As the world emerges from the COVID-19 pandemic, industries across the spectrum are struggling with unprecedented staff shortages and employee retention challenges. Gartner predicts that annual employee turnover rates will grow 20% higher than pre-pandemic averages in the years ahead. In this landscape of chronic staffing shortages, prospective employees are more able and likely to leverage their experience to get the best deal when seeking out new roles, and existing staff may be on the lookout for new opportunities. 

This creates challenges in scaling companies seeking to bring in new talent and retain valuable existing staff. Workers now expect higher compensation packages, more flexible work schedules, and enriching company cultures that offer a value-driven work environment. 

Subsequently, organizations looking to scale may wonder how to best staff their marketing and sales teams — and plug skill gaps to protect future growth. The question that hiring managers and leadership teams often ask us is: what roles should we be outsourcing, and what roles should we keep in-house? 

To answer this question, it is first necessary to understand what unique roles your company should consider hiring for, along with their duties, because it is the nature of these roles, their duties, and their respective hiring challenges and churn risk that make them either ideal as in-house or outsourced role. In this article, we discuss which roles fall into each category.


Marketing Roles to Outsource vs. Keep In-House

Against this backdrop of recruitment and retention challenges, scaling companies may be unsure which marketing resources should be acquired in-house versus which could be advantageously outsourced. The following breakdown of marketing specialists (see Table 1) provides what we consider to be both the unique roles your scaling company should consider hiring for, as well as their agency vs. in-house origin. 

Table 1: Essential Outsourced vs. In-House Marketing Role Comparison
Role Description Outsourced In-House
Account-Based Marketing Specialist Responsible for targeted prospecting

Content Marketing Specialist Creates and executes the content strategy

Copywriter Writes technical marketing content

Graphic Designer Creates visual marketing materials

Events/Field Marketing Specialist Develops relationships with trade shows and partners

Marketing Manager Oversees in-house and external marketing resources

Paid Advertising Specialist Promotes marketing messaging to targeted prospects

Product Marketing Specialist Works with product development team to improve and market feature set

Web Developer Takes on technical projects, website maintenance and updates


Nailing Down Essential Marketing Roles

With respect to the outsourced roles listed in Table 1, an effective marketing strategy requires a content marketing specialist — an individual specialized in the formation of content strategy and execution through blog posting, social channel posting, SEO, and email marketing. Furthermore, to bolster the efforts of the content strategy, a copywriter is needed — this individual is a technical writer with knowledge of your industry who can create compelling copy to engage with existing customers and connect with new audiences. 

You will note that in Table 1, we’ve indicated that a copywriter could also be an in-house role, and this is because we often find in practice that it can be good to staff one permanent copywriter on your in-house team who acts more as an ‘editor in chief’ (i.e. reviews articles, ensures that production schedule is maintained, etc.), while outsourced writers can often more efficiently do the bulk of the writing because they will remain focused on that core deliverable, rather than having their attention divided among many competing in-house deliverables. 

Next, a graphic designer is essential for creating visual marketing materials and unified brand messaging. Again, much like the outsourced copywriter role, a Marketing Manager may find that their graphic design needs are more efficiently met by an outsourced resource who is focused solely on that one task. 

Finally, a web developer will be necessary for technical projects and website changes on the back end. Outsourcing these roles can create long-term value for your company’s marketing campaigns by enlisting specialists with experts focused on specific deliverables.

Defining Critical Lead Generation Roles 

A paid advertising specialist can help maximize the impact of the content created by the content team by promoting marketing messaging and value-driven content to targeted prospects on LinkedIn, Display Advertising, or other advertising channels. Finally, an account-based marketing specialist can ensure that while the content team and paid teams are warming up new leads on the website, you have your bases covered with targeted prospecting activities, 1×1 cold email, phone calling outreach, and booking meetings for your sales team with qualified leads.


Compelling Reasons to Outsource Content Marketing and Lead Generation

The above roles can supply your company with specific weekly and monthly deliverables guaranteed by a contract with an outsourced agency. This can be effectively delivered with higher quality and consistency — and more cost-effectively than by in-house staff. 

