A strategic role like a VP or Chief Officer of Marketing has a big impact on your business. Depending on the size of your business, a director of marketing may have just as large an impact. Hiring for this role means a long and often difficult recruiting process, with the chance that the person hired may not be a good fit or will not have the leadership qualifications promised during the interview process. Outsourcing the responsibilities of a CMO to an agency or firm may be the right choice for your marketing investment due to a few key differentiators.
One of the biggest reasons that small- to mid-sized companies outsource marketing leadership and responsibilities is to contain costs. It’s the final point I’ll talk about here, because I’m building up to it - but to see it right away, click here.
First, let’s cover the main expertise areas a CMO or other marketing leader will be expected to have.
Execution is easy; strategy is the difficult part. A marketing leader must be gifted in strategy for their execution to work. In addition, you need someone who is entirely focused on the bottom line - a rarity in the marketing world until recently. That’s why many times, a growth-driven agency focused on ROI is a better fit. An agency will have a team of people focused on strategy and planning to your exact needs - be it growing qualified leads, converting to sales, retention, customer delight - or all of the above. The experience an agency brings to your business in these areas can be second-to-none.
Strategically positioning your company to succeed in the sea of competitors means a few things should be done especially well:
Targeting: having a laser focus on the buyers your company finds most promising and most profitable. From your website, to materials, to content, to sales collateral, all of it must be targeted for the strategy to work. It requires a clear understanding of your buyers - what their pain points are, what they’re looking for, and what makes your business the answer they need.
Strategy requires practice at planning for long-term success. The vision comes with imagining the outcome, then putting together a strategic plan for how it will be accomplished, and in what time frame.
Hand-in-hand with strategy is the ability to put together an executable plan for success. With the goal and a time frame in mind, a plan is absolutely necessary for a team to accomplish the goal. A CMO is paid to put together the strategy, the plan, and oversee the execution of both to stay on-target. A leading agency is equipped and experienced to do the same thing, often with more experience and more campaigns to draw on overall.
Outsourcing the marketing strategy by employing an agency means hiring an experienced, professional team with a lot of practice at putting together a long-term strategy with planned, measurable campaigns. In addition, they provide the resources to execute the plan, ensuring full-circle success.
Your industry has its own unique set of challenges, competitors, target markets, and areas for improvement. A marketing leader needs to be aware and on top of each of these at any given time. A benefit to hiring an industry-leading agency is the agency team’s inherent ability to track all of this industry knowledge and utilize it to your benefit. Ideally, the agency you choose will be a targeted agency with expertise at a few things in this category:
- Targeted research
- Industry experience
- Thought leadership
In this case, hiring an agency with experience in your industry is often the clear answer. While a CMO may have come from a background in a similar industry, it’s important to ensure that they stay up-to-date on the latest industry trends for both your business and for marketing.
Tribal KnowledgeKnowledge that's passed on long-term within a company is important to good team morale, employee engagement, and success in a position for a new hire. Typically, on-boarding will include a brief history of the company. Ideally, it will also include a run-through from senior team members on team knowledge of what's happened on the team in the past, plans that have succeeded or failed, and a test on branding initiated at the beginning of each new hire's tenure. Here's the great news: if you're hiring an outside agency, they can go through the exact same training. Often, it's beneficial to get the agency team acclimated to your brand, history, and past knowledge immediately so they can function as an extension of your current team.
New ideas that haven’t circulated your marketing team or annual budget once a year since 1998 are critical to success in today’s fast-paced digital world. When choosing to hire in-house or to outsource marketing leadership, consider the rate at which each is able to adapt, change, and come up with new ideas for a successful and executable vision. When you hire in-house, chances are good that old ideas will be recycled more frequently; it’s just the nature of being employed in one company long-term. But when you hire an agency, their entire job is to come up with fresh ideas your team hasn’t thought about, in order to grow your business. An entire team is behind your success, from research to ROI. They frequently experience at look at other companies from the inside out, and can employ tested strategies at your business year after year.
Personally, this is one of the most obvious benefits to hiring an outsourced team. As you’ve most likely experienced in your own role, it’s entirely too easy to lose sight of overall goals throughout the year as new issues emerge to solve, new personnel are hired and need training, or new projects take hold and need support. At the end of each quarter you’re left saying, “Where’d the time go, and did we accomplish any of the steps toward our long-term goal?”
That’s not the case with an outsourced team. They have one task as it pertains to you: complete the goals laid out at the beginning of the campaign. Whatever else is happening within your company during the year, you can be sure the team you hired at the agency will stay the course and give frequent progress reports to that effect.
Together with focus, efficiency is a top reason to hire an outsourced team to assist with marketing team effectiveness. Whether you’re considering outsourcing only parts of your marketing (such as digital efforts) or the entire kit and kaboodle, efficiency is definitely a reason to consider an agency.
Since the team is focused on your strategy and execution alone as their day-to-day, without external business needs or dramatic shifts in personnel to distract them, tasks typically get done much faster. You can usually request rushes when needed, as well - a big benefit of working with an outside team.
Finally, measurable ROI of the exact spends you’re making with an agency are available. For an ROI-focused agency, calculating growth and ROI of your marketing investment are absolutely necessary for continued success. Whereas an in-house hire may have difficulty tracking metrics for each step taken and where it went, that’s all a growth-driven firm will focus on. The team will have practice and experience at doing that exact thing - great for ROI, and great for your bottom line.
Finally, the most impactful reason you’d consider hiring an outside agency for your marketing leadership and execution support: the cost benefit. It breaks down to three main areas of savings:
- Salary & Benefits
- With the average marketing leader’s salary at $158K, plus an additional 20% for benefits and on-boarding, the costs add up quickly. In addition, you’re not paying the leader for execution; you’re paying for strategy, planning, and oversight. An agency will cost a significant amount less, depending on the package option you choose.
- Continuing Education/Learning
- One of the most difficult parts of strategy is having the vision to take an educated guess at the next evolution in marketing. When you hire an agency, you alleviate that risk - it’s placed on the agency team to stay on top of changing industry and marketing trends. They take on the responsibility and will pass the essential knowledge on to your marketing team - a win--win.
- When you hire an agency, you hire support for your marketing team: both as leaders, and as manpower to follow through. They work with your marketing personnel to support their functions and allow them to do their jobs better. An agency takes care of annual planning, quarterly reviews, and weekly tracking meetings, while also following-through on the strategy and plans laid out for your business’s success.
While I’m a bit biased when it comes to outsourcing marketing leadership versus hiring an in-house CMO, I’m also very passionate about showing businesses an alternative to what they’ve always done - especially if it means greater success in the long-term. We’ve also produced a guide on what to ask an agency you may be considering. It highlights the differences between a traditional digital agency and an inbound agency. I hope you’ll check it out and let me know what you think!