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Marketing: Hire an Agency or In-House Staff?

Weigh the pros and cons of working with a marketing firm versus hiring an employee to meet your real estate company’s promotional needs.

September 9, 2020

Home sales have bounced back since the COVID-19 pandemic stay-at-home orders lifted across the county. It’s important for broker-owners to have a talented marketing team and an effective brand strategy in place to capitalize on the economic rebound.

Deciding whether to directly employ a group of talented marketers or partner with a third-party digital marketing consultant can be difficult. That choice is also an expensive one, and the right answer depends on the specific promotional needs of your company. Here are the pros and cons of both options.

Working With a Marketing Agency

Pro: They’re proven specialists.

Successful marketing agencies, communications firms, and general third-party marketing groups are going to be made up of seasoned professionals. Sure, they may be training some new hires or fielding promising interns, but the core team is going to have experience.

These individuals will have already carried out dozens and dozens of campaigns, most likely successful campaigns if they belong to a well-known firm. Odds are, they already have a laundry list of reporters, media outlets, and battle-tested tactics they can leverage to boost your strategy. And that would just be one member of the team. They may also assign a copy director with a flair for written material and even a seasoned graphic designer for some effective visuals. 

Pro: You sidestep the hiring process.

Vetting prospective marketing partners is extremely important, but it takes a lot less to find a firm than hire a staff member. Sure, you’ll be speaking with and interviewing representatives, but you won’t be sifting through dozens of resumes, trying to whittle down the applicant-base through time-consuming phone and video calls.

Additionally, the agencies you’ll be choosing from will already have a large body of work, usually portrayed on their websites. While individual marketers frequently provide portfolios, agencies and their campaign examples may be easier to review. The process may even help you decide on specific marketing tactics that would work well with the strategy you have in mind.

Pro: It’s a hands-off experience.

Marketing agencies and affiliated teams run like well-oiled machines. It’s likely that they’ve carried out the exact services you’re asking for many times.

If you’ve selected the right partner, you’ll be able to give them an overview of your company’s goals, consult with them on specific needs, and then assume a supervisory role.

Pro: It’s a group effort.

When hiring a marketer, it’s hard to find anyone who’s a perfect fit. Some candidates might not have experience with the specific promotional tactic that you want to employ. But you’re not going to have that problem with an agency. With seasoned promoters, content writers, SEO strategists, and social media managers, every role will be at your disposal.

Con: Cost.

Hiring a marketing partner is a lot like hiring any other type of consultant. Some charge by the hour, some charge based on deliverables, and others charge based on both. These people are going to have specialized experience, which is great for your strategy, but sometimes tough for your wallet.

Con: Specializations that don’t match up.

As you do your research on potential partners, you may find that many top agencies have certain specialties. For example, some firms are more connected with the media while others put more focus on a robust design team. There are also marketing firms that specialize in a particular industry, such as healthcare marketing. As a real estate professional, that outfit will not be able to help you. Keep that in mind.

Hiring an In-House Marketing Professional

Pro: They’re part of the team.

Obviously, the salary, onboarding, and training of a new employee can get very expensive. In the end, though, you’ll have a full-fledged team member—someone you can trust, who will hopefully grow and expand in their role and become a senior executive in your organization. They’ll become a solid coworker, helping the company run properly and earn you money.

Pro: They understand your industry.

Unlike a full-service marketing partner with experience across several industries, if you go with hiring a new staff person, they’ll be laser-focused your industry—and your company—alone.

Many real estate firms focus on a niche geographical area, like the Miami real estate market. Not many firms are going to have the ability to fully immerse themselves in that specific world of reporters, luxury real estate agencies, high-powered agents, and beachfront properties over the span of a few contracted marketing projects.

It might not happen overnight, but your marketing employee will learn on the job and hopefully get to know top-tier media members who cover real estate. They’ll soon understand how people in the industry speak and write about real estate, and develop an in-depth understanding of your target audience. In a short time, they will be fully embedded in your real estate market, and that is a huge advantage for you.

Pro: You’ll have more oversight.

Agencies are generally working with a variety of clients simultaneously. That can be helpful in some ways, but it also results in a fairly fast-moving work environment. Not every marketing agency has the tools in place, free-time, or courtesy to have someone from your real estate firm constantly looking over their shoulder. And that can be difficult to stomach, especially if their services are expensive.

On the other hand, you can monitor an employee’s work as closely as you’d like, providing input whenever you deem necessary.

Con: The potentially high cost.

I’ve mentioned this a few times before, but salary, benefits, training, onboarding, and carrying out the hiring process are not cheap. They are costly, ongoing processes that require substantial work from your company’s HR department, hiring manager, and potential supervisor of the new employee.

Con: Less flexibility.

If you decide to hire a full-time marketer, you have to be sure you’re going to give them enough work to justify creating the position. Promoting a few events here and there probably means you don’t need to make that hire. It would be like watering your flowerbed with a fire hose. An agency, on the other hand, can be employed piece-meal, and there are smaller agencies out there willing to take on small projects at low-cost.

Conclusion

There’s no one right answer here. The bottom line is, you’ve got to take stock of your promotional, advertorial, and general marketing needs.

Look at this way, you’re either getting a brand-new coworker, or you’re forming a relationship with a group of experts you can bounce ideas off of. Both could be great for your real estate company.


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Ricardo Mello

Ricardo Mello is the co-founder and managing partner of Manhattan Miami Real Estate. Specializing in consulting foreign buyers, he works with clients from all over the world looking to invest in luxury residential properties in New York City and Miami.

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