Hire or Outsource: What’s the Best Way to Build a Demand Generation Engine? | Episode 23

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You made the business case with company leaders and got the green light and budget to establish a demand generation program. Nice work!

Now, how do you staff up and get the skills you need to move forward? The all-important answer is … it depends.

In this episode, we have a plethora of possibilities to help you determine what’s best for your situation. Hear how we help our clients think through this very question and the perspectives we provide to help them make informed decisions.

[00:00] Show intro

[01:08] It depends on budget, timeframe, and skills needed

[02:04] Core competencies of a demand generation marketer

[03:51] Finding everything in one person is like finding a unicorn

[05:53] Considerations: Combo agency/in-house, in-house only, agency-only

[09:54] When to hire in-house

[11:49] When to outsource to an agency

[19:36] How fast do you want to build your demand generation engine?

[23:04] How to work efficiently with an agency

[27:51] Key takeaway

[28:42] Outro

Hey everybody, it’s Jenni from GrowthMode Marketing. You are listening to The Demand Gen Fix, the podcast where our team of GrowthModers and our guests discuss the ins and outs of demand generation and why we believe it’s the key to long-term sustainable growth, especially in the HR tech industry.
Hey everybody, welcome back to The Demand Gen Fix. We’re super excited to have a new GrowthModer with us today. He’s not actually a new GrowthModer, but he’s new to the podcast. Welcome, Greg, to the discussion today. We’re going to talk about something that we get asked about a lot because being an agency, people are wondering whether or not they should outsource their work or whether they should just go ahead and hire somebody internally to take that work on. There are a lot of things to think about and the short answer to that question is, it really depends. It’s a long discussion that we can have to come back to the short answer, it depends. There are three main components to the things that you should think about when you’re going to decide whether or not you should hire somebody.
And that’s what’s your budget? What’s your timeframe and what kind skills do you need for the work that you need done? We’ll just go ahead and jump right into it to talk about when it’s a good time to engage an agency or when it’s a good time to hire somebody internally. I think the three points that you brought up about the budget, the timeframe, and the skillset needed are absolutely factors to evaluate. Which option is best for you? I think a good place to start is looking at what are the core competencies, so that skillset piece that is needed to build out a demand generation engine. There are three main things to think about. First being strategy. You need someone who can build out your ideal customer profile, your unique point of view story framework, your content marketing and demand generation plan.
But you’ll also need that person to be able to build out the actual content strategies and the campaign strategies as well. Then I think you need to look at the content development, and that is both copywriting and graphic design. That’s not necessarily the same as the strategy piece because for example, it’s not very often you’re going to have your graphic designer going and creating your unique point of view story framework. Maybe the strategy person is also a copywriter, but you’ve got to think about those things as you’re thinking about a skillset standpoint. And then the third piece of the puzzle, is campaign execution. There’s a lot of specialization that goes into this. You need someone who’s fluent in marketing technology stack and marketing automation and digital advertising. So building out campaigns online through the different channels that you can advertise and do sponsored content through website development. You’ve got the social media piece, you’ve got the media and PR piece. So I think as you look at the skillsets, you’ve really got to think, is this one person I’m looking to hire who can do everything, which quite frankly is a unicorn or is it multiple skill sets? And you either need to hire multiple people or you need to outsource to an agency that has those skill sets so that you can cover the breadth of what you need for a demand generation engine.
Yeah, there’s a lot of pieces in there, right? You couldn’t even actually hire a marketing generalist that could do every single one of those things because the wires get crossed a little bit, right? Between this skill and that skill.
And when you do find somebody that can do it all, it’s like getting that jack of all trades but master of none. Most likely they dabble in stuff, but they’re not truly expert in any of them, or maybe just one or two of the different areas. There’s no way that one person could handle all of those things. I’d love to meet that person if there is.
Right. You know, in a lot of companies they want to find that unicorn who can do everything, and certainly to your point, Jenni, there are those generalists who are jacks of all trades, but they can’t likely go deep enough into things to expect them to be able to do. Every single step in every single skillset is probably not realistic. I think if you’re going to look at, I need a demand generation expert or specialist, I would focus on, okay, they need to be good at strategy, but know that they’re likely going to need additional support to build out and execute on those programs.
