When deciding how to approach your marketing strategy, you’ll most likely be faced with two options: hire a marketing apprentice, or work with an agency. The answer isn’t clear cut, and will depend on the size and structure of your business, your budget, and your expectations. Let’s look at each option in turn and then examine how the two could work together.
Hiring A Marketing Apprentice
Apprenticeships are available in specific areas of marketing ranging from social media to digital marketing, which can be invaluable in the current knowledge economy. A marketing apprentice may be a good option providing the apprentice attends college, gets certified, and takes all training on board. With an apprenticeship, you can train someone to your standards and working methods, and develop them to fit your business culture. But there are several potential downsides to be aware of:
- First, it will take a while for things to come together and start seeing results. It takes time for an apprentice to acquire the skills necessary to do their job well. Often, they will have to go back and forth between you - as the business owner - and their college instructor for guidance on how to perform tasks. Therefore, you’ll need to be patient and not expect too much in the early stages.
- Second, you shouldn't hire a marketing apprentice simply because they’re cheaper than hiring an agency. Sure, you can get funding to help with the costs of hiring and training an apprentice, but if results take longer to materialise, there is a financial cost to that too in the form of revenue or clients that aren’t coming on board. Also, even the most efficient apprentice will have limits on how many marketing disciplines he or she will be able to specialise in, and there are physical limits on how much work a person can achieve on their own. You’ll need to weigh the financial aspects of offering an apprenticeship with a view to long-term results.
- Third, marketing apprentices have no practical experience. They will be learning everything on the job. For this to be a success, you would ideally bring them into a team who already have significant marketing knowledge and expertise – you can’t just depend on what they’ll learn at college. Furthermore, you’ll need people with the time and ability to train and guide them. This is why apprenticeships work well in marketing teams with established knowledge and resources. But in many SMEs without marketing teams, the apprentice is too often left to their own devices, resulting in disappointment for both business and apprentice.
- Fourth, don’t expect fast returns from a marketing apprentice, or for them to secure many new customers. They may work hard and do a good job but you should view your apprentice as a long term investment in your team. It isn’t the decision to make if you need rapid results.
- Fifth, don’t expect the apprentice to become the voice of your brand. Many companies feel they need a ‘young person who knows about social media’. However, even if a person uses a social media platform in their personal life doesn’t mean they’ll necessarily be able to deliver effective marketing communications for you. This comes with time, training and experience.
Hiring A Marketing Agency
Marketing agencies are a good option if your business doesn’t have an established and varied marketing team, is struggling to achieve a good marketing ROI, or you’re aiming for large-scale business growth in the short to mid-term (12-24 months). They are also the way to go if you’re looking to support a single in-house marketing professional or small team. Keep the following reasons in mind:
- Agencies have more experience and a more developed and broad-ranging skill set. With more experience comes the ability to identify shortcomings faster, and to come up with solutions and implement them with a minimal trial-and-error process.
- There’ll be less experimentation with results, since marketing agencies work under a contract that specifies goals and deliverables.
- It’s still possible to develop a close relationship with your marketing person or team, even if your marketing partners are not in house. With a marketing agency, you'll have an assigned account manager who will oversee your account and provide regular report calls on how the campaign is going.
- Agencies have a holistic view of how marketing strategies can be integrated into other aspects of business operations. This is particularly true of agencies with a business growth focus like JDR Group. We use a variety of marketing tools and techniques and apply extensive know-how to find the most effective ways of boosting your bottom line.
- Agencies have more physical work capacity than an apprentice and most in house teams – unless you are in the lucky position of being able to employ a whole team of professionals full time. Hiring an agency gives you access to the skills, experience and time of a diverse team of experts at a fraction of the cost of hiring them all yourself.
Can You Hire A Marketing Apprentice AND A Marketing Agency?
If you have the budget, space and resources to take on an apprentice and hire a marketing agency at the same time, this can be a winning long-term partnership, even if you don’t currently have an established in-house team.
An apprentice is a strong long-term investment who will increase in efficiency as he or she grows with your company. An apprentice can carry out lots of internal tasks that help the agency, while also benefiting from the agency’s expertise. By hiring a good agency and a well-chosen apprentice you could increase your ROI from both investments, while shortening the time needed to start seeing results.
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