Building a Recruitment Marketing Capability: Recruit or Outsource?
As recruitment business owners and leaders continue to look for ways to scale their businesses in terms of growth, revenues, and headcount, so will their brand awareness and marketing needs.
If you’re an owner or leader of a recruitment business that’s been fortunate enough to have experienced considerable growth post-pandemic without investing in your brand and marketing, it’s very likely that your brand and business is now experiencing challenges with a reduction in inbound engagement, sales enquiries, and candidate applications from your target audiences.
Investing in your brand and marketing capabilities is essential if you have ambitions to scale your recruitment business. However, so often this investment is minimal and done by individuals in your business that have other key duties and responsibilities.
I’ve lost count of the number of times I have heard recruitment business owners say, “Our marketing has previously been done by XXXXX in our internal recruitment team or XXXXXX in our operations team”. Even more alarming is that this approach and underinvestment in skilled marketing resources and capabilities often drives their opinion that they don’t see the value or ROI in marketing.
In the same breath, these same owners will go into great detail about how much they admire and envy other recruitment brands/businesses and competitors that, from the outside looking in, appear to have invested heavily in their marketing and brand exposure and are now snapping up more market share.
This situation forms the narrative for many of the inbound approaches we receive on a daily basis from recruitment owners and leaders who are now looking to catch up and invest in their marketing capabilities/outputs to remain competitive in the market, and ensure their brand presence and proposition remain at the forefront in the minds of their target clients, candidates, and recruiter audiences.
We often get asked the age-old question, “Should I recruit my own marketing resource or outsource to a recruitment marketing agency?”
As the founder of both a marketing talent recruitment business Attention and a recruitment marketing outsource business Halt, I thought I would share some insights into the benefits and opportunities that both options present, and what questions you should ask yourself when making such a decision.
Let’s start with building your own in-house marketing function
Businesses that have considerable capital and resources available will often prefer to build their marketing capability in-house. An in-house marketing team is essentially either one multi-skilled individual or a small team of niche marketing specialists that work solely for your company.
As they are employees of your company, you will remunerate them with a permanent salary and benefits package. When you also include the costs and internal resources needed to recruit, onboard, train, manage, and develop your own marketing resource, on top of additional costs like specialist hardware and MarTech/SaaS subscriptions, maintaining a fit-for-purpose marketing function will require a significant investment.
This investment means that recruitment businesses often revert to what they believe is the best solution: either delegating marketing duties to a non-sales employee within their business or going down the option of hiring an individual with limited to no experience for what they believe is the “cheapest” option.
Despite these obvious cost challenges, there are many benefits to hiring your own in-house marketing team. These include:
You have complete control and direction over your marketing
When you recruit a marketer to work in-house for your business, you have complete control over the direction of the outputs and work they will be delivering for your business. The opportunities and potential results this presents your business are endless, especially when your objectives are underpinned by a clearly defined marketing and brand strategy.
While this is a massive benefit, if you don’t have a marketing and brand strategy in place from the start, you are effectively going into the process of building a marketing function blind.
More often than not, businesses invest in their marketing and shape the duties and deliverables required based on assumptions of what they think they need but overlook the importance of having a marketing strategy or how to measure the success and ROI of their marketing capabilities.
In-house marketers are more culturally and commercially aligned with your business
Marketers that are embedded into your business will not only be exposed to your company’s culture but will also be closer aligned with your business objectives, sales, sourcing, and internal talent attraction strategies. Their work and collaboration with you, your leaders and employees across your business will give them a far greater insider perspective than an outsourced marketer.
Additionally, your in-house marketer will also act as an internal brand and marketing ambassador, working closely with your recruiters on personal branding and marketing activities.
You can benefit from your in-house marketer’s desire for success
Direct employees of your company will inherently want to conduct their duties to the best of their abilities. This will be driven not just by their desire for job stability but also by the chance to develop their skills, increase their earning potential, and progress into more senior opportunities.
Internal employees will also be more emotionally invested in the success of your company, which in turn will see them go above and beyond to help you achieve your business’ strategic objectives.
Greater internal communication and collaboration
Communication between outsourced marketing agencies and you/your internal stakeholders isn’t usually an issue; however, it doesn’t come close to the benefits and efficiencies of being able to quickly interact and communicate with each other when they are in the same office/hybrid working environment.
While working with a reputable outsourced recruitment marketing agency will come with clear lines of communication and rules of engagement, with an in-house marketing department, it’s far easier to keep track of the progress of work and have various departments engage and collaborate with each other.
Communication throughout your business will therefore be more straightforward, forming collaborative relationships between your marketing and recruitment teams. Of course, this does require your in-house marketing function to be proactive and embrace communication and collaboration with your sales, sourcing, and internal talent attraction functions, not hiding away in a back office.
Access to full-time resource to deliver bespoke/reactive requirements
While the role of an internal marketer goes far beyond simply making your latest PowerPoint deck ‘pop’ or look ‘slick’ at 4pm in the afternoon, it often falls upon your internal marketing team to support with these types of requirements.
