Hiring for Cybersecurity Digital Marketing Roles In-House vs OutsourceKerry Guard • June 28, 2022 • 11 minutes to read
Here at MKG Marketing, we have worked with multiple cybersecurity brands since 2014, from startup to enterprise.
As a small or midsize cybersecurity brand with lofty pipeline and sales goals, how you spend your budget is critical to performance. You must ensure there is little to no waste of resources.
I will lead with transparency.
Yes. I represent an agency. Yes, I'll point out why you should hire an agency. I’m offering you an outside perspective from someone who has worked with multiple cybersecurity marketers for over six years and helped them scale from startup to enterprise. I’m speaking from hands-on experience in terms of what roles they prioritized in-house and how we became an extension of their team.
This isn't me telling you what to do. This is another perspective. As the marketing director of a cybersecurity organization, you have experience growing teams. You know what you're doing. Take what’s helpful and leave the rest.
Digital Marketing teams have exploded in recent years. As the user journey becomes more complex, marketing departments need more roles to support each piece of the journey from brand awareness to nurture to purchase and all the moments in between.
Some of the digital marketing roles needed are:
Planning and execution
- Digital marketing strategy
- Digital channel experts
- Digital advertising
- Social media
- Public relations (PR)
- Graphic design
- Web development
- Content creation
Management and operations
- Account-based marketing (ABM)
- Marketing analyst
As a cybersecurity marketing leader you’re responsible in making sure your brand is everywhere your customers are. Your job is to surround them with your product and the problem you solve, so when they run into that problem your brand comes to mind and is easy to find. Ideally, the easiest to find. As a single person you can’t be everywhere at once, though at first you may try, especially if you’re the first hire.
To build your digital marketing team you need to do it quickly and thoughtfully as to not waste the limited budget you’ve been given. But where do you start? Below is a list of all the different customer touch-points in the journey broken down by how I see cybersecurity brands hire in-house versus what they outsource. You’ll have to consider time, then money. Allow me to explain…
In-House Digital Marketing Team
No one, agency or contractor, will know your brand as well as you. We'll damn well try, but we're not in the meetings with product, sales, and marketing that you are day in and day out. We'll request demos. Read white papers. Research your competitors and your ideal customer profile. But only those working inside your company can know your product and its value as well as you. We only get the Cliff notes.
Hire people in-house who HAVE to know your company and brand. Who HAVE to be in those meetings. Who will 100% be impacted by decisions product and sales make. Here are the top resources I've found cybersecurity growth companies to hire first, in no particular order (I’ll explain why further down):
Front-end web development
In-house: Someone who can implement website design changes. Who can tweak the user experience on a dime. Who can drop in code from your marketing technology systems. Who can update your technical SEO.
As a startup, you have to move, and waiting for product developers/engineers to make small website tweaks can slow you down. Front-end developers also make great collaborators on the insights provided to them to improve website health.
In-house: Good writers are hard to come by, especially niche ones. One option is to invest in someone with awesome writing skills and then train them up on your product, your voice, and the industry. Having them in-house also gives them access to the product, sales team, and current customers for interviews. Fewer hoops. Less friction. More writing.
Outsource: Content can be outsourced, although it takes a lot of leg work to find the right partner who knows the industry. Then you'll need clear systems and process across vendors to keep the machine in motion. We've helped build these systems which allows us to create immediate SEO impact.
In-house: Having a dedicated resource in-house who can mock up paid landing page layouts and design imagery for content, digital ad banners, and social media will save you time. As you produce more content, having the right imagery to complement it, tailored to the correct sizes of each network you share it on, will keep your content moving while keeping the design on brand.
Outsource: If you have a creative agency doing a full website refresh among other design elements, then having them take this on too makes sense as they already have resources dedicated to you. If not, hire in-house.
Social media management
In-house: By having a team in-house they’ll need less approval and oversight so they can act genuinely on behalf of the brand and comment on the fly on trending topics, allowing your brand to build trust and credibility.
Outsource: There are elements of social media that can be outsourced, especially the paid aspect, but having someone in-house driving vision and voice for each network as well as being actively engaged is what will bring your social presence to life.
In-house: Data is proprietary. Especially as a cybersecurity company. Having an analytics person in-house removes that friction and gives you access to someone who can pull reporting ad hoc. They have better visibility across the organization to report beyond just marketing for sales, product, and the C-suite. They are more in tune to all your systems and how they’re moving to more quickly catch when things break.
Outsource: While you can have an agency, like ourselves, access the data and help you aggregate and streamline systems to measure the user journey end to end, that comes with a lot of paperwork and hoops, which we are happy to jump through. Regardless, all agencies should provide analytics to the performance they’re driving. But an additional, dedicated person in-house allows for more speed and better visibility all around.
In-house: This role works primarily in your CRM. They also work across teams to help automate more than just nurture emails. This person is going to help the organization create efficiencies.
