Should You Hire a Marketing Agency for Your Small Business?

If you are a business owner, maybe you have thought once or twice about establishing or expanding your marketing activity in your company. Or maybe you are in that point where you have already started doing it, but you feel like you need some specialized help.

We are a marketing agency, but we don’t think you should always choose one for your marketing team. We decided to write this article to help you with some tips and questions you should answer and decide which is the best option for you at the very moment.  

Good, now that we know where we stand, let’s take a look at the nitty gritty: when, why and how to work with a marketing agency to ensure you get the best results.

Level 1: You just started working on your business’s marketing. 

Whether your company offers products or services, you most probably need a dedicated marketing member or team, but they may not be hired already.

Maybe this idea occurred to you and maybe you have started building a strategy, a flow you want to follow with your non-marketing team. But you are still a newbie in the marketing area, don’t really know what to look at and how to develop a healthy plan.

What you certainly need at this point is structure and consistency, and a right path to go on. And this is the point where a marketing agency can do the trick, at least for a short period of time.

They will take care of ensuring your offering is known to your target audience through a mix of marketing channels.

Should you use a marketing agency? Yes.

If your business team has never been involved in making a marketing plan, they won’t have the necessary know-how. Logistics of a company is different to marketing logistics, where you need to consider technical aspects like your website, landing page, banners, newsletters. 

A marketing agency can also help with ideas for the marketing strategy, based on your goals, and can save time learning new skills and flows, which they already have.

Get them involved in the planning stages. Present the goals you’re looking to reach with your strategy and get their input into the KPIs you should be looking for.

Discuss budget options and compare them to the ROI you estimate from leads and sales generated. This is a very important step. If you want to start a  marketing strategy for the first time, your know-how about budgets and expected ROI might not be spot on. Discuss with the agency and include their input in your final brief.

Establish how often you will have catch ups and performance reports. Decide on a workflow that gives both your team and their team a constant outlook on the results you’re going to have. For example, every quarter you can discuss what went wrong, what went well and decide what to do next. 

Very important: Don’t expect from your agency to deliver leads immediately. Know what you want and what involves getting it. We all want immediate results, but in order to have an efficient marketing strategy, we need time to build it.

Level 2: You have some experience with doing in house marketing

If your team has already planned marketing strategies before, then you have the internal capabilities to do so. There are 2 questions that need to be answered before deciding whether to work with an agency: did your team perform well and do they have time to do it continuously?

Also, you might want to consider if your current needs are different. If your team has organised small webinars and you are now planning a whole series, or if you have previously had a rather low presence on social media but you now want to create valuable content, you might want to go back to the previous section, because it might be that your team needs complementing with external output.

Did your team perform well? You will have some goals to achieve, like leads for your sales team, brand awareness and/or new revenue. Watch them every month and decide on the efficiency of your team in implementing and conducting the strategy. Discuss with them if they feel they need external help or if perhaps training might do the trick.

Should you use a marketing agency? It depends.

If you’re happy with the outcomes or you feel you know what can be done to improve the outcomes and that you’re on the right track, you probably don’t need to work with a marketing agency. If your first quarter didn’t perform well and you’re not sure what happened, you can review working with a consultant for the strategy, which can be then implemented by your team.

A consultant can also be a marketing agency who reviews the campaigns and their results, and comes up with a new structure, positioning, marketing strategy, etc., which will ensure you deliver better results this time. But this can also be done with your internal team.

Alternatively, if you pinpoint an area where your previous strategy could have done better – like an underperforming website visits, high emails bounce rate, not enough engagement on your social media posts and you have no idea why, you can get help from an agency specifically on the areas you need.

Does your team have enough time and bandwidth to perform another quarter? Based on the number of tasks your strategy might have or any other responsibilities your marketing team may handle, it may be the case that your team has too much on their plate.

Should you use a marketing agency? Either that or recruit someone in the team.

Whether you choose another full time/part time employee, an agency or freelancers to help with specific areas of your planning, you should try and supplement your internal capabilities. Which one you choose of the 3 (employee, agency or freelancer) depends on the amount of time you need help with and the budget. Limited time will point you to a freelancer or agency, whereas an employee will need work constantly. 

