I’ve worked in a number of companies throughout my career and I’ve always been really interested in the different ways that each company staffs their marketing organization. Almost without exception, every company I’ve worked with or for has leveraged external partners to do at least a portion of the marketing.
In some organizations, those support teams are absolutely huge. I’ve seen external teams of 50-plus people for a large, but not gigantic, paid search program. I’ve also been in other organizations where programs of similar size and spend and complexity were supported by an external team of five. When I asked why one structured it one way and another structured at the other, the reasons typically centered on risk. The organization with the huge support staff was basing their decision on the fact that if times got tough and budgets went down, it’s much easier and less disruptive to reduce spend by cutting agency support. In exchange, though, they’re giving up significantly more control of the program to the support partner and letting most of the expertise sit outside their four walls. To us, that’s an even riskier proposition.
Having a small external support model means you have to build in-house controls, you have to have more internal knowledge, and you have to drive and own your program strategy. When that happens, in our experience, the outcomes are better. Not just a little better, significantly better. Better by a factor of 5 to 10x. Internal employees are the closest ones to the day-to-day business, they’ve got more to gain and more to lose when it comes to your program’s performance. They also tend to feel higher satisfaction when they have more ownership and, as a result, they stay longer. You can reduce the risk of waking up one day a few years from now and realizing that you’ve been renting all the know-how and don’t have the ability to drive your own success by building those internal teams.
Don’t let asking for or carrying a few additional head count dissuade you from building out those internal capabilities. Your results will be better and the risk will be lower.