If you’re a marketer tasked with hiring a marketing firm and it’s something you’re fretting about, I can relate.
In 2010, I made a career-altering decision that I wanted to be a marketing director and oversee a team of marketing professionals. It was a bold choice, given that I’d spent roughly the previous eight years in a pretty strict sales capacity role. But I’d dabbled in some marketing, knew I loved it, and wanted to make the switch.
Because I had minimal marketing experience, I decided to enroll in graduate school to pursue both an MBA and a Master’s of Science in Marketing.
I knew that even with a dual degree, I might be seen as a marketing newbie, so I did everything I could to gain a better understanding of the marketing world.
I took on several marketing internships and apprenticeships, met with a C-level marketing executive weekly as my mentor and coach, started an LLC and offered my marketing services to several small businesses in exchange for hands-on learning, created a marketing blog dedicated to explaining and investigating new marketing techniques, and friended every marketer I could. I joined the AMA, ANA, ANMP, and pretty much any professional organization that had “M” for marketing in its title.
So, imagine how happy I was that after all that hard work, my first job out of b-school was as director of marketing, overseeing two direct reports, an ancillary team, and several profit centers. I was stoked.
The position was hard, though. Perhaps the hardest job I’d ever had because I quickly learned that the work in marketing never stops. Neither do the demands. My time and resources were both limited and constrained in that role. It was just a matter of the fact that an agency had to be utilized for different needs.
A few years later, I found myself in a very different, but equaling demanding, marketing role where my position required that I oversee marketing initiatives for a company with two services, one technical product, and three diverse verticals.
The nature of what this company offered meant that they were looking for a unicorn whose expertise could parlay across writing technically about software and about challenging healthcare considerations, plus be skilled in graphic design, strategy, social media, digital platforms, multiple tech stacks, CRM, and I’m not even tapping the surface here. There was no way around needing the help of a skilled agency.
Does this sound familiar?
Maybe you’ve been tasked with hiring a marketing firm, or perhaps you know that it’s reached a point where you’re limited in what you can achieve without one. It can be terrifying to reach out to an agency for help, primarily when you’ve been involuntarily tasked to do it (or “volun-told” as I like to call it).
I’m going to share with you four common fears about hiring and working with an agency and show you four realities that will shift your perspective about the prospect of working with an agency.
4 Fears Marketing Professional Face When Hiring a Marketing Firm
Here are the 4 fears that many marketing professionals face when thinking of when you hire a marketing firm:
1. FEAR: You will lose your job.
REALITY: The fear of becoming unemployed is often an unfounded fear.
The fear of becoming unemployed is scary and a position that no one wants to be in. But, rest assured, hiring an agency is likely to help keep your job intact. Why’s that? Because in an ideal scenario, a marketing agency has an inside liaison to work with.
From my story above, you know that I’ve had to hire an agency for help, but I’ve also been on the other side where I’ve worked for an agency that was hired to provide marketing assistance. With experience on both sides, I can confidently report that having an internal marketer to work with provides a win-win situation.
The reality is that the marketing function is broad and encompasses a multitude of responsibilities, but for the sake of keeping it simple, let’s agree that marketing is mainly concerned with customer acquisition and conversion opportunities.
So, let’s get back to that fear. When we’re hired by clients to help them build predictable and scalable marketing solutions, we know that we’re best set for success when we have an experienced marketer to work with in tandem.
The reason is that the experienced marketer — you! — Knows that marketing is sophisticated and requires many skill sets to accomplish goals. Although we work with clients that have no in-house marketing representation, when we have a marketer as a partner, we can usually bypass a good portion of the marketing education and start immediately focusing on results.
2. FEAR: You’re not good enough at your job.
REALITY: You’re great at your job, and it’s not a matter of “good,” it’s a matter of “manageable.”
Hiring an agency is not an equivalent of throwing in the towel and acquiescing to marketing defeat. To all my marketers out there, we must learn to reevaluate what we think of ourselves in terms of “good” or “bad” marketing and start to think about what is manageable and what is not.
I love the strategy side of marketing.
