What you need to know about hiring a marketing team

A guide on how not to waste money

Reading time: 6 mins.

Marketing agencies are a scam.

Say what?

If you have ever considered hiring a marketing agency/freelancer, this is for you. Here are my observations from 15+ years in the industry, having worked and consulted with over 100+ companies across various sectors: fashion, accessories, FMCG, pharmaceuticals, engineering, etc. My insights are based on working in-house and running a marketing agency, hiring agencies for myself, my clients, and being in the position of a bootstrapped business founder as well.

Just before we jump in - Not Stressed CEO finally started Instagram! If you’re enjoying my emails, I would love to connect on social media as well. Find me here.

For most smaller businesses, especially those without a dedicated marketing team in-house or where the founder themselves is not an expert in this area, outsourcing a marketing team often leads to disappointment. It’s not because they hire people who are bad at their job (sometimes they do, but not always), but because hiring a marketing agency is not an easy fix to skyrocket your brand. This is not how it works.

Photo via Semrush

Here are my dos, don’ts, and whys in this situation:

  1. If your business's success is strongly driven by marketing, do not fully outsource it. Outsource the parts where you lack expertise, connections, and hire a marketing manager/team for daily operations. The reason for this is that there is a lot of effort in marketing, community building, and someone working inside the team is more invested, reacts faster, and can usually deliver better results.

  2. If you have a DTC brand and social media is vital for your business, take it seriously and do not outsource social media. Social networks' algorithms expect a lot of content, and the more organic, the better. Most of the time, especially for smaller companies, you can tell when a profile is run by an agency due to perfectly designed images and immaculately crafted sales messages following those posts. If you expect organic growth, you need to produce good quality, interesting, and fun organic content. The days of perfect posts are left behind in 2018. You will be much better off having a dedicated person within your team for running social media. If your team is very small and you don’t have a marketing manager, outsource the rest, but do social media in-house. Find a person on your team who has a passion for social media, buy them a course on the topic so they understand how it works really well, give them some mental space and time to create good content. Social media is such a powerful tool that can lead to a lot of growth. But everyone who you see having success from it is taking it seriously.

  3. Do hire an agency for specific experience or contacts. I recently had a conversation with a fashion brand and was surprised to hear that creating a photoshoot is 4 times (!!!) more expensive for them than for me. I have organized plenty of photoshoots, built relationships with talents I enjoy working with, can get friendlier prices, know the right people to hire and how to plan it for cost-efficiency. I’ve noticed the same thing with influencer prices or buying media ads as well. Even if the agency is charging you for these services, using their connections might still guarantee a better deal for you. PRs, sales agents also base their business on their contacts and can deliver much better results than you could ever get if you try to do it yourself.

  4. Work with people who understand the size of your business, the limitations, and opportunities it brings. If you’re a small business, you do have a lot of flexibility in your decisions whereas a marketer coming from corporate might be used to different ways of planning, working, and would pass on certain opportunities just because they came up at the last minute.

  5. It’s all about the people you work with. Marketing is such an important driver for business success, but the people working within the marketing team are human too. They will easily lose motivation if they feel like marketing is just a box to be ticked off in the eyes of the founder.

  6. Do not go crazy with freelancers. A lot of frustration and wasted money happens when a founder hires many freelancers who work separately and not together: one’s job is to write copy, another one designs banners, a third one buys ads, someone else takes photos, another one sends out emails and then the next one posts on social media and there is yet a different person replying to the messages on social. That is a lot and it is a mess!The freelancers can sense that and even if they are good people they just focus on doing their job and nothing else. Be mindful of that and be selective and strategic about the help you hire.

  7. If the business is not growing enough, probably it is not marketing's fault. If your business is not run by one person, there is no one person to blame, so don’t. Every part of the business is driven by collaboration. Customer service, production, sales, marketing, HR, shipping, etc. - they all need to work together for real growth.

  8. Make sure your budget fits your expectations. If you have a small budget of a few hundred dollars, you’re better off learning marketing yourself at this stage because you will do it better. Maybe hire a personal assistant for some menial tasks. A common problem is hiring low-skilled people and expecting them to have the skills of a strategist. This is especially common with social media management.

I started out working as a consultant when I had my marketing agency a few years ago and also had my marketing services to sell. Now, I focus on education and not just guidance. I see many amazing founders who are struggling because of the lack of knowledge either by them or by the members of their team. Even though the internet seems to be overloaded with information, we all get different outcomes. I think personalized education is the way to go - every business owner needs a consultant who gets a good critical view of the business’ results and can help identify the biggest unexplored opportunities - that may be someone you connect with only every 3 months, in a weekly group chat or just people smarter than you whom you take out for lunch regularly.

Coming back to the first sentence - most marketing agencies are not a scam. But even the best one can turn into a scam if you don’t understand what they are here for. You cannot outsource your way to success. And you don’t need to: you and your team have more resources within you than you think. Seek guidance and education to build your success. Outsource for specific skills. Don’t just study marketing, study psychology and customer behavior - this can pave a long way to success.

Actionable Tip of The Week: Think about the capabilities of your team, your current marketing efforts, and what is stopping your growth. Have you been doing the same thing for too long and have lost your mojo? Are you using too many marketing channels but not fully focused on making at least one or two of them really strong? Or is it the opposite - you know you should start sending emails or launching on TikTok but you just never do it? In all cases, you’re leaving money on the table. Make a plan to solve it. If needed, give me a call.