Hiring a digital marketing agency vs permanent recruitment.
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Written by Martin Litt

Partner, Sales & Customer Services, Loves a Chat, Always Laughing (too much laughing...)

October 12, 2021

How your hiring process is costing you unnecessary time & money.

If you’d prefer to listen to this article rather than read it, please do so.

Why do businesses think that hiring a new permanent member of staff is better than hiring a digital marketing agency? How often have you seen a digital marketing job ad online that specifically states ‘no agencies’? Come to that, how often have you been the one posting the job ads that says ‘no agencies’? Do you know why you do it?

It seems to be such a common occurrence that it got me wondering why it happens. What are the drivers behind this decision, was it a deliberate thought process, a copy & paste from the last job description (don’t pretend you don’t do it), or just something so prevalent its inclusion was ‘a given’?

I spoke to a few business owners about this phenomenon and here are the most common reasons we heard back;

The top 5 reasons businesses resist hiring a digital marketing agency

I don’t want to be bombarded by calls from digital marketing agencies

Many business owners don’t want the hassle of trying to fit in ‘ad-hoc’ calls about the role in and around their busy day. I completely understand that. Being pulled from pillar to post is part of the reason you need more people in your team, right?

I want to know the people working for me are working hard

Hiring can be a really tricky business. How can you know the person being presented on a CV or at interview is the same person who will walk through your door? Having the reassurance of being able to check up on your new hires seemed to be important to some business owners.

I want to hear from them on a daily basis, I need constant communication

Having someone a room away is useful for more than just checking up on them – it allows for constant communication. If your business needs daily reporting then you need someone close to you in order to do that.

I need to know they have my business’s best interests at heart

If someone is working for you they’re definitely not going to be working for your competitors. You have a 100% committed professional in your team.

It’s part of our team dynamic

Creating a business or office team culture is super important and generally leads to greater success. Wanting to keep that up is logical and reasonable.

*Bonus* It’s the way we’ve always done it

If it ain’t broke…

Photo by Steve Smith on Unsplash

On the other side of the coin…

Now, I imagine there are one of two thoughts running through your mind as you read these;

On reflection these reasons are pretty weak.This all makes perfect sense.

If you’re in the second group maybe you may want to stop reading now and leave thinking we’re great and are an agency that ‘finally gets it’.

If you’re with the number 1s – let me tell you how I talked it out with the business owners I spoke with.

The top 5 solutions to hiring a digital marketing agency instead of hiring a new member of staff

Firstly we’ll briefly touch on the solutions we discussed to the 5 issues above.

Being bombarded with calls from digital marketing agencies

Let’s not pretend that the person you put in charge of recruitment isn’t bombarded by CVs direct as well as by recruitment agencies. The only difference here is that digital marketing agencies aren’t afraid to email or call you personally, knowing you’re the decision maker. Agencies are busy, too. We don’t want to have the same discussion 3 times before getting to someone who can give it the green light.

The solution that was unanimously approved by the business owners I spoke to about this was setting up a separate day for ‘interviews’ or ‘chats’ with agencies alongside a day for candidates. As long as you’re clear with your expectations in terms of the role requirements and the days you’re having these talks, agencies will be more than happy to abide by that. They may even relish the opportunity of more time to prepare a proper pitch.

I want to know the people working for me are working hard

Most people work hard when the boss is looking. Most agencies work hard all of the time.

A candidate’s CV may have a reference on it, they may provide a few more on request. How many of those do you (honestly) follow up on? How much due diligence do you carry out on these references?

An agency has to work much harder to keep you as a client – it’s much easier to sack an agency than it is an employee. Agency’s live and die by their reputation and their relationships with their clients. There are undoubtedly candidates that give their all to their employer every day (I used to be one) but they’re genuinely few and far between. You’ll know this because you’ll have someone you consider your best employee.

When seen from this angle all of our business owners said they hadn’t considered it like this before. Some made the point that they felt they shouldn’t have to check up on people. It all comes down to your hiring process, the questions you ask, and your gut feeling. There’s no reason an agency cannot put ticks in all of these boxes for you.

I want to hear from them on a daily basis, I need constant communication

Again this one comes down to communication. If you tell an agency you want daily communication then it’ll go into the scope of works. That’s all there is to it. Once I’d said this a business owner (let’s call them Jim) said to me;

Jim – ‘Yeah, but then you charge you more for it!’

Me – ‘Absolutely we do, why would we not charge for more of our time being used?’

Jim – ‘Well, an employee wouldn’t cost me more for that.’

Me – ‘We’ve quoted you for £600 per month less than it would cost you to hire 1 graduate, even if we charged a bit more it’s still costing you less.’

Jim – ‘Good point.’

And that’s what it comes down to. There are two ways of looking at any proposal made by an agency – the cost breakdown is either perfect, or your expectations / what you consider to be important need to be re-evaluated. After some further discussion Jim had come to the conclusion that spending his time waiting on (and reading through) a daily report on a process that is likely to take months is a huge waste of his time as well as the poor sod having to write the reports.