Yeah. One thing we didn’t actually talk about yet is the analytics part of it. You’re doing all of this work, so you also need somebody that has that background or way to look at things. You’ll launch a campaign and then six months later you want to adjust it, right? You have to be able to look at it and say, hold on, this part isn’t working. How can we tweak this? So that’s something else to consider too in your unicorn.
If you don’t already have some of these on the team, either you need to hire a bigger team, or you need to look at outsourcing at least some of the work to build out your demand generation engine.
We’re not saying that you have to have an agency do everything or hire for everything. There’re obviously different ways to mix things up so that it’s not all or nothing.
Right. And there are different models if you are going to work with that agency.
We have some clients where we work on the strategy for them and they do the execution, and then we have other clients that are more the flip side of that and they have other clients where we do a lot of it, almost all of it for them. So, it just depends on what skills you already have or that you hired and then filling in those buckets with outsource.
Yeah, those are good points. Let’s dig a little deeper into that. One model is internal strategy, meaning your internal team does the strategy and then you use an agency to do the execution work. So that internal strategy, external execution, we build out content assets and campaigns and manage deployment of the tactics and do the analytics, but we’re getting the direction from the client who says, I’ve built out my ideal customer profile, I’ve defined my unique point of view in the market. I’ve built the plan and the blueprint for how we’re going to do this, but I don’t have the ability internally to develop and build out all of the tools and tactics. Now this is where we need help.
And on that flip side, like Greg was saying, we do have clients that are basically the other way around in which they have the people to do the tactical work, but they don’t have the expertise to do the strategy. So, they’ll come to us for the strategic thinking and building their ideal customer profile and all of that stuff. And then we pass it along to them and then they’re able to execute and just like follow the plan and get everything out there.
Right. And I think we actually see more of that where they feel like we don’t know how to build the strategy, we have the strategy, we need the tactical execution, or we see the full outsource, which is our agency is going to serve, basically is the outsource marketing department. And we’re going to develop the strategy, we’re going to build the content assets and execute and manage those campaigns for the organization because they’re not at a point where they’ve decided we’re ready to build out our team internally and we come in and we build the foundation for them right?
Then when they do hire somebody, they have that foundation to roll out with. As the company grows and they can hire people, it’s already started, right? It’s not like, oh, here, you’re a new marketing person, make marketing for us. We don’t have anything. Right? At least we already got started for them and the ball’s already rolling.
If you’re hiring a marketing individual, let’s say you’re hiring a demand generation strategy role like a director of demand generation or a director of marketing. It’s nice as the new hire to have some of the foundational things figure out because they’ll feel like they can make an impact on the bottom line for the company sooner versus coming in and starting from scratch and being like, oh, hold up. I know you want leads and I know you want them yesterday, but guess what? I have to build out your unique point of view story and we need to define our ideal customer profile and I need to build the strategy. And by the way, this is going to take a few months before we ever get to the tactical items. It’s certainly something to think about as you look at should I hire, or should I outsource? Is where are you at with the marketing that you have today and that you’re building out?
I think that’s a good segue to jump right into what the topic is here. We’re going to talk through the different reasons that you should think about actually hiring into your organization. What kind of work do you need to accomplish if you want to hire?
If you’re going to hire somebody, you probably want to have that strategic person, if you want somebody to be there around the organization and really dig into it and really get to know it and live it, then you probably would want to hire somebody to do that. Long term goal, keep that person around. And then that would be like foundational person that helps to sell the demand gen internally and track down the subject matter experts and try to develop that content and strategy.
I think if your organization is complex and multi-layered, you might require deep internal knowledge of your company’s structure and alignment among multiple audiences. And it’s a lot harder for us as your agency who doesn’t work inside of the organization and doesn’t have all of the contacts within your organization sometimes to hunt down that information. And so if that is the case, it may make sense to have a person within your organization who can do that, who knows who to go to within the different departments and the different layers of the organization to get all the information that’s required.
