Are you bringing in outside help to assist with your blog, website, SEO, and/or social media? Perhaps even video or sales coaching?
If so, then, like many marketing leaders before you, you're probably scouring upwork.com or some other freelance website to find talent strong enough to get the job done.
But you could actually be making things a lot harder for yourself by doing it this way, and here are 10 reasons why you should be looking at marketing agencies for this kind of help as well/instead:
I talk to a lot of marketing leaders faced with the conundrum of finding the right balance between talent and cost. Also, what they're not directly saying, but often comes through in sub-text and actions, is that they worry about working bringing in an entity or individual with the power of squeezing them into irrelevancy.
But the reality is that we agencies PREFER working through a marketing department for many reasons:
- Marketers understand marketing - and when we don't have to stop and explain every detail every other day, we're happier and more effective at applying resources to the actual deliverable
- Internal marketers know the business and guidelines better than an agency coming in fresh, and often, better than business owners or other interested parties (like sales)
- Lead generation through inbound (our specialty) is just ONE of many components to marketing, and there is still a VERY big job to be done by you and your team - when we are forced to divert resources away from inbound to handle unrelated issues, it slows down our progress
Now, let's talk about why you absolutely, without a shred of doubt, SHOULD be vetting out marketing agencies in this process, and maybe even dropping the independent contractor search altogether, at least for these bigger projects.
To start, here are a few thresholds your company should meet (ideally, all of them) for this to make sense:
- You're creating a marketing engine - as in, this isn't just a one-off task, but rather, an ongoing investment that is supposed to lead to tangible sales
- There is a sales process with folks to handle the actual sale (This doesn't apply to me!)
- You have or desire to have a functional website
- You want your marketing to work together
Why Marketing Agencies are Simpler & More Effective than Same-Cost Contractors:
So, let's set the stage here... If you're hiring a contractor on Upwork, and the goal is US-based talent (which, I think many of you will already agree, really ought to be for quality, communication, and an overall understanding of US business concepts), you're looking at spending the following:
- $25 - $35 an hour for somebody entry-level
- $40 - $60 an hour for mid-level
- $65 - $150 an hour for high-level
These are not W2 employees; they're contractors, which means they cost more per hour than full-time employees, because roll in their time spent searching for work, and, of course, they have to pay more in taxes and other important benefits. If you spend less, you'll get exactly what you're paying for.
Contractors tend to be good at whatever it is you hire them for, and strategy, as a deliverable, is not something you should really expect from them when you hire them for tactical execution (blogging, social media, etc). They, in fact, are looking to you for guidance, as they should.
Many of you don't include your contractors in important planning calls in order to keep costs under control since they charge by the hour, so they aren't even privy to the important details that lead to your decisions.
To me, it is problematic when I hire somebody to perform a function that they claim to be an expert in, yet can't contribute to the big picture strategy.
Marketing agencies, on the other hand, come to the table with a strategy in-hand. We have a specific methodology that we live and breathe, and when the landscape requires it, we pivot as a team.
You MAY find a contractor who is really strong in a lot of different areas, and despite being expensive, they're worth it.
However, they still tend to be deliverable-focused, not objective-focused.
What that means is that they're, again, executing based on your direction, rather than working towards common goals, and operating freely enough to do so.
With an agency, you tell them, "I want to achieve $x-growth in x amount of years," and they put a plan together that will get you there. Of course, agencies have to be held accountable to their promises, but they are typically more realistic in their desired outcomes, because they've been there before.
3. Clear-cut plan of attack
Not having a clear plan of attack means that, again, they are relying on you 100% for direction - but not just actual project delivery, but the way in which it is executed.
Telling a contractor to write a blog is like telling a dancer to dance, and expecting them to nail it.
But with an agency, you have a project leader managing all of that internally. So, yes, it still happens, but not like it does with you. This likely isn't their first rodeo together.
4. Variety of skills
You know that saying, "Jack of all trades, but an expert in none?"
Inbound requires a wide variety of different skill-sets (click here to see why), and although there are most DEFINITELY some Jack-of-all-trade-types that will blow you away with what they can accomplish, they are hard to find, quite a bit more expensive, and they still may not be an actual expert in any one of their particular deliverables.... as the saying goes.
Take our agency, for example. We have folks who are great at leading projects and others whose strengths lie in writing. We have others who specialize in graphics, or other areas, like SEO or social media.
In addition, we have website designers, website developers, and, too top it off, we even have video production crews!
However, when I first started Orange Pegs, it was just me (bootstrapped it from the ground up). I handled our website and every nut and bolt related to inbound. And I actually did a well enough job to land some significant clients and build an entire business.
But I was also spending about 3 times as much time on certain tasks, like graphics design, and the outcome was 50/50. It takes a LOT of extra mental energy to flip the switch from strategy to budgeting to project management to blog writing to social media marketing to analytics to... etc... all in a single day. If you're hiring a jack-of-all-trades, you're likely paying for that mental energy.
