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Why Small Businesses and High-Growth Startups Should Delay Hiring Their First Marketing Employee and Partner With A Marketing as a Service (MaaS) Provider

As startups and small businesses scale and succeed, they face a pivotal decision: Should they hire an in-house marketing employee or partner with a traditional marketing agency? While having a dedicated staff member to spearhead awareness, lead generation, upsells, and retention might seem appealing, it often falls short of expectations. Partnering with an agency may provide some relief by building a strategy in some areas of the agency’s focus.

There’s a third option, though… Marketing As A Service (MaaS). Let’s dive into why small companies should delay their first marketing hire until a MaaS provider establishes a complete strategy.

The Allure of the First Marketing Employee

At first glance, bringing in a marketing employee might seem like a great idea. It grants the company an owner for building brand awareness and generating leads, someone who can fully focus on these crucial tasks. However, the reality often plays out differently. When a small company hires its first marketing employee, several challenges tend to emerge, as we explored earlier:

  • Overwork and Burnout: Marketing encompasses various tasks, from content creation and SEO to social media management and data analysis. One employee may become overworked and overwhelmed, leading to burnout and reduced productivity.
  • Lack of Diverse Expertise: Marketing requires a diverse skill set, including expertise in various channels and strategies. Can the employee record and edit the videos? Design your branding and associated materials. Build an integrated website? Write content and optimize your organic search presence. Track and optimize your marketing efforts. A single marketing employee rarely has the breadth of knowledge to effectively design and execute a comprehensive marketing plan. Companies require both a leader and a team to execute.
  • Inexperience with Rapid Changes: The digital marketing landscape evolves rapidly, with new trends and technologies emerging regularly. Employees may struggle to keep up with these changes, potentially leading to outdated strategies.
  • Inefficient Resource Allocation: Small companies often lack the budget to invest in premium marketing tools and resources. This limitation can severely hinder the effectiveness of marketing efforts, largely dependent on online efforts.

So, what’s the alternative for small companies looking to establish a robust marketing presence without the pitfalls of hiring their first marketing employee? It’s essential to take a step back and consider the full scope of your marketing strategy. MaaS providers can provide the appropriate solution.

Traditional Agencies vs. Marketing as a Service

Let’s differentiate between a traditional marketing agency and a MaaS provider, highlighting their respective focuses and capabilities:

Marketing Agency

  • Specialized Expertise: Traditional marketing agencies often specialize in specific mediums or channels, such as social media, SEO, content marketing, or pay-per-click advertising. They excel in their chosen areas of expertise.
  • Narrow Focus: These agencies tend to have a narrower focus, providing specialized services catering to a particular marketing aspect. Clients may need to hire multiple agencies to cover all their marketing needs.
  • Project-Based: Traditional agencies often work on a project-by-project basis or offer individual services. Clients typically engage them for specific campaigns or initiatives.
  • Customized Strategies: They create customized marketing strategies based on their specialized knowledge and experience in their chosen area. Clients may need to coordinate and integrate these strategies across different agencies.
  • Limited Scalability: Scaling marketing efforts across multiple mediums or channels may require managing multiple agency relationships, which can be complex and challenging.
  • Junior Staff: Traditional agencies often assign junior staff to manage your relationship and processes they repeat and apply to every client.

MaaS Provider

  • Omnichannel Expertise: MaaS providers offer a comprehensive range of marketing services that cover various mediums and channels. They aim to be a one-stop solution for all marketing needs.
  • Holistic Approach: MaaS providers take a holistic marketing approach, aligning and integrating marketing efforts across multiple channels to create a cohesive and effective strategy.
  • Subscription-Based: MaaS operates on a subscription or retainer model, providing ongoing marketing services and support. This ensures continuous and consistent marketing efforts.
  • Comprehensive Services: They offer a wide range of services, including strategy development, graphic design, campaign execution, content creation, social media management, SEO, PPC, email marketing, integration, development, and more.
  • Scalability: MaaS providers can scale marketing efforts up or down as needed, offering flexibility and adaptability to changing market conditions.
  • Data-Driven: They often emphasize data-driven marketing, using analytics and KPIs to measure the effectiveness of campaigns and make data-backed decisions.
  • Cost-Effective: MaaS can be cost-effective compared to hiring multiple specialized agencies or a full in-house marketing team. Clients benefit from having a unified marketing solution.
  • Strategic Experience: MaaS providers offer a workbench of experience from leaders, strategists, and project managers down to the subject matter experts necessary to build and execute your unique program.

