“When should I hire marketing people?”
A couple of clients recently asked me some variation of the titular question, and I’ve been asked the same thing a number of times over the years.
My answer has three elements:
- You should think about marketing right from the beginning
- You can probably get by effectively for much longer than you think without in-house marketing personnel
- Exactly when and how you start to bring more marketing in-house really depends on a few factors
Think About Marketing Right from the Beginning
Make sure to think about marketing right from the beginning, and regularly, even if it’s only a small part of your weekly activities.
A lot of things are easier in the long run if you give some conscious consideration in the here and now. Who are your customers? What are their problems? How will you reach them? Against what problems are you competing for attention? What do you actually sell? How do you sell it?
Ask yourself, “What would be marketing’s thoughts?”
Having answers to these questions will help shape decisions now, or will at least prevent you from making decisions now that are ignorant of a longer-term impact. Even something as seemingly small as a mental exercise whereby, when faced with a conundrum or decision, you ask yourself, “What would be marketing’s thoughts?” can help you avoid some pitfalls.
Don’t Be Shy About Outsourcing
I know this sounds self-serving, but so long as you work with capable agencies and freelancers, you can fulfill your marketing needs very effectively for a long time.
So long as you work with capable agencies and freelancers, you can fulfill your marketing needs very effectively for a long time.
I’ve had a few people inquire if I’m interested in joining their company full-time, and – while I’m definitely flattered and appreciative – I reply that there almost certainly isn’t enough work for me, and there’s definitely not enough of the right kind of work to dedicate one of the limited seats on the bus (for you Jim Collins fans). It’s a nice thought, but it doesn’t make sense.
For start-ups and scale-ups, many of the items that get flagged as “marketing” and that consume time are very tactical in nature: booking tradeshows, getting a booth and pop-up signs, running digital campaigns, writing collateral, printing collateral, designing graphics, building and modifying a website, hosting information events, etc.
So long as the overall strategy and messaging are in place, all those other activities are straightforward (but certainly time-consuming). More importantly, those tactical activities can easily be outsourced to capable outsiders (e.g., agencies, freelancers). Provided your outsiders are competent, working with them could offer significant value: cost-effective projects, delivered quickly, with little management overhead and no loaded cost of labour…freeing you up to focus your resources on the really tough, proprietary stuff.
When to Make the Hire
How long can this approach last, and what roles do you fill in-house first?
If you start having so much outsourced activity that managing the people and projects is taking a significant chunk of your time, or the costs involved are getting near a full-time salary, then consider bringing things in-house. But that being said, be mindful that it’s unlikely you’ll find a single person who’s proficient across the full spectrum of the things listed previously, plus the more strategic items; furthermore, the more senior a marketer is, the less likely they’ll be interested in taking on the tactical work. So even if you want to bring someone onboard, it’s more likely they’ll only be able to take on a subset of the activities you’ve outsourced, which should factor into your resourcing plans.
Be mindful that it’s unlikely you’ll find a single person who’s proficient across the full spectrum.
One client recently asked me, “When should I bring on someone like a Nicole (DeNoble) or a Lee?” One thing I stressed in my reply was the difference between myself (Product Marketing background) and Nicole (Marketing Communications background): “Well, to be clear, Nicole and Lee do related-but-very-different things.” He already knew this, having worked with us both in the past, but I still thought it was worth reiterating.
It’s all well and good to conclude that you want to hire a very experienced marketing person to help take your company to the next level, but marketing subdivides into domains. So, how would you decide which function, say between Marketing Communications and Product Marketing, to bring in-house first? My advice is to consider a few criteria in your analytic decision-making, perhaps:
- the function’s strategic importance to the company’s growth plan
- the amount of work within that function
- the efficiencies gained by bringing that function in-house
- the potential of continuing to fill the gap with outsourced projects
- your longer-term plans for the marketing organization
You have to project your needs out a couple of quarters – it can take quite a while to find and secure the right candidate.
And complicating matters very slightly, you have to project your needs out a couple of quarters – as many folks find out the hard way, it can take quite a while to find and secure the right candidate. So it’s worthwhile to have a little bit of tracking in place to monitor your cost and time investments, so you’re able to tell in advance by what point you should have someone in-house and for what functions and you can get a head-start on your candidate search.
You should think about marketing right from the beginning (if you haven’t started thinking about it yet, then start now!); doing so will let you assess your longer-term needs, which informs your short- and medium-term strategies.
Additionally, competent freelancers and agencies can provide an efficient means of meeting your needs both today and well into the future.
By carefully monitoring the investments (in terms of time, money, and activities) in these outsourced services, and considering in the bigger context of your long-term marketing objectives, you’ll be in a good position to make an informed decision about exactly when to start a candidate search, and for what role, as you gradually bring functions in-house.
Anyway, those are some of my thoughts and recommendations on the topics – I’d love to read what you have to say! (he says, while gesturing towards the comments section)