Outsource: You could outsource this in a pinch. We have partners that can provide you a dedicate resource to manage your existing systems. But you need someone internally who can wire up nurture campaigns, see opportunities, and ensure all your automations are running smoothly.
Account-based marketing (ABM)
In-house: Ideally this function would be in-house because again you're dealing with lead data, which is so closely connected to sales and business development. ABM will also show which content is resonating given most of it is probably ungated.
Outsource: We have run ABM campaigns on behalf of our clients. It's usually been out of the gate to test platforms and prove to show upper management it's worth investing in. You'll move faster if you build a team dedicated to a system or tool like 6sense or Terminus and can work closely with the sales team.
Outsourcing digital marketing: Enhancing your in-house marketing team
Once you have your in-house roles in place and your foundational systems and processes wired, it's time to scale. It's time to GO! No time to waste!
It's an agency's job to not only know your industry and dive into your brand, but also to know your digital marketing channels. REALLY know them—Google, LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, demand-side platforms (DSPs), and even Bing. What algorithm updates are coming? How will they impact your brand? What new tech can help streamline and reduce display advertising waste? And because we work mostly with cybersecurity brands what we've tested and learned from one company we can apply to yours for faster results.
As an agency, we can bring you a holistic digital marketing strategy that we iterate on thanks to new data. How can we ensure a successful cross-channel customer experience? We dig into your brand through demos, data, and research. We get to know your ideal customer through our own conducted interviews. We research your competitors and continue to dig into the cybersecurity industry as a whole by attending events, listening to podcasts, and building a network of cybersecurity practitioners on LinkedIn. Then we layer those findings into our channels and provide feedback on how they'll impact your website, email, social, and PR.
In terms of roles to outsource, it should be less about the role and more about the impact. You've been given lofty goals by your C-suite and you need to hit an 8 - 10x ROI. You need a demand generation plan that can scale and you need it yesterday.
Digital marketing strategy
Someone who knows the ins and outs of digital marketing channels, how they connect and feed one another, and can get in deep with your brand. It's their job to know your brand almost as well as you. Then deliver a holistic strategy that the channel experts can contribute to and enhance.
Digital channel planning and optimization
It's the channel experts’ job to know their channels, then partner with strategy to ensure a bespoke plan meets the needs of your customer. No one security brand is the same. No audience for those security brands is the same. Nor should channel plans be treated as such.
I mentioned hiring an analyst in-house. This isn’t instead of. This is an and. Agencies should always have an analytics expert on staff who is looking at how their channels are impacting your pipeline and help the team lean into what’s performing. They should also forecast performance for channels and provide that to your in-house analytics team.
Digital marketing execution
This is a job for straight-up doers. They ensure your digital ads campaigns are constantly being optimized. They can support your web developer with on-page changes. They pull daily, weekly, and monthly reports to help you, our experts, and our strategists make informed decisions.
They also help with turnover. Agencies are known for turnover (although people stay with us for an average of 3+ years). Having specialists who have worked in the weeds on your account while learning the ropes of the channels allows for easy promotions and back-filling.
They ensure your campaigns keep running and there’s little to no disruption.
Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO) and User experience (UX)
A strategist can absolutely support this, especially if they have the experience like our strategist. They’re already building the customer journey across channels and since your website is the gravity of that experience, it should be a huge consideration in terms of what’s driving pipeline.
This doesn’t have to be handled by a strategist. There are lots of different UX roles. It needs to be handled by someone who can analyze the customer journey and help architect the website to keep people engaged and help them decide to purchase your product.
Website and ad creative
It’s important to have a designer on staff who can create imagery on a regular basis. We’re visual creatures who crave stories so the more visual you can make your content the better results you’ll get.
However, having an agency drive the initial website build may be faster because again, they have the staff ready and you won’t need them forever, just for the initial build. An agency is also around for backup if your designer is swamped—which they will be.
Public Relations (PR)
PR is all about who you know, and agencies have built strong relationships with their journalists (at least they should have). It’s important to get your name out there, especially if you’re raising money. Finding a PR agency with specific cybersecurity contacts will build credibility as well as impact your SEO with high authority backlinks.
Note, we do not provide PR as a service. But we have great partners. We're happy to connect you.
This is what I’ve seen work across multiple cybersecurity brands in terms of the responsibilities they hire in-house. That’s not to say they hire all these roles. Certainly not all at once. These aren’t necessarily in order or priority either. You’ll need to balance what you need with your budget and your own skill set. What superpowers do you have? What do you love to do? Build your team around offsetting your own skills. Or if you're a jack/jane of all trades do it first, then hire and train. Think of these lists less like roles and more like outcomes/responsibilities.
Based on our experience in the cybersecurity industry, hiring those who need access to proprietary data and deep knowledge should be the priority. Then outsource support to help you scale fast and efficiently, ideally with partners who are niche to your industry.
What’s the one responsibility you need to outsource right now? Here’s a quick survey to help us add to our research, allowing us to iterate and keep this up to date based on your feedback. We look forward to hearing from you.