When considering the execution of your fishing or paddlesport brand’s marketing strategy, one of the key decisions to make is whether you’ll manage your program in-house, through project-based freelancers and discipline-specialized firms, or with a full-service creative agency. This can be a big decision and one not to take lightly.

In our experience, the majority of brands in these niche markets don’t have the in-house resources to successfully conceive, execute, and deploy the comprehensive branding and marketing strategies their brands and audience demand. For most of these companies, sustaining a marketing staff who can pull
off the strategic planning, content and creative development, website
design and development, social media planning, and so on just isn’t
realistic.

It generally takes more than a dedicated marketing person or two to effectively market a fishing or paddlesports company and its products to enthusiasts. Brands that don’t have a multi-member marketing and creative team in-house must look outside of their companies for additional support.

Some company owners and marketers will prefer to develop their own marketing plans, execute portions of them in-house, then look for freelancers or discipline-specialized firms to assist with the projects they feel least comfortable with. Other brands will seek out a marketing or creative agency they can partner with to help develop and execute their entire marketing initiative.

The question is, which of these options is right for your brand? And how will you know when to pull the trigger on hiring an agency?

When to Keep Your Marketing Initiatives In-House

We typically see two scenarios where it makes sense for brands to keep the majority of marketing activities in-house. These brands are typically smaller, startup companies or those which have successfully transitioned to a more established place in the market and have the budget and staff to support their efforts. For a smaller business, a limited marketing budget often necessitates that marketing be done without outside help. On the other end of the spectrum, a larger, more established brand may
feel they have better control and access to their branding and marketing
by utilizing an in-house team.

For these larger fishing or paddlesports brands, keeping the majority of marketing activities in-house can be quite successful for a number of reasons, including having access to a dedicated, internal team that intimately understands the brand and business’ goals.

In some cases, however, the smaller or startup company may experience almost immediate, adverse effects when attempting to perform their own marketing initiatives. Unless the person or persons charged with the launch and marketing of the brand have strong backgrounds in marketing and creative disciplines, it’s unlikely they will be able to perform all of the tasks required to develop a complete marketing ecosystem. The demands of time, knowledge, tools, and experience are just too great.

In our opinion, keeping your brand’s marketing in-house only makes sense when you truly have the resources to do it right. If time or experience is a challenge, you should be looking outside of your walls for assistance with some or all of your initiatives.

When it Makes Sense to Hire Project-Based Freelancers or Discipline-Specific Firms

There are times, especially when your company is doing the majority of its own marketing, when it might make sense to look outside of your company for additional support. And when looking outside, you’ll find a number of freelance designers, content producers, web designers, and more readily available.

Deciding to hire a freelancer or project-based group can have its benefits:

  • They’re typically project-based, so can be commissioned to create a specific marketing piece or campaign
  • In comparison with full-service agencies, they often cost less and often bill hourly
  • Wide availability of discipline-specific agencies or groups (ex: social media consultant, web design firm)
  • There are many talented individuals who are available for project or freelance work

However, depending on what type of marketing service you need, hiring project-based freelancers or discipline-specific firms may come with some drawbacks or restrictions:

  • They may not always be available when you need them (working for other clients)
  • If they’re not specialized to your industry, which most aren’t, they’ll likely not understand your audience and industry (and what makes them unique)
  • Working with a number of freelancers and/or discipline-specific firms requires you to bring each up to speed about your brand and industry. Despite this extra effort, you’ll often find these partners lack an advanced knowledge of your brand and products.
  • Particularly if you’re working with freelancers, you’ll learn how often
    they move on to other jobs, clients, or even locations. This means you
    can’t necessarily count on them being there 2, 3, or 6 months from now –
    you’ll likely need to undergo the hiring process again and again.
  • They’ll often be challenged to maintain consistency in your branding. They’ll simply not know enough about your overall brand, voice, and messaging to keep it consistent across different channels.

If you’re running the majority of your marketing program, it may make
sense to hire freelancers or discipline-specific firms from time to
time. A one-off project like website design and development can be a
great fit for a discipline-specific firm. In the same vein, hiring a
freelancer to help with article writing or marketing collateral creation
can be wise when internal resources are tight.

However, if you’re looking for a partner who can help effectively market your brand, understand your industry, and alleviate much of the stress your marketing can bring on, hire a multi-disciplined, full-service marketing agency.

Partnering With an Industry-Specific, Full-Service Marketing Agency

Assuming your business is not a startup or on a shoestring budget, and
assuming you are truly seeking to create a brand that is front-of-mind
with enthusiasts, you’ll likely need to staff a dedicated marketing team
or hire a full-service marketing agency. When looking for the right agency partner, hiring one that understands the fishing and paddlesports industries can be beneficial to your brand in so many ways:

  • They’ll understand how to relate to and communicate with your customers (tone, voice, design, etc.)
  • They’ll know the concerns of your customers and how your products alleviate those doubts
  • They’ll understand how and where to reach your audience most cost-effectively
  • They’ll get to know you and your brand intimately, becoming a true extension of your own team
  • They’ll walk the walk and not just talk the talk

At our agency, we have a proprietary process called WAYPOINT, which we lead our clients through over the course of 12-18 months. The goal for each engagement is to develop a complete, “modern marketing
ecosystem” for the brand focused around the website, which can be
scaled and nurtured over time.

We begin by performing website and brand audits to understand establish where the brand is currently at – what’s working and what isn’t. We can then prescribe a customized strategy to address any branding issues, develop necessary marketing materials, align your website with marketing goals and promote the brand both digitally and traditionally.

At Thrive, our goal is to bridge the gap between brands and people with passions for boating, fishing, and paddlesports. We do this by creating modern marketing ecosystems for our clients – connecting brands with enthusiasts.


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