While it could be argued that this is a generalization (and we would agree), the debate isn’t whether agencies have access to better talent pools. The focus is on how specific agency resources are a better fit for solving recruitment and retention challenges faced by scaling companies. 

Recruitment Challenges: Hiring for Technical Fit in a Seller’s Labour Market

A major challenge in scaling a business lies in attracting marketing talent and aligning recruitment efforts with the company’s marketing strategy, ensuring that new hires amplify efforts and fill gaps in expertise. A LinkedIn report identifies a growing marketing skills gap due to employers increasingly seeking marketers with soft creative, and technical skills. Finding candidates with the full suite of skills is becoming more difficult due to demand outpacing supply. New hires should be chosen to complement the company’s marketing strategy rather than to simply fill a vacancy. 

The first recruitment challenge for scaling companies is that in-house marketing managers may not necessarily be experts in the specific roles the company needs to hire for. Managers may have experience in one to three marketing channels before moving into a management role and may not always be experts in the wide variety of marketing channels a company may need to hire for. Considering the competition for recruiting talent, this can make it difficult to know exactly which skillset the company is lacking, as well as the appropriate level of compensation to offer to aid retention. 

This can lead to hiring mismatches, as the company lacks the knowledge of its exact hiring needs. Hiring mismatches can be incredibly costly for marketing teams, both in terms of the time and money lost onboarding and training a new hire but also in terms of the potential revenue lost from unrealized marketing efforts. 

By contrast, an outsourced agency’s first step will be to do a needs assessment and gap analysis on your company’s current marketing program and provide suggestions on how their team could fill those gaps. Having an outside set of eyes assess your marketing program and provide you with insight on the roles that would complement your existing in-house team and provide additional bench strength can help avoid costly recruiting mistakes and also give your team access to a wider variety of skill sets, rather than a single skill set that often accompanies a new hire. Beyond finding the most appropriate hire for your company’s immediate needs is the simple problem of hiring for roles that are in short supply. 

For example, while there often seems to be many job seekers looking for social media marketing roles, finding an expert email marketer who knows the ins and outs of your specific email marketing platform (e.g. Hubspot, Pardot, Marketo, Klaviyo, Zoho Campaigns, etc.) can often be quite challenging. In our experience, this can lead to expensive marketing tools and software going unused while a company desperately hunts for a qualified candidate. Again, by contrast, the right agency may be able to supply you with a Hubspot or Marketo-qualified email expert who can immediately achieve results for you on a fractional basis that may take months to achieve if you needed to train a new hire. 

Retention Difficulties: Spreading Marketing Talented Too Thin 

While recruiting in the current labour market is challenging, retaining staff is also becoming more difficult. One issue relates to misallocating new hires based on their experience. For instance, companies may believe a new hire with experience in social media will also be able to easily assume responsibility for tasks in other marketing channels, such as SEO, paid advertising, or email. In practice, each channel has its own distinct discipline and takes extensive experience to master. Expecting a junior or mid-level hire with experience in a single channel to perform in that channel while juggling others is a recipe for employee churn.

Furthermore, the competitiveness in the hiring market being driven by the shortage of qualified free agents is shortening the lifecycle of new marketing hires. Increasingly, talented marketing and sales hires are in high demand and are unlikely to stay with the same company for longer than a year or two. At this stage, employees are leveraging their experience to transition to higher-paying roles with more seniority. This is a problem for companies looking to scale and invest in their marketing staff, as most companies commonly overestimate how long they can keep talented new hires. Ambitious staff will often leave for higher-paying roles before the company’s investment in their recruitment and training is fully realized — this results in having to start the expensive hiring and training cycle all over again.

By contrast to the problems faced in activity sprawl, burnout, and churn by in-house marketing staff, an outsourced agency can provide a specialist in each role. An agency is incentivized to retain your business as long as possible — this leads to focus and continuity in delivering marketing and sales activities. On this note, it is much easier to dismiss an external marketing firm than an in-house employee — this further incentivizes an outsourced agency to perform.

