silly one-eyed argument to convince you one way or the other.

Instead, let me share what I’ve observed in my short 25 years in marketing, looking at:

  • What works
  • What doesn’t
  • And why

It will give you something to think about, and help you to figure out what will work best for you.

Why do you think you need a ‘marketing person’ on your staff?

Every business’s situation is different. But from talking to business owners and observing the challenges they face, here’s how it often goes:

In a small to medium business, running the show is a tough gig. You have a bazillion things to do. And when it comes to your marketing, it becomes a frustrating “Cycle Of Misery”:

  1. You know that you “should be doing some marketing”
  2. But it keeps getting pushed to the back of your priority list
  3. You are sweating because you don’t have enough enquiries
  4. You know that some marketing would fix that
  5. So, you find time to do it, and
  6. The phone rings and web leads come in
  7. You are then super-busy dealing with all that, so
  8. Marketing gets pushed to the back of the queue again
  9. And then one day you die. And they bury you


So, you begin to wonder whether you should hire someone, hand it over to an existing staffer or bring in a marketing agency.

Like any business decision like this, it comes down to ROI.

At the time of writing, engaging a small to medium sized agency to run an Inbound Marketing campaign will be somewhere in the vicinity of $60K to $100K per annum, depending on your growth objectives.

You’ll need to weigh that against the cost of hiring a single person to do the job for you, and what the likely ROI for your business will be.

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Is “marketing” really the time-suck that you think it is?

It is important to look at what “doing some marketing” actually involves, for you in your management role.

True, when you have no resources, (either internally in the form of a marketing person or externally in the form of an agency), it can seem like “doing some marketing” is an insurmountable hurdle.

But really, in our experience as a marketing agency, once things are up-and-running, the time-input needed from our clients is very little.

You should expect:

  1. MONTHLY — A one to one-and-a-half-hour meeting to review progress and priorities.
  2. FORTNIGHTLY — A quick phone catch up to discuss any exciting new ideas that can’t wait for the monthly meeting.
  3. ADMIN — Rounding up resources such as images, which you can delegate internally.

So all up, the time impact on you as a manager should be minimal.

The problem is one of perception. Trying to do it all yourself makes it SEEM like a ginormous task.

Once you get some help though, it really isn’t.

The question is, is hiring the best way to get that help? Or should you outsource?

What is the “marketing role” that you want filled?

Let’s look at the options if you decide to hire, and handle it internally.

People in this job go by different titles. Some businesses might call the role:

  • Marketing Co-ordinator
  • Marketing Assistant
  • Marketing Administrator
  • Marketing Manager

This range of titles tells you something right away about how varied the role might be, so let’s dig into your options a little.

At one end of the spectrum, you might hire a Marketing Manager

This is someone who has experience, has qualifications, understands strategy, and is truly operating at management level within your business.

If they are any good, they will cost you a considerable sum. Plus you’ll also still need to budget for engaging an agency, as your marketing manager will still need to draw on outside expertise.

That’s because a senior Marketing Manager most likely won’t have the advanced skills in graphic design, web coding, copywriting, AdWords management, marketing automation, and up-to-date SEO that your business needs.

Note: If a potential Marketing Manager tells you that they can handle all that, then I suggest you need to take their claim with a fist-sized grain of salt.

We’ll talk more about this when we get to the section: Where the wheels fall off — The danger of a little knowledge.

The advantage of hiring fully-fledged senior marketing manager? They see the big picture — and are across issues such as:

  • Brand positioning
  • Opportunities for growth in your sector
  • The type of potential buyers you want to attract
  • Where your business sits when compared to your competitors
  • The many (many!) available options for a digital strategy
  • Where you are going to see your best ROI, and
  • How to brief and work with your marketing agency

If your business is big enough to justify the outlay for a marketing manager, then this role can add tremendous value.

At the other end of the spectrum, you might hire a Marketing Assistant

This is often a part-time role. Or is downgraded to be handled among the daily tasks of a PA or general office assistant.

If you can get someone in this role who is organised, can keep up momentum, and gives your marketing some consistent focus, then this person can be a real asset.

It means that your:

  • eDMs go out regularly
  • Ads are produced by the due deadlines
  • Image library is organised so you can find assets consistently
  • Facebook and LinkedIn accounts are kept up-to-date

Indeed, a Marketing Co-ordinator, Marketing Assistant or Marketing Administrator who understands that their great strength is in organising things and keeping things rattling along can be a great asset.

