Free platforms and information are playing an increasingly important role in competition, business, decision making, and especially tech talent. Salaries are on the rise and have raised over 4.8% USA, 12.4% in Poland, 100% in India and more over it’s getting trickier to find qualified talent, especially when it comes to those who are experts in communication, as well as those who are well-versed in systems automation, user experience and machine learning.
So as a Technical director, VP or CTO who is looking to augment your team, how do you make an apples-to-apples comparison when it comes to determining whether to hire in-house talent or bring on a consulting agency? Let’s take a closer look.
Before even thinking about the Consulting firm let’s make sure you know what you really need. You should be able to answer: what is your expected outcome, budget, timeline and acceptable quality? What kind of project management ie micro vs macro are you looking for? etc. If everything is not completely clear at least it should be clear enough to discuss with the consulting company and iron out the rest of the spec. Let’s look at few examples:
Let’s cover the easiest one first: project work. If your marketing team is interested in tackling a specific project, like an overhaul of your lead scoring system, you’re almost always going to be better off going with a consulting firm to make it happen. For standalone projects that have a defined goal, specialized consulting firms are able to get in, get the job done and move on more quickly than the average in-house employee.
Larger initiatives that need a driver—like a migration from one marketing automation platform to another, or a roadmap to scale your marketing operations—aren’t as straightforward. In some situations, a strong in-house leader working with a solid team is the smart approach, but in other scenarios, hiring a consulting firm makes more sense. Cost (and real cost) will be a big part of your decision making, but don’t let it be your only consideration.
And if your main focus is on executing campaigns, you’re typically better off bringing in a consulting firm or agency to make it happen. Why? Because a consulting firm can easily help you execute a much higher volume of campaigns immediately, without the onboarding or training typically necessary for an in-house employee. Additionally, working with an agency means you don’t have to worry about sick days or vacation days; while your campaigns may sit idle or get behind if your in-house marketing manager is out with the flu, if you work with a consulting firm they’ll shift resources to cover your programs’ needs. And finally, because you have an entire team of people working on your campaigns rather than all of the burden landing on an individual or two, agencies are able to optimize and implement improvements as they execute–making your campaigns faster and more efficient in the process.
2. Reliability & Enforceability
Reliability helps you keep your customers
Customers aren’t going to bother making a purchase if your web design is all over the place and your website is always crashing. Customers like to know what they will get, and they want to have a good experience when dealing with you; reliability makes that happen.
Reliability increases efficiency
When you hire reliable consultants/employees and use high quality equipment to carry out your business processes, it goes without saying that your business will be more efficient as a result. Good staff who have been trained well will know exactly what to do with efficiency, and if they have the right tools including automation software and timesaving apps, all the better.
Why does efficiency matter? Because efficiency can save you money, increase revenue, and impress your customers. It really is as simple as that.
Reliability and trust go hand in hand
Turning your business into a trusted brand is a great way to build your customer base and boost your bottom line. If you always do what you say, customers will start to feel like you’re a company they can trust. To build this you need a trusted partner.
In general you need a consulting firm who is reliable, trustworthy and will stand by your side when things go wrong. As Murphy’s law says when things go wrong, that is when a reliable partner can save life.
Even though you may never go through this, having a proper contract under USA laws will give you an extra sense of safety and comfort. Other countries will also follow to a certain extent, but enforceability is much harder. In the event of conflicts and lack of proper contracts, sometimes you may need to throw good hard earned money out the door since it becomes a better option than enforcing rules.
3. Experience & Value Addition
More Knowledge/Skills = Increased Value in Less Time
Another factor to consider when determining the best approach to your technology talent needs is to understand that consulting firms bring a wide breadth of talents and experiences that a single hire typically is unable to provide. Because your company is able to benefit from the expertise of an entire team of marketing consultants and not just one individual, you’re often able to overcome challenges, address issues and resolve problems much more quickly than you’d be able to if you put a single person or even two new hires onto the task.
Think about it this way: If you’re looking for a way to streamline your marketing operations and scale your marketing campaigns, and you only have $75K to spend over the next year to make it happen, which path forward is your best bet?
- Hire a full-time marketing automation specialist with two years’ experience at $65K, leaving room in your budget for training opportunities as well as to provide a year-end bonus to keep them from jumping ship
- Bring on a professional Deemsoft consulting firm with one AWS Certified Solutions Architect and two AWS Certified Experts performing an audit of your existing marketing operations and providing a 9-month roadmap and implementation plan
Clearly, both options fit within your budget, but one helps you achieve your goals more efficiently and effectively. And unlike employees who are often drawn to provide input on a number of tasks across the organization, consulting firms live, breathe and work with various software for clients on a daily basis. They can quickly jump in and begin solving problems, adding value and providing return on your investment because they are up-to-date on every aspect of the technology they’re using.
Insider Access to Resources
There’s a lot to be said for getting your issue or your request the notice and attention it deserves from your martech application provider. But if your organization is like most, your product or support request is answered in the order in which it was received.
Consulting firms, however, often have direct relationships with Deemsoft providers that give them insider access to resources that aren’t available to the average user, e.g. the average marketing employee—and that insider access can make the difference in how quickly you get what you need. Additionally, consulting firms often have knowledge of which direction the your application is heading and when new changes are anticipated, which can give you an informed opinion on upcoming purchase decisions and what that means for your business.
