Hire someone, or use an agency?

A lot of law firms get to a point where they know they need to invest more in their branding and marketing, but don’t know if they should internalise the resource, or use an agency. 

Obviously, we run an agency, so we are going to be a bit biased, but the key points are what they are.

It simply makes a lot more sense to use an expert agency, and here’s why:

  1. Internal hires costs less to use an agency, and you get better results
  2. Expert agencies bring far more industry expertise and connection 
  3. Using an agency can give you a truly objective “outsider” perspective 
  4. Nimble agencies can change and adapt faster

Not convinced yet? I wouldn’t be either but here is our completely biased take! 

  1. It costs less to use an agency, and you get better results

Let’s start with the big one. You are going to end up paying a lot more for an internal hire than an agency and you won’t get the same quality of results. 

Do the math on a marketing manager with 3-5 years of experience. You are probably paying them around $8,000+ a month. On top of that, you add the normal employee costs and you are looking at around $10+K a month very conservatively. You also have to manage that person and everything else that goes with having an employee. For that, you get one person, with one skill set, able to execute on that well but need to then bring in other people.

There are no unicorns who are great strategists, great designers, videographers, copywriters, content creators or web developers. Sure some people can do a few of these things, but ultimately as we know in our business you can only really do one or two very well. It’s a bit like being a lawyer. Sure, you could do criminal law and family law and construction and aircraft finance and IP and disputes and M & A, but we all know no one can cover all of those bases as well as a specialist in each. 

What happens is that you hire someone but then need to hire others (or they need to hire an agency) because you want all of your work to be of the highest quality, not just the bits they focus on. Ultimately, that $10K a month is more like $15-20K (at a minimum). For larger firms, that pay marketing and BD people a lot more, budgets are far far higher. 

So, what would you get at an agency for the same spend?

For $10K a month you can create more content and marketing material, which is better, to reach more clients, than most firms in Australia presently do even with larger teams. At a minimum, my best guess is that you could get 2 times the output vs having one person internally.  Let that sink in for a second. If you are running a law firm you can do more than your competitors for less than the cost of 1 full time experienced marketing professional. You could have a podcast, do video, blogs, social media, website updates, publicise events, create fresh marketing material when you need it, and all for the same cost as having one person internally who could potentially do 2 of those things well. 

Now I hear you saying, Mike, we don’t spend nearly that much. So let’s scale it down. Some people hire part-time marketing managers. It might cost you $5K a month. They are going to still have to draw on external resources, especially for larger projects. Even at that figure an agency should be able to provide a lot higher quality content and material than that one person can produce on their own (and you get to leverage their skills and experience which I write about below!). Plus, you don’t have anyone to manage! 

Using an agency like ours lets you tap into our team who are specialised. We can bring all of our skills to the table so that the outcome is far superior to any that one individual can accomplish. Instead of a generalist, you get access to specialists, with more skills, who do a better job. 

  1. Leverage industry expertise, connections and experience 

Can you hire someone who has worked in the legal and professional services professions, for firms of all sizes all over the world? The truth is, you can’t. Most firms actually hire marketing or BD generalists and ask them to fulfil a very broad function without any industry expertise. 

Experience allows you to pattern-match and see the future. People who have done things before can almost see around corners. They can anticipate results and outcomes and they can save a lot of time and effort because they recognise situations and respond to them. They have experience, and experience allows better decision making and far less wasted time. 

But you know that already! The key question is not whether expertise matters, it is how much is expertise worth? 

Think about it this way. If it is important, would you rather have a partner with 15 years of experience, or a first-year solicitor working on your matter? 

The same applies to your branding and marketing. Sure, you can hire someone who may have worked for a handful of firms (or none!), but a specialist agency will have worked across dozens of similar projects and be able to tap into a combined experience no individual possibly could. 

  1. Objective “outsider” perspective 

Ask any business owner and the one thing they value over almost everything else is objective help. It may hurt, it may make us uncomfortable, but getting proper objective advice and feedback is hugely valuable. Every decision-maker questions themselves, and therefore values real answers. 

Outsider input that is fiercely objective (rather than timid and self-serving) needs to be central in the equation when deciding between an internal hire and an external agency. Robust firm owners know that they have blind spots and have the common sense to want them to be pointed out. On the other hand ego-driven firms tend to prefer to be surrounded by “yes“ people. 

Ultimately the biggest issue is that it is very difficult to get internal team members to be objective, especially in law firms where there are real hierarchies. It just doesn’t pay for an individual to be sticking their neck out in an organisation, let alone if there are internal hierarchies. It is hard enough for the partners to do that, let alone expect that of an employee.

 Employees aren’t silly, they will temper good objective advice to make it more palatable to and they will ensure advice aligns with their interests as well. This is just natural self-preservation but it is important to understand if you value objectivity. 

So it really is a stark choice. If you value objectivity you need an external source. 

  1. The ability to change quickly 

In March 2020, when the world was changing in front of our eyes, we were able to pivot all of our clients messaging in less than 10 days. This was a huge task, not just to get everyone on board, but we literally re-did campaigns that had been completed. Being flexible and able to respond quickly is hugely valuable in a world where 24 hours is a long time in business. 

Again, this is far harder for internal teams to navigate. Not only do they have to persuade internal stakeholders, but they are also beholden to internal processes. Unless they have complete buy-in from the partners already, this can be very difficult. 

This is not a problem an external agency has. Because of our objectivity, we are able to move quickly, make the change when it is needed, and protect our client’s interests in real-time. 

Convinced? We’d love to chat about how we can best serve your firm by adding a more cost-effective, higher-quality marketing arm to your business to help propel it forward in 2022.

Download a copy of our services guide.

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