Yeah. If you have to spend a really long time getting your agency up to speed, it can be really frustrating. Because the whole reason to engage an agency is to get going. So that makes sense there too. And I think Greg kind of alluded to that a little bit earlier. And then of course, the cadence of work that you have too. If you know you have a large consistent need that requires a specific skillset set, like for instance, graphic design, if you know you’re constantly going to have graphic design work throughout the year, every month you’re doing social media post, then it makes sense to have somebody on staff for that too, rather than going to an agency or a contract position.
I think on the flip side where you should look at outsourcing instead of hiring one, if you want to quickly inject strategic expertise to drive more immediate growth, because it takes a while to hire somebody, it takes a while to train them and get them up to speed. In those instances, if you bring an agency on, instead of it taking a few months to hire, you can trim that time down significantly because we’re used to coming in and part of our job is quickly digging in and learning an organization. We kind of have that mindset. I think also if your organization’s leadership needs will change as your company grows, meaning you may look at it and say, you know what? I think someday we’re going to need a CMO or we’re going to need a vice president of marketing, we’re not there yet.
That’s going to influence the type of person you hire. And if it doesn’t make sense for your first hire to not be one of those individuals, then I think outsourcing to an agency is the right thing to do at that time. Because you don’t want to bring in an employee and then find out this is not actually the first employee that we need, but you also don’t want to bring in a CMO or a VP of Marketing if you’re just not ready for them to take on a full-time role within your organization. I also think if you want to inject a fresh perspective into your marketing effort, agencies can come in and, and we see this all the time coming in from the outside, a lot of times it’s easier for us to see or spot things and kind of understand them, flag them, then it is for individuals that are in the day to day and running.
Even if you have a CMO level or a VP or director level who’s come in to think strategically, they get tapped with so many fires get pulled in different directions. The sales team is excited to have a marketing person and they guarantee you almost every day one of the sales reps is, if not more, are coming to them and saying I have an idea, we need this, we need this. And then the CEO will come out and be like, Hey, have we thought about doing this? And it’s really hard when you’re trying to build out your demand generation engine in, in fact we call it random acts of marketing where you lose focus because you’re living in that day-to-day. And so, if you don’t think that a hire would have the ability to remain laser focused and not get pulled in 532 different directions, then I think it makes sense to hire an agency right now versus hiring someone to build out the demand generation engine.
When you bring in outside expertise, we work with a bunch of different clients in similar areas, but slightly different areas. So we can say, well we see this, this is working over here and that’s working over there. We bring in some different ideas that if you’re on the client side and you’re in your office all day dealing with those fires, you don’t necessarily have time to go research and look up to what’s the competition doing, what are they doing in this, in the space that I’m in? So, we can bring in some of that information too and help shape the programs.
Yeah, that’s an excellent point. I mean, just by the nature of our business, because we get to test and, and see how things work with different organizations, we can see trends. When you’re in the organization, you don’t have anyone to compare yourself to. We’ve had prospects come to us who are like, I am investing a ton of digital advertising and my landing pages are getting great traffic, but they’re not converting. Maybe I need to spend more, maybe I need to change up the landing page. I can’t figure this out. And we can come in and we can say, well you know what, we’ve been seeing this across the board. If you’re gating the content, the conversion rates have gone down significantly for everybody. And that may be the problem here is you’re actually putting a form in front of the content you’re trying to share and that person’s not ready for that. So let’s rethink how you’re putting your content out there and your landing pages. And if you’re internal, you don’t have anyone to say, here’s what I’m seeing in the market. You don’t know. Right? You don’t know what you don’t know. And so that fresh perspective can absolutely be beneficial.
And then of course if you should outsource, it goes back to your budget. If you need a specific expertise and either you don’t have enough work to keep that person full-time or you don’t have the budget to hire that person full-time, then I guess it’s a no brainer that you would just hire an agency to take over those kinds of one-off projects, things like that.
Let’s take graphic design for an example. You might not be ready for a full-time graphic designer. You’re not going to go out and invest in that person and then have them sit there with nothing to do. So therefore, that’s where it’s like, do you have enough work for that specific skillset? And if you don’t, that’s where agencies are nice to work with because they have all the skillsets. They only apply what’s needed to the project versus you paying for a full-time person for that specific skillset that’s sitting there waiting for work to do.
