should you hire an intern or an agency assessment

Should You Hire an Agency or an Intern? [Quick Assessment]

Mar 03, 2019 Karen Cummings View all posts by
Karen Cummings
business tips, building your brand

Should you hire a marketing intern or a digital marketing agency to handle your business marketing needs?

While the answer might seem obvious to us, we get that the choice isn’t always so clear for everyone else.

As a brand, you know you want to increase your reach, contacts, customers and impact. So, you’re toying with the idea of signing up with an agency - when really what you may need is an intern.

If you’re considering outsourcing your marketing, and partnering with an agency, first take a minute to read through this quick evaluation. We want to help you make the right decision, and set your business up for future success. Before you make your next move, make sure you’re crystal clear on exactly what you need - rather than investing thousands of dollars on something you aren’t ready for.

We’ve listed 7 distinctive factors we’ve found to hold true in determining if you are ready for an agency, or should instead consider hiring an intern (note that we didn’t mention free intern - we do recommend paying at least minimum wage even if they’re getting school credits).

A quick assessment to determine if you need an intern or an agency

You may want to work with a marketing agency, but do you need an agency and are you ready for that step? Read through the following considerations and give yourself a score of 1 or 0 for each one. If you score 5+, then you may be ready to hire an agency (and we’re here for you if you are!).

#1: You’ve nailed down your brand voice.

Yes (1): Agency

No (0): Intern

While agencies can be experienced guides in helping you shape this, it’s critical that you have a foundational understanding of what you want your brand to be: what you want to sound like, look like, and the message you want to present to the world.

As the business founder, you should have a deep understanding of how you want your brand to be portrayed.

Answer this one question: “If your brand was a person - what would they be like?”

Like many of the most successful companies, your brand is most likely a reflection of your own personality and voice of that of your audience. If you already know how you want your brand to sound, what you want your brand to say, what words you know you want to avoid - and your overall ‘brand personality’ - you may be ready to work with an agency. If you’re still fine tuning this and testing out various messages on your digital channels, it might be better to hash out some of these tests with the help of an intern, or instead start a limited brand building engagement with an agency.

#2: You’ve clearly defined your sales process.

Yes (1): Agency

No (0): Intern

If you have the goal of working with a marketing agency to drive new prospects and customers, you must first establish your sales process and the steps within it. Some agencies (like us) can help with formulating this, but typically it happens prior to creating and activating your digital marketing strategy. To see a return on your marketing investment, there must be a process in place for your team to be managing incoming leads and moving them through the sales cycle.  All of your team members involved in the process should be on the same page, and the process should be communicated with your agency. If you’re still trying to figure this out, work with a marketing intern until you’ve nailed it down.

#3: You’re ready to let the marketing experts take the reins.

Yes (1): Agency

No (0): Intern

We get it, it’s hard to trust your baby in someone else’s hands. But if you’re at the stage where you’ve nurtured your brand and established an engaged (albeit small) online community, the best thing for your business’ growth at this point is aligning with experts in this domain. We’re not saying engaging with an agency means you don’t have to do anything, but we are saying that you have to be ready to be led by the specialists. If you’re still at a stage where you want to determine each and every step to be taken to achieve your goal, it may be best to hire an intern to help execute on your pre-set plan.

#4: You want to collaborate.

Yes (1): Agency

No (0): Intern

If you’re ready to take your ideas to the next level and your impact beyond your wildest dreams, collaboration with specialists is key. While there are some incredible interns out there, most of them aren’t going to have the experience or expertise to contribute to the overarching growth strategy you’re creating for your brand. As an agency, we’re obligated to give you our recommendations, guidance and share our expertise with you. We really wouldn’t be doing you or your brand justice otherwise. Our most successful clients are the ones that collaboratively work to grow their digital presence by contributing thoughts, ideas, images and their own industry expertise and then letting us turn that information into strategic and actionable marketing campaigns. Again, if you’ve mapped it all out, want complete control over every aspect of every decision, and just someone to be an order taker and execute on your requests - intern is the way to go.

#5: You have a marketing budget.