By compartmentalizing a single deliverable by individual strength, we get work done faster, and it comes out better. In addition to playing to strengths, we also end up with 2 to 5 different sets of eyes on content before it even reaches you!
5. More reliable:
What do you do when your contractor on a long-term project goes on vacation or gets sick? What happens if they don't have access to a computer for some reason?
It's your marketing agency's job to deal with all of that stuff internally. Somebody goes on vacation or gets hit by a car, as sad as it may be, the project, and your business growth objectives, march on.
6. Hive mentality:
The marketing agencies work with other businesses like yours. This is important, because it means that they have collectively experienced many of the challenges still in front of you.
In addition to working with like-industries, you also get contributors from the hive from other industries, still within the marketing spectrum, and sometimes an outsider's perspective is exactly what your marketing program needs.
Our hive meets multiple times a month. We also stay connected through Basecamp3 on a daily basis. We share challenges to root out new ideas and successes to scale and repeat.
Do you know how many times I've seen somebody write, "Have any of you ever..." only to have MULTIPLE responses with helpful advice?
7. Delivery System
An agency will likely come with a delivery system in place, meaning, you don't have to tell them HOW to do their job and communicate all of the little bits and pieces throughout the creative and development processes.
They know they need to deliver 8 blog posts per month, 2 hours of social media time per week, and email blasts and automated sequences... or whatever it is they've promised to deliver. Depending on your personal involvement, you may only see 2 or 3 pieces of the system, but you're confident that they'll meet their deadlines every month because there is a verifiable, documented order to what they do.
They will also have their own tools and methodologies, and instead of taking on yet another enormous task of organizing the delivery process, you can focus on directing them with high-level agendas and things like branding and tonality - the FUN stuff... the stuff that motivated you to work so hard to be where you are today.
Our agency has a very comprehensive delivery model. It's a series of templates we created within our tool-stack, so we have every aspect of the delivery process accounted for. Of course, with each project, there is customization, but we build off of a strong core foundation that has been evolving based on the outcomes of other projects that stem from companies just like yours.
Some freelancers will have their own tools that they've created on their own or pulled from agencies they contracted with, and certainly, that could help you build your delivery system if you don't have one. But it's not like the "plug 'n play" benefits that an agency brings.
8. You don't have to deal with attrition
Somebody quits, gets fired, or promoted on the agency delivery team? Back-filling won't be your problem. In fact, you shouldn't even notice it unless it's a client-facing role, like a project lead.
But, if your contractor bails because they get a full-time job or other gigs that pay more (or worse, they DON'T bail, and their work with you suffers, because it's now at the bottom of the totem pole), you are back to square one.
And before you dismiss this one, don't believe them when they say they aren't interested in full-time jobs, because even if they're telling you the truth when they say that, it can and will change in a heartbeat when the right full-time job comes along.
9. More flexibility
One of our inbound/GDD (what is that?) clients was in need of an emergency website and marketing overhaul on the Saturday of a holiday weekend. There were some issues unrelated to us or the branding that required core changes in our messaging almost overnight.
The client emailed me first thing in the morning, and I sent it out to my team to get it handled. Not everybody was available to pitch in, but a couple were, and we moved mountains.
Earlier I mentioned that I was a jack-of-all-trades marketer myself, but it would have taken me days to finish by myself what my team and I handled in just a few hours. And if it were days, I'd have to choose spending time with my family on a holiday where we had plans or working so I didn't lose my contracting gig.
And trust me when I say, you can only choose work over family so much before their resentment becomes permanent. So, at some point, the contractor, who probably has other gigs to absorb the loss and will have no problem jumping on Upwork.com to land something to replace yours, will ignore your desperate pleas.
I also had a client recently who wanted to divert some of their blogging investment into videos. We actually mutually agreed that it was a good step in their marketing's evolution. In fact, I was the one who suggested it...
So, we did just that, and because we manage all of those costs and efforts internally, it didn't take ANY time to figure out the balance with the rest of our marketing deliverable and resource trade-offs.
What does that mean? It means in January, we discussed the swap, and in February, they had half the blog posts, and the first installments of their new video series that we designed to integrate with their existing inbound strategy.
10. More accountable
Agencies work hard to build their deliverable into a fully-functional business. Freelancers work hard too, but if something goes wrong, they can still go to ANOTHER freelancer website and get work. In fact, they likely have multiple gigs going on at once, so if they lose you, they absorb and move on.
Agencies don't have that luxury. Sure, we have other clients, which minimizes damages, but we can't rebrand like freelancers can. Think about what it would take to completely rebrand your company, so people didn't recognize it, but it was essentially the same thing... and you were still able to achieve your growth goals.
Also, think about the kind of recourse you have when somebody is grossly negligent and puts your company in harm's way. With an agency, you'll have a series of checks and balances, and, of course, that delivery system that should help minimize these types of occurrences to start with.
But when things DO go south as they sometimes do, will you be as confident in working through issues with a freelancer or an actual agency?
Interested in learning how an inbound agency could augment your marketing team by developing a lead gen engine? Click HERE for a free assessment: