The choice to use a marketing agency or recruit in-house is entirely based on circumstance. This article will explain some common mistakes made in both scenarios – and a marketing consultant’s advice on how to work a best-case scenario. 

If you are at the point of considering whether to use an agency or recruit, then you are likely to have one of the following problems: 

  • Not enough time to manage your marketing 
  • No-one to do your marketing  
  • Marketing is an afterthought or done “ad-hoc” 
  • Limited budget 
  • Marketing is a source of stress 

So, your SME is ready to step up its game and you, as the leader, feel like it’s time to do marketing properly. Your biggest problem is probably that you have no idea where to start in finding the right person or people for the job. 

Unfortunately, the first step to better marketing can be a minefield. Let’s look at the most common mistakes first. 

The mistakes most SMEs make when considering a marketing agency.

Mistake 1) Falling for the first agency – or the cheapest. 

The UK’s marketing and creative sector is incredibly crowded and noisy. Wherever you are in the country, you will have multiple marketing agencies, specialists, and freelancers on your doorstep. Each will tell you “We can grow your business” or “we will save you time and money on marketing!” 

How do you choose between them? In my experience, the first time a business outsources to an agency tends to be with the first one they met – or the cheapest. 

Mistake 2) Letting agencies over-sell services you do not understand. 

Secondly, it is easy to fall into a trap of buying services you do not need or fully understand. Most clients I have worked with say they feel like they are not getting value for money because they are not exactly sure what it is the agency is providing.  

Sadly, this means a lot of money is being burned. 

The mistakes most SMEs make when recruiting an in-house marketer for the first time 

Mistake 1) Recruiting an entry-level marketer 

Investing in your first in-house marketing person can be daunting. Most SMEs will first recruit an entry-level marketing exec at a lower pay band.  

An entry-level marketer will not have the experience of marketing a business from a blank canvas. They will not have developed decision-making skills based on insight or have any form of strategic knowledge to plan and measure efficient return on investment. 

Most businesses that go down this route will find that social media feeds are soon up and running, email marketing looks great, and those small menial marketing tasks are done with no problem. But the business’ leaders will soon learn that this is not enough. Sales are not increasing; profit is plateauing; and something is still amiss. 

Pressure is soon put on the marketing exec and the leaders lose confidence in their ability. This makes the exec miserable, and they usually don’t see the role past six months. 

So, the cycle starts again. 

Mistake 2) Expecting miracles from one person – and letting them get on with it 

Let’s say the business decides to recruit a mid-level marketer. They have shown huge promise and have a good level of experience. They start their role and the business leaders let them get on with it. 

Fast-forward a few months. Sales are not increasing; profit is plateauing; and something is still amiss.  

Experienced strategic-level marketers will tell you that marketing a small business requires more resources than one person – and those additional resources need to be carefully planned and managed. Marketing should never be a one-person role. 

The overall reason these mistakes are made 

If we think back to those initial problems listed above, the reason you need help with marketing is because you have no marketing strategy.  

Your business does not have the resources or skills internally, which means it does not have a strategy. You do not have a plan, which means you do not have a strategy. You have a limited budget, which means you do not have a strategy. 

No strategy means: 

  • No internal or external analysis, which means; 
  • No market strategy, which means; 
  • No set objectives or KPIs (key performance indicators), which means; 
  • No budget planning, which means; 
  • No tactical planning, which means; 
  • No careful resource planning. 

This all ultimately means your business has no ability to make informed decisions. You have no strategic insight or market analysis that will guide your next move. You have no idea how to talk to your customers or communicate with them. 

You do not fully know where the skills gaps are to undertake the most effective and efficient marketing tactics for your business. 

That is a lot to expect an external agency or an entry-level or mid-level marketer to take on. 

The best way to start.

Start with a professionally developed strategic marketing plan 

Recruit or invest in the services of a Chartered Marketer. These are top-lever marketers who have 5-10 years’ experience at strategic level, relevant professional qualifications and CIM membership. 

They should start with a full business and market analysis to generate insight into your business’ next moves. From there, they will help to devise an objectives-led marketing strategy. Next comes tactical planning – and resource planning. 

A good strategic-level marketer will help lead the search for the right people and skills, based on the exact needs of your business. All decisions will be fully informed based on the strategic plan. 

Whether the plan guides you to recruiting in-house or outsourcing to an agency, you must keep the strategic marketer on your side to be that link, oversee the strategy and ensure all marketing activity is relevant, effective, and efficient – with no money being wasted. 

Starting with a professionally developed strategic marketing plan is exactly where The Marketing Doctor™ can help. We start with a Free Marketing Health Check to allow for a tailored plan and estimate for a Marketing Clinic. Clinics are designed to take you through the process of devising a strategic plan, inform the next steps and help you plan the best resources and people for the job.