Having the ability to call on marketing and creative resources to drop everything to assist you is something only possible with having your own marketer/marketing team. It’s almost impossible to have an outsource agency or even a freelancer available and on-call to be able to assist you at such short notice.
Additionally, having your own internal marketing resource enables you to have ‘boots on the ground’ for those moments when you have something important happening internally and need to react quickly to creating content to tell the outside world about it.
Only recruit for the skills you actually need
Many marketing professionals (especially in the recruitment marketing scene) will have a variety of different skills, ranging from social media and email campaign creation to website optimisation and paid advertising expertise.
If you have a comprehensive marketing and brand strategy in place that directly aligns and complements your sales, sourcing, and internal recruitment objectives, you will then have a clear blueprint of the skills and experience required to deliver the marketing outputs you need from your in-house marketing function. This will in turn enable you to define the job description and requirements of the resource you need to hire.
The benefits of using an outsourced recruitment marketing agency
Outsourcing part or all your marketing output involves partnering with a specialist agency. In the recruitment sector, these are often referred to as “recruitment marketing agencies.”
When you work with a recruitment marketing agency, they will likely be able to offer you a variety of tailored outsourcing solutions, ranging from developing your marketing and content strategies, outsourcing the creation and delivery of your marketing and content, or managing and executing specific outreach and audience engagement campaigns.
Typically, these agencies provide solutions that are tailored to the needs of their clients. These plans are available for a monthly retainer fee, which can depend on the agency and the output requirements. They can sometimes be expensive, which puts off start-up and SME recruitment businesses from going down this route.
Other recruitment businesses simply don’t want to give up any control over their marketing output to an outside party. Despite these perceived drawbacks, outsourcing your marketing can be hugely beneficial and result in a significant ROI in many of the ways listed below:
Access to a large team of experienced and skilled recruitment marketers
Attracting and recruiting one or several marketers that have specific skills and experience in recruitment marketing is challenging enough.
An established recruitment marketing agency will likely have been founded and led by an experienced recruitment marketing leader with a proven track record of building and leading recruitment marketing functions and achieving evidenced results for some of the world’s biggest recruitment brands.
These agencies will have scaled over time by building teams of skilled marketers and recruitment marketing specialists with vast amounts of experience, skills, and expertise.
This means that by outsourcing to a recruitment marketing agency, it’s very unlikely you will have to worry about having the right available resources, as agencies will be able to handle all of this on your behalf.
It’s also not uncommon for these agencies to use networks of skilled freelancers or even team up and collaborate with other recruitment marketing agencies that specialise in delivering specific niche solutions.
Solve internal talent shortages
Even if you prefer to run your marketing function in-house, a recruitment marketing agency can still provide you with skilled marketing resource to fill any talent gaps that may exist. The ability to fill talent gaps allows you to address your team’s temporary resource needs without investing in additional full-time resource.
You can also call on a recruitment marketing agency to deliver specific duties or roles should any of your marketers suddenly resign or take time off, even if it’s just a temporary need until you can recruit or source a replacement.
Dial up and down your marketing needs based on your requirements and budgets
One of the major issues that many recruitment businesses face is the need to scale up or down, depending on how their business is performing. If your business is scaling, marketing strategies and outputs should remain a priority to support that growth.
To achieve this, your marketing function must be capable of scaling up. This can be challenging if you don’t have the capital and funds to support this. If you choose to assign more permanent marketing resource to your marketing outputs, only to experience a sudden drop in revenue performance and growth, you may find yourself in the difficult position of having to downsize your marketing function through redundancy and restructuring.
A recruitment marketing agency has the resources to scale up and down based on your specific needs. If your recruitment business is showing signs of stagnation, then the agency can scale down with ease so that you’re not overinvesting. If you need to scale up, a recruitment marketing agency can tailor their deliverables and dedicate more resources to you at relatively short notice.
Less involvement and direction from you
Appointing a recruitment marketing agency should come with little to no fuss for you. While the initial onboarding process and set-up will require some of your time and resources, once the outsourced solution is in place, the wealth of experience that recruitment marketing agencies are accustomed to means that they can push ahead with delivering your needs with limited supervision or guidance from you.
Some recruitment businesses are hesitant to outsource their marketing because they don’t want to give up control to an outside party. However, the level of control you can maintain over your marketing is dependent on what you want. A recruitment marketing agency can take complete control over all your marketing, or they can simply complement and supplement your existing internal resource and efforts.
You can even keep your marketing function in-house and use an agency’s senior experts and leaders as a consultative and mentoring service to help develop, optimise, and transform your internal capabilities.
Fixed monthly costs — without the permanent employee costs
The total cost of a full-time employee/team can be tricky to determine from the outset. Salaries vary considerably based on the position, location, and the level of skills and experience required. Add to that all the additional investment associated with a full-time employee, such as benefits/contributions, hardware/software, office overheads, outsourcing requirements, training, and much more, means the cost of a single hire in your marketing functions starts from as much as £60k per annum.
