This blog was contributed to VENTUREAPP by Natalie Nathanson, president of Magnetude Consulting, a full service marketing firm that specializes in working with small B2B tech companies, providing a fractional or outsourced marketing department spanning strategic and tactical support.
When’s the last time you felt you didn’t have enough to do? What about the last time you weren’t focused on driving growth? Had too many leads? Knew exactly what to do about it?
Most tech SMBs regularly face constraints that hinder growth, and oftentimes these can be traced back to marketing resource constraints. When it comes to driving growth, common challenges include lack of time or lack of expertise of in-house staff to effectively market to meet growth objectives.
Regardless of the hindrance, the questions top-of-mind to the leadership team tend to be fairly similar:
- How do we drive sustainable, scalable growth given the nature of our solution and market landscape?
- Do we have the right resources in place to support scaling our business?
- Should we build out the marketing function in-house or outsource?
- What marketing skill sets are most critical to our success?
These are questions we regularly work with clients (and prospective clients) to address. And the question of whether to hire marketing in-house versus outsource hits a hot button. As an outsourced marketing agency for B2B tech firms, you could claim we’re clearly a bit biased. But we’re not, really. Because most of our team came from the very in-house environments we now serve—and much of that has driven our raison d’être. On our team, we have former marketing VPs/Directors who’ve led resource-constrained teams; marketers who have been the ‘one-man-show’ running marketing at a small tech firm, and folks who have founded and run small businesses themselves.
So why do we believe so strongly that outsourcing marketing help accelerate growth?
Marketing is hard, and marketing for a small tech firm without a proven marketing plan is even harder. There’s no blueprint to follow, no prior benchmarks to gauge program effectiveness. And little budget to boot. By outsourcing your marketing, you:
Get the marketing domain expertise you need, when you need it
You shouldn’t have to decide whether to prioritize industry experience over marketing domain expertise (hint: you’ll need both). You will need marketing leadership to help you think through the complex and tough, strategic decisions, from someone with years of experience in the tech sector. You’ll also need marketing domain experts who have proven (and constantly refreshed) expertise in SEO, paid search, marketing automation, PR, and analyst relations (to name a few).
Two common mistakes many firms make is to either:
- Hire a marketing generalist who is good at overseeing and aligning activity across programs, and then also expect them to deliver expertly across a range of marketing programs. The reality is even the strongest marketing generalist won’t be an expert in everything.
- Hire multiple specialist agencies or consultants in an attempt to assemble the much-needed ‘marketing function.’ The challenge here is that each agency has its own silo-ed area of expertise (and interests) and this approach doesn’t breed the cohesion and alignment needed for successful implementation. Without an in-house marketer dedicated to managing these relationships, the entire investment will fall apart. But even with an in-house marketer in place, programs will likely be silo-ed (the kiss of death in today’s integrated marketing environment), resulting in wasted resources and lackluster results.
Regardless of whether you’re looking to give your in-house marketing staff more muscle or outsource the marketing function altogether, it’s critical to find the right kind of agency partner. When seeking an outsourced relationship, the key is to find a full-service agency that understands your industry and can operate expertly and cohesively across all marketing functions and toggle seamlessly from strategy to tactics.
Benefit from access to proven marketing best practices and innovations
Because outsourced firms have multiple clients and multiple employees, not only do they bring in a team with diverse background and experience sets, but they also work with other firms. This gives them the ability to better understand what will work to help you achieve your goals.
With the right agency partner, you will benefit from having access to a team who is constantly researching and piloting new marketing technologies and innovations, aggregating and sharing what’s working and what’s not across different client teams, and bringing together best practices across disciplines and industries.
The ideal partner will also have invested in process optimization to ensure they can get you to results quickly and efficiently from initial kickoff through ongoing program implementation and management.
Gain cost efficiencies
This one sounds counterintuitive, as marketing agencies often get a bad (and not always unjustified) reputation for bloat. But with the right partner, hiring an outsourced marketing firm can yield greater results at a lower cost than hiring staff (or additional staff) in house.
While there are always exceptions, it should be easy for a company to analyze or compare the ROI. This can be done by looking at your marketing needs—the seniority and skill sets needed to execute all strategies and tactics effectively, the additional expenses associated with full time staff (and often, in combination with additional outsourced consultant support), and then comparing it to that of a full-service outsourced marketing agency. Companies often compare the cost of a full-time hire against an outsourced partner, but forget to account for any additional outsourced work that will still be required—whether it be a search marketing or PR agency, graphic design or web resources, or occasional consultative strategic support.
It’s important to understand that there’s no one-size-fits all approach when it comes to the decision of when to hire in-house vs. outsource. Some firms opt to outsource for a few years until their marketing needs are stable enough to hire the right in-house resources. Other firms who have in-house marketing staff choose to bring in a full-service agency to serve as an extension of the in-house team. And, others have realized the cost advantages and impact benefits of fully outsourcing the marketing function altogether. If you’re seeking a new solution to accelerate growth and fill your sales pipeline, it’s important to consider all options.