- Biotech companies entering their growth stage may struggle with the question of whether to develop an in-house marketing team or outsource marketing to an agency.
- The optimal choice depends on factors specific to each company, including available resources, campaign needs, locale, and the probability that company goals will shift.
- In many cases, a blended approach is optimal, combining an in-house marketing team with a retained marketing agency available to fill in missing expertise and produce campaigns that would exceed the core team’s bandwidth.
Pros and Cons: Hiring an In-House Marketer vs Marketing Agency
As a growth-stage biotech company, one of the most important decisions you’ll make is how to structure your marketing efforts. You need to determine whether to handle marketing with a dedicated in-house team or outsource activities to a specialized marketing agency. The right choice depends on several key factors.
Cost Commitments and Flexible Scaling
Employing an in-house marketing manager represents a significant financial investment, with base salaries commonly ranging from $70,000 to $95,000. Add staff to support additional functions like content development, digital campaigns, and design, and an internal team requires major ongoing budget commitments.
Marketing agencies offer a more flexible cost model, charging as little as $5000 to $7500 per month to provide complete strategic and execution support. Rather than large, fixed costs, you have the option to scale spend up or down based on your needs. Savings can be directed to other research and development priorities.
Of course, while financially efficient, most agencies cannot match the institutional knowledge of an internal team focused exclusively on your brand vision and audience. An internal team is therefore better positioned to help your external efforts stay within brand guidelines.
Pace in Launching Initiatives and Shifting Priorities
If you need to get marketing activities up and running quickly, agencies hold a time advantage. You avoid lengthy recruiting and onboarding procedures by leveraging their established talent pools and streamlined workflows. Most agencies can mobilize and begin tactical implementations rapidly after initial strategy alignments.
In-house marketers, on the other hand, are more agile when pivoting due to changes in company goals or market conditions. Campaign directions can shift fluidly through direct involvement rather than requiring layers of communication and approvals through an external partner.
Beyond a certain point, however, an in-house team is less able to adapt to significant goal shifts, due to the need to retrain or replace in-house employees. When a major shift in company focus occurs, or when the probability of such a shift is high due to a commercialization strategy that’s reliant on emerging technologies, a nimbler approach may be warranted.
Depth and Breadth of Marketing Expertise
Digital marketing encapsulates a vast array of specialties, including search engine optimization, paid search, social media, nurture and automation, branding, and graphic design. Finding and developing best-in-class capabilities across all channels in a homegrown marketing team is a daunting, multi-year project. For smaller biotech firms with limited recruitment reach into niche life science channels, it may simply be impossible.
This is where the diverse talent pools maintained by marketing agencies can deliver immense value. In addition to offering experts across key digital focus areas, agencies accumulate institutional knowledge of best practices and can optimize tactics by client and industry.
For some biotech firms, a mix of agency talent and internal subject matter expertise may be necessary to provide the ideal balance.
Innovative Ideas vs. Brand Consistency
Due to their outside positioning, agencies take an objective view of your organization and can provide fresh ideas that wouldn’t occur to an in-house team. Groups that are too close to the problem often struggle to produce messaging outside the team’s wheelhouse.
But innovation must also be consistent with brand identity to build awareness in target consumers. Internal teams live your mission, vision, and values every day, conveying your brand identity. With diligent direction, agencies can remain in sync with your core themes.
When possible, biotech companies should balance fresh insights from an external team with internal review to assure adherence to their foundational values.
Biotech Industry Connections and Domain Expertise
Marketing targeted specifically at life sciences, assays, biopharmaceuticals, or medical devices require specific areas of expertise. Niche skills separate effective biotech marketing approaches from boilerplate campaigns, and external experts can educate internal teams in these areas.
While essential, developing expertise can be costly and slow. Specialized biotech marketing agencies, however, have active networks that connect to critical industry events, associations, and leaders. They speak the language and understand the motivations driving decisions across biotech.
An integrated internal/external strategy allows messaging themes to align with brand identity while tapping into agency connections.
Additional Considerations When Assessing In-House or Agency Approaches
Other factors also influence the decision to build in-house marketing teams or outsource to agencies:
Company Growth Stage
Early-phase biotech companies often lack the resources for a full marketing team, so an agency offers the ideal turnkey solution. However, late-stage biotech startups require internal champions who understand what differentiates their offer in a crowded market.
Available Talent Pool
Thriving biotech hubs offer deep talent networks from which to build marketing teams. Businesses in other locations may struggle to attract the right people. Retaining specialist agencies can make up for the limits of local labor pools.
Honest assessment of your company’s current strengths, resources, and willingness to finance growth informs the ideal balance between in-house and outsourced marketing. As this may change over time, re-evaluation is needed as marketing goals progress, to make adjustments and keep pace with the unique requirements of your evolving biotechnology business.
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