I used to be the Sr. Director of Brand & Creative at a global nonprofit (read: I was in charge of marketing, brand, and all creative work for the organization). It was a job I loved, but it came with certain pressures.
Most days felt like a Chinese finger trap—the harder I worked, the more challenges seemed to come my way. Whether it was change management with peers or the delicate balance of resources and output or advocating for my department (and industry as a whole) while also hitting marketing goals, evolving the brand, and guiding my team, it was an exhausting role. With one foot in the short-term and one foot in the long-term, and having to speak both languages both up and down? Well, it was a lot.
One of the best parts of my job—the meeting on my schedule that I always looked forward to—was kicking it with my agency partner, CID (spoiler: I work for them now). It was the only time I could talk to other professionals who just got it and were actually there to help, not just commiserate. I could simply be me, Meg, and talk about what I wanted to achieve for the organization.
Sounds nice, right? When was the last time you got to take 30-60 minutes out of your Marketer Conquering the World day to meet with others who you didn’t have to carefully craft your words for and then could actually leave knowing they’d get the job done well? That you would be taken care of?
There has been a movement in the last ten-ish years to move as much work in-house as possible. And I get it because I wanted the same. The greatest benefit of in-house employees is agility. Maybe you even like the level of oversight—being able to stick your hand in the cookie jar to make sure the work is done exactly the way you want it (I think I’ve seen you at Micromanagers Anonymous?).
An agency will never be able to match the agility that your in-house team has. They can get really close, and maybe even occasionally move heaven and earth for you, but your in-house employees are going to crush us agency pros on that 9 times out of 10. So why use an agency?
Here are what I think are the benefits of hiring an external agency, pulled directly from my time as a marketing director.
You know when you go on vacation for a week and you return home to that…smell? And at first, you think, “Boy, is this how everyone experiences my home?”
An agency is going to identify that smell right away. And they’re going to do the investigating that needs to be done to pinpoint exactly what is causing it and then they’re going to fix it. And during that investigation, they’re going to discover other things that could be fixed. Or maybe that smell you discovered? It’s actually not a problem at all because your guests (ahem, your customers) actually like it as part of the experience of coming to your house.
Oh, and it’s not just your house they’ve been in. They’ve been inside your neighbor’s house and that mansion in the gated community you’ve dreamt about and the camper that your nomad son and daughter-in-law travel around the country in. They know it all because they’ve seen it all. This is good for your business because not only are you getting a fresh perspective, it’s also coming from professionals who have worked across industries and are familiar with multiple business models.
TL;DR: External agencies bring a unique, fresh perspective to your company (and will quickly identify opportunities for improvement and growth).
Workload Balance & Scaling
So about that smell in your house (yes, I’m sticking with this metaphor). You walk in. You think, “Boy is this how everyone experiences my home?” And your next immediate thought is, “I gotta do something about it.” Except the cadence of normal life returns and you forget about it until the next time, and you vow to do something about it, and again—alas!—no progress is made.
While you tend to your normal responsibilities, an agency comes in and works through this large, de-funkifying initiative. Your and your team’s workloads go on largely unscathed.
So what exactly could this look like? As you and your team focus on your day-to-day or normal responsibilities, an agency could handle:
- A rebrand or refresh of the company or a product
- Launching a new product or service
- Development of a new customer app
- Overhauling the company website
- Creating and executing a content strategy
- Implementing an omnichannel advertising campaign
This allows your company to scale—to grow—without adding unnecessary overhead via new employee hires.
TL:DR; External agencies can grow your business while you and your team focus time and effort on your normal mission-critical tasks.
So, about that overhead: You may think of agencies as expensive, and perhaps there’s some truth to that. But it’s certainly not as expensive as adding a whole roster of full-time talent to your team. Let’s do the math.
According to Cella’s 2023 Salary Guide, here are the mid-level salaries associated with each of these roles:
- Marketing Manager - $133,000
- Graphic Designer - $66,000
- Copywriter - $71,000
Total = $270,000
“Ok, that’s great,” you think, “but this is a complex, multichannel, multimedia, ever-changing marketing world, Meg. I’m going to need more than just a designer and a copywriter.”
Yes, you are.
- Creative/Art Director - $117,000
- Video Producer - $79,000
- Video Editor - $61,000
- Project Manager - $114,000
- Content Strategist - $75,000
- Editor - $61,000
- Animator - $70,000
- Digital Data Analyst - $67,000
- SEO/SEM Specialist - $71,000
- Social Media Manager - $88,000
- UX Designer - $88,000
- Consumer Insight Analyst - $73,000
- Media Buyer - $61,000
Total = $1,025,000
Note that these are just median salaries—the cost of benefits is not included—and web/app developers don’t appear on that list. Oh, and if you’re in a market like San Francisco or New York City? Expect up to a 20-30% increase.
For each scope you sign with an external agency, you’re quite literally getting millions of dollars worth of talent and expertise. For most companies, it doesn’t make sense to hire full-time specialists like web developers or video producers, or paid search specialists. So take this as your sign to reach out to an agency (you know, like us) to redo the website you’ve been dying to make better or get that rebrand done. You’re not saving money by putting it off. You’re just slowly leaking customers.
TL;DR: External agencies aren’t as expensive as hiring talent.
With whispers of a recession swirling, it’s likely you’re already tightly clutching your budget and fearing the worst. Visions of an overworked team and pressure from leadership to grow revenue may already be running amok in your head.
Having worked in a nonprofit where we all were wearing 12-too-many hats and resources had to be stretched as far as they could go, I know that game all too well. But even in the nonprofit world, I managed to leverage our agency partnership with CID to help increase our fundraised revenue by 64% over four years.
If I can do that with pennies and a puny in-house team, imagine what you could do?
Get in touch with CID now to make your marketing feel fresher than ever.