How to Take Marketing Talent for a Test Drive before Committing to a “Purchase”

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The try-before-you-buy approach doesn’t just help customers make buying decisions; it can also help hiring managers make better marketing hires.

You wouldn’t buy a car without taking it for a test drive, would you? First, you want to make sure it works. That it delivers the performance advertised by the seller. That it handles in a way suitable for your driving style. That it has the right amount of cup holders. That it just feels right.

Wouldn’t it be nice if you had that kind of practical, real-world insight, experience and practice with a new marketer before committing to making them a full-time hire?

Here’s some good (and probably surprising) news: you can.

TWEET THIS: Wouldn't it be nice if you could test drive a new marketing hire like you would a car? Good news: you can.

A contract to hire service offers the same ability as a test drive to gauge appropriateness of a role or individual while protecting your company from the risk, commitment and cost of a full-time hire.

An All-Too-Familiar Situation

contract to hire marketing

Anyone with enough experience hiring marketers has made a staffing decision that ended with disappointment.

Even if you have a pretty successful record making good hires, you’re not always going to hit home runs. Some marketers won’t be quite as proficient at a task as their resumes and interviews led you to believe. Some won’t have the work ethic or motivation you expected. Some are perfectly good marketers but for whatever reason just don’t seem to fit in with your team members or workplace culture. It happens to the best of us.

But that’s a challenge to deal with when it happens. Frequently, a supervisor can be somewhat unsatisfied with an employee’s performance, but not necessarily enough to justify letting them go. And if you do decide to terminate someone, doing so can be an expensive process with complicated implications for team morale and your employer brand.

A “test-drive” period with contract to hire marketers would give you plenty of opportunity to weed out any potential employees that  are not a good fit for your business.

Here’s how it works:

When a marketing need arises, instead of hiring a candidate outright you bring them on as a contractor for a set period of time, usually 3-6 months.  You agree on the length of time with the contractor, with the strong expectation that a full-time hire will be made at the end of the contract as long as they perform as expected. During the “test drive,” you vet them for results and culture fit. When the time comes, you evaluate whether the contractor met your expectations, and make the decision to either hire them full time or to try someone else.

It’s a situation with few downsides. You get the capacity and expertise you need, when you need it. But if you find the role or the marketing contractor isn’t aligned with your broader marketing goals, you can simply let their contract expire with no long-term employment obligations or need for a job termination.

And the contractor wins, too; they get to test drive a new role at a new organization to make sure it’s the right career move before making a longer-term commitment.

Applications of Contract to Hire Marketers

Evaluating Individual Qualification

Even when you know a new marketing position is a necessity, it’s impossible to hire any individual with absolute certainty that they’re the right fit. The marketer you encounter on a resume or in an interview might not be the same person showing up to work a month later.

Maybe they have an exemplary work history, but their final interview was just so-so. Or you’re concerned about how well they’ll integrate into your team. Or they’re a Millennial and, justified or not, you’re concerned about their work ethic and attitude.

Whenever there’s enough uncertainty about a potential hire to be worrying, consider bringing them in on a contract to hire basis. This experimental period lets you see them on-the-job, right in your work environment, for an extended period of time. You’ll get a much better picture of their capabilities, and then be able to make a more informed decision about whether they belong in your company full-time.

Testing Role Viability

Business leaders are sometimes faced with the problem of creating a new role that has an uncertain ROI.

New initiatives often require additional staff to handle… but what happens to those staff if the new initiative ends up being a bust?

This has become especially common in today’s fast-paced marketing environment where you often have to react quickly to challenges and opportunities with a talent solution. You don’t always have the luxury of a drawn-out evaluation process to precisely calculate a role’s importance and value. Sometimes, if you don’t have an expert working at that empty desk soon, the opportunity will pass by altogether.

The problem can also arise when you’re trying something entirely novel: venturing into a new channel, adopting a new strategy, launching a new product. Those initiatives often require additional staff to handle… but what happens to those staff if business priorities dictate a sudden shift elsewhere?

Bringing in new talent through marketing staffing reduces the risk associated with brand new roles that need to be created now, but have a future that’s not 100% certain. In cases like this, you can use contract marketing staffing in a more traditional sense (without an expectation of hiring) while you experiment with the new role. Then, once you’ve established the position’s value, you usually have the option of reaching out to those contractors and offering them full-time employment.

Making Contract to Hire as Easy as Possible

You might be tempted to try this system with all new employees by bringing them on as independent contractors for a fixed time before eventually making them FTEs. I strongly recommend against it.

The use of independent marketing contractors is heavily regulated. In instances like this where you’re essentially treating them like your own employee anyway, you can easily get in trouble with the IRS.

To avoid tax and compensation penalties, it’s best to bring in your contract to hire marketers through a marketing staffing agency. The contractors will remain employees of the firm for the duration of their “test drive,” and you’ll be protected from attaining employer status.

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