They are good at cataloguing images and other digital assets so they can be found, arranging for briefings so that copywriters can get the information they require, pulling things together to meet deadlines, liaising with printers and other suppliers, and generally making stuff happen.

So far, so good.

Where the wheels fall off — The danger of a little knowledge

Things begin to unravel when management rushes into it, and dumps the “marketing role” on some poor hapless soul who has:

  • No clear job description
  • No clear objectives and KPIs
  • No guidelines except “You are in charge of marketing”

This is made worse when the “marketing person”, in a genuine effort to do their best, (but armed with just enough knowledge to be dangerous), starts to pick up the mouse and become a designer…  or goes to the keyboard and becomes a copywriter.

Many (many!) times, we’ve seen a carefully designed brand position go down the gurgler… a website become clunky with poor user experience… opportunity lost as there is no structure to the sales process… the sales team arcing up as lead quality is poor… and on it goes.

No one meant any harm.

It’s just that they didn’t have a clear role, tried to please the boss by being a ‘Jack Of All Trades” and, well, stuffed it up.

I cannot stress enough the importance of having the right people to do the right job.

To illustrate, think about an architect on a building site

An architect has a clear scope. She knows what she wants to end up with, and gets the right people to do the various jobs.

Can you imagine the fiasco if she attempted to personally:

  • Mix concrete to the right consistency
  • Glaze windows so they open/shut smoothly and give years of service
  • Lay tiles so that they look great, are even and meet corners neatly
  • Put up plasterboard so it’s smooth, flat and has undetectable joints
  • Do electrical work so it’s safe and to standard and can handle the current draw
  • Install plumbing that doesn’t have noisy pipes and won’t block up

Similarly, a good Marketing Co-Ordinator doesn’t attempt to:

  • Write good, clean website code
  • Write persuasive, engaging marketing copy
  • Design website and landing pages with great UX
  • Analyse data and see, (I mean really SEE), what it reveals about user behaviour and opportunity
  • Develop an Inbound Marketing strategy that consistently pulls people through the sales funnel
  • Write compelling and persuasive lead nurturing emails
  • Manage AdWords so that clicks cost less and convert more
  • Manage a Marketing Automation dashboard to set up smart forms, smart content and smart lists (and everything else!)
  • Work with your salespeople to develop criteria for leads — and follow them up

The genius who can do all of that may well be out there. But in over 25 years in marketing, I have never met them.

So, here are three key takeaways from this article:

1. Someone SENIOR in your business needs to be involved

That’s either you, or (if you are turning over… say… $6 million p.a. or more) an experienced Marketing Manager.

It won’t work if you just ‘hand it over’ and hope it happens.

2. It shouldn’t take a lot of your time

Marketing is important. It is the engine that drives your business.

While it is a priority, it shouldn’t require a lot of hands-on input from you.

In our case, we have senior, experienced people in-house, and work hard to minimise the time-drain on our clients.

Our requirement from you is a monthly meeting, and availability for perhaps one or two phone calls during the month to answer questions or provide some information.

3. Create a clear job description for your marketing assistant

If you decide to hire a marketing assistant, (or have someone in-house take that role), you need to set out clear tasks and expectations.

That’s because people very quickly confuse ‘organising marketing’ with ‘being creative’, and just can’t resist the urge to pick up the mouse and become a designer.

If you don’t watch out, you’ll have:

  • Changes being made your website “because it seemed like a good idea”
  • Brochures being produced that drift off your branding and are ineffective
  • Lost opportunity for lead/enquiry generation through lack of knowledge about where sales and marketing meet
  • And so it goes

To avoid this, make sure that the person doing the job understands that it is an admin-centric role, not a creative role.

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Take the next step in improving your marketing

If you are thinking of hiring a marketing assistant or promoting someone in-house and want to discuss the best options, please call me on (07) 3891 3800 before you begin the journey.

I’ll help you to clarify what you need done to shift the load off your aching shoulders — and do so in a way that will add value and give you a good ROI.

If you like, I can also give you some pointers on how to structure the job advertisement and job description that will save you endless grief down the track.

And, if I think that you can get it done in a better, smarter way without hiring someone internally, I can unpack some options with you about that too.

You won’t get a ‘sales pitch’ when you call. That’s not our style.

This is a pragmatic discussion, looking at what’s the best way for you to get the job done to get the growth you are looking for.


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