What Are The Alternatives To Having A Marketing Retainer With A Marketing Agency?

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11 Minute Read

If you are thinking about employing a marketing agency on a marketing retainer, you may also be considering some of the alternatives, which include:

Read on to discover the pros and cons of each alternative.

1.    Hire someone/a team in-house

You can hire your own team of marketers to work exclusively for your business. This can be more cost-effective than hiring an agency, and you can have more control over the marketing strategy and implementation.

The average marketing manager salary in the UK is £40,000/year. This does not include additional employment costs such as employee benefits and overheads.

Pros of hiring an in-house marketer

  1. Greater control: With an in-house marketing team, you have more control over the marketing strategy and implementation. You can set priorities and adjust the strategy as needed based on the company's current goals and resources.
  2. More flexibility: An in-house marketing team can be more flexible in adapting to changing market conditions, new product launches or other business needs. You can adjust your marketing campaigns and messages quickly and efficiently.
  3. Better understanding of your business: An in-house marketing team can have a deeper understanding of your business, its products or services and its customers – as they are always working in and on the business. This can enable them to create more targeted and effective marketing campaigns.
  4. Cost savings: In some cases, an in-house marketing team can be more cost-effective than outsourcing to a marketing agency, particularly over a longer-term. You can control the budget and allocate resources more efficiently.
  5. Improved communication: With an in-house marketing team, you can have more direct and fluid communication with the team members and easily provide real-time feedback. This can help ensure that the marketing efforts align with the company's overall goals and messaging.
  6. Stronger company culture: An in-house marketing team can help strengthen the company culture by promoting collaboration, teamwork and a shared sense of purpose.
  7. Better collaboration: An in-house team can work more closely with other departments within the business, for example your sales team.

Cons of using an in-house marketing team

  1. Higher costs: Recruiting, hiring and training an in-house marketing team can be expensive, and ongoing salaries and benefits can add up. This can be a significant investment for smaller businesses with limited resources.
  2. Limited expertise: An in-house marketing team may have limited expertise in certain areas of marketing, such as SEO, PPC or social media, compared to an agency who will have a broad range of experts at your disposal. This can result in a lack of innovation and creativity in marketing campaigns.
  3. Lack of objectivity: An in-house marketing team may be too close to the business and its products or services, making it difficult for them to see things from an outside perspective. The resulting lack of objectivity can mean your team make decisions based more on feelings and the status quo, rather than data and innovative ideas.
  4. Difficulty in scaling: If your business experiences rapid growth or a sudden increase in demand, it can be challenging to scale up an in-house marketing team quickly. This can result in delays or missed opportunities.
  5. Risk of turnover: In-house marketing team members may leave the company, which can disrupt marketing efforts and leave gaps in expertise. Additionally, recruiting and hiring new team members can be time-consuming and expensive.
  6. Need for ongoing training: The marketing industry is constantly evolving, and in-house marketing teams need ongoing training and education to stay up to date with the latest trends and best practices.
  7. Lack of tools and resources: It is harder for businesses to justify spend on multiple marketing tools, whereas agencies will often invest in these for helping multiple clients.
  8. Lack of support and collaboration: If you are a 1-person, or small marketing team, you may have few colleagues you can lean on to help formulate plans and generate new ideas.

An in-house marketing team can offer many benefits for businesses looking to build a strong brand and reach their target audience more effectively, including having a more in-depth understanding of the business and greater control over creative direction. However, many businesses find that the benefits don’t outweigh the challenges, including lack of expertise and higher costs. It's important to carefully consider your business's needs, resources, and goals when deciding whether to hire an in-house marketing team.

2.    Hire a freelancer

You can hire individual freelance marketers who have expertise in specific areas of marketing, such as SEO, social media, content marketing or email marketing. This can be a good option if you have a specific project or campaign that needs to be completed.

With an average hourly rate of around £50, you’d be looking at a monthly cost of around £4,000 if you hired a freelancer for 20 hours/week. That’s £48,000 per year.

