In six years of marketing, I’ve done it both.
In the beginning, I tested everything by myself. Later, I built marketing teams, as well as outsourced projects to various agencies. Both options work if you know what you’re doing. Yet different models work for different companies.
A company looking for a product-market fit needs a founder who takes care of everything growth related. The resources are scarce and it takes vision to get the things rolling. Thus it doesn’t make sense to involve anyone else. Perhaps just for the one-off campaigns because most of the sales will come from within the founders existing network.
What if all founders are product-focused? In my experience, that’s when the team needs to work harder to find a strong business or marketing specialist as a co-founder. Or one of the founders needs to develop such skills. After all, there’s no one better to share the initial vision than the founder who’s all in. Regardless whether it’s done perfectly or not.
A company with initial customers can start expanding its marketing team. Still, it’s only worth bringing in the best. The situation is volatile and there’s a need for professionals capable of handling strategies regardless of channels. Especially as it’s not yet clear whether the route that worked first is the most efficient in the future.
That said, it might not be the right time to hire a full-time CMO at this point. Unless the company stumbles on someone excellent. Same goes for lower level specialists. Mainly due to it being expensive to hire someone who’s going to be fired as it‘s realised that the company needs to take a different route.
A better option is to bring in a freelancer or an agency able to help the founder who focuses on growth. Together they are able to figure out the best strategy for the company without taking hasty decisions. Later the team can decide whether to continue working with the partner or look for someone full-time.
NB! If choosing on-demand marketing manager, beware of those focusing on particular channels or method of growth. The fact that online marketing works for many companies doesn’t mean it’s suitable for all. In some cases, the product could be sold much better via partnerships or radio ads. But most outside partners won’t even suggest testing alternatives, as that’s not in their best interest.
A company ready for new markets already needs a bigger marketing team. By that time, the marketing strategy is clear-cut and the skills needed are understood. Thus it may seem logical to hire a full-time marketing manager and other specialists. However, there are many reasons for not doing that.
For example, a company might still have difficulties in attracting the best professionals. Considering that those with experience and contacts tend to cost €100’000 or more. Whereas, sexy industries with known growth curves, such as fintech and ride sharing, have usually taken the best off the table.
Meanwhile, the company might find an excellent specialist for a specific role. But it’s unlikely that they can put together a strong team needed even later unless they also have managerial experience. Hence, it might be a good idea to keep the on-demand marketing manager with other outside partners close for a bit longer. At least until the real professional is onboard.
A company in the scaling phase will certainly be better off with a full-time CMO. As there will be multiple markets and possibly even different products that need attention. So after successfully entering the first new markets, the founding team should already think hard on bringing someone in, full-time. And then keep building the rest of the team.
That said, this does not mean stopping the work with outside parties. Instead, that’s when more partners might be needed, as hiring tends to take time. But the clock’s ticking and work need to be done.
In fact, even if the company has managed to get everything done in-house before then now it’s surely time to start outsourcing various campaigns and other parts of the operation.
What should you do?
It’s understandable that different people like to do things in all possible ways. For sure, there’s no black and white answer whether your company needs to outsource the marketing or keep in in-house. However, I would recommend the following course of action:
- Have the founders start with everything by themselves.
- If possible, bring in a strong marketing manager with experience in using different strategies and channels, early on.
- If unlucky, unsure or not rich enough, outsource the work to an agency that you trust. It will give you a chance to learn, test and save resources.
NB! But make sure they aren’t pushing particular types of marketing over others unless it’s clear that those work best.
- Keep the outside marketing manager until you’re able to hire a true PRO.
- Keep outsourcing even after building an in-house team, as it doesn’t make sense to fill all positions OR it takes time to do that.
In short, hire in-house when you’re certain and otherwise outsource.
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