We are Christina and Peter Pilarski, founders and leaders of
In the fourth series of our podcast,
Two Babies and a Business
we decided to turn our attention to the ongoing debate of hiring a digital marketing agency vs. an in-house marketing team. Since we are a digital marketing agency, it may seem obvious which side of the argument we are on. However, this is not a simple “either-or” discussion. Yes, you
need the services of a digital marketing agency, but you also need good in-house marketing resources. For a thriving business with effective marketing strategies, you need to build a team that incorporates both. It isn’t practical or cost-effective to build an in-house team that has all the necessary expertise to form a fully-loaded digital marketing solution, which means you will need outside help. On the other hand, when you hire a digital marketing agency, you can’t expect it to work in isolation – it needs to interface with members of your staff who have the knowledge to handle your company’s marketing portfolio. You can’t have one without the other.
With this in mind, we have dedicated this latest series to talking about how to build your marketing team with both in-house and agency elements and equip it for success.
Building your team
Many company owners and management teams don’t realize how many resources are required to run successful digital marketing campaigns. Ours is a field that needs both generalists and specialists to work. You can hire a well-rounded, experienced marketing manager to oversee your communications, but you can’t expect them to be able to handle all the minutiae of digital marketing tactics. We have seen many job descriptions for in-house marketers that include long lists of skills that no individual – regardless of how well educated or experienced – actually possesses. To satisfy all your requirements, you would need to strike a balance between in-house generalists and agency specialists. The emphasis should be on building a battery of marketing resources spanning both your in-house personnel and the services of an agency.
Find out more
about how to build your team and listen to the podcast episode here.
Where are you at?
Before you start building your dream team for upcoming marketing campaigns, you first need to stop and assess where your business currently stands. Having you been running for a while, or are you just starting out? Are you in a planning phase, or are you expanding? Getting clear about this and understanding your marketing requirements relative to your specific stages of development will help you decide on the right proportions and interactions between in-house and agency marketing resources. It will become clear to you whether it is time to hire staff or start looking for the right agency.
Watch the podcast episode
and learn more about how to assess where your business is at.
Current in-house resources
Part of taking stock of where you’re at involves assessing your current marketing capacities. Take a look at the team you currently have in-house and gain a complete understanding of what they can and cannot do. This exercise requires an open and honest relationship with your staff. You need to be able to lay out your goals and ask your team members whether they are capable of delivering. In turn, the team should feel safe to tell you what they are ready and willing to do and where they feel they lack capacity, skill or confidence. You will then know what resources you have and which gaps you will need to fill in. With this knowledge, you can delegate that part of your marketing to an agency, allowing it to implement a strategy according to its expertise, and in line with the marketing goals established and approved by your in-house marketers.
Listen to the podcast episode
and discover what to look for when you assess your in-house resources.
Identify your gaps
Having assessed your current in-house resources, you know exactly what skills you have to hand. You should also be in a position to identify what you’re lacking. Knowing what you need will make it easier to approach a digital marketing agency and brief them on your requirements. This also helps an agency to understand how it can fit into your current marketing resources and how it can bring its own skills and assets to bear on your marketing goals. It is worth reiterating that honesty is the key factor here. Your staff must feel safe to tell you what they can’t manage or don’t feel able to or willing to commit themselves to. You may have a brilliant marketing manager, but that doesn’t mean that they have the knowledge (or time, for that matter) to build a great new website. If you have an open rapport with your team, they will make it clear which parts of the project they feel competent to handle and which ones are outside of their current skill sets.
about how to identify your gaps and how to go about filling them.
Building your job description
After assessing your in-house talent and identifying your gaps, you may decide to hire more staff in-house. This brings us back to the job descriptions we mentioned earlier. It is very unlikely that you can simply take the list of all the gaps you have identified, and copy-paste it into a single job description. You may need to hire two or more people to fill all your needs. You need to set realistic parameters. Digital marketing encompasses a range of tasks, tools and tactics that requires teams of people to manage. You probably can’t afford to hire a big team in-house, so you will need to decide which skills you need in your new staff member, and which tasks are better left to an agency.
about what to include in your marketing staff job descriptions.
