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Building an in-house Marketing team vs. working with an Ad Agency or freelancers

The time has come to expand your organization’s marketing efforts. Now the question is, what kind of talent is best suited to your goals? Thanks to an expanding pool of remote workers and the emergence of specialized talent acquisition agencies, your options are wider than ever–from building an in-house marketing team to working with freelancers or ad agencies. To figure out what’s right for your organization, start by solidifying your goals and leadership, then build your team thoughtfully.

Start with Leadership and Goal-Setting to Hire Great Talent

As with any major initiative, it’s vital to understand what you’re trying to achieve and who will guide the rest of the team. From defining leadership roles to setting a project scope, get clarity before hiring. There’s nothing wrong with starting with “the basics.” 

Getting the right leadership in place before undertaking a large organizational shift can save money in the long run. Knowledgeable, empathetic leaders can help your organization assemble the right internal team or outside talent in the first place. Prudent hiring decisions in combination with good managers can also help reduce turnover and increase team engagement. Gallup estimates that US businesses lose up to $960 billion per year due to low employee engagement and, furthermore, 70% of that difference in employee engagement can be attributed to management. It truly pays to invest in your talent at all levels of your organization.

Start with an Iterative Approach to Leadership and Goal Setting

When clarifying leadership and goals for your expansion, you may find yourself iterating between the two. Broader goals should inform the management structure for the project, but as leadership comes together, additional goals and needs will likely come into focus.

To start, set overarching goals for your marketing expansion. These should align with larger organizational goals. For example, do you want to build a stronger brand story, support more customer acquisition, or launch a new product? If there are multiple goals, do your best to loosely prioritize them and identify the amount of effort each should receive.

With your broad goals in place, get clear about who will be driving the expansion. After years in the recruiting and creative spaces, our team has seen the power of positive leadership choices. NuWave CEO Greg Kunsman notes, “Another important piece is really having the right leadership in place, meaning…first and foremost, bringing in a Chief Marketing Officer (CMO), or someone who is an expert. [Someone who] can either work really well with agencies or be able to manage a team.”

If your organization does not have a CMO or other creative leader, we recommend adding one to your hiring list. A skilled CMO fosters growth, innovation, storytelling, and organizational capacity. They will help you amplify your organization’s work and build meaningful connections with customers or stakeholders. A CMO or Creative Director will have the knowledge and vision to help your organization get specific about project goals, build execution strategies, and provide guidance during the hiring process for other department members. 

Get Specific About Your Expansion and Its Context

It’s vital to be crystal clear about your goals and context. Get specific whenever possible to save money and time later in the process. High turnover can cost employers thousands of dollars, so judicious team building is a must.

When our team at NuWave helps a client expand their marketing efforts, we get specific with goal-setting questions: “What is the scale and scope of your upcoming projects?” “Is this a long term or short term expansion?” “When do you want to launch?” “What is your budget?” “Do you need niche expertise?” These details can tip the scales towards a particular hiring strategy.

Finally, set your talent budget. This can be a major determining factor for who you can hire. Generally, ad agencies are your more expensive option, so budget accordingly. Similarly, in-demand skills unsurprisingly also come at a premium. To face this challenge, consider hiring freelancers for one-off projects or permanent employees who are willing to upskill.

Match Your Hiring Choices to Goals

To start, get clear on the scope and scale of your most important upcoming projects. If you are expecting to focus on campaigns for existing products, generating new marketing content, or producing design assets, an internal team member or freelancer may be most appropriate. On the other hand, a rebrand or major product launch may require a more senior hire or a creative agency.

Similarly, it’s wise to consider if you want to ramp up your efforts for the short term or long term. While ad agencies are known for being more expensive than internal hires, agencies or freelancers once again may be a better fit for shorter term efforts, as onboarding a permanent employee does have other costs. That said, some organizations take a hybrid approach by hiring an agency to ramp up a project and then bringing some duties in-house over time.

Your organization should also assess if upcoming goals require specialized knowledge or niche expertise. If you want to reach a niche audience, gather and analyze large datasets, or launch a rebrand or campaign with high production values, ad agencies are often a solid choice. OBERLAND’s Trans Script campaign for the ACLU comes to mind as an example. This cause marketing and social media campaign required in-depth knowledge and high production values to tell new stories about the experiences of trans people. Similarly, Alder & Co. leveraged their agency’s climate expertise for a rebrand of Liminal, a green tech company.

Next up, confirm your most important deadlines for your goals. Be sure to include time to get your new talent up to speed. While internal hires may integrate better with the rest of your team, they may take longer to onboard.  NuWave’s Tasheyia Thomas-Gardon notes that, “Freelancers are good for time-sensitive work…[When companies] need someone to jump in very quickly.” 

Remember Values Fit When Building Your Team

With your leadership and goals in place, and a read on what kind of talent you’re looking for, it’s time to build your capacity. Obviously hiring for expertise will be a top priority, but we also recommend hiring for purpose [link to NuWave Hiring for Purpose article]. Keeping your organization’s mission and values front of mind during periods of expansion will help you grow for the long term.

Hiring for purpose can apply to freelancers, permanent employees, or ad agencies. When interviewing, include discussions of top values, mission-related experience, and work style. While this extra step may narrow your candidate pool a bit, you will likely still have great options. With each of these types of hires, we are seeing an uptick in interest for purpose-driven work. Staying open to remote candidates will also expand your talent pool.

A purpose-driven talent agency can help your organization shine and attract the right talent. We believe that emphasizing your unique values is a chance to stand out as a great employer or partner! If you are in a position where you need talent to assist in Marketing efforts, consult with NuWave. Our team can help you assess your goals and develop a talent acquisition strategy that will set you up for success.

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