For a small business or high-growth startup, agility and efficiency are often the name of the game. When achieving a solid return on investment (ROI), opting for a MaaS provider is a far more efficient way to maximize your marketing investment. Here are eight reasons why:

  1. Diverse Expertise for Comprehensive Strategies – MaaS providers are renowned for their diverse team of specialists. These teams include content creators, SEO experts, social media managers, designers, data analysts, and more. This diversity brings a broad spectrum of skills to the table, allowing agencies to craft comprehensive marketing strategies. Unlike hiring a single in-house employee, you gain access to a well-rounded pool of expertise, ensuring that your marketing efforts cover all the essential aspects.
  2. Collective Experience That Accelerates Results – MaaS providers boast extensive experience working with clients across various industries. This collective experience means they’ve encountered and successfully tackled various challenges and opportunities. This knowledge is invaluable and can be applied directly to your unique needs. In contrast, an in-house employee may have limited exposure to different marketing scenarios, potentially slowing down the learning curve.
  3. Access to Cutting-Edge Tools and Resources – Efficiency often hinges on the tools and resources at your disposal. Marketing agencies typically invest in top-tier marketing software and tools, which can be costly for individual businesses. These tools include analytics platforms, SEO software, and social media management tools. The beauty of this setup is that these resources are shared across multiple clients, resulting in reduced costs per client and significantly enhancing the efficiency of your marketing campaigns.
  4. Streamlined Operations and Cost-Efficiency – Hiring an in-house marketing employee involves more than their salary. You must also consider additional expenses, such as benefits, sick leave, vacation pay, employment taxes, office space, and equipment. On the other hand, MaaS providers come fully equipped and ready to work, eliminating the need for you to manage these overhead costs. This streamlined operation translates to cost-efficiency and a focus on getting results.
  5. Rapid Implementation of Strategies – Efficiency is all about getting things done swiftly. MaaS providers excel in this area because they have established processes, tools, and, most importantly, experience. They can rapidly implement strategies and solutions, accomplishing a substantial amount of work in a fraction of the time. This speed is crucial in the fast-paced world of digital marketing, where timely execution can make all the difference.
  6. Scalability and Adaptability – Business needs can fluctuate over time. With an in-house employee, you may encounter challenges during busy periods or face the complexities of layoffs during slower times. MaaS providers offer scalability, allowing you to adjust your marketing efforts up or down as needed without the HR hassles. Their adaptability ensures your campaigns remain efficient and effective in response to changing market dynamics.
  7. Accountability and Reporting for Transparency – Efficiency goes hand in hand with accountability and transparency. MaaS providers typically provide detailed reports on the performance of your campaigns. This level of transparency and accountability can be challenging to achieve with an in-house employee. Agencies are motivated to deliver results as their reputation and client relationships depend on it.
  8. Reduced Risk and Seamless Transitions – If an in-house marketing employee leaves your company, you may face knowledge gaps, a loss of momentum, and recruitment costs. MaaS providers mitigate this risk because they have a team to handle transitions seamlessly. This continuity ensures that your marketing efforts remain efficient even during staff changes.

MaaS providers excel in efficiency thanks to their diverse expertise, collective experience, access to leadership, strategists, premium tools, cost-efficiency, scalability, adaptability, accountability, and reduced risk. They bring the processes, tools, and experience needed to rapidly implement strategies and achieve results in a highly competitive digital landscape. It’s essential to assess your specific needs and budget to determine which option aligns best with your business goals and ensures the most efficient path to success.

Embracing MaaS Requires The RIGHT Provider

MaaS providers offer a compelling solution due to their diverse expertise, collective experience, access to cutting-edge tools, and overall efficiency. Partnering with the right MaaS provider can address many challenges and reduce risk and investment.

When embracing this hybrid approach, choosing the right provider is essential. Not all providers are created equal, and their focus and expertise can vary significantly. Here’s how to make the most of this approach:

  1. Assess Their Expertise: Look for a provider that aligns with your needs, including strategic leadership. Agencies often have junior employees with unique focuses or who excel in mastering one or two mediums and channels. Ensure that their expertise matches your marketing goals and target audience and that you’ll be provided direct access to leadership.
  2. Evaluate Their Omnichannel Capabilities: The digital marketing landscape is diverse, and success often requires an omnichannel approach. While a provider may excel in certain areas, ensure a comprehensive strategy covering multiple platforms and channels to provide a well-rounded presence.
  3. Request Case Studies: Ask for case studies or references from previous clients with similar needs. This will give you insights into their track record and the results they’ve achieved in comparable situations.
  4. Review Their Tools and Resources: Ensure the provider has access to the necessary tools and resources to execute your marketing campaigns effectively. This includes analytics platforms, advertising tools, and content creation resources.
  5. Discuss Collaboration and Strategy: Engage in detailed discussions about how the provider plans to work with your team and implement your marketing strategy. Transparency and open communication are key to successful collaboration.
  6. Consider Scalability: As your business grows, your marketing needs will evolve. Assess the provider’s scalability and flexibility to adapt to your changing requirements.
  7. Budget Wisely: While cost is a factor, it’s important to prioritize value over price. A slightly higher investment in a capable provider can often yield better results and a higher return on investment.
  8. Establish Ownership: Many agencies will push to own the work to make things more difficult for you to leave them. Before signing any contract, ensure that your company retains ownership in the infrastructure, strategies, and assets so that migrating away from the provider is both expected and a seamless experience.

