There was once a time when marketing for professional services was all about who you knew. Your business might have relied heavily on personal relationships, referrals, networking and events. But these days, it’s less who you know, and more what you know.
Now that everyone is armed with a computer and a smartphone, the first thing they do before they even consider hiring a professional service firm is go online to do some research around how to solve their problem.
This is why content marketing is more crucial than ever: by providing valuable information for free, you develop trust with potential buyers and establish yourself as an authority in your field.
This is especially important if your clients typically have extended and/or large contracts with your firm – people really want to feel confident that you’re the right company for the job.
Now, if there’s one thing professional service firms have in abundance, it’s expertise in your subject area.
But what you don’t have so much of is time – after all, your experts are busy trying to bring money into the firm, and probably don’t want to commit too many of their hours to creating content, when these hours would otherwise be billable.
Your marketing skill set might feel like there are some gaps in it, too. Content marketing has taken off in such a big way that, in order to compete effectively in this space, you need to have a team of researchers, strategists, designers, data analysts, creative writers and PR specialists.
The bad news is you probably don’t have a million dollars lying around to assemble such a team. The good news is teams like this already exist – they’re called marketing agencies, and outsourcing your marketing to one is a great and affordable way to get those teams of experts working for you.
Still not quite convinced? Let’s go through the pros and cons.
In-house vs. outsourced marketing: pros and cons
- They’re experts in your industry: An in-house marketer is likely much more in tune with the nuances and latest movements of your specific industry than a marketing agency would be. However, they are probably less likely to also be up to date with what’s going on in the world of marketing too.
- They’re more available: An in-house marketer is on-hand all the time, and they have easy access to key decision makers, whereas an agency will be splitting their time between several clients.
- They’re cheaper: Well, maybe. While agencies will likely have a higher hourly cost than an in-house marketer, that marketer is a fixed overhead cost, which might include training, benefits, annual leave, etc. … When you hire an agency, you only pay for what you need, and if you’re focused on getting the most out of your agency, you can really get dividends in return.
- Their skills are limited: It’s unreasonable to expect one person, or even a team of two or three people, to possess all the skills that are necessary to run a well-oiled content marketing campaign. Odds are you will either have a team of generalists, who might have a broad but shallow knowledge about marketing, or you’ll have a team of specialists, with a few holes that need to be filled.
- They’re harder to get rid of: It can sometimes be difficult to get rid of staff if they’re not fulfilling their objectives. With an agency, you can start with a small project to test them out, and move on to bigger projects once they’ve proven themselves.
- They’re strategic and tactical marketing experts: When you hire a marketing agency, you get a marketing skill set that covers all the areas that are vital to top-notch content marketing: strategy, SEO, content writing, pay-per-click (PPC), social media, design, PR and more. They also stay on top of all the latest trends and technologies, helping you stay ahead of the curve.
- They’re accountable: While it was once quite difficult to pin down marketing’s worth to a business, with analytics and marketing automation tools, it is now much easier to set and track performance metrics. Your marketing agency can therefore be accountable for their results, which should be music to the ears of anyone who cares about their bottom line.
- They provide long-term worth to the company: A good marketing agency can provide training and mentorship to in-house marketers, and build a marketing platform that can be maintained even after the agency is no longer with the company.
- They can damage internal morale: It’s natural for an in-house marketing team to perhaps feel a little threatened when an agency is brought on board. However, any agency worth its salt knows that the best work happens when a marketing agency and in-house marketing team collaborate.
- They’re not there 100% of the time: On the one hand, an agency will not be able to devote all their time to you, and this lack of access is potentially going to be difficult to adjust to at first. On the other hand, your agency’s experience with other clients can be an added asset, as it means they can provide insight about what is working and what’s not at other businesses.
- There can be growing pains: A marketing agency brings in a whole new perspective, and they’re focused on driving results.They may therefore suggest implementing some big changes, which can be challenging and even overwhelming at first, particularly with an already hectic workload. Their accountability, however, means you can see first-hand if these new measures are paying off – and odds are they will.
So how do you choose a marketing agency for your professional services firm?
Hopefully you’re now thoroughly convinced about how much value a marketing agency can bring to your business. This is, of course, assuming the marketing agency is a good fit for your business, as bringing on the wrong one could potentially be detrimental. So how do you go about choosing the right one?
Here are a few things to consider:
- Are they b2b specialists? This is a must, as b2c marketing is an entirely different beast to b2b, and you want an agency that is going to understand how your business operates.
- Do they walk the walk? Scope out the agency’s website and social media – are they providing valuable content? Are they engaging with their target audience? In short, are they doing for themselves what you want them to do for you?
- What have they done for their clients? A good place to start is the agency’s case studies. Have they worked with clients in your industry, or with challenges similar to yours? What kind of results were they able to deliver?
These questions may serve as a useful starting point; however, if you’re truly serious about employing a marketing agency, then we highly recommend you check out our 7-step checklist to choosing your inbound agency. Download it now!
Brand chemistry is a b2b marketing agency winning your customers' hearts and minds through inbound, brand, content, lead generation and digital strategy. Our marketing specialists achieve stellar results with the latest lead generation techniques.