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Most SMEs don’t have marketing departments. They may have a marketing manager, sometimes supported by a marketing assistant. The reason is simple – these companies don’t have the marketing budget to warrant a marketing department.

This causes three problems for the business:

1. High churn rate of marketing staff

2. Lack of skills to undertake marketing effectively

3. Lousy results from marketing activity

Apparently marketing managers in SMEs turn over at a rate of about three every two years. The typical tenure is 6 to 9 months. In large marketing departments it’s more like 18 months, which is another problem but not for today’s discussion.


The high churn rate is due to the fact marketers tend to be social creatures. But their job involves them working in a back office on their own, or with an assistant, with small budgets on small brands. Not a very inspiring environment.

Management often doesn’t understand marketing – let alone fathom why the marketing manager isn’t a copywriter, graphic designer, website developer and PR expert all rolled into one. After all they’re a marketer aren’t they – the human Swiss Army knives of executive row?

human swiss army knife

These marketing managers don’t appear to do anything but contract external suppliers. But management doesn’t understand why they hire a marketing manager who then hires suppliers – and the circle of frustration between marketing and management continues to go around and around.

The second issue is the problem of skill. Despite what some digi-spruikers claim, there is no such thing as a Marketing Superman. Yes, those aged 50+ most of whom have 20+years of online experience running parallel with 30+ years of analogue experience – might squeeze into some tights and a cape.

It wouldn’t be a pretty site, however they do know how to use more channels than anyone else, particularly those half their age. But they don’t want these jobs and aren’t even considered for them because of the ageism in the market.


The digital world is changing so rapidly, very few can legitimately claim to be an expert in all channels. So a young marketing manager is on a hiding to nothing, as they have no analogue experience and very limited digital experience. They cannot do their job effectively because they just don’t have the skills, or the budget to hire additional specialist staff, nor to hire specialist agencies.

Consequently the work they produce is ordinary and struggles to pay for itself. The management starts asking questions, while the marketing manager starts looking for a new job.

Outsource the whole marketing department

So the role of marketing within SMEs – particularly mid-size companies – is changing. It’s now more cost effective to outsource your marketing function to an agency that provides all the marketing skill sets under one roof. After all, if you’re paying between $100,000 and $200,000 in marketing salaries and still outsourcing your marketing budget to suppliers, why not pay a marketing agency a retainer of say $10,000 to $25,000 per month instead?

You cut out the middle man. The agency has specialist marketers, media planners, website designers, copywriters, App developers, SEO skills, social media managers, content creators, et al, who can manage all your marketing, while you save on the overhead cost of a full time marketing manager/team. Assuming of course your management understands marketing.

I’m aware of a number of companies in manufacturing, retail, motor parts, direct wine sales and financial services – ranging from small to large businesses (some turning over more than $100 million) – that have outsourced their marketing department. I’ve even helped them find the right marketing agency – note I said marketing agency, not advertising agency.


to outsource your marketing department…

This probably wouldn’t work in large marketing departments of blue chip brands. But for small and medium size growing companies, the outsourcing of marketing management can be a more cost-effective way to spend your total marketing budget – salaries and media/production.

Although come to think of it, I do know some very large marketing departments where the marketing managers have outsourced so much of their marketing activities, they spend their whole day just managing the outsourced suppliers. Their work-life involves exciting things like attending meetings, pouring over WIP spread sheets, approving purchase orders, haggling with lawyers for copy approval, attending shoots or mindless focus groups and other such meaty marketing marvels.

Come to think of it, I might advise my kids to avoid marketing as a career path…