There's a common misconception that hiring an agency to do your marketing is much more expensive than handling it internally.
The trick about marketing is that it's not one single job that you're paying someone to do. There are many tasks and responsibilities that require a variety of skill sets. The salary of an individual who can do all of those things effectively is much higher than a monthly agency retainer fee. Hands down.
"Marketing" is one word that encompasses a lot of components and gears and creative production. You may decide to outsource some of those pieces, while taking care of others in-house. So, the real question you want to ask yourself is: What parts of my inbound marketing strategy do I need to outsource, and which can I do internally?
For some of our clients, they can't do anything internally. Whether it's a matter of time, resources, or ability, they're simply unable to take care of their marketing strategies on their own.
Other clients have some experience with different aspects of marketing, plus a little extra time to churn those bits out. They take care of those pieces, and we handle the unfamiliar territory.
So, what are the different pieces that need work? How do you know if you can handle them yourself, or if you should hire an expert? Let's take a look.
Modern marketing, or inbound marketing, requires some R&D before you can jump into action. You need to:
- Build buyer personas,
- Understand their buyer's journey,
- Develop a consistent voice for your business,
- Do research and planning for every responsibility on this list
- plan campaigns & develop a content calendar for content generation
- perform a website audit & keyword research for SEO
- create profiles & outline a strategy for social media
- figure out which platforms are necessary for your company & how to implement them
- develop lead nurturing workflows & follow-up campaigns
- research which metrics are most important, when and how you will gather them, & set up a consistent reporting schedule
If you think that sounds like a lot, you're not wrong. Initial strategy planning and research requires a ton of work, especially if you're unfamiliar with the process.
Blog & Premium Content Generation
Ideally, you want to be blogging about once a week. Start out slow -- especially if your traffic is low. Research shows businesses that prioritize blogging are 13x more likely to enjoy positive ROI. Consistent blogging creates a stream of original, shareable content - great for SEO, social media, and lead generation! Blog posts should be optimized for SEO and include a call-to-action to one of your premium offers.
Speaking of premium offers, you should consistently write and publish premium content (eBooks, white papers, videos, infographics) to assist lead generation. Premium content is placed behind a form, so visitors have to provide their contact info to get it. Offering multiple premium offers will appeal to a broader audience and create more opportunities for conversion.
Content generation requires a modicum of writing savvy and industry knowledge. The purpose of content generation is to show your visitors that you're a trustworthy, valuable source of information. You don't need to be the next Hemingway, but your copy should be grammatically correct and factually sound.
SEO is the one thing we would not suggest DIY-ing. SEO mistakes can be costly, and people who haven't been trained in best practices should do a lot of research before fiddling around with SEO. Ideally, your SEO provider will have years of experience in proper techniques, and will be up to date on the most recent search algorithm changes. Here are some things your SEO should not do.
SEO requires keyword research, site auditing, implementation, daily monitoring, and an understanding of realistic SEO goals.
Social Media Marketing Strategies
Social media is a lot more work than most businesses realize. You should be posting and updating at least once a day - if you're on Twitter, it should be multiple times per day. At the bare minimum, you should be actively involved with the big networks: Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram or YouTube if it makes sense for your business.
If you're posting frequently and networking properly, you'll get engagement from users. You need to monitor your profiles and respond to engagements quickly and appropriately.
You should know where to find social media analytics, what they mean, and how to act on them to get results.
Inbound Marketing Platforms
Web marketing needs certain software to keep your campaigns running smoothly. We say "needs" because without these platforms, you'll have a heck of a time keeping track of all your contacts, content, and analytics.
At the very least, you need a CMS and CRM or other marketing automation software. CMS stands for content management system, which allows you to create, edit, and publish content to your website. If you use a fancy CMS like HubSpot, you can also publish social posts, track leads, and build out entire campaigns.
CRM stands for customer relationship management system, which allows you to manage and analyze prospect, lead, and customer information and interactions. As you may know, one area that businesses and sales staff struggle with is follow up and closing after marketing generates a lead. Some common CRMs are SalesForce, Insightly, SAP, Zoho, and many more. We recommend the HubSpot CRM because it's incredibly intuitive and has a great pricepoint (free).
You'll need to learn how to use these systems and integrate them with the systems you already have in place. If you decide to switch platforms at any time, you'll need to understand how to migrate data without losing any valuable information.
Lead Generation & Nurturing
Lead generation is a process of trial and error. An effective lead gen campaign requires optimized landing pages, CTAs, and thank-you pages. You should consistently A/B test each one of these, as even seemingly innocuous changes (like changing button colors) can lead to higher conversion rates.
Lead nurturing includes workflows and follow-up campaigns. Once visitors convert through your CTAs and landing pages, you should continue to bump them via email. Studies have shown that nurtured leads make 47% larger purchases than non-nurtured leads.
Lead nurturing is easiest when you use a marketing automation platform like MailChimp.
Analytics & Reporting
How do you know you're getting results? How are your marketing strategies impacting your business? To start, you need to know where to find your metrics and how to access them. From there, you need to interpret the results and form a plan of action.
If you're not the business owner, or you're delegating this task to another person, you'll need comprehensive reports. You'll need to demonstrate that the business's marketing investment is being returned, and highlight successes and failures for further discussion. An agency will typically provide reports every 1-2 weeks.
When to Hire Out
As we said before, outsourcing doesn't have to be an all-or-nothing commitment. However, there are some signs that you could benefit from outside help.
1. The salary of an internal marketing employee/team would cost more than hiring an agency.
Obviously, if it's going to cost you more to do marketing internally, you'll want to consider outsourcing the job. Depending on where you live, the size of the agency, and your needs, inbound service packages can be significantly more affordable than a full-time worker's salary.
2. You don't have the resources to implement a full marketing strategy.
Whether you're lacking in time or manpower, hiring an agency can take the weight off your shoulders. That's what they're there for. They'll be able to invest the time and energy to make your campaigns as effective as possible.
3. You want every aspect optimized with best practices.
Inbound marketing agencies know all about dos and don'ts, best practices, modern techniques, and disaster avoidance. They consider all aspects of marketing and how to optimize them, because that's their job.
4. You want new, complex, or experimental marketing technologies.
Some marketing platforms and software are still in development, like the up-and-coming account-based marketing. Unfamiliar technology should be handled by an expert until you've been trained to use it - especially if you're working with sensitive client information.
5. You think you would benefit from access to an agency's marketing resources.
Inbound marketing agencies can be helpful in unexpected ways. Many are Google Partners, which means they have training, certifications and demonstrated best practices for platforms like AdWords and Google Analytics. To maintain their partnership they must always be learning and implementing best practices on an ongoing basis. Some are HubSpot partners, which means they have extensive training on inbound marketing best practices and as well as a demonstrated working knowledge of the HubSpot marketing platform. Many offer their own seminars through universities and other community outlets to help businesses get up to date on modern techniques.
There are many benefits to hiring an agency for marketing - insourcing isn't as simple as handing the work off internally and seeing results. Oftentimes, it's easier on our clients' minds and wallets to hand the reins over to a trusted professional.
However, each business is unique, and how much work you hand off to an agency will depend on your specific needs.
(Editor's Note: This article was originally published in February 2016, but was recently updated.)