What Came First?
Dec 20 2015

Ahh, the age old question for business owners… What comes first, the marketing director or the agency?

If you find yourself pondering this very dilemma, you are probably facing one of the following challenges:


Business growth has flattened, not for lack of opportunity, but for lack of imagination. You’ve done things “a certain way” for a long time. It’s been a nice ride, but the old tried and true doesn’t seem to be generating the same amount of quality leads anymore.


This is a good problem to have. Your business has really taken off but you’re undermanned to handle it all. Resources are at capacity simply dealing with the business at hand. And that means nobody is focused on the horizon: the days when demand falters. Then what?

Scaling Back

The opposite of growth. Your business is floundering as you struggle to generate leads and build sales. This is a dangerous time as you consider re-allocating resources to focus on sales, usually at the expense of marketing. The tendency to pull back when cash flow is compromised is understandable; but it’s also the beginning of a death spiral.

The Answer

First, you need a dedicated, knowledgeable resource on your team who understands marketing strategy and can orchestrate the tactical components created by specialists. This person is accountable and represents your company’s best interests. This is an important point to remember. Despite claims to the contrary, all outsourced creative agencies have one main interest at heart. Their own. Like the rest of us, they have their own profitability goals to meet. Totally understandable – but if you turn over a significant piece of your budget to an outside agency without dedicated oversight then you sort of get what you deserve.

Next, with a dedicated staffer (even if part-time) in place, it’s time to work out your marketing and communications strategies. Then, and only then, will your marketing director know what is needed to execute the plan.

Your new marketing director will drive the process for agency or freelance selection, orient the chosen firm or individuals and allocate and manage expectations and deliverables. You will thank yourself a million times over when you realize someone else is handling this time-consuming process.

But What About the Cost?

If you are in growth or even stagnation mode, hiring someone to focus on marketing (both internally and third party) may not be a big deal. Short-term cash isn’t the problem.

But if you’re in a cycle of scaling back, hiring a marketing specialist and an agency probably doesn’t seem feasible. However, this is EXACTLY when you need help the most. In this case, you should pull out all the stops to at least hire a senior marketing professional. At a minimum, this person should be able to help you cut the fat and focus on smart, affordable tactics that provide positive, short-term ROI.

The Bottomline

Marketing is a powerful and necessary weapon. If you consider it an expense, you’re setting yourself up to fail. Successful companies are always sharpening and investing in their marketing strategies for what’s around the corner – and not just dealing with the fire of the day. A dedicated internal senior marketer combined with a fresh outside agency or freelancers will help your company soar.