small business marketing agency

When to Choose a Small Business Marketing Agency vs. Hiring Full-Time

Deciding how to most effectively grow your business isn’t an easy choice for a small business leader. Marketing is a key way to ensure people find and turn into leads for your brand, but as your marketing needs grow, you’ll eventually need someone to help.

At this point, many leaders evaluate one of two options: either hiring a marketing agency or finding someone to take on marketing full-time. How do you decide which approach is best for you?

Of course, the answer is rarely clear-cut. It depends on the needs and size of your business, what your monthly budget looks like, and other factors. This article is designed to help inform your decision by sharing some of the advantages and disadvantages of each approach.

The Pros and Cons of Choosing a Marketing Agency vs. a Full-time Hire

What’s right for one small business will rarely not be right for another. That’s why it’s important to know the benefits and drawbacks from both small business marketing agencies and freelancers.

Pros of a Marketing Agency

  • Less costly and risky. A digital marketing agency will almost always cost less, because an agency doesn’t require you to absorb the costs of benefits, taxes, and more. Plus, hiring full-time creates a lot more risk to the business than working with an outside partner.
  • Less hands-on management needed. An agency will often require less of your time than managing someone full-time. This is especially true versus hiring a junior marketer, which is what many small businesses' budgets can afford. As long as the agency’s model and team is a good fit for your business, they should be able to operate with a good degree of autonomy.
  • A range of skills: A marketing agency will have a team of resources available to you, which gives you a much broader range and depth of skills than any one individual hire could.

Cons of a Marketing Agency

  • Too focused on their way: Agencies typically have an ingrained methodology and lingo, and you may find they are unwilling to get out of “their” way to put in the time to build a custom approach perfectly suited to your business.
  • Unsure who to talk to: When you have a large agency team working for you, you can often feel like you’re stuck playing a game of “whack-a-mole” to track down the right person to help you.
  • No single individual who’s accountable or dedicated to your business: Agencies may give you a project or account manager, but that person rarely will invest the time to get to know your business. And even though they manage your account, they aren’t accountable for the team’s performance, leaving a massive accountability gap.

Pros of a Full-time Hire

  • Dedicated to your business: This person only works for you, so their time and knowledge is entirely focused on learning your business.
  • Accountable: This person reports directly to you, or someone else in line of management.
  • Depth of skills: A full-time person will likely have depth of knowledge in one or a few areas of marketing, like advertising or content writing. This can allow you to quickly grow in those areas.

Cons of a Full-time Hire

  • Costly: Even a fairly entry-level employee can cost a lot of money, once a fully burdened salary, benefits, taxes, recruiting costs, PTO, and more are factored in. And many small businesses don’t need 40+ hours a week of marketing to achieve their marketing goals.
  • Will still require a lot of your time: New employees are a net drain on the business for five months or more, before they can come fully up-to-speed. And as a small business, you may only be able to afford someone fairly entry-level, who will need a lot of management and hand-holding to get their work done.
  • Hiring and retaining talent is hard: Finding talent – and preventing them from leaving – is harder than ever amidst the Great Resignation.
  • Limited breadth of skills: While a full-time employee can have a depth of skills, one person can’t have breadth in every field. You may still be stuck hiring freelancers or an agency to support the skills they don’t have.
  • Either strategic or executional, but not both: Strategic chops require many years of experience, but the more strategic a person is, the further away they become from execution skills (not to mention, the more costly they become). A Marketing Director will have the experience to create a great strategy, but will need a team to execute it. Conversely, a less experienced Marketer will be able to execute things well, but will need someone else to provide the strategy and tell them how it all fits together.

What About a Fractional Marketing Department?

If you’re not loving the gaps in the above two options, you’re not alone. Fortunately, you do have another option: you can partner with a fractional marketing department. This means you can have a veteran marketing leader and your own marketing team, without having to hire multiple people internally.

With a fractional marketing department, you get your own dedicated fractional CMO, who manages and leads a team of marketing specialists that they have personally hired and vetted. You get the strategic planning skills to ensure your marketing is successful, plus the executional chops to ensure the work is done at an expert level.

The Right Marketing Strategy for Your Business

Deciding whether to go with a small business marketing agency or hire a full-time marketing professional can be tricky. Agencies have many benefits in terms of cost, risk, and experience, but many agencies aren’t willing to build a truly custom-tailored approach for your company. Full-time hires offer complete dedication to your business, but they are costly and often overkill for burgeoning marketing functions.

That’s why fractional marketing functions, like the fractional marketing department, are gaining popularity. They allow your business to have the full benefits of an enterprise-caliber marketing department that’s accessible for a small business, without sacrificing the quality of your marketing and growth efforts.

In short, with a fractional marketing department, you’ll partner with an experienced CMO, a team of specialized professionals, and you can scale your marketing efforts with flexibility.

Interested in learning more about what a Fractional Marketing Department can do for your business? Reach out to our team and find out how we can help grow your business.

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Aaron Marks

Aaron Marks is the President and Founder of Aspire Marketing Group. A digital pioneer with nearly two decades of online marketing experience, Aaron has helped organizations ranging from fledgling startups to Fortune 500 enterprises, and global manufacturers to U.S. Presidential campaigns, get the marketing and business results they needed.


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