Things like SWOT analysis, market segmentation, buying decisions, defining KPIs and objectives are fuel for my marketing fire. But I wasn’t so great with social media implementation — not because I was a “bad” marketer. It was because of the landscape changes so much, and it was unrealistic that I could learn everything as quickly as it needed to be completed.
And, that’s precisely why I say it isn’t “good” versus “bad.”
There are endless resources for becoming a pro at, in this case, social media strategy. But, when you’re already working 55+-hour weeks, you can’t be expected to have the bandwidth to learn and execute everything on your own. Also, marketing experimentation is an expensive gamble, especially when you could invest that time and those dollars into an experienced agency partner.
Bottom line, no one thinks you’re not good at what you do. On the contrary, good marketers know they can’t go it alone.
3. FEAR: You’re not seen as a skilled marketer.
REALITY: Some areas in marketing complex, and you can’t know everything.
My friends, marketing skill diversification, is a real thing and there is no way that you can know it all.
When I was in charge of transitioning an organization from traditional marketing platforms to having a robust digital presence, I quickly learned that non-marketers have no idea how diverse and complex marketing is.
For example, in week one, I was meeting with different department heads to learn their most pressing needs, I was requested to do everything from:
- build a full funnel (trust me, they weren’t using those words!)
- increase the pipeline
- merge two CRMs
- plan for 8 trade shows in 3 months
- order pens
- design t-shirts
- restructure the budget
- write blogs
- edit previous content
- plan a webinar
- design new marketing collateral using Photoshop
- More Must-Know Digital Marketing Terms and Definitions
That was all in week one!
Seriously, do you see where this is going? Every one of those requests is fair but require diverse expertise and, sometimes, a team of people.
Now, let’s talk about digital marketing for a moment, since I work for a digital marketing agency.
What might be the skills that are necessary for digital marketing?
Well, how about paid search specialists, social media mastery, ad retargeting, content marketing pros, rulers of conversion optimization and the list goes on. And we’re just talking about one branch of your total strategy.
It’s not that you lack skills; it’s impossible to do it all solo and very expensive to do it all in-house.
When you work with an agency such as ours, you can offload some of the work and leverage the strengths we have from a team of individuals who all have expertise in different fields. That allows you to focus on other marketing priorities and initiatives instead of being spread so thin that nothing gets completed.
4. FEAR: You’re not a resource or relevant to the company.
REALITY: It’s impossible to do it all alone and, often, even with an internal marketing team.
This kind of piggybacks on Fear #3, but now that we’ve established how sophisticated marketing is, it seems logical to state the obvious: you can’t do everything alone. Even for marketers lucky enough to have a dedicated internal team, when the goals are considerable and continuously shifting, it’s too much to do without help.
Let’s consider that we operate in an “on-demand” environment where marketers are expected to be highly in tune with where, when, and how a customer wants to be communicated with. What that means is that you really can’t operate in silos, and so spreading the work and relying on an agency can be the best move and critical for success.
Now, let’s also consider the budget that goes into the tech stack. It can feel nearly impossible to manage all of it and, even more, to make sense of all of it. I’m honest when I tell you that I’ve worked in places where I haven’t fully understood the platform we’ve used because it’s one of a long list of priorities on my “to-dos.” I was grateful to bring on an agency that could help dig into the data and also help me better understand my toolbox.
Great marketing — especially digitally — requires scale and accuracy, and that’s difficult to find if you’re going it alone.
Lastly, I’ll share one added benefit that doesn’t fit into the list above. Because of my work with agencies, I was able to boost my career knowledge in ways that I would never have been able to without working with an agency and being exposed to many different thinking heads, strategists, and the many multiple platforms and apps that agencies used. And, it was because of that exposure and working with agencies that I was eventually hired by an agency I worked with, which in turn, led me to this position.
It’s truly the best of both worlds because, in an agency, I get to provide solutions to my favorite people in the world (marketers like you!), while continuing to expand my network and my breadth and depth of marketing knowledge.
In closing, it’s my sincere hope that I’ve given you a degree of comfort in facing some of the fears of working with an agency. At Uhuru, we want you to be successful, and we want to act as a partner with you in your role. I’m rooting for you!