Ideally, get the agency involved as soon as possible when you decide you need help. You may also realise throughout the campaign that you don’t have a good solution for an area and get an agency involved at that point, but bear in mind that shorter lead times will diminish the impact they can have. 

Level 3: You speak marketing, and you have an internal marketing person/team

Companies that typically have a marketing team have the budgets, the (wo)man power and the know-how. Their calendars are often established well in advance, so they can allocate the resources as needed. 

Most often, when companies that have a marketing team realise they need new resources, they hire them, but there are cases when they’re only needed for a small period of time or when they’re still testing. For example, you might want to incorporate new campaigns, but before having a dedicated tech team to work on it internally, you may use external providers to get a head start.

Should you use a marketing agency? Maybe, but thread carefully.

If your team is overworked and you bring in an agency to help out, make sure you clearly present this as a temporary help, there to release the workload. Employees can feel defensive about getting help unless this is communicated well, feeling that this means they’re not doing well enough and they will become detractors, so the relationship will suffer.

Also, agencies have their own methods and techniques. Do these synchronise with what you’re doing? Is the agency flexible enough to accommodate to what you’re using or are you flexible enough to let them try out new things?

Then, in order to properly assess how effective the agency is, you’ll need to separate your internal campaign from the agency’s one, so this means understanding how you split the targets. Will the agency work exclusively on one campaign and your team on the others? Will the agency activate new market segments that your team isn’t engaging now? Will they use different landing pages? This ensures that proper tracking of results is done.

Based on the answers to the questions above, sometimes hiring a freelancer or a contractor can work better, since these can usually coordinate better with your internal team. If you choose an agency, check if they’ve done similar projects and what results they had. How did they ensure integration with the marketing team? How did they maintain the same quality level as the organising company?

Realistically, this happens once the team is already overworked and are probably behind on work because they can’t keep up. This means that an agency could potentially pick things up quickly. You’ll need to understand what lead times they can work against and what resources can they allocate for your project.

Ideally, you’d want to plan ahead and map out workload for each department. Ask your department managers to understand if they can handle the workload or if they can use the extra help.

Once you’ve decided what the agency can help with, you will work out the how together with them and the team/department they will provide input to. Your goal is to ensure the integration with your company is seamless, easy and minimises friction. Also, since you’ll be working with an agency who complements your existing efforts, you’ll want to clearly establish privacy concerns first.

Decide their KPIs and how these are tracked, so they don’t overlap with your internal team’s effort. Set responsibilities and who takes the final decision on different aspects – do they have a set budget and need to work to that however they decide or do they need to approve each part with you? Do you provide them with a brief and they deliver to it or do you check progress on a weekly/monthly basis?

To your clients, it doesn’t matter who works on the marketing strategy, as long as their experience with your brand stays the same, so the agency you work with must match your standards of quality, tone of voice and use your design assets in the same way you’d do so yourself.

In conclusion

Whether you choose to work with a marketing agency or not, it will be work in progress, so prepare to learn and adapt on the go. 

Nonetheless, you should have a relationship with the agency based on trust and, of course, following KPIs. You must understand how the agency contributes to reaching the marketing goals, in what timeframe and indicators, and then, follow them and trust that the agency will come up with the best solutions, in order to achieve the goals. If you feel like it, you can reconsider your trust level after analysing the results or clients’ feedback. 

Always analyse your status and need before making any decision: your experience with working on the marketing of your business, your team’s workflow and need for help. Don’t forget to talk with your existing team before and ask them about what they feel is missing and what added value can an agency add. 

Be realistic about how much an agency can do for you, in what period of time, and what results can be achieved. Don’t expect an agency to solve all your problems and boost the sales or awareness like never before, but, at the same time, never say no to experiencing new approaches. Be open to working with people from the industry who can bring up fresh ideas, test new things and give you a structure, a red thread to follow.

About the author

I am Diana Slabu, content marketer with a background in anthropology. With my anthropologist’s glasses on and my dog by my side, I try to see the world and society in its complexity and particularity.

I am responsible for the social media posts, fun stories and easy to read texts in the B2C education clients world.

If you want to reach out, you can find me on LinkedIn here.

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