These additional costs are virtually eliminated when you outsource to a recruitment marketing agency, as you will typically be charged a flat monthly retainer/fee. This means you’ll only have to pay for the skills and experience you need, while also being able to budget and forecast against investment without any unexpected variations.
You get full transparency of exactly what you’re paying for and what you’re getting for your investment, which are linked to agreed deliverables and desired outcomes.
Get a fresh perspective
If you’ve had the same in-house marketer or marketing team for several years, your marketing strategies and delivery tactics may have grown stale and are no longer relevant.
If this happens, it’s because ultimately, you only know what you know. It isn’t easy to stay fresh if you’re working on the same brand and marketing strategy for years. It creates tunnel vision.
By introducing a specialist recruitment marketing agency into the mix, you’ll also introduce a fresh new perspective.
Many recruitment marketing agencies have exposure to and experience working with a multitude of different recruitment businesses across a variety of specialties, industries, and sectors.
More often than not, they’ve likely developed strategies and delivered marketing solutions that have been entirely different than what you’ve historically been doing, and as a result, they can use their unique experiences and successes to provide you with a fresh take on how you can get the most of your marketing ROI.
Stay up to date with the latest marketing trends
A recruitment marketing agency can provide more than just a fresh perspective; they can also impart valuable knowledge gained through keeping up with and practising the latest marketing tactics and approaches.
Since they are so preoccupied with creating, executing, and delivering their own marketing plans and activities, most start-up and SME recruitment businesses find it difficult to keep up with such developments. By the time they figure out what works, the fast-paced world of marketing has moved on, leaving them to replicate and follow in the footsteps of their competitors rather than be innovative and, dare I say it, not be seen as a ‘disruptive’ brand.
How to decide whether to recruit in-house or outsource
Recruiting your own in-house marketers and outsourcing part or all your marketing needs have their own advantages and downsides that must be weighed when deciding how to best meet your company’s marketing requirements.
Asking yourself the following six key questions might help you choose which option is the best approach for your business.
- How would you rate your business’ current marketing capabilities?
Evaluating your existing capabilities is crucial to identifying what resources you need. Finding skill and knowledge gaps requires an accurate assessment and an internal review of your capabilities. Whether it’s through a SWOT analysis or calling on the support of a seasoned recruitment marketing professional to do an audit of your business, you can only make the right decision if you know what you need.
- Is this a full-time requirement?
Do you need someone to fill your requirements on a full-time, permanent basis, or do you only need a certain set of skills to deliver key actions and outputs each month?
The last thing you want to do is recruit a full-time employee/team and then have them struggle to find enough work to fill their working week.
- How soon do you need a solution for your marketing needs?
Is time of the essence, or can you take your time finding the right solution?
If there is an immediate need, you should consider outsourcing as a short-term solution while you take the time to find and hire the best full-time in-house marketer/marketing team.
- What skills and experiences do you actually need?
It’s important to remember that not every marketer with a certain title has the same set of abilities. One marketing executive may have far superior knowledge of social media content creation, for instance, whereas another may only have experience in design or copywriting.
Due to their versatility, generalist recruitment marketers who have experience across a broad spectrum of skills will come at a premium if you only require them to deliver a few key tasks and outputs each month.
When you outsource, you only pay for the skills and outputs you need.
- Do you have a limited marketing budget?
The amount you are prepared to invest in your marketing has a significant impact on which option you choose. If your budget is limited, it may be challenging to take on a full-time employee to solve this need.
You could always re-evaluate your budget allocation to find the funds to address these needs, but another option is to outsource since a recruitment marketing agency can fulfil both short-term and long-term needs through the creation of bespoke solutions to deliver your needs for a fixed monthly retainer.
- What are your internal management capabilities?
Having the time and resources to manage your marketing function is crucial to the effectiveness of running an in-house marketing department. You will need the time to oversee an employee/team and to sign off on the work being done.
While outsourced recruitment marketing agencies may also require some initial guidance and direction, if you don’t have the time and resources to oversee your marketing output, outsourcing may be a better option.
There’s no fixed consensus about which option is the best choice for building your marketing capability. It all comes down to knowing what the needs of your business are and having the right marketing strategy in place.
However, you’re also not limited to only one option. Many recruitment businesses utilise both their own in-house marketing resource and the services of an outsourced recruitment marketing agency to deliver their marketing outputs. Just because you’ve recruited a marketer or built a small in-house marketing function doesn’t mean that you can’t outsource to close gaps in your function for specialist skills and expertise.
To create a balanced marketing capability while getting the most out of your marketing budget, consider a hybrid model, following many successful and high-growth recruitment businesses that rely on both in-house marketing and a recruitment marketing agency to develop, deliver, and manage their marketing strategies.
“Thanks for the insight Chris, but where do I go from here?” I hear you ask…
At this point, if you’ve taken the time to read through a 3,000+ word article, then building a results-focused marketing capability for your recruitment business is clearly a key priority for you and your growth strategies.
If you’d like to discuss this further, feel free to connect and reach out to me to arrange a chat to find out more and discuss what options would best suit your needs.