Marketing. In-house, or outsource?

outsmart agency

By Paul Harker, Creative Director Outsmart Agency

Recently a friend who runs a professional services business asked our opinion regarding taking on an in-house marketeer. You know the score. Marketing Graduate. Bit of an all-rounder. Understands social media. £16K a year. Can do admin as well, which is a bonus etc. What did we think?

Predictably, we responded by tabling a £2k a month retainer proposal. We’re a marketing agency. What did you expect?

Fuelled by the recession and the expansion of the University system, there’s a trend towards this kind of appointment. There’s thousands of debt-ridden Marketing Grads out there looking for work – any kind of work. They’ve got the degree, they’re already on Facebook plus they’re not too bad on the phone. No brainer. Or is it? If something is cheap, can it be good? If something is ‘being done’, is it worthwhile?

Well, it’s a good feeling, getting your business name out there, doing some marketing activity after a long, hard recession. But what’s your level of expectation? Your Grad probably won’t have much experience. It’s probably their first job. They don’t have any kind of plan to work towards. They haven’t got a ‘budget’.

They start on a Monday. Keen, fresh, enthusiastic. You get them posting on Facebook, doing some tweeting. Build up the company profile on LinkedIn. Clean up the database. Do some cold calling. Write some Press Releases for the website.

And then what? Hang them out to dry because they haven’t made enough of a difference in a couple of months? Or get them some other stuff to do. Answer the phone. Cover reception during lunch. Process some invoices. Do the admin you can’t be bothered with. But, who did you employ? A Marketeer? Or an Admin Assistant?

The reality is, a Marketing Grad isn’t experienced enough to have developed any kind of umbrella view. They won’t get any training on the job. They have no-one to feed off and it becomes a dead end for them. They get frustrated and leave. All of a sudden, you’re banging your head against wall. Again.

I’ve seen job descriptions for entry level Marketing Assistants that would be difficult for someone with 20 years experience to fulfil. I am a Creative Director. Concepts, layout and typography being my core skill set. I also write copy, do the odd illustration and bits and pieces of photography. Plus, I’ve done plenty of Account Handling during my time, but there are huge gaps in my expertise and knowledge. So why expect a kid fresh out of Uni on £16K to do anything but fail against that kind of job spec?

It should work like this. You get a Marketing Account Manager with some experience, probably with 3 or 4 years under their belt. Let’s say they cost you £30k.

They develop a marketing plan and a calendar of activity. But they’re not ‘creative’. They don’t do artwork. They are not in ‘PR’. They have a focused, honed set of marketing skills. But they can’t do everything. They need a budget to work with specialists.

Give them £5k a month to work with. That’s a total budget of around about £100K per annum. And off you go.

As a rough estimate a marketing budget would be around 5-10% of your annual turnover, but if you business can’t put £100K into a pot. What then? If you approach your local design and marketing business with a £30K budget to do some activity throughout a year, they’ll be quite excited, delighted even. It doesn’t happen often. You should get plenty of bang for your buck.

From that kind of budget you’d get good value from a team of professionals. Account Handlers, Creatives, Copywriters and Artworkers. You’ll get some strategy work. Some creative and artwork, maybe even some print, a PPC campaign and a regular email distribution. No agency will get rich on it, but if a marketing business has 2 or 3 such accounts, they’d go out and employ a Marketing Grad to help deliver it.

The Marketing Grad will join an environment where they learn from others and are challenged to improve and learn. And in 3 or 4 years time, they’ll look to move onto the next level – maybe that Marketing Manager role you’re advertising. The Marketing Manager role you’re advertising, because you’ve expanded. Because you spent your marketing budget wisely. With a specialist marketing agency.