In summary, the roles described above (Table 1) can be ideal to outsource for a scaling company given the natural advantages of expertise, focus, and consistency that come with avoiding the recruitment and retention challenges many companies are currently experiencing. However, it is equally important to staff certain marketing roles with in-house resources. This is particularly true of positions that require a level of product or market expertise, positions that require long-term relationship building that may require a physical presence, and marketing management and leadership roles. In the next section, we define these roles and explain why each of them is should be an integral part of your in-house team.  

Building an In-House Marketing Team

Returning to Table 1, certain marketing positions are critical to your organization’s success. They cannot be practically outsourced due to difficulties in executing specific rationalized deliverables. 

The first of these positions is an in-house marketing manager. This individual is important to keep in-house to maintain responsibility for and oversight of managing in-house and external resources, as well as articulating the goals and KPIs of the executive to the marketing team — while also providing status updates in the other direction. 

Agency resources and short-term contractors are typically a poor fit for this role for a few understandable reasons: (1) the role requires full-time hours to take on the workload; (2) the role requires someone with sufficient authority within the organization to make hiring and firing decisions, as well as sufficient experience to make judgements on the quality of work being delivered by both in-house and outsourced teams; agencies or contractors rarely seek or are granted this level of authority; (3) ideally, you’d like to keep the role in-house because it means growing and eventually promoting a mid-level manager into a more senior role that has experience with executing on the company’s growth strategy.

Secondly, keeping an events and field marketing specialist in-house will benefit you. This individual will be responsible for handling trade shows and in-person events, and this role is best performed by a long-term member of staff who has developed relationships and rapport with partner companies, trade show hosts, etc. Like the Marketing Manager role, most agencies are a poor fit for the events and field marketing role primarily because of the full-time nature of the work and the need for someone who is making a long-term commitment to building relationships as a representative of the company. 

Events and field marketing campaigns often rely heavily on face-to-face meetings where trust is magnified. This person has their ‘skin in the game’ by nature of their full-time employment with your company. Agency resources are perfectly capable of helping plan, execute, and harvest leads from events — but when it comes to who you want on the ground, pressing the flesh, your field marketing specialists are absolutely essential.

The final vital role to keep in-house is the product marketing specialist. This individual works directly with the product development team to improve the feature set of your products or services and translates the value of their feature sets into operational marketing language for the broader marketing team. Likewise, they will have intimate knowledge of the user experience and use customer feedback to seek new marketing opportunities. Therefore, it is important that this person is an expert on your products and has a deep understanding of the wider industry. 

Best practice is to hire for these roles in-house, attracting talent that is passionate about the company, products, and industry. These individuals are more likely to be long-term industry careerists, embedded in and passionate about your company culture and the wider industry — and ultimately represent a lower ‘flight risk’. 

The Hybrid Marketing Team: Combining Agency and In-House Talent 

In conclusion, ambitious companies can scale their marketing efforts successfully through a hybrid approach whereby they outsource key roles to agencies taking advantage of their expertise and consistency while maintaining core in-house personnel whose roles are less defined by consistent deliverables but rather deeper long term knowledge of your products, your industry, or your company’s strategic objectives. 

There are many long-term strategic benefits to this approach, which include: (1) the ability to scale down agency overhead due to a market downturn or poor performance, which is a much more complicated and potentially expensive proposition when it comes to letting go of full-time in-house resources; (2) the ability to add or subtract agency roles as may be required, and scale up or down levels of effort; (3) the ability to have agency experts train in-house staff, utilizing knowledge transfer as a permanent in-house resource that will either outlive the agency and/or act as a force multiplier.

 

About the Author

RFDM is a full-stack growth marketing agency that assists ambitious companies in achieving their marketing and sales goals. RFDM can assist your company with any or all parts of the strategy we have recommended in this article, including building your brand strategy, choosing and implementing the right mix of technology, and providing you with an outsourced marketing and sales team to execute your strategy. 

Please reach out to us at www.rfdmsolutions.com with any questions you have about implementing this hybrid growth strategy!

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