No matter where you work — whether a large corporation or a small, family-run business — sooner or later your marketing team will arrive at the age-old question: does size matter? Once your team has run out of budget, ideas and creative juice, they’ll likely want to consider bringing in a fresh brain to breathe some life into their rinse-and-repeat marketing strategy. And, if results are suffering, or you have astronomical goals to reach, you might even be inclined to say yes.
We’ve experienced this exact struggle at Design Pickle — and not just within our marketing team. Wrestling with whether to hire an agency to handle our creative (and then an in-house person to manage the agency), or have an in-house hire handle social media was no easy decision. Taking a step back and spending some time asking ourselves the questions below helped lead us down the right path. So, before you consider your next hire, ask yourself the following:
Do You Need Specialists Or Generalists?
Generally, the decision to hire specialists or generalists is a factor of marketing team size. The bigger your team, the easier it is to hire a specialist. The smaller your team is, the more you need each team member to be able to handle a variety of different projects. For example, on a marketing team of two, one team member might handle social, advertising and partnerships, while the other handles content, SEO and PR. But, it’s not always that simple — you must consider the pros and cons.
The smaller the team, the faster and more agile team members typically are. But since the variety of workload on each team member is usually larger, you take a bigger risk if a team member is sick, takes a vacation, or leaves the company. With a bigger team, you can spread out tasks and each person can concentrate on a single area of expertise, which generally leads to sharper focus and fewer mistakes. Of course, managing that team can be more difficult. Bureaucracy often develops with larger teams. Communication can become muddled, and individual buy-in may dwindle.
Which Areas Of Marketing Need The Most Support?
When you finally decide to hire for the marketing team, it’s difficult to know where to begin. The category itself is extensive and diverse. From social media and ad buys all the way to analyst relations, graphic design and employee marketing, a wide variety of tasks inevitably fall under the proverbial marketing umbrella. Bring together your leadership team and stakeholders to have a frank conversation about where you are and what your goals are. If the organization's goals aren’t clearly defined, the decisions that you make won’t be aligned and the people you bring on board as a result of those decisions won’t help the team meet its goals — negatively impacting the organization’s long-term growth plan, revenue and momentum.
To Outsource Or Keep In-House?
You can keep essential marketing team members in-house; in an office setting, channels of communication are less constrained and processes are more personalized. Outsourcing key components can put your organization at risk of diluting your core mission, vision and values. Keeping certain business functions close to the vest is a necessary part of creating a strong brand.
However, keeping all the work to yourself can become expensive and overwhelming. There are certain tasks and responsibilities that can be outsourced as a cost-effective and efficient option. You can hire out for a multitude of tasks, from social media management to content creation. It’s not difficult to find a freelancer or a service to take care of specific business needs with the state of the gig economy and subscription services.
What Are Your Long-Term Marketing Goals?
The quickest way to kill a business is to veer off course, forgetting all about your long-term goals. Around here, we call that “having a scarcity mindset.” Keeping a narrow focus on your to-do list is a good strategy for staying on task. But if you don’t keep the big picture in mind, you run the risk of becoming short-sighted in how you approach problems. At Design Pickle, we try to operate from a place of abundance, taking the time to reflect, analyze and report on findings when we don’t reach our goals. Establishing these goals up front, along with clear mission, vision and values statements, will allow you to make quick decisions when it comes to hiring, which will ultimately lead to growth.
George Fasching wrote a fascinating article about team dynamics, discussing in depth some exciting ideas about team size and performance. Fasching leans toward the “smaller is better” philosophy. He suggests that teams of fewer than 20 are most effective unless you only have a team of eight. The U.S. Marines believe the best size of the basic fighting unit is four.
While all leaders have their own ideas about the best team size, this shouldn’t be something that you pull out of a book. It should be determined after a thoughtful group discussion on goals, values, outsourcing and organizational needs. When growth is necessary, you must consider how adding team members will affect the dynamics of workflow, shift in responsibilities and training. On the other hand, a shrinking team can also have an impact on team performance, especially if it wasn’t planned. At the end of the day, what works for you won’t work for everyone else — but, using the right tools and strategy to make the decision will lead you on the growth path of success.
Kate Rooney is the Brand Manager at Design Pickle and loves helping people cultivate, launch and grow their brands. She has spent most of her career in the creative industry, gaining experiences in areas such as content creation, marketing strategy and creative direction. While overseeing brand identity is her primary job function by day, Kate also enjoys tinkering with jigsaw puzzles and listening to true crime podcasts — with her dog Huckleberry, of course.