Today’s marketers typically build and manage email lists, create various nurture programs to warm up leads, develop content to be used in those nurture programs, manage a blog, undertake SEO efforts for that blog, own the company’s social media presence, plan events, handle ad placement on social media and search, create and hone the brand voice…and the list just goes on.
Not only are today’s marketers tasked with more than ever, but many marketing teams are leaner than ever. On the one hand, we have more and smarter technology to help manage all of these activities, so not everything is as manual as it once was. But on the other hand, as much as the technology can help ease certain burdens, it still requires someone to manage it, which becomes another responsibility on the marketing team’s already full plate.
Fortunately, we’ve reached a point where more and more companies are recognizing that their marketing teams need help managing all of these activities. But while many businesses know they need help, many don’t know who to turn to, to get that help.
Augmenting Your Marketing Team: Managed Services or Agency Support?
What exactly is the best way to help your marketing team manage the ever-growing list of responsibilities on their plate? Unless you plan to expand the team by hiring for new roles (which is not an option for many businesses), you need to augment your team with external resources.
In this case, there are typically two options:
- Managed services from your technology partner
- Support from a third party agency
With managed services, your technology partner (for instance, your marketing automation platform provider) will help you manage activities associated with the technology. In the case of marketing automation, this can include building landing pages and emails, running A/B tests, creating lead scoring profiles and more. These are activities that are important to executing on your strategy and must get done, but they often take up a lot of time for your team and end up pulling key resources away from more strategic efforts as a result.
A third party agency offers something quite different. While these agencies may take on some martech management responsibilities, they typically come in with the main purpose of developing and managing marketing campaigns. This campaign management means the agency steps in to build the strategy for a campaign and then execute on it, all with input from your team.
You can think of the difference between managed services to help with martech management and agency support to help with marketing campaigns like building a house. When you enlist your martech partner for managed services, you build the blueprint for the house and design all the rooms inside, and your technology partner comes in to help build the house based on your plans and offer advice along the way. When you work with an agency, the agency will build the blueprint and design the rooms inside the house to your specifications and then go build the house based on those plans and with support from your team as needed.
The Pros, Cons and Costs of Augmenting Your Marketing Team with Managed Services vs. Agency Support
Once you understand your options for augmenting your marketing team, it’s time to determine which is best for your business based on what you get and the costs of each.
Managed Services from Your Technology Partner
When you go directly to your technology partner for help managing the technology, you expand on an existing relationship with a known company.
You get access to a partner who knows every nook and cranny of the technology you use, including any unique configurations you have and what the product development roadmap looks like. This knowledge allows that partner to help you use the technology in the best possible way to achieve your marketing goals.
The pros, cons and costs of this option include:
- You will work with a team that has exclusive insight into the technology’s product roadmap, which means you may get previews into what’s coming and even have the opportunity to influence new capabilities
- You’re able to offload the more task-oriented, nuts and bolts responsibilities while keeping the more strategic and creative requirements in house (while still leaning on your partner for advice as needed)
- You gain access to a partner that can help you get the most out of your existing technology investment and potentially increase your ROI
- You don’t need to go through an additional vetting process since you already have a relationship with the partner
- You don’t add any new voices to the mix for high level strategy ideas
When enlisting your technology partner for managed services, you typically pay an hourly rate. This rate may differ depending on whether or not you go without a contract (meaning you can stop and start at any time) or sign a short term or long term contract. Because you are paying for hours, you can split the resources you gain however you want across different needs within the platform.
In addition to these hard costs, there are several soft costs to consider. In this case, the soft costs are actually savings, as you don’t need to spend time and resources searching for and vetting partners or managing another partner relationship. Furthermore, if you start with managed services immediately after you implement the technology, you will typically see ROI faster because you have pros executing in the platform from day one, which lessens the learning curve for your team.
Support from a Third Party Agency
If you contract with a third party agency, you establish a new relationship with a new partner. This new partner typically comes in on a per project basis, takes some time to understand your goals and what you’ve done to date and then steps in to offer new strategy and campaign ideas. With your team’s input and approval, the agency will then execute on those ideas.
The pros, cons and costs of this option include:
- Access to a new point of view, and adding diversity to the mix can often bring more ideas to the table
- The ability to offload strategy development should your team need a fresh or more experienced resource
- As the agency takes on the campaign strategy and development, your team is often left with the task-oriented, nuts and bolts setup to make sure all of your in-house systems are properly configured to support the campaign requirements
- You need to go through the process of searching for, vetting and onboarding a new partner and then have yet another partner relationship to manage
Agencies typically charge by the project, which is very different than the managed services model that technology providers tend to offer. Whereas a managed services hourly rate can cover any activities across whatever projects or campaigns you want, dollars paid to a marketing agency will only go to the projects or campaigns for which you contracted. This distinction might seem small, but it can make a big difference when coordinating what your team needs to do in-house and what you will outsource.
Beyond these hard costs, working with a third party agency also comes with soft costs. In this situation, you need to factor in the cost that will come from devoting time and resources to searching for and vetting agencies as well as managing the additional partner relationship.
Making the Best Decision for Your Business
So when it comes to augmenting your marketing team, what’s the best way to go? It depends on whether you want to keep the more strategic and creative activities in house and outsource the nuts and bolts activities like building an email or setting up an A/B test or whether you want a partner to come in and develop an entire strategic campaign for which your team simply provides the nuts and bolts activities.
At the end of the day, there is no right or wrong answer because every business and team is unique, but it’s important to weigh the pros, cons and costs to see what makes the most sense for your needs.