Marketing

Three reasons small businesses shouldn’t hire a marketing agency

Allan Dib /

marketing strategies

Successwise founder Allan Dib. Source: Supplied.

In business, you’ve got to spend money to make money.

While many small business owners understand the importance of marketing to scale, they lack the time, resources or know-how. It’s why 53% of small businesses hire an agency to handle their marketing

Sure, this makes business sense, but have you considered the benefits of bringing your marketing in-house? 

In my 20 years as an entrepreneur, I’ve worked with agencies and in-house marketing teams, and I’ve rarely seen an agency do as good a job as internal staff. I’ll get into the why shortly, but first, let’s take a look at the other side.

There are three reasons why you shouldn’t hire a marketing agency for your small business.

1. You’re one of many clients

It’s easy to be taken in by the confidence of an agency. Let’s face it, they’re immersed in marketing and advertising daily. They’re up to speed with industry trends, and handy for you, they have all the tools necessary to get your marketing going quickly. 

What gets forgotten or pushed aside is most agencies have 10-20 clients, which means their focus is always split — cue the warning bell. 

Now consider that of these 10 to 20 accounts, they have at least two bread-and-butter clients. These are the brands with millions of dollars to spend on advertising, and sadly, for your small business, these bigger accounts take preference. 

They have louder voices, are more demanding, and their budgets allow agencies to spread their creative wings and conceptualise award-winning, above-the-line and below-the-line advertising campaigns. 

It’s like handing a triple-chocolate cookie to a kid. They can’t wait to dig in. You and your little budget simply can’t compete, and so you won’t receive the same attention. 

From personal experience, I’ve found your work gets pushed out in favour of delivering more profitable jobs. The best creatives in the agency won’t work on your campaigns, junior copywriters and designers will be assigned to your account. Client services won’t be in touch with you as much as you’d like because, financially, your spend doesn’t warrant it. 

So while yes, a top agency is handling your marketing, you’re not necessarily getting their best.

In-house teams are more focused.

Take your marketing in-house and you’re guaranteed to have a dedicated team working towards the success of your campaigns.

Their attention isn’t divided. They’re not worried about winning industry awards. Their role is to bring in new business — that’s what drives them.

As long as you treat your people well, you’ll build a solid and reliable team.  

2. Their goals and motivations don’t necessarily align with yours

Remember when Jerry Maguire yelled “show me the money!” to football superstar Rod Tidwell? Marketing agencies might not say it, but they’re definitely thinking it.

The fact is, small businesses work within tight budgets. Your goal is to spend as little as possible and to get the best return on investment. Whereas, in many cases, marketing agencies get paid a commission of the ad sales. Their goal is to get you to spend more money on advertising — even if it’s not in your best interest — because they make more. 

In-house teams cut out unnecessary expenses.

Advertising commission is typically 15%, which, for a small business owner, is a fair chunk of change. Bring your marketing in-house and this fee can be used to hire an expert consultant to advise your team or it can be channelled into other areas of your business. The beauty of this is, it’s your money. You decide what you do with it.  

3. You’re building their intellectual property, not yours

Like it or not, if you outsource your marketing to an external agency, you’re essentially helping them to build capabilities in their intellectual property. When the day comes that you decide to switch agencies or bring it in-house, you lose all of that intellectual property.

But what do I mean by intellectual property? These are the checklists, standard operating procedures (SOPs), how-to operations manuals, and much more.

I like to have all of the capability and the know-how in-house because I own it. If an individual team member leaves or I decide to invest in a new business, I’ve still got that capability in-house. I’m not starting from scratch.

In-house teams have more to offer intellectually.

With an agency, you’re basically paying for a service and helping them to upskill their people consistently. Wouldn’t you say it makes more sense to create an in-house team and train them up?

There is a gold mine of skilled professionals looking for remote work out there. Many have worked in high power positions, but life or a desire for greater flexibility has resulted in them leaving their 9-5. And there are hundreds of online courses you can enrol them in to bring them up to speed.

If that doesn’t convince you, 77% of remote professionals say they’re more productive now than when they worked in an office. I don’t know about you, but for me, that’s a pretty compelling reason to look into creating a remote, in-house marketing team.

Take the plunge and DIY

If you tap into the wealth of knowledge out there and retain that intelligence, you can save money, grow your business, and forget about outsourcing your marketing to an agency. Invest in an in-house marketing team.

It’s your best move.

NOW READ: Why you shouldn’t dismiss boutique marketing agencies when thinking global

NOW READ: How to get the most out of positive media coverage

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Allan Dib

Allan is a business coach and the founder of Successwise, a business specialising in practical marketing and business growth strategies for business owners and entrepreneurs. He has started, grown and exited several companies and is the author of bestselling book The 1-Page Marketing Plan: Get New Customers, Make More Money And Stand Out From The Crowd.

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