Company-specific customer research and segmentation are critical to identifying the right channels and targeting best suited to reach your ideal customer audience. While almost everyone is leveraging Facebook and Google, our work with the top tech companies reveals several key acquisition channels many marketing leaders are not yet testing, but should be considering. These include audio, connected and streaming TV, micro influencers, affiliates and even direct mail (still effective after decades).
In future articles, we will dig deeper into how these channels can impact your business and even share leading resources and vendor recommendations our clients have found very useful.
But before you spend your first dollar, you need the talent to test them. We examine the four leading options to help you decide which option may be best for your business.
Talent Option #1: Outsource to an Agency
Outsourcing a new channel to an experienced agency is the most widely used option among fast growing tech companies. It has a lot of advantages, but may not be right for everyone.
- Faster Time to Launch: as soon as a contract is signed, you’re given a specialized agency account team ready to stand up your new channel, and incentivized to do so quickly. They also have the resources to scale.
- Inherent Channel Knowledge: Your agency will have deep channel experience, a network of fellow experts to tap into, and access to the latest emerging channel tactics, strategies and even betas available.
- Ability to Iterate and Optimize Quickly: a first attempt at a new channel or strategy often doesn’t work. The ability to refine, identify areas of opportunity and learn from mistakes are critical for success. An experienced account team can iterate quickly.
- No Long Term Investment: If a channel isn’t working or your priorities or budgets change, according to most agency contracts, you can typically cancel with 30-60 days notice.
- Can Be Expensive. One of the biggest drawbacks of this approach, agencies typically take a considerable chunk of your budget, or require a minimum spend.
- Not All Agency Teams are Alike. More than one marketing leader has been burned by a poor-performing account team within an agency. Your agency’s performance is only as good as the people on your account, and they can change.
In the end, for companies with large enough budgets for a substantial media investment and the stomach, margins or urgency to work with a significant agency fee, outsourcing to an agency is likely a great option. However, we recommend meeting your account team first to evaluate the individual talent you’ll be assigned.
Talent Option #2: Test it Using Your Current In-House Team
If one of your team members already has experience in the channel you are looking to test, this option often makes sense. However, this often isn’t the case. Instead, this responsibility is assigned to what amounts to an inexperienced team member you “think” is most capable.
- Low Investment: Your investment remains limited to often a small media budget, and the time of an employee you are already paying.
- Ownership and Accountability. When managed in-house, time invested, expertise involved and the accountability to make it work are all things you will control.
- Extreme Flexibility. Instead of 30-60 days to pivot or abandon your investment in a new channel, changes can be made on the same day and you can quickly shift the focus of your employee(s).
- Limited or No Channel Expertise: In-house expertise for a channel you didn’t specifically hire for doesn’t usually happen. Testing a new channel without previous experience can result in a long, costly and potentially unsuccessful learning curve.
- Bandwidth: Rarely do we have employees with a lot of extra time on their hands. Splitting time between current responsibilities and making a new channel work can often result in lack of quality attention given to either.
For those on a tight budget, this is sometimes the only realistic option for testing new channels. In this case, we suggest putting your best effort forward and if the initial data shows even a glimmer of hope, gather enough data to make the business case to invest in it properly.
Talent Option #3: Hire a Freelancer or Contractor to Execute
Often considered the ideal compromise between option #1 and option #2, freelancers and contractors can act as an extension of your own team with limited commitment or investment.
- Reliable Talent: Unlike the agency model where your account team is assigned and can change, you vet your freelancer or contractor for their expertise upfront. They remain your primary talent source throughout the duration of their contract.
- Accountability with No Commitment: Like an in-house employee, a freelancer or contractor is hired to do a specific job and deliver results. They are accountable, and their contract will be terminated if results are not delivered.
- Focus: unlike a current employee splitting their time between responsibilities, a freelancer’s job is to focus on one thing only, iterate and test constantly to make it work.
- Medium Investment: typically less expensive than an agency, but more expensive than using in-house teams, this option can often be a happy medium, but may still not fit the budget.
- Lost Insights/Learnings: while freelancers and contractors may feel like an extension of your team, they are transient. When they move on (or you transition in-house), the expertise and learnings from months to years of management is often lost when they go.
A talented freelancer or contractor can be a nice option, but it isn’t perfect. Negotiating your contracts so they are tied to channel results can minimize your financial risk and make it a great option. To help retain insights and historical learnings, ensure your freelancer documents and records everything.
Talent Option #4: Hire a Full-time In-house Channel Expert
Hiring specialized, full-time talent in-house for a new potential channel makes sense when you have conviction that the channel can work for you and the resources to fully test it. This includes resources to hire talent in-house and the media spend they’ll need to test and prove out the channel.
- Ownership and Accountability: Unlike the freelancer option, all learnings and insights will remain with the company. Like option #2, you will be able to manage and rely on the time and expertise invested, and own the power to make this new channel work.
- Reliable Expertise: A full-time employee is committed in a way no freelancer or agency will be. Whether hiring yourself or using a marketing specialized search firm, a candidate’s expertise is fully vetted by the hiring manager, other team members and recruiters alike.
- Focus: without their attention being split between multiple responsibilities, an FTE hired specifically for a new channel can give 100% of their time and energy to learning from, and making this new channel successful.
- High Investment: investing in an FTE is always a big decision. Beyond a full-time salary, the process for hiring, benefits, career investment, and onboarding often takes significant company time, calendar time, and money.
- High Commitment: Should this new channel prove unsuccessful, you still have an employee on staff you need to utilize elsewhere or make some very hard decisions on what to do with them next.
When selecting this option, one way to minimize risk is to look for candidates with experience beyond the channel you are looking to test. They may have specialized in this channel most recently, but look for candidates whose backgrounds span other channels and skill sets so should this channel prove unsuccessful, they can still add value elsewhere.
Exploring new channels that have the potential to meaningfully impact your business is something every business and marketing leader should pursue. Consider the above options to help you decide how to source the talent to test it. At RevelOne, we not only specialize in marketing and GTM retained searches, but we offer insight and advice on org design and marketing strategy, and can tap an extensive network of specialized freelancers and agencies should you need additional help.
RevelOne is a leading marketing advisory and recruiting firm. We do 300+ searches a year in Marketing and Go-to-Market roles from C-level on down for some of the most recognized names in tech. For custom org design, role scoping, and retained search, contact us.