When you’re hiring an individual instead of hiring a digital marketing agency to take over work you can’t handle yourself it is counter-productive to then create even more work for you to ensure they’re doing a good job. Hire well and this doesn’t need to happen.

I need to know they have my business’s best interests at heart

This reminds me of the very first conversation I had with a prospective Digital Partnership client since starting QUAFF Digital. I was genuinely asked this question;

“What assurances can you give me that you won’t take our data or processes and use them to help our competitors?”anonymous

I mean, what can you say to that?

Words like ‘honesty’, ‘integrity’, ‘general, everyday working practises’ flew threw my head. I was genuinely shocked that anyone who thought about asking that question would then believe any answer they got. At the time I had no idea and I stuttered and fumbled around something along the lines of “well, it’s trust isn’t it?” or something equally vague. Now I’d end the call there as it’s such a ridiculous question to ask – I don’t have time to be dealing with plonkers.

If a digital marketing agency did this, even once, they’d be out of business within weeks. It’s unethical, terrible practise, and simply not done. The fact that this prospective client felt the need to ask meant one of two things; 1. they’d had their fingers burnt by hiring a digital marketing agency before (and clearly not learned from the mistakes in their hiring process), or 2, they weren’t really interested and were asking questions off the top of their head to kill time. I don’t have time for either of those.

From the business owners I spoke to all bar one had experienced staff being poached by competitors. Shortly afterwards they noticed mysterious changes of allegiances with certain key clients or customers. Nothing that was ever admitted to as being in breach of any non-competition clauses, you understand. Just the usual ‘common or garden’ skullduggery you’d expect. If an agency tried that there would be legal actions against them in a heartbeat. Not to mention terrible publicity. It’s almost expected of candidates – often they’re hired because they can bring business with them.

The fact of the matter is 90% (or more) of your workforce genuinely don’t give a toss about you or your business once they leave work. They’re working to earn the money they need to live. They may have good friends in the business, they may give you great results, they may really enjoy the work, and they may be a pleasure to be around but, ultimately, when they leave your employment they’ll repeat the process elsewhere without a second thought.

When you’re hiring a digital marketing agency, particularly a small agency like us, you’ll find there’s a lot more buy-in and personal investment from that agency. You are our client, we are under more pressure and feel more responsibility to do well and get results for you and your business. Partly because our reputation depends on it (it’s easier to publicly slate a business than an ex employee) but also because (as mentioned previously) it’s a lot easier to sack an agency than an employee.

The third, and most overlooked, aspect is some agencies (like QUAFF) will only approach businesses they genuinely want to work with. All of our clients are on our books because we selected them. We wanted to work with them and succeed with them so we take a huge amount of pride in our work and their results. Just read our case studies for quotes from our clients saying so.

It’s part of our team dynamic

This one felt like a bit of a knee-jerk response. Nobody outside of the health service has had a ‘team dynamic’ for the last 18 months. With so many people working online on Zoom or Teams the team dynamic has changed. Having a recognisable face and someone at the end of a phone or email is all that has been needed for some of the greatest collaborative working under the worst pressure anyone has ever known.

Sometimes it’s great to get in a room together but, realistically, does this need to be more often than quarterly? How many meetings have you sat through that could have been emails? How many of you read with seething jealousy about people being able to walk out of meetings at Tesla once they’d got the information or answers they needed for themselves?

This is another example of building time into a project scope for these kind of meetings. It also crystallises and condenses what you want to get covered. A focussed agenda with actionable points is all that is needed at any time. Again, all of my panel of business owners agreed they would prefer working like this.

It’s the way we’ve always done it

Come on, now. You’re better than that.

*Bonus* It can be much cheaper to use an agency

A graduate in digital marketing in the UK will command, on average, a £26,530 salary in the current market. That’s for one person with little to no experience, fresh out of uni. In terms of your expenditure as a business that’s likely to be more like £30,000+ once you’ve gone through the recruitment process, provided laptop/phone/office space etc etc.

OR, you look at something like our Digital Partnership scheme which takes a team of two with 13 years of experience between them, and turns them into your digital marketing department for an entire year for around £18,000.

This is a list of the average salary ranges across some of the locations in the UK for digital marketing executives (5-10 years experience). To see the full list follow the link in the caption.

Data taken from Total Jobs Average Salary Tracker

It’s expensive to hire one executive, let alone two!

Hiring a digital marketing agency has far more upsides than down, provided you’re willing to look at your own objections openly. Sometimes just giving someone 10 minutes of your time to have these open & frank discussions could save you and your business loads of time and money.

If you find yourself with 10 minutes spare and wanting to discuss any of these points get in touch!

We’re proud to announce QUAFF Digital has been recognised as one of Top 30 United Kingdom Digital Agencies by DesignRush!



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