Should B2B SMEs hire an Internal Marketing Manager or Outsource?

Especially in the competitive B2B environment, you can’t just sit back and wait for the enquiries to come in. Buyers have changed and marketing plays a key role in ensuring that you are visible to them and seen as a credible supplier.

Marketing your business takes time, money and resource though so how do you get the best value from the investments. Should you hire a marketing manager or source external help?


Internal Marketing Manager

A good full time Marketing Manager will come with a price tag of £30-40,000 per year, plus the usual on-costs of employing any staff member; IT, HR and management time.

They also need a marketing budget!

One of the biggest and most common mistakes a business can make is to employ a Marketing Manager and then not allow them to spend any money. It’s like having a car on your driveway with no fuel in it. The reality is that successful marketing campaigns cost money; so the cost of building an effective internal function is unlikely to be much below £100,000 per annum.

When considering employing a Marketing Manager a key consideration is the range of skills that they will need. These are likely to include marketing strategy, digital marketing, design, traditional marketing, content writing, email and social.

The world of marketing has changed dramatically over recent years though and if you don’t have a defined and tested strategy, know which channels to use and a detailed understanding of the technologies and suppliers in each space then selecting the right candidate and managing them becomes impossible.

Even once the skills needed are clearly defined it is unlikely you will find all that you need wrapped up in one person – so using agencies or consultants to fill specific gaps remains a necessity. Take strategy for example; unless you get the strategy right from the outset, it doesn’t matter how well any activity is managed or executed, the likelihood is that you’ll spend time and money without success.

Because of the speed of change in modern marketing it is also important to recognise that it is necessary for internal marketers to invest time on an ongoing basis in remaining up to date, and able to adapt to the changing environment.


Outsourced Expertise

Outsourcing can include consultancy, freelance or agency resource depending on your needs. The benefits of outsourcing are that it gives access to a much wider range of skills and flexibility about how much of them that you need (which may vary over time).

It remains important to develop the strategy initially so that you know what skills and resource are needed (perhaps through an external marketing strategy expert), before then looking for partners. If you approach a digital agency without a clear idea of your strategy don’t be surprised if they tell you your strategy should be mostly digital!

The costs of an outsourced strategy may not be as high as you expect. Outsourced costs will be a much higher cost-per-hour than internal resource, but because of their level of expertise and higher productivity they are likely to achieve more per pound spent. Often the marketing strategy can be implemented at a similar cost externally as an internal resource, but with higher levels of accountability and needing less management time to deploy or oversee.


Where Is The Best Talent?

Without doubt the best marketing expertise lies in agencies. Agencies live and breathe marketing and are typically high-energy collaborative team environments that enable individuals to develop both broad and deep knowledge of their subjects. By their very nature agencies cannot afford to lag behind new technology or techniques, but they also understand what is likely to be effective in what circumstances.

The most important considerations when outsourcing to a marketing agency however is to be really clear about what it is you want to achieve and remain realistic about the outcomes.

An agency partnership works best as it develops over time and as they develop a deeper knowledge of your brand and specific market: A good agency may be experts in their field but that doesn’t mean they can achieve miracles, or will be able to understand the details of your requirements if you don’t spend some time briefing them.

Choosing a marketing agency should be done carefully to ensure they are a good fit for your culture and aspirations as well as immediate requirements.


Final Considerations

Typically in B2B markets the challenge is in getting the strategy right and in the initial stages of deploying it, getting everything setup and working effectively. That means that you may need a higher level of resource and expertise for the first 6 or 12 months – but may need less after that. This flexibility can be difficult achieve with internal staff, as well as getting the mix of different skills and talents that you may need at different times and during different phases.

Whether you choose ultimately to use resource that is internal, outsourced, or a mixture of the two will be determined by a number of factors and your preferences. The first thing to decide on though is the Marketing Strategy so that the resource fits the requirements you have.