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Fueling your growth: in-house or marketing agency?

Do you know anyone who’s built a house entirely by themselves? And done a fantastic job with every part?

Me neither.

Although those people do exist, they are pretty darn rare. To have the fine skills to be an architect, a structural engineer, then lay a solid foundation, erect perfectly plumb stud walls, install flawless wallboard and plumbing, and not electrocute yourself or burn your new house down with faulty wiring… well, that’s pretty special. I live in a house renovated and expanded by the former owner, a general contractor, and I’m here to tell you, his personal wallboard, HVAC, and plumbing skills were pretty far south of flawless.

So when it comes to marketing, why do some company owners and managers try to do the work of 12 or more specialists with one or two people? Especially when the marketing plan of today requires immense technological expertise to go along with more traditional skills?

In ad school at UT Austin, we were told to select a specialty: account planning, research, media, or creative. If you selected creative, you were further told to choose between art direction and copywriting. (Why yes… yes, there is a four year degree available for the skill of writing “Just do it.” But why that makes sense is a topic for another day.)

To those specialties era MadMen to roughly year 2000, you can today add: website developer, app developer, e-commerce, Google Analytics, SEO, SEM, PPC, Google AdWords, blogging / content creator, Facebook, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Instagram, YouTube, and (you get the point).

How on earth is any one or two people going to be good at more than a handful of those, let alone great?

If you’re a company on the rise, and you’re thinking about bringing marketing (which includes web and social media development) in-house, here’s my advice:

Hire a great agency you trust, who has all those specialists to pull from. Then, have that agency report to the owner/manager, potentially with the help of an assistant. As you grow, hire a true marketing director (or promote the highly skilled marketing person you already have), and let them augment their skills by, again, working with a great marketing agency who can provide all the specialities your person doesn’t have.

12 specialists or 1-2 generalists.

Whom do you want building your marketing house and fueling your growth?

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