That also ties into the cadence of the work. If you need somebody every day, a graphic designer for instance, then hire a graphic designer. Because that makes sense. If you seriously know that you’re going to be using that person all the time for a foreseeable long-term future.
The long term is key to call out here because you might be like, oh my gosh, we need a ton of copywriting and design right now, but if three months down the road, six months down the road the project is over and you don’t have that full-time need anymore, now you have to make a tough decision to let a person go or figure out what else they can do from a capability standpoint to continue to justify keeping them on staff.
There’s the peaks and valleys, right? There’s busy times and slow times and even with with marketing and building out campaigns and you have to let them run for a little bit so you can go back and then see what you need to adjust to enhance it. So, if you don’t have work for the person you hire to, to be working in those kinds of lulls, it doesn’t make sense necessary to hire somebody. Because there’s a natural rhythm like lots of B2B organizations, do events and trade shows and things like that and those sort of have a cycle too. So, you have to think of those things along with your gen campaigns and programs. Figure out what those highs and lows are so that you know, somebody really going to be busy enough to be a full-time hire.
And some of these companies just need the flexibility to turn marketing support on and off with those highs and lows and those peaks and valleys, it doesn’t make sense to have a full-time employee year-round if half the time they’re just sitting on their butt, and the other half of the time they’re so busy that they can’t even see straight. You have to think about those things and, if your company needs a lot of flexibility like that, it makes more sense for sure to hire to hire an agency to help you with that kind of stuff.
Yeah. So I think that’s a great segue to maybe the last thing I would say about whether to think about you should hire or bring in an agency and that is how fast do you want to build your demand generation engine and get traction? So, let’s say you find that unicorn who can do all of the different things, it’s going to take them time to build that strategy, to copyright, to design, to build the webpages, to build the campaigns, all of those pieces. So, you’ve got to ask your que self, you know, if I’m going to hire, can the work wait, meaning I have adequate time to hire this person to train them and then have them work through all of the pieces? If that answer is yes, hiring someone might be a great option also, if the work is not mission critical, so delaying it won’t negatively impact your bottom line.
And now I say this, with hesitation because if you are doing a demand generation engine, you’re going to wish you did it two years ago. And so, to say it’s not mission critical, you better be in good shape. There better be really good demand on the market already and really good brand awareness for your company and not a lot of competition if that’s going to be a factor. But sometimes, you know, rarely, but sometimes that actually is the case for an organization. And if that is the case, I think you could get away with hiring instead of outsourcing because you have more time to build out and make it work.
But then you also have to think about, like you were saying, you have to train that person and everything. There’s so much more even to hiring somebody, not just the training, think of how much time it takes just to hire somebody. How many interviews do you have? The whole hiring process takes so long these days, you have three or four interviews before you are even in the consideration section of the process. If that could take months, you really can’t afford to put everything off until you have somebody on board. So even if it was to hire an agency in the time being while you’re looking for somebody or while you’re in that hiring process just to at least get things going, it probably makes sense.
Right? Because you might not be able to hire additional staff to support the immediate needs fast enough. It makes sense to outsource or maybe you’re even struggling to find the right resource to hire. I mean, with the market that it’s way, it’s been the last year or two where there’s not enough employees to fill the need. I think there are organizations that are finding it’s taking significantly longer to find the right person to fill the role than it has in the past. And that’s lost time from a marketing standpoint where you could have had a demand generation engine built out and running. If you have concerns that that may happen or you’re experiencing it, I think it’s time to look at how do we pull an agency in who can start relatively quickly in comparison to, you know, trying to hire. And then to your point, Jenni, when you find that right hiring, you bring them in, they can start to work with that and help continue to build out that foundation.
Yeah, one of the things we’ve seen happen too is if the internal team gets too bogged down and tactical things or putting out fires or things like then the marketing person gets sucked into that as well. The actual demand gen work doesn’t get done. Having an outside third party, like an agency kind of helps, can help to break through that sometimes. And you’re not stuck in day business, but come in and have a different view like we were talking about before. So, it’s good to outsource if you get a lot of that complication internally where things don’t move quickly enough because everybody’s busy with day-to-day stuff.
