Intern, part-time employee or marketing agency?

“If you think of marketing spending as eating into your profits, you’re thinking the wrong way.”

The U.S. Small Business Administration, the source of the quote above, reports that marketing is an integral part of any company’s budget. Some businesses, it says, reinvest up to 12 percent of their revenues into marketing.

When done with purpose and strategy, marketing doesn’t eat profits. It can grow them.

For businesses not used to working with a marketing budget and strategy, the thought of investing a percentage of revenues into marketing activities can lead to such fear-based decisions as delegating marketing projects to the wrong person or team or even doing nothing at all.

You’ll need to decide whether to work with a temporary intern, hire a part-time employee or outsource the work to a marketing consultant or local marketing firm.

Each option has pros and cons. Let’s look at each in turn.

A white piece of paper lying on a cluttered desk bears the words "marketing strategy."

Should you hire a college intern for marketing?

First and foremost, interns should not be considered free labor. Volunteers provide free labor. Internships are intended to provide immersive work experiences.

Whether interns come from Western Washington University, Whatcom Community College, Bellingham Technical College or a local high school, they won’t be fully experienced in the world of business marketing. They may use social media personally, or they may have written a handful of articles for a school project or worked on mock marketing campaigns. They have not yet had a variety of real-world experience, and that’s why they agree to work for a company for free or for low pay — to gain hands-on experience they can use to build their resume.

Do you have time to manage an intern?

Think of internships as providing on-the-job training and teachable moments to young adults while they complete delegated tasks that benefit your business. Interns should work under the direction of someone with experience who can provide instruction and guidance. You set up the projects; they follow, implement and report back.

Internships are often short-term experiences lasting three to six months, after which marketing interns move on to other classes or to full-time employment. Unless the student is hired by your company after the internship, you will need to go through the selection process again and train a new intern. This requires business leaders to expend time and energy several times each year.

One benefit of hiring a marketing intern is that students can offer a unique perspective. They can share fresh ideas and help target a new demographic of consumers for your business. Another benefit is that interns are often eager and excited to be working on their assigned projects. They can be a breath of fresh air!

Should you hire a part-time marketing employee?

A man and woman are conducting a job interview across a small outdoor table.

There is more to hiring your first marketing employee than selecting the skills you desire, setting an hourly wage and placing an ad on Indeed.com. Bringing a new team member on board also involves recruitment time (interviews, reference checking, skills testing), payroll, taxes, insurance and other HR tasks.

Some bookkeepers and human resources professionals say that the business side of hiring one employee can be more trouble than it’s worth, especially if the employee would be working fewer than 20 hours per week. The total cost of an employee is often considered to be a third more than the individual’s wage. For example, if you hire a part-time employee at $20 per hour, the true cost to your business – considering government-regulated taxes and insurance – will be closer to $27 per hour.

The challenge of recruiting and retaining part-time marketers

Recruiting an experienced employee who is willing to work part-time can be challenging, and it can be hard to keep them for an extended period. Part-time marketers may need to juggle more than one job to make ends meet. They might be in school or have young families or other commitments that can impact availability. They might always be looking for a different job with more hours. The chances are good that you’ll be rehiring and retraining someone new in 12 to 18 months.

It’s also hard to find one part-time person who is good at all necessary marketing duties, including website management, copywriting, social media management, copyediting, graphic design, public relations and general content creation.

That said, hiring a part-time marketing employee can be done. It is important to be patient until the right match comes along. The right hire will have marketing skills – copywriting, digital media management, branding, publicity – and a certain level of technical savvy. A part-time marketer with experience should be able to get up to speed with your business fairly quickly, settling in after a couple of months.

Tip: If you add a marketer to your company’s payroll, consider choosing someone who is local (not a remote worker) so they can be on-site at your office, store or facility. On-site marketers will be there to snap photos for a variety of marketing purposes; in-house marketers can freely communicate with the company owner or other employees about marketing-related ideas and strategies.

Contracting with a marketing firm or consultant

Outsourcing marketing tasks to an experienced marketing pro will cost more per hour, but working with a pro can save you time from the get-go. A marketing professional’s experiences allows them to hit the ground running without weeks or months of training. You can have immediate access to someone with diverse marketing experience with a variety of companies. It can be like hiring an executive-level marketer on a part-time, as-needed basis.

Hiring a marketing pro instead of a part-time employee means there is no need to go through the employee recruitment and hiring process. You won’t need to manage payroll, taxes or insurance. You won’t need to pay for break time or manage the accrual of sick leave. They are only “on the clock” when doing actual work for your business.

What marketing tasks should you outsource?

The following tasks and projects are excellent things to outsource to a remote marketing provider: email marketing, blogging, social media management, public-facing correspondence, recruitment advertising, graphic design, online review management, media releases, website technical support, project management, sponsorship planning, corporate newsletters, and editing of documents you create in-house.

Marketing firms and consultants can offer advice and guidance based on years of experience and interactions with other companies in your region. They also have a team that can help brainstorm strategies and new ideas – much better than relying on one employee’s experiences and opinions.

Tip: Make sure to only hire consultants and marketing firms that operate as a legal business, licensed and insured to do business in Washington state.

How to save money by outsourcing marketing

One cost-saving benefit of working with a local marketing firm is they will be responsible for continuing education – researching and staying up to date on current trends and best practices. You won’t have to spend time training yourself or paying staff wages to get the training necessary to work in the marketing industry. This could save your business hundreds of hours over the years.

Another benefit to outsourcing projects to a local marketing firm is that an established firm will be in it for the long haul. Your business will have the opportunity to work with the same marketing firm for years, creating stability and relationships that in turn strengthen marketing efforts. Some of PRC’s clients have partnered with us for seven to 10 years!

One challenge to working with a marketing firm or consultant is that the firm will not have feet on the ground in your place of business. Marketing firms rely on clients to share marketing-worthy activities going on with the business, and they often need the client to take photos of products, customers, business activities, etc. to share with the firm for their use. If you want the relationship to be at its most successful, you’re going to need to provide new content, photos and company news.

It may be easier for an in-house person to be responsible for photography than for copywriting, web work or public relations.

In summary, when the time is right to get help with marketing, there are options. Understanding the pros and cons of working with interns, hiring a part-time marketer or partnering with a marketing firm will help you make the best decision possible for your business in Bellingham, WA or beyond.

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