Hire a marketing communications agency or build an internal team? That’s the million-dollar question these days. Today’s marketing practices are morphing faster than your teenager’s texting skills. The addition of the Internet was a game changer 25 years ago for how companies marketed their products and services. Today’s marketing programs look much different than those in the 80s, 90s, and even 2000s.
The Marketing Funnel
To effectively generate leads for a sales team these days, marketers have to set up effective programs to run continuously. What hasn’t changed, however, is the traditional marketing concept of pushing potential prospects through the funnel to identify which ones might become a customer. At the top of the funnel is the complete universe of potential clients. Using marketing, PR, and communication programs, it’s the marketer’s job to identify the potential leads that can enter the funnel, qualify the prospects, and serve them up to a nurturing team or sales person. Of course, there are also marketing automation software systems that can help track the programs, score the potential leads, and analyze the results.
Do New Graduates Have What It Takes?
So who should set up these programs? Should I hire marketing staff to create a dynamic team of experts? How many MBAs will I need? Do marketing graduates come equipped to run the latest in social media and marketing automation tools? Are universities cranking out ready-to-go marketers? Can I find employees who can write well? Can they use the latest automation tools and scheduling systems? How about social media channels? And then, of course, can my employee pick up the phone and call that editor at the trade industry’s biggest publication and get my article in it?
Or, can I find talent through agencies or contractors to do the work? What’s important here – the cubicles for marketing employees, along with their 401K, employee handbook, knowledge of their benefits, and location of the office coffee maker? No, of course not. What is important is identifying resources that have tremendous depth on the relevant topics.
You need a wheelhouse of experts with a vast range of skills to operate an efficient marketing engine.
Marketing Budgets 101
According to Forrester Research, B2B marketing budgets are expected to rise this year. Prior to the 2008 recession, the rule of thumb measurement on a marketing budget was between 5% to 10% of your revenues. In 2011, Forrester surveyed B2B marketers and found that number to be closer to 2.5% of revenues. The good news is that the percentage is growing and 2014 should see an average marketing budget of 4% of revenues.
Here’s the Quiz
So with tight budgets and fast changing tools, you should ask yourself the following questions to determine if you should indeed outsource your marketing team:
- Are your annual sales less than $10 million?
- Do you have a complex sales cycle that requires more than 30 days to make a purchase decision?
- Is your marketing budget less than 5% of annual revenue?
- Is your company less than five years old?
If you answered yes to three or more of these questions, consider outsourcing most of your marketing efforts to contracted specialists or an agency where you can control the actual spend of every hour worked.
The Right Answer
Truthfully, there isn’t one right answer. Each situation requires its own strategy based on budget, time, and resources available to you. I’ve worked on both sides of the coin. I’ve managed a team of internal marketers in a B2B environment and I’ve hired both agency and individual contractors to fulfill my marketing team needs. Both are great, but when budgets are tight, I have to go with the contracted/agency model. I get senior level experience with fewer dollars than a full-time employee!
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