Let’s say you ultimately weigh the pros and cons of each and decide as of right now, our best option to move forward for building out our demand generation engine is to work with an agency like GrowthMode Marketing who has the expertise in the HR technology industry. There are some things you should take into consideration when working with an agency and Greg, I’ll let you talk about that because as an account director here at GrowthMode, you see firsthand day to day as we onboard clients where some of the like hiccups happen in the beginning as you’re bringing on a new agency on board.
You know, one of the main things, especially with my role as an account director, you’re the main day-to-day person. The client knows they need to get something done they don’t have to call three different people to try and get it done. They don’t have to say, I need this copy and I need this design to look like this and I need to just call one person, say, I want this thing, and then it’s part of my job to organize the troops on my side to get that thing done for the client. So having that one person to talk to helps a lot of times.
And don’t you feel that vice versa, the client having a one point like a point person for you to talk to is helpful as well?
That makes a huge difference because it’s the same thing on the flip side, right? If I have to chase down the subject matter expert and the VP of sales and the programmer for the SaaS product to get an answer, to create a blog post, that’s not very efficient, right? So, it’s actually wasting the client’s money because we’re spinning our wheels where if we had just one person to talk to. It’s same both ways. So definitely having one contact person helps a lot.
We do run into that from time to time with organizations and they think it’s something that companies who don’t have a marketing department or don’t have a marketing person realize or understand coming into an agency, they think I’m going to pull this agency and they’re going to be my fully outsourced marketing department. I’m just going to say run, and they’re going to go with it. That’s so much easier said than done from our experience. Of course we work with companies if that’s where they’re at, but without having that one designated point person at their organization, we have challenges with like, who’s the decision maker who may has the final say on whether this is approved, whether the content topics that we’ve selected are the right ones, whether we’re going to move forward with a new project piece that requires additional budget. And so from time to time we’ll be talking to someone and they’ll be like, ah, I got to check with so-and-so, and you ask that person, they’re like, well, no, check with them.
And it’s a bit of a runaround and it actually means we can’t get as much done for you because a lot of our time is being chasing down the answers and trying to pinpoint somebody to make the decision on things, or we’re chasing down reviews and you’re getting direction from three different people and they’re all giving you different direction, right? Whereas if you have that one point person, they’re working on the client side and they’re saying, okay, I need everyone’s feedback. I’m going to incorporate it all into one to give to our agency. Here’s our decision on this, here’s what’s approved, here’s what needs to be edited. Like, it just makes it a better process for both sides. I don’t think organizations that come in with an agency are always prepared or understand like why we need one point of person. So I think that’s really important to, to just know if you’re hiring someone, you know, sometimes what it comes down to is they’re like, I’m just going to hire a marketing coordinator on our side just to manage the agency because they start to see, yep, we do everything that we can to minimize the amount of ask and work that we’re creating for your team.
But we can’t completely minimize it. There are going to be decisions that have to be made by the client and information gathered. We don’t have everything we need right upfront all the time. We’ll need you to gather information, figure out what kinds of things will be helpful for us so that we can do the best for you. The key takeaway from this discussion, which we alluded to at the very beginning is that you need to look at your organization where you’re at. You need to decide what’s realistic, evaluate whether you have the budget to hire somebody or if it’s better for you to just outsource to an agency. And as we said, it depends on many factors. And so the short answer is it depends.
You really have to think through a lot of things in order to decide what’s the best thing for you. If you’re on the fence and you’re not sure, give us a call. We’ll have the conversation with you. You know, we’re always honest with people. If it looks like a hire is a better option, you’ll probably end up talking to me. I will tell you, I think you should think about hiring someone before outsourcing it because you are not ready to work with an agency or it’s not cost effective to work with an agency. On the flip side, I’ll be honest with you and tell you if you would be better off focusing those dollars on bringing an agency in right now and building up that foundation so that we can help you get to a point where you’re ready to start hiring out your marketing team.
Thanks for joining us on The Demand Gen Fix, a podcast for HR tech marketers brought to you by GrowthMode Marketing. We sure hope you enjoyed it. Don’t forget to subscribe from more perspectives on demand generation and B2B marketing strategies. Plus give us a like, tell your friends, we’ll see you next time.

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