Hiring a Marketing Agency vs. Hiring Marketing Operations

Hiring a Marketing Agency vs. Hiring Marketing Operations
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    Have you hired a marketing agency only to find out they don’t take care of marketing operations too? When you hire someone to do marketing, it is easy to assume they’re going to take care of all of it, right? But hiring marketing operations is sometimes different from hiring a marketing agency.

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    Correlations to Other Business Areas

    It may seem as if a marketing agency should be able to solve all your marketing challenges—even marketing operations. But is that true of other areas of your business? For instance, bookkeepers don’t do taxes, although both tasks are considered accounting, while some CPAs handle both.

    Sales is another area where there are several types of activities needed, from lead generation and inbound sales to outside salespeople and direct salespeople, so it isn’t much of a surprise that the same is true with marketing.

    When traditional marketing agencies do need to add technology or use a new piece of software, you, the client, are usually on the hook for getting it and owning it. From purchase to set up, or wrangling the IT department to handle this process, it becomes complex, and can be a stumbling block for getting things done.

    The Subtleties of Marketing

    Marketing isn’t marketing isn’t marketing. Just like finance and sales, marketing isn’t just one thing. Marketing operations and the digital side of the technologies employed are likely outside the scope of what traditional marketing agencies can and will handle for you. Of course, the point of hiring anyone in your business is to accelerate your ability to get from here to where you want to go. Does that mean you need to consider hiring marketing operations?

    If you need more information about the types of people you should be hiring, and how the expectation is that they’ll get you from here to there, check out our “Working with Experts,” podcast series from season two of Leverage your Spark, which covers these details.

    Some marketing agencies can be very broad, while others can be more specialized. Marketing agencies may be able to provide everything from strategy through branding, graphics to media buying, or pay-per-click ads, PR, and on and on. Because they can provide so many areas of service, nailing down responsibility for technology and automation is where things can get sticky with marketing agencies.

    Because technology and digital pieces are so new, terminology and expectations are still being sorted out and determinations being made about who handles what between a marketing agency and their clients.

    Bottom Line: Should You Be Hiring Marketing Operations?

    All this information is great to know, but what should you do with that knowledge? First, like all the rest of the alternatives we’ve talked about, understanding how, when, and where you’re going to use the marketing agency you’ve hired is critical to making sure that they’re effective in their role.

    Also, because marketing operations, digital marketing, and marketing agencies are sort of a mash-up at this point, you will want to get very clear about what expertise your marketing agency is bringing, what they’re not bringing, and what they expect you to be responsible for.

    The other piece here is to figure out what you want your team to be responsible for and what areas of expertise your team has. Because, by and large, marketing operations is a gap in most marketing teams, and unless there’s been some sort of event that was the catalyst, it remains a skills gap.

    Once you’re clear on your team’s role and the marketing agency’s role, you can then discern what might be falling in the marketing operations area or identify those tasks and systems that have no owners. That’s when you can determine if hiring marketing operations is the way to proceed.

    The Issue in Real Life

    Many teams we’ve encountered had someone come in to set up a technology system or marketing automation tool, such as HubSpot, Salesforce, or ActiveCampaign. Then that resource left, and the organization had a system that they used, but they weren’t sure how it was set up, nor could they replicate the setup, and they certainly couldn’t fix it when it inevitably broke. In these cases, a marketing agency will be relying on the client to give them information on the existing system and own any fixes, changes or improvements needed to maximize the benefit of the work they are doing.

    Pro tip here: If an employee or external agency set up or on-boarded software for you, ensure they provide clear documentation and a user’s guide on how this tool is set up so that you can continue to use it (and if you don’t have this yet, now is a great time to get it created).

    Putting Everything in Its Place

    The payoff in delineating between your team, a marketing agency, and marketing operations roles is that you will have clarity and be able to set expectations on what everyone is handling. You’ll also be able to get in front of implementations, fixes, and potential issues of scale before they become a problem for the organization moving toward its big revenue and growth goals. And with that knowledge, you’ll know if hiring a marketing agency and/or hiring marketing operations is the right choice for you.

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    In the next episode, we’ll wrap up the conversation about alternatives to marketing operations teams by discussing the option of hiring internally.

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