Pros of hiring a marketing freelancer

  1. Cost-effective: Hiring a marketing freelancer can be more cost-effective than hiring a full-time employee or outsourcing to a marketing agency. You only pay for the specific services you need, meaning they often only work part-time, without incurring the overhead costs associated with a larger marketing team.
  2. Flexibility: Freelancers can work on a project basis or on an ongoing basis, depending on your business needs. This can offer greater flexibility than hiring a full-time employee.
  3. Specialised expertise: Freelancers often have specialised expertise in specific areas of marketing, such as SEO, social media, content marketing or email marketing. You can choose a freelancer who has the exact skills and experience you need for your specific project or campaign.
  4. Faster turnaround time: Freelancers can often work quickly and efficiently to deliver high-quality work on a tight deadline. This can be particularly beneficial for businesses with time-sensitive marketing needs.
  5. Fresh perspective: Freelancers can bring a different perspective and new ideas to your marketing strategy. They can provide insights you may not have considered before, and bring experience from working with many different clients.
  6. Lower risk: Hiring a freelancer is generally less risky than hiring a full-time employee, as you can terminate the contract or project once it's completed. This can be particularly helpful for businesses with limited budgets or uncertain marketing needs.

Cons of working with a marketing freelancer

  1. Limited availability: Freelancers may have limited availability or may be working on multiple projects simultaneously, making them more difficult to manage, which can impact their ability to deliver work on time. You’re not guaranteed to have someone working on your marketing all the time, i.e. if your freelancer is sick or goes on holiday.
  2. Costs can spiral: Whilst working with a freelancer can generally be more cost-effective, if you need to hire multiple freelancers to cover different marketing specialisms, the costs can quickly add up.
  3. Lack of consistency: Freelancers may work on a project basis, which can lead to a lack of consistency in the marketing strategy or messaging over time.
  4. Communication challenges: Freelancers may work remotely or in different time zones, which can make communication and collaboration more challenging. You can’t guarantee they will be able to come to your office if you need them to, like an in-house hire would.
  5. Risk of quality issues: Freelancers may not have the same level of quality control as an in-house team or agency, which can result in inconsistencies in the quality of work delivered.
  6. Difficulty in building long-term relationships: As freelancers may work on a project basis, it can be challenging to build a long-term relationship and ensure continuity in the marketing strategy over time.
  7. Potential for misaligned expectations: There may be a risk of misaligned expectations between the freelancer and the business, particularly if the project scope or requirements are not clearly defined at the outset.
  8. Limited experience and resources: Compared to a marketing agency, a freelancer may not have such a broad range of experience, and less access to the marketing tools they need for your campaigns.

Hiring a marketing freelancer can be a cost-effective way to support your business’s marketing efforts, especially for access to specialist expertise and fast turnaround on projects. Yet the cons of not being able to work as closely together, lack of availability and potential quality issues can outweigh the benefits. If you choose to work with a freelancer, it's important to establish clear communication and expectations to ensure that both parties are aligned throughout the project.

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3.    Using online marketing tools

There are a variety of online marketing tools available that can help you with your marketing efforts. Depending on your business’s needs, you may find they are sufficient and you don’t need to hire a dedicated marketing resource, either in-house or externally, particularly for smaller companies or startups.

For example, you can use social media management tools, email marketing software and analytics platforms to track and optimise your campaigns.

Some of these resources are free, whilst some come with a monthly or annual subscription cost.

Pros of using online marketing tools

  1. Scalable: Online marketing tools can often be scaled up or down based on your business needs. You can adjust your usage or subscription level as your business grows or changes.
  2. Ease of use: Many online marketing tools are designed to be user-friendly, with intuitive interfaces and easy-to-follow tutorials. This can make it easy for even non-marketers to use the tools effectively.
  3. Automation: Online marketing tools often include automation features that can save time and streamline marketing tasks, such as email campaigns, social media scheduling or analytics reporting.
  4. Real-time data and insights: Online marketing tools can provide real-time insights on the performance of your campaigns, enabling you to make data-driven decisions and adjust your strategy as needed.
  5. Customisable: Many online marketing tools offer customisation options, allowing you to tailor the tool to your specific business needs and branding.
  6. Cost-effective: Online marketing tools are often much less expensive than hiring an agency or an in-house marketer. They can also offer a range of pricing options, such as free plans, pay-as-you-go or monthly subscriptions, depending on the specific tool.

