For full disclosure, yes, this post is a bit self-serving. I own a marketing firm and benefit when businesses outsource their marketing efforts. And more specifically, I benefit when they outsource to me. In my defense, as someone who has worked within the corporate structure on the marketing side and on the operations side – I enjoy a well-rounded perspective. I’ve gone through the process of creating and hiring for marketing positions and have also hired and worked with outside firms. Now, I am the firm. There are pros and cons all around. All employees are different and all firms have their strengths and flaws. There are exceptions to every rule, no doubt. But on the balance, if a company decides to hire a firm (or firms) in the place of a marketing director, manager, coordinator and/or specialist – there are not only financial and operational benefits, but potential creative advantages.
During the recent recession, or during any slow economic times, marketing expenses tend to be one of the first budget items businesses target for cost reductions. While shedding marketing costs is a regrettable tendency (another discussion for another post), it provides an opportunity for businesses as they look to reinvest in a marketing strategy.
So, here we go – five reasons you ought to consider hiring a firm for your marketing efforts.
- Services Based on Your Needs: When you hire a good marketing firm, it should be able to adapt to your particular needs. If you’re looking for management of specific marketing projects like a outreach campaign, a redesign of your website, an annual report or other literature, a feasibility study – whatever – the firm should quote you a specific fee per project. On the other hand, more general services that replace the work of a part or full-time marketing employee should likely be covered with a retainer. This work would include more regular communication and strategizing with company leadership, ownership of a marketing plan, and the inclusion of agreed upon services under the retainer. Generally, retainers are going away as a payment model for marketing services. However, in the scenario I’ve described, the retainer allows consistency of support and a growing understanding of your own needs and tendencies. Tip: If there is one particular account representative who works well with you and your people, put it in writing to keep that person on your account
- No Personnel Issues: As opposed to hiring in-house marketing positions, a relationship with a marketing firm does not necessitate a difficult discussion with HR if things aren’t working out. You can likely hire a firm without a contract. Usually, the relationship begins with work on smaller projects, which will give you a better sense of the firm’s quality of work and other important factors. The getting-to-know-you phase can last a lot longer than two or three interviews.
- Pay for the Expertise, Not the Benies: Let’s face it, health insurance, 401K or 403B matches add up. A former employer of mine would send all employees an annual individualized pie graph that included the total dollar value of what you, as an employee, cost the company. So, if your salary was $70,000, that would only make up only about two-thirds of the pie. The total pie would display the company’s full investment in you including health coverage, retirement match, travel reimbursements and more. It was also the company’s way of saying “you cost us more than you think, so you better appreciate it.” Corporate employee relations strategies aside, the total cost pie makes an important point, and it’s a reality that businesses ought to consider when budgeting for marketing services. When paying for the work of a specialized firm, whether it’s on a project-to-project basis, or retainer, you are paying for the time and expertise – not all the extras that come with a full-time employee.
- Marketing Expenses are Tax Deductible: Pretty self-explanatory – marketing expenses are tax deductible for your federal returns. Also, for smaller businesses marketing expenses may also be deductible for your state taxes as well (this is at least the case in Massachusetts).
- An Outside Perspective is Critical: While I saved this one for last, it is perhaps the most important factor, because it relates solely to the quality and effectiveness of your marketing efforts. Yes, it is helpful to have a firm that has an understanding of your particular business or industry. However, the quality of marketing (by it’s very nature) is measured on perception – the perceptions of your potential customers and, more generally, the world outside of your business. Often, as we become immersed in our own business and industry, it’s easy to forget that the rest of the world may not be speaking the same language or jargon. For instance, when I worked in the world of health care I actually had an advantage of not having a clinical background. It enabled me to cut through the endless acronyms and medical jargon that dominates in-house clinical communications. Ever try to read a clinical medical report? Good luck if you’re not in the field. This is why an outside perspective, and outside firm or freelancer can be very valuable to craft your public messaging. This goes for businesses in any industry. The outsourced firm will likely also have experience working in other industries that can bring innovation to your own. Why can’t the tactics of successful retail campaign crossover to a membership drive for a non-profit institution, or perhaps the open house concept that works for senior living communities crossing over to a bank’s efforts to drive attention and business to a new branch in a new market? The answer, of course, is there is nothing stopping your business in trying something new and atypical to your industry. It’s an outside perspective that can allow you to go there.
President of OneEighty Media, Inc., John Krol serves as Director of Accounts and lead communications consultant for this full-service marketing, communications and advertising firm. John’s extensive experience in journalism, broadcasting, public relations, government relations, SEM, community outreach and marketing provides a unique perspective for businesses looking to re-energize and diversify their marketing efforts.