Costs to consider
As you’re considering the best working balance of in-house and agency resources to fill the gaps you’ve identified, your mind will turn to the question of costs. There’s a lot of unpacking to do when it comes to this particular topic. At the most basic, you are looking at the differences between the prices of a digital agency’s services versus the cost of hiring in-house personnel. However, it is actually more complicated than that because there is a range of costs and benefits to compare on either side of the equation. Whatever you choose, there are potential opportunity costs involved. The trick is to find a balance that works.
Get more information
about how to weigh up your marketing costs.
Setting an agency up for success
When you decide to work with an agency, you are establishing a mutual business relationship that will require a great deal of understanding and communication to work. As you brief your agency, you need to provide them with all they need to achieve the success you are aiming for. An excellent way to start is to test out your working relationship with a small project before signing up for a long-term retainer. This will give you and the agency to gain a better knowledge of each other’s needs and working styles. You will also get the chance to see what the agency is capable of before committing to large-scale, long-term projects. The results should speak for themselves, and should leave you feeling comfortable to progress with the partnership – or to look elsewhere if your marketing goals haven’t been achieved. It is best to give it at least three months for everyone involved to find their bearings.
Read the blog
, watch the podcast episode and find out what steps to take to set your agency up for success.
Setting your staff up for success
As you set your agency up for success, you also need to prepare your in-house team members for the project(s) ahead. In our experience, one of the biggest factors and potential pain points in this regard is a matter of trust, communication and inclusion. It is not uncommon for management to make high-level decisions with the agency, from creating marketing strategies to deciding what tactics to use, excluding their staff from the discussions. They then expect team members to be on board and push forward with implementation. If you do this, your staff have to catch up with the decisions you have made and relate them to their goals and processes. They may be left feeling confused and excluded. Although you are now dealing with seemingly distinct in-house and outsourced resources, you should treat them all as a single team. Include everyone in the discussion from Day One so that your marketing staff and agency are all on the same page throughout the project.
Find out more
about what steps to take when preparing your staff for success.
Choosing A Marketing Agency
It is critical to have a long term view when choosing an agency. Focus on finding the right personality fit because this is one of the most critical success factors and you should treat this process the same way you would hiring new employees. Starting the process with the knowledge of what gaps need to be filled is the first step. In this episode, we discuss the interviewing process and what to look out for.
Find out more
about choosing a marketing agency.
Evolution of Resources
Whether you have hired a marketing agency or have in-house staff, it is important to be aware of the evolution of your resources and make course corrections when needed. There are three essential questions you should be asking whether you are working with an agency or in-house personnel.
What’s going on with the business?
What’s going on with the individual?
Where is the most action in the business happening?
As your resources change and grow, so will your requirements from team members. Discover the best way to keep your team on track by listening to
this podcast episode
Planning for Growth
In this podcast episode, we explore our best strategy when planning for growth, look at the benefits of using an agency during the growth period, and how to transition to a mix with in-house staff. We also give our best pieces of advice for companies planning their growth phase, which were adapted from when we were becoming parents and planning for family growth.
Listen to the episode now
So What Do I Do?
You should always be assessing your business on a regular basis. It is important to know where it is at financially and if you are in a growth phase or not. In our past episodes, we have looked into the benefits of listing your current resources. In this episode, we discuss how you should assess your business and how you can work with a marketing agency so you are set up for long term success.
Working with a marketing agency can be overwhelming. Learn how to make sure this relationship is set up for long term success by
listening to the episode now
Bonus Episode Learning from Alberta Ballet School
In this bonus podcast in our marketing agency vs in-house series, we interview one of our clients, Leah Stewart from the Alberta Ballet School. We ask her how she went about hiring a marketing agency, how our relationship evolved from working with us on social media to hiring an in-house person, how she manages her agency and more. Listen to the interview
CIPR Communications is a full-service
digital marketing agency
experienced in working closely with in-house marketing teams to devise and implement highly effective strategies and help businesses achieve their marketing goals. For more information on the question of a digital marketing agency vs. in-house marketing staff, as well other aspects of digital marketing,
read our blog
listen to our podcast