Cons of using online marketing tools

  1. Limited expertise: Online marketing tools may require a certain level of expertise to use effectively. If you don't have experience in marketing, it can be challenging to know how to use the tools properly in order to achieve your business objectives.
  2. Lack of personalisation: Online marketing tools are designed to be used by a wide range of businesses and industries, which means they may not be tailored to your specific business needs or audience.
  3. Time-consuming: While online marketing tools can automate many tasks, setting up and managing campaigns can still be time-consuming, particularly if you're not familiar with the tool.
  4. Limited support: Online marketing tools cannot offer the same level of support as an agency or in-house marketer. If you encounter technical issues or have questions, it may be difficult to get timely support.
  5. Need for integration: To get the most out of online marketing tools, you may need to integrate them with other tools or platforms, such as your website or customer relationship management system. This can be challenging if you're not familiar with the technical aspects of marketing.
  6. Lack of strategy development: While online marketing tools can help with implementation, they will not be able to help you with your marketing strategy development as an agency or in-house marketer would. You may still need to develop your own marketing strategy or seek outside guidance.

Using online marketing tools can offer many benefits for businesses looking for cost-effective, scalable, and user-friendly marketing solutions. Nevertheless, they cannot just ‘do’ your marketing without any expert input, you are likely to need a marketing specialist to help guide your strategy before you can get up and running, whether that’s via a marketing agency or freelancer. Additionally, it's important to invest in ongoing learning and development to ensure you continue to use the tools effectively.

4.    Co-branded marketing with another business

A marketing option some companies may consider is co-branded marketing, also known as co-marketing. This involves partnering with another business in the same industry to create joint marketing campaigns, or even cross-promote each other's products or services if they are complementary and non-competitive.

Pros of co-branded marketing

  1. Expanded reach and brand awareness: Co-branded marketing enables you to reach a wider audience by tapping into the customer base of your partner business. This can be particularly beneficial if your partner business operates in a complementary industry or market.
  2. Cost-effective: Co-marketing allows you to share the costs of marketing and promotional efforts with your partner business. This can be cheaper than running a marketing campaign on your own.
  3. Increased credibility: By partnering with another business, you can enhance your credibility and reputation in the eyes of potential customers. This is especially true if you partner with a well-respected or established business.
  4. Access to new resources: Co-branded marketing can give you access to new resources, such as marketing expertise, customer data or promotional materials. This can be particularly helpful if your partner business has strengths or resources that you lack.
  5. Creative opportunities: Working with another business can provide opportunities to be more creative and innovative in your marketing efforts. By working with a partner, you can bounce ideas off each other and come up with new and exciting campaigns.
  6. Long-term relationships: This kind of marketing can help you build long-term relationships with other businesses in your industry, which can lead to future collaborations and joint marketing efforts.

Cons of co-branded marketing

  1. Risk of brand dilution: Co-branded marketing can dilute your brand if the partnership isn't aligned with your brand values or if the partner business has a bad reputation.
  2. Limited control: Collaborating with another business means you have less control over the messaging, design and execution of the marketing campaign.
  3. Dependence on partner: Co-marketing requires a high level of collaboration and coordination with your partner business, which can be challenging if there are differences in communication styles, work processes or opinions.
  4. Conflicting goals: Co-branded marketing requires alignment between the goals and values of both businesses. If there are conflicting goals or priorities, the partnership may not be successful.
  5. Limited results tracking: It can be difficult to track and measure the results of your co-branded marketing efforts, particularly if there are multiple businesses involved.
  6. Legal and contractual issues: This form of marketing requires clear contractual agreements between both businesses to outline the terms and responsibilities of the partnership. This can be complicated to navigate, particularly if there are differences in legal jurisdictions or regulations.

Co-branded marketing can be a fruitful marketing method to expand your reach, save costs and build credibility in your industry. It’s vital, however, to choose a partner business that aligns with your brand values and goals, to establish clear communication and expectations, and set out clear roles and responsibilities to ensure that both parties are aligned throughout the campaign.