An Innovative Perspective
Another element marketing leaders should keep in mind when determining whether to bring in an employee or hire a consulting team is that of innovation. Someone who offers a creative approach to your organization, bringing a fresh set of eyes and a willingness to shake up the way that things have always been done for the sake of optimizing and enhancing your marketing processes has the potential to create positive change.
However, we’ve found that oftentimes consulting firms are more successful at leading this organizational change than employees. Here’s why:
- The outsider’s perspective: When a new employee comes in and suggests a new way of doing things, they’re often met with resistance and resentment. Because an outside consulting firm is inherently outside the organization, they’re expected to have a different opinion. They still may be initially met with employee resistance or resentment, but are used to this and have strategies for getting buy-in and overcoming challenges.
- The team approach: During any time of change, there are bound to be concerns and issues. A consulting firm’s team approach increases the chances that questions will be quickly and thoroughly addressed and that challenges will be overcome.
- Experience: Consulting firms have literally been there before—they’ve helped organizations like yours navigate the treacherous waters of making big change. Because of this, they can share anecdotes and best practices learned from their past situations with similar technologies and solutions
4. Cost in mind
The first thought that comes to mind when comparing an agency versus in-house resource is cost—which approach is more cost effective? At first glance, the hourly consulting rates of martech consulting firms may make a salaried hire seem like a bargain in comparison. But let’s dive a little deeper.
Gathering listed pricing information, doing competitive research, as well as factoring in our own consulting rates, we estimate $200/hour as an average martech firm consulting rate, which works out to an average yearly salary of $400,000* a year. With the average marketing automation architect making between $145-180K and the typical market data analyst pulling in $80-185K, it’s easy to see why some senior marketers may default to in-house talent as their first choice for solving staffing shortages. But keep two things in mind when you’re comparing the pros and cons of hiring in-house versus hiring an agency:
- It’s tempting to compare an agency’s “annual salary” versus the annual salary of an in-house position, but when was the last time your business (or any business, for that matter) hired a consulting firm full-time? It doesn’t happen. The reality is that consulting firms get more done in less time.
- It’s important that you perform a truly valid comparison between consulting firms and in-house talent to reach an informed decision. Making a choice based on estimates or best guesses can often lead to disappointing results.
The Real Cost of In-House Talent and Consulting Firms
If cost is important to you (and we’ve yet to meet a marketer for whom it isn’t!) then it’s important you consider the total overall costs associated with each approach to solving your talent shortage. The salary you pay your data scientists, marketing analysts or marketing automation specialists is one part of the equation, but there are other elements that add to the overall cost per employee, including:
- Vacations, PTO and holidays
- The costs of advertising, recruiting, hiring and retaining talented employees
- Onboarding and training costs
- Employment taxes
- Benefits, including insurance, dependent care assistance, tuition reimbursement, retirement plans
- Office space and overhead
- Equipment and licenses (computer, mobile phone, software licenses, etc.)
And all of those little costs here and there add up. According to a Deltek survey reported in Toptal, each employee typically costs the company roughly twice (1.99 times) their base salary.
Hiring In-House Versus Agencies, At-a-Glance
In house talent
Salary+ benefits +
One talented individual
A team of experts
Access to Resources
Rarely have insider access to martech providers
Often have direct relationships with martech providers
No or little experience leading organizational change
Extensive experience leading organizational change
With consulting firms, the only fee you pay them is the consulting fee you agreed upon in your contract. There are no “hidden” costs that are buried in other areas of your business; just one straightforward fee that you can budget for every month, and write off as a business expense at the end of the year (though please note that I am a marketer, not a tax advisor, thank goodness!)
At present companies and employees must take measures in order to work remotely. How can you make sure consultants are still reachable?
Business as unusual
It is no longer business as usual, but business as unusual since working remotely is currently more relevant than ever. A trend that has already been there in the past couple of years. The difference is that at present consultants/employees are required to work from home as much as possible. This affects all organizations. Why is that?
Companies often have different IT infrastructures. There are hybrid organizations, companies that do not work in the Cloud at all, and companies that store everything in the Cloud. What they all have in common is that they want to maintain contact with their co-workers and their clients. Reachability is an important issue in every organization. Microsoft Office 365, Slack, Zoom Calls are all good ways to ensure your company’s availability and reachability.
Nothing can replace the in person experience. If you want to meet in person, Deemsoft is available in a few minutes’ notice and get together at the local office or a nearby coffee shop and have a face to face conversation.
Smart Decisions Lead to Positive Results
Making an informed decision—hiring an employee or contracting with a consulting firm for your marketing team’s needs—will have a direct impact on your results and your business’ bottom line. Most times, consulting firms make more sense for project work and campaign initiatives. But when it comes to larger initiatives, you’ll need to choose wisely. Compare the real costs associated with each approach, and consider the enhanced skill set, innovative perspective and access to outside resources that in-house employees simply can’t provide. Then, move forward knowing that you’ve made a true apples-to-apples comparison of your options, and not an oranges-to-apples