Businesses that are starting to gain momentum during the early-to-mid growth phases share several key marketing characteristics. They are experiencing positive results from their investments in social media, possess some resources available for deployment, and are confronted with the choice of either establishing an internal team or enlisting the services of an agency to facilitate their expansion.
In this article, Explore various factors to consider when developing a marketing department at this stage, essential competencies that require attention, strategies for addressing typical errors, and methods for evaluating the advantages and disadvantages of partnering with agencies versus internal staffing.
Essential Skills for Early-Stage Growth Marketing
Companies at various stages of maturity tend to allocate their advertising budgets predominantly to Google and Meta and LinkedIn, possibly for B2B purposes). There’s a compelling rationale behind this choice.
When combined, these platforms still account for nearly half of all digital advertising spending, offering extensive audiences and engagement capabilities at every stage of the sales funnel. For companies in the early stages of growth, this represents an ideal focal point.
So, what specific competencies should you have readily available to leverage these platforms effectively? Surprisingly, the list is quite extensive:
- Proficiency in managing bidding strategies and audience targeting on each platform.
- The ability to produce and conduct large-scale testing of creative content.
- Experience in implementing and managing tracking and tagging systems.
- Familiarity with marketing technology tools, including GA4 (Google Analytics 4) and at least basic competence in CRM and email platforms.
- Establishing valuable contacts within the chosen marketing channels who can provide insights and access to early beta features.
- A holistic budgetary approach that includes practices like attribution modeling, media mix modeling, and lift testing.
Even if your internal resources can handle the initial tasks (which would give you a significant advantage), you might still be allocating your budget inefficiently across your existing channels. The capability to conduct native-to-platform lift studies and conduct advanced analyses that assess incrementality and marginal returns can make a substantial difference at any stage.
However, it’s particularly critical at this stage, where every dollar spent and your rate of expenditure need close scrutiny. This becomes especially pertinent in 2023, as the gap between Series B and Series C funding rounds has expanded, and securing Series C funds has become significantly more challenging.
How to Minimize Errors in Early-Stage Growth Marketing
During this phase of growth, finding the right balance between caution and speed is crucial, though it can be quite challenging.
Early-stage marketers, especially those under the watchful eye of venture capitalists or private equity investors monitoring their investment expenditures, often experience pressure related to time and budget constraints when bringing a product or service to a wider audience.
Common mistakes made at this stage include allocating resources to channels or products without a well-established fit, spending to acquire customers who would have converted regardless, neglecting existing customers in the pursuit of new ones, and making unnecessarily lengthy commitments that tie up valuable resources.
The Agency vs. In-House Debate in Early-Stage Growth Marketing
If you find that none of the previously mentioned mistakes apply to your situation and your marketing team possesses all the essential skills mentioned earlier, the key takeaway should be to support and retain these team members at all costs.
There’s no need to invest in an agency, as you can trust that your in-house marketing team has a deeper understanding of and commitment to your company’s objectives, values, and mission than any external agency could provide.
However, if you recognize that your team is either too small or stretched too thin to cover all the necessary competencies mentioned earlier, or if you believe that an objective third-party perspective on your approach to achieving your business objectives would be beneficial, it’s time to begin researching potential agency partners.
In this case, seek out agencies with a strong focus on customer retention and a proven track record of driving growth and efficiency in your industry. Invite them to assess your current media mix setup as part of the evaluation process.
If you have diligently curated your shortlist, each agency should be capable of showcasing the potential value they bring to your partnership. The ideal agency collaborator will be willing to negotiate contract terms that prevent you from locking up excessive resources in the long run.
It’s worth noting that, during economic downturns, agency owners have universally found it more manageable, both logistically and emotionally, to terminate an agency partnership than to part ways with a colleague.
However, don’t settle for an agency that merely executes routine tasks and follows orders. Ensure they have the capacity to proactively develop a strategy that propels you several steps forward on the growth trajectory and can demonstrate a comprehensive understanding of the challenges within your industry.
What Comes Next
At this stage, growth is an exciting mix of rapid action, meticulous analysis, and strategic planning to pave the way for future expansion. Achieving this balance can be demanding even for teams that are fully equipped with resources, and it’s an even greater challenge for teams that need to make on-the-fly assessments of their hiring needs.
Whether you seek external assistance or possess in-house expertise, having a dedicated resource with the time and perspective to help you chart a course for the upcoming year, rather than just focusing on the immediate week, is crucial for sustainable, long-term growth.
Speaking of long-term growth, let’s conclude this series by taking a look at an optimal marketing function for well-established brands. Remember, maintaining success at the summit can often be more challenging than the ascent itself.
When it comes to early-stage growth in marketing, it’s essential to have the right skills, avoid common mistakes, and decide whether to work with an agency or handle things in-house. Finding the right balance between action and planning is crucial for long-term success, as maintaining success can be tougher than achieving it in the first place.