5.    DIY Marketing

If you have a limited budget, you can take a do-it-yourself approach to marketing and implement your own marketing strategies without the help of an agency or professional marketer. This can involve creating your own website, social media profiles and content, and leveraging free marketing channels like organic search and email marketing.

Pros of DIY marketing

  1. Cost-effective: DIY marketing is often much less expensive than hiring an agency or a professional marketer. It can be particularly beneficial for small businesses or those with limited marketing budgets.
  2. Flexibility: Doing your own marketing allows you to adjust your marketing strategy and messaging quickly and easily according to your specific business needs and audience, without having to wait for approval from an agency or professional marketer.
  3. Learning and growth: DIY marketing can be a valuable learning experience, allowing you to develop new skills and knowledge in marketing. This can be particularly helpful for entrepreneurs and small business owners who want to develop their marketing skills.
  4. Control: You have complete control over your marketing strategy and execution. You can make changes as needed and ensure that your messaging aligns with your brand values and goals.
  5. Brand building: Do-it-yourself marketing can be a powerful tool for building your brand and establishing your business's reputation in the marketplace.

Cons of DIY Marketing

  1. Limited expertise: DIY marketing may require a certain level of expertise to execute effectively. If you don't have enough experience in marketing, it can be challenging to know how to use the tools and tactics to achieve your business objectives.
  2. Time-consuming: It can take up a lot of your time, particularly if you're not familiar with the tools and strategies involved. This can take time away from other important aspects of your role within the business.
  3. Lack of objectivity: If you are too close to the business and its products or services, it can make it difficult for you to see things from an outside perspective. This can result in a lack of objectivity and creativity in marketing strategies.
  4. Risk of errors: DIY marketing may result in errors or mistakes, particularly if you're not familiar with the tools or tactics involved. This can be damaging to your brand's reputation with both prospects and existing customers, or lead to missed opportunities.
  5. Limited resources: DIY marketing may limit your access to certain marketing tools or resources that are available to professional marketers or agencies. This can impact the effectiveness of your marketing efforts.

DIY marketing can offer many benefits for businesses looking for cost-effective, flexible, and customisable marketing solutions, particularly entrepreneurs and startups. The drawbacks of limited expertise, resources and the amount of time required to execute make it an unlikely possibility for larger businesses. Ultimately, the best approach will depend on your business's specific needs, resources, and goals.

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6.    Do nothing!

If you don't market your business, it is likely that you will have a harder time attracting customers and generating revenue. Marketing helps to create awareness and interest in your products or services, and without it, potential customers may not even know your business exists.

While there may be some situations where a business may choose not to market itself (for example, temporarily because they have a backlog of work and can’t cope with taking any more on) there are no real benefits to not marketing a business. Here are some reasons why:

  1. Fewer customers: Without marketing, your business may not be on the radar of potential customers, and you may miss out on opportunities to attract new customers.
  2. Reduced revenue and growth: Without marketing efforts, it will be difficult to expand your customer base and reach new markets. This could limit the growth potential of your business, your revenue will likely suffer, and your business may struggle to stay afloat.
  3. Increased competition: If you're not marketing your business, your competitors will be – and they will likely capture a larger share of the market.
  4. Decreased brand awareness: Without consistent marketing efforts, it will be difficult to build and maintain your brand's reputation and visibility. This could make it harder to attract customers in the future.
  5. Reduced visibility: If you don't market your business, you won't be able to reach potential new customers or build brand awareness, which can limit your business's visibility in the marketplace.
  6. Lack of differentiation: If you don't market your business, you won't be able to differentiate your brand from your competitors, making it more difficult to attract and retain customers.

There is no denying that marketing is a critical component of any successful business strategy. While there may be situations where a business may choose to reduce or modify its marketing efforts, there are no long-term benefits to not marketing a business.

Marketing is essential for business growth and success, and neglecting it could lead to significant negative impacts on your business.

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Alex Elborn

Alex Elborn

Alex is part of the senior management team and is responsible for running Intergage's own marketing. She develops and manages the marketing strategy and budget to connect with businesses in the manufacturing sector. Alex is also a HubSpot expert and has been using the software for clients and Intergage for more than five years.

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