Yes (1): Agency

No (0): Intern

This one is pretty straightforward. If you’re working on a shoestring budget (less than $500 per month) to accomplish all of your marketing initiatives - aligning with an agency is not the right choice. You’ll either find yourself partnering with a cheap agency that produces low quality work, or paying for agency work that you can’t afford, resulting in extra stress, pressure and often unrealistic expectations. If you find yourself lacking in budget, continue investing your own time into working with an intern until you hit a point that you can invest more money (and less day-to-day time) in working with an agency.

#6: You’re committed to high quality communication.

Yes (1): Agency or Intern

No (0): You may want to ask yourself, “why not?”

This was a trick question! If you - or your team - isn’t committed to high quality communication you’re going to have a tough time leading, growing and achieving the results you so passionately want to accomplish. We encourage you to evaluate what’s holding you back from optimizing your communication and focus on that as a priority before aligning with outside resources or hiring interns (who require a high level of ongoing communication). In order to successfully partner with an agency, you need to be prepared for regular and thorough communication and feedback. It takes time for an agency to really understand you, your brand, and develop marketing strategies that meet your specific goals.

#7: You can hold yourself accountable

Yes (1): Agency

No (0): Intern

If you’ve found yourself a good intern, they will want to do a good job for you. But in the end, they aren’t going to be as invested in your growth as an agency typically is (maybe we shouldn’t speak for all agencies, but we would definitely be highly invested in your agency! It’s just how we roll.) So, when you fall short on your promises and deadlines or your communication is lacking, there will be little push back or consequence when working with an intern. But doing the same when you’re engaging with an agency can be a very costly mistake. With an agency you’ve typically established a plan, project schedule, specific deliverables and more. A good agency will be following through on their end - but that doesn’t mean they can accomplish everything they set out to do if your team isn’t committed to the process, holding themselves accountable or taking ownership of their role.

#8: Committed to sustainable results

Yes (1): Agency

No (0): Intern

With any marketing strategy, it takes time for things to unfold as you (or your agency) learn what works best for your brand. If it's the first time you're using a certain social channel or you’ve recently refined your messaging, it's going to take some testing first. When you engage with an agency, you need to be in a place where you can afford both the time and budget to test messaging, channels, campaigns to see what really resonates with your audience(s). If you are looking to run rapid fire campaigns to get your brand out there, and aren’t as concerned with the long term impact, it may be best to hire an intern who can implement them quickly and move on to the next thing without hesitation. For more strategic marketing campaigns set to define your brand for the future, it could take several months before you refine and optimize it to perfection - but the wait will be well worth it.

#9: You aren’t scared to answer (a lot) of questions - even the tough ones

Yes (1): Agency

No (0): Intern

Are you ready to see where you can really take your brand? Are prepared to sit down and allow someone to extract as much brand information as possible from that pretty little brain of yours? If yes, then hiring a marketing agency could be the right move for you. One of the most significantly important reasons to work with an agency - specifically Radiant - is because we know the right questions to ask. However, that doesn’t mean we know all of the answers. Especially when it comes to brand-specific questions. While we do pride ourselves on our marketing expertise, we’re the first to say we’re not experts at your unique, beautiful, individual brand. Once we’re able to extract the info we need, campaign results can spread like wildfire.

If you’re looking to hire an agency simply because “you don’t have the time to do your marketing” I’d encourage you to reflect on that for a moment. Ultimately, you need to determine if partnering with an agency really is the best decision for your long term growth or if you should outsource other tasks and still dedicate a little more time internally to crafting your brand’s message before hiring someone.

While there are certainly other factors to consider when making the move to outsource your marketing, these seven items tend to be the key elements that determine the success of client agency relationships and campaign outcomes.

Have you worked with an agency and have other considerations to add to this list? Share them with us!

Did you score 5+ in the above assessment and want to see if we’d be a match made in heaven? Request a discovery session here.
Karen Cummings

About The Author

Karen Cummings

Karen founded her first inbound marketing agency in 2011 and has been passionately delivering high-impact strategies & plans for health & wellness brands ever since.

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