Google+ The Marketing Survivalist: Should You Hire a Marketing Agency or Use Freelance Marketing Specialists?

Should You Hire a Marketing Agency or Use Freelance Marketing Specialists?

As you think about outsourcing your marketing, one of the first questions you'll need to answer is...

Should I hire a marketing agency to handle everything for me, or would I be better off hiring freelance writers, web designers, graphic artists, etc.?

The answer is - it depends. (Isn't it always!) You'll need to take a look at the pros and cons of each to decide what's right for your business. Let me give you some general guidelines and an assessment of the pros and cons of each approach. I'll also share a few tips for working with these different groups.

Working with a Marketing Agency
When I talk about marketing agencies, I'm referring to an organization that purports to be an expert in "all things marketing." Many of them have a specialty like web design, but that doesn't mean they can't offer a plethora of other services.

Pros: The primary advantage of using an agency is that many of them can handle everything for you: web design, SEO, collateral, social media, etc. They can also help you prioritize so you get the biggest bang out of your marketing budget.

Cons: The disadvantage is that this expertise comes at a cost. Many of these agencies use freelancers, so they need to cover those costs as well as the cost of the project manager assigned to your account, internal marketing talent and the usual sort of miscellaneous overhead that comes with running a business.

Tips: Be wary of the "all things marketing" firm that really specializes in one or two things. For example, if an organization's forte is SEO, and that's how they approach every project, you can end up with website content that ranks well (for awhile) but fails to resonate with your buyer.

Working with Freelancers
Freelancers are by nature specialists. They are often sole proprietors, but most of the freelancers I know - myself included - maintain a network of other freelancers that round out the solutions we can offer. For example, my focus is copy. You wouldn't want me designing your website - just takea look at mine and you'll see why! However, I work with a number of designers (and agencies) who do a fabulous job designing client websites, brochures, white papers, etc. They help me see the vision, and then I create copy that fits and gets the message across - with the appropriate attention paid to SEO, of course.

Pros: If you have a specific project like a white paper you want written, working with a freelancer can be much less expensive. The freelancer's expertise also tends to be deep because they are so focused. And, without a middleman (external project manager), projects can often get completed faster.

Cons: Freelancers can get a bit myopic. As the saying goes, "when all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail." Plus, if you have a lot of multifaceted projects, you may need to do more project management ensuring the project flows smoothly from one phase to the next. When you work with an agency, your account manager normally takes care of this task.

Tips: To avoid the hammer/nail paradigm, look for freelancers with a broad marketing background. Also, make sure you have someone internal with a strong marketing background in charge of your project. Generally, you don't want to put your fresh-out-of-school new-hire in charge of a project that involves a lot of moving parts and people.

I would love to hear what you think. Do you outsource at least a portion of your marketing? If so, do you favor freelancers or agencies?

Have a specific question? Reach out to me on LinkedIn.

View Melissa Paulik's profile on LinkedIn

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