Marketing describes a wide range of strategies for making your product more visible and appealing to potential customers. It includes creating a brand and voice for your business, and managing the way your business shows up online and offline. In this article, we’ll help you understand the basics of marketing and how to decide what type of marketing is best for your business.

Why do you need marketing?

In this day and age you simply can’t get by without good marketing. You already have marketing, whether it is intentional or not. But building a stronger marketing strategy can exponentially affect your business success. You need good marketing to better understand your customers, create and adjust your product accordingly, and to reach your customers wherever they may be.

“The aim of marketing is to know and understand the customer so well the product or service fits him and sells itself.”

Peter F. Drucker

Marketing isn’t just about creating an online presence or increasing sales. Marketing is about pinpointing exactly what your product is and how it meets the needs of customers. Marketing helps you focus on what works for your company and creates a strong connection between you and your customers. 

The 4 P’s of marketing:

  • Product: What do you sell? Why? How does it meet customer needs?
  • Pricing: How will customers acquire your product? Payment could be money, time, or exchange of information. 
  • Place: Where do you sell this product? Do you have a location? What region do you target? Which online forums can be accessed for sales (website, social media, advertisements)?
  • Promotion: How will you share your product? Consider print, email, internet ads, and more. 

Your marketing will “mix” these four elements to find the right balance for your business, which may change over time. 

What type of marketing do you need?

Strategies for marketing your business are ever-changing, and there is no one-size-fits-all. In fact, a good marketing strategy may change from month to month depending on the growth of your company and the market environment. As a business leader you will need to carefully consider and test different types of marketing to see what works best for your needs. 

Types of marketing

The internet has changed everything, including marketing. “Traditional” marketing focuses on print, radio, tv, storefront, and in-store marketing efforts. “Digital” marketing covers all online marketing efforts from email to social media to advertising. 

  • Branding: creating an identity and core values for your business
  • Advertising: how you get your product in front of customers
  • Social media: advertising and online presence through social channels (Facebook, LinkedIn, TikTok, etc.)
  • Email: campaigns to help convert customers and provide valuable content
  • Search marketing: search engine optimization and PPC to appear on search engine results
  • Market research: understanding your customer and their needs

Only you know what your marketing needs may be, and your needs are largely contingent on your company size and target demographics. However, no matter your specific needs, you need marketing. 

So the million dollar question becomes: is in-house or agency marketing better for my business?

When to go with a marketing agency or keep it in-house

Agency marketing

Agency marketing is hiring a third party to handle all of your business marketing. Marketing agencies exist worldwide, some with particular expertise in a field (internet, video, print) or within an industry (dentists, music). Agencies vary in size, but usually have access to an entire team of experts to manage all of your marketing affairs. 

Finding a trustworthy and skilled marketing agency can completely take the time-consuming work of marketing off your plate. It takes time and communication to develop that relationship, but once a marketing agency understands your brand and mission they can take the reins and issue all marketing on your behalf. 

Best for

  • Large projects or one-time events, such as a major rebrand or acquisition. 
  • Large and international businesses, as the connections available to agencies expand their reach. 
  • Highly technical marketing needs, such as specific video media content which would be costly to complete in-house. 

Cost

Cost will vary by agency and project, as some might offer hourly, monthly, or project-based rates. Generally, though, agency marketing is much more expensive than an in-house marketing team, especially for small or medium businesses. You can control your monthly advertising expenses by setting your agency budget and pulling back when necessary. 

Pros & cons of agency marketing

Pros Cons
Better access to resources Many clients
Effective & experienced Takes time to understand brand/mission
Creativity Less control over content
Well-connected High cost
Market awareness Asynchronous 
Takes work off your plate Conflicts of interest, opinion

If agency marketing sounds appealing, but you wonder about the cost or control, you might consider pricing out different agencies with small scale projects. For example, start by getting quotes for a specific service you’d like outsourced by an agency, such as a video commercial. 

In-house marketing

A more prevalent and economic option is to hire an in-house marketing team. This simply means hiring marketing professionals directly within your company and training them to work cohesively with your entire staff. Marketing teams can be created with specific goals and expertise in mind, and you can train employees to meet company needs. Hire a single marketing director for your small company or a large team of diversified skill sets for a growing business.  

In-house marketing teams have a smaller scope, which can create a disadvantage if your team doesn’t quickly learn and adapt to new marketing strategies. In-house marketing teams may be less likely to take risks or offer dissenting opinions to people they need to work with (or under) daily. Working on the marketing for the exact same product 24/7 has the advantage of implicit knowledge of your brand and messaging, but the disadvantage of growing repetitive and stale. 

Best for

  • Small or cash-strapped businesses
  • Simple and straightforward marketing strategies
  • Businesses desiring a high level of control over messaging

Cost

It is far more affordable to hire in-house marketing, at least until your marketing team grows large enough to start taking over the rest of your business. Businesses can create a budget for marketing and then hire as many individuals to meet their needs within that budget. 

Pros & cons of in-house marketing

Pros Cons
Creative control Limited experience
Implicit understand of brand identity Lack of resources
Flexibility Less exposure to various marketing strategies
Cost Creativity can grow stale
Responsiveness Unlikely to take necessary risks

Many small businesses and startups begin with a single marketing employee, or the marketing role is tacked onto the responsibilities of an existing employee. While this is common and reasonable for cash-strapped businesses, eventually you’ll need some specialized expertise. Contract or freelance marketing may be a good option if you want to expand your in-house team at a lower cost or for a specific skill such as content or graphic design. 

How to price marketing initiatives

A marketing initiative is simply a planned marketing effort. Your marketing plan will consist of a series of marketing initiatives. Your in-house marketing team can construct this marketing plan, or it might be developed and pitched to you if you work with a marketing agency. 

Once you have developed your marketing strategy (name recognition, click conversion, SEO-focused, etc.) you can begin working through marketing initiatives to achieve your overall marketing goals. Initiatives can be as small as updating your social media descriptions or as involved as a multi-pronged internet advertising campaign.

Low or no cost initiatives

If your budget is tight, there are still affordable marketing options for your business. 

Marketing audit: the first step should be carefully assessing your marketing efforts for the past year, at minimum. What have you done? What has worked? What have you targeted? This can be a nominal fee from an agency or just a few hours for your marketing team. 

Referral programs: take advantage of the business you’ve already won. Create a referral program to bring in new leads and more customers. 

Increase social media presence: create profiles on each platform and begin posting regularly. It might cost a few hours of your workers’ time or a small contracting fee, but it can begin attracting organic traffic. 

Utilize technology: there are free tools for automating your marketing on social media, email campaigns, advertising, and surveys.

Investment initiatives

For more serious marketing, you may need to invest in more expensive initiatives. 

Website: a significant investment for your business is creating a website that is clean, enticing, and meets your customers needs. Though there are free and cheap options, professional website creation can be a worthy investment, especially if you’re going to need maintenance and regular updating. 

Photo & video Content: creating videos for commercials and social media often requires specialty equipment and know-how. You can pay an agency or invest in the equipment and software for your marketing team. 

Graphic design: along with your media content, graphic design is critical for long term professional marketing. You can outsource for a small design project, such as a logo, or hire a design agency or in-house design team with a budget that indicates your priority.

Agency vs. In-house marketing is just one of many key business decisions that can change the trajectory of your business future. As with most business decisions, you need to take into account both budget and functional needs. Divvy makes your budgeting easy and functional with completely free software. Try Divvy out today with a free demo.

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