As you embark on this journey, remember that the digital marketing landscape is dynamic, and your success hinges on your ability to adapt to changes, leverage diverse expertise, and efficiently utilize resources. Choosing the right partner is key, as they will play a pivotal role in helping you build a solid marketing foundation and achieve your long-term marketing objectives.

Use Case: Local Roofing Contractor

A local roofing company faced the challenge of establishing a robust online presence and driving leads in a highly competitive market. They initially hired a marketing employee with a $65,000 salary who had some experience working in the industry. Because they lacked expertise in some mediums and channels, they also had to outsource several tasks, resulting in an additional $50,000 in subcontracting fees. Additionally, they spent approximately $5,000 on hosting and licensing SaaS solutions. That’s an annual $120,000 investment (excluding print and advertising expenses).

The results were abysmal. The employee eventually left the company with both the leadership and the employee frustrated. This situation prompted the roofing company to seek a more efficient and effective marketing solution. To execute a local marketing strategy, the roofing company knew they had an extensive list of marketing needs, including:

  • Map Pack Visibility: To appear prominently in local search results.
  • Optimized Website: For organic search ranking, domain authority, and conversions.
  • Specialized Content: A content library that provided illustrations, drone footage, and other imagery and articles targeting regional prospects.
  • Review Management: Integrated and automated campaigns to solicit, manage, and publish customer reviews.
  • Local Advertising: To compete effectively in a highly competitive market.
  • Direct Marketing: Via door hangers, signage, and direct mail to homeowners.
  • Public Relations Outreach: To engage with local media and build the company’s credibility and awareness regionally.
  • Social Media Presence: Across all relevant channels.
  • Urgent Campaigns: To respond swiftly to storm damage events.

Highbridge stepped in with a holistic marketing strategy that addressed the roofing company’s diverse needs. The program cost was one-half the cost of the marketing hire.

  • Website Revamp: Highbridge built a new website with custom photography, 3D graphics, and drone footage optimized for organic search and conversions.
  • Tag Management and Analytics: Properly implemented tag management and analytics allow for accurate marketing performance tracking, including ad spend (ROAS), organic rank tracking, map pack visibility, chat, phone calls, appointment scheduling, and form execution.
  • Content and Social Media: Highbridge developed a content library and automated promotion to the company’s social media channels, ensuring a consistent and engaging online presence.
  • Pay-Per-Click Management: Highbridge managed pay-per-click advertising campaigns to maximize the company’s visibility in the local market. We also encouraged the company to get Google Guaranteed, dramatically increasing lead flow from PPC campaigns.
  • Business Page Management: Highbridge helped the company’s sales managers set up their mobile notifications to respond immediately to requests, chat directly with prospects, and automated responses outside of hours that captured qualified leads.
  • Platform Integration: Developed and utilized third-party integrations to automate financial, CRM, forms, email marketing, text messaging, and review management platforms.
  • Storm Campaigns: Highbridge prebuilt and executed direct marketing campaigns to react when storm damage occurred regionally quickly.

Highbridge’s comprehensive marketing approach yielded significant results:

  • Within weeks of partnering with Highbridge, the roofing company grew monthly leads beyond any previous month.
  • Highbridge rebuilt the entire online presence of the roofing company within 90 days. Month-to-month and year-to-year, the roofing company continues to grow its lead generation and regional presence.
  • The cost savings and revenue generated by Highbridge’s strategies reached millions.

Now, with a more efficient and effective marketing strategy, the roofing company continues to work with Highbridge. Highbridge is also in the process of interviewing and hiring the company’s first marketing employee. Highbridge will recruit and hire the candidate, training them on the platforms and established strategies and enabling them to assume ownership of marketing activities over time.

Highbridge offers MaaS programs for companies of any size, including ecommerce and retail. Some clients use us for every strategy, while others use us for a subset. Pricing is simple, scaled to the number of days per week that you want our workbench to execute for you. Please submit the following information if you’d like to discuss how we can assist your business.

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Douglas Karr

Douglas Karr is the founder of the Martech Zone and a recognized expert on digital transformation. Douglas has helped start several successful MarTech startups, has assisted in the due diligence of over $5 bil in Martech acquisitions and investments, and continues to launch his own platforms and services. He's a co-founder of Highbridge, a digital transformation consulting firm. Douglas is also a published author of a Dummie's guide and a business leadership book.

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