Marketing; Build it or Buy it?

There comes a point in the evolution of every business when it becomes critical to understand how you are using your resources for the purposes of marketing your firm. Do you continue to pay an outside firm or freelance agent to help you build and position your brand, or do you hire internal resources to conduct and create marketing functions? How can you tell when the time is right to invest in hiring a dedicated person for these functions?

Hiring a good marketing person can be the critical decision for your business. We have worked with firms who have struggled with this move and advised them in either direction. We tend to take a somewhat methodical approach to this decision because it is important and can set the direction for the future.

In order to make a decision regarding marketing resources, ask yourself the following three questions:

Can I specifically define which of the firm’s activities are marketing functions?

As a business owner, you should have an opinion as to which pieces of your routine functions should be owned and optimized by a marketing professional. Creating and updating brand assets, content on the website or storefront, outbound customer communications (across all channels), competitive reviews and analysis, product development, monthly reporting, quarterly investor updates; these things are marketing functions in the hands of the right individual.

If you want to invest in these functions and maintain tight control over them, a dedicated internal marketing resource might be right for you. If you want a dynamic approach with the ability to scale up or down at a moments notice, you should probably use an outside partner.

How much am I spending today on these activities?

Can you relate them back to specific revenue points? Without a full understanding of the explicit and implicit costs, it is nearly impossible to assign the proper value to continuing to buy from the outside or build the infrastructure. Do you work with an agency or creative asset to produce new collateral or maintain your brand assets? Are you working with a database firm to review and understand your customer’s behavior? Have you hired someone to help you organize and execute events?

Reviewing these costs are the first step in identifying which expenses are truly marketing related. The real value of having marketing in-house is in understanding the opportunity costs associated with activities that are either not being leveraged properly or are not being properly interpreted. Conversely, an outside resource can help you determine more specifically what the cost impacts are and control them with greater flexibility.

Am I willing to invest in a person who will be able to perform functions that already exist and find new opportunities for the firm?

The individual and their talents are critical to the success of these efforts.  A professional with the right level of experience and perspective can help you find the right focus and create efficiency. Of the three steps mentioned here, this step may be the most difficult, and most important. I have seen firms hire from within their personal network and put people in this position that lack the skills or proper perspective. 

In some case, hiring someone with no preconceptions about the firm, or even the industry, can be valuable. Finding a marketing person with the proper foundation of creative and analytical skills, regardless of their industry background, can help create new ideas and new approaches. Over time, inside marketing can fall victim to internal politics and stale thinking that can make them less effective. Using an outside consultant typically allows for new ideas to flow more freely, and gives you a little more freedom in the ideas you decide to execute.

Do you build it or do you buy it?

The answer may become clear if you ask yourself these questions and use this approach. Entrepreneurs must possess a certain degree of self-awareness and be willing to give up some of their perceived expertise to truly partner with a marketing resource.  Being able to do this, stand behind the discovery in step one, and create an environment where marketing can explore possibilities from operations to advertising can propel your business from one phase of maturity to the next.

Still not sure which path to go down? We can help develop and transform your business through introspection and tangible steps that provide real growth.

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