In-House Marketing vs. Agency – What You Need to Know

Not sure if you should build an in-house marketing team or hire an agency? We share objective information, including all the pros and cons in this article.

In-House Marketing vs. Agency – What You Need to Know

Not sure if you should build an in-house marketing team or hire an agency? It’s a tough decision. In this article, we’ll share objective information, including all the pros and cons, to help you make an informed decision on how to execute your marketing initiatives.

Tell us if this sounds familiar: Your organization has a lot of smart, hard-working people wearing a lot of different hats. Marketing activities, from content creation and social media to search engine optimization (SEO) and paid media advertising, are handled by committee (if at all). It’s a constantly reactive environment. The time has come to either bring on full-time marketing staff in-house or to hire an agency.

The decision to handle marketing in-house or with a third-party can trigger much debate. What are the advantages and disadvantages of “going in-house” versus hiring a marketing agency? What will you lose and what will you gain one way or the other?


What does a typical in-house marketing team look like? 

Let’s start with the in-house marketing team, which will vary in size and scope depending on the size of the organization (and the maturity of its marketing program). Usually, staffing for an in-house marketing team breaks down into a few high-level categories.

typical in-house marketing team structure

Within each high-level category, you’ll find a range of positions, from the VP level down to practitioners and freelance contractors. Again, it all depends on budget, organizational priorities, and immediate need. Some organizations can’t handle video in-house and already hire that work out to an agency. Others have a dedicated SEO person, but don’t have resources for PPC. In an ideal world, every organization has some kind of coverage for all of these important aspects of digital marketing.


How can a digital marketing agency help?

Many organizations opt to outsource some or all marketing activities to digital marketing agencies. These agencies are set up with the staff, expertise, and resources to provide outsourced full-service digital marketing services, including:

how a marketing agency can helpDigital marketing agencies typically require a monthly retainer fee for the services provided and work directly with an in-house marketing specialist or other points of contact.


Cost comparison: Get more bang for your buck

If you don’t have the budget to hire a fully-staffed marketing team, hiring a digital marketing agency can be a cost-effective option. For the cost of hiring one marketing specialist, you could retain an agency and get access to 8-10 digital marketing experts.


Turnover can be costly and bring your marketing engine to a halt

Another question to consider: what happens when one of your team members leaves? Turnover can be quite disruptive. It can be an entire year before a role is backfilled and that person is trained, ramped up, and contributing value. The actual dollar cost of replacing an employee can be more than $4,000, ballooning up to more than $14,000 for executive-level positions. This doesn’t even factor in the cost of a bad hire, which can be a scary number.


How does an in-house marketing team compare to an agency?

a comparison of an in-house marketing team to a marketing agency


The hybrid approach: Best of both worlds

Many organizations find that a hybrid approach works best. Most already have at least a core nucleus of in-house marketing professionals, yet their range of expertise or resources are limited. It can be highly cost-effective to aid this team by outsourcing key services to agency specialists.

When deciding how to structure your in-house marketing team, it’s helpful to examine your strengths. Typically, in-house staff live and breathe the brand and tend to have a far deeper understanding of the unique selling proposition(s), product set, buyer personas, and so on. In-house teams are often better suited to create content, write messaging, and develop communication strategies. On the flip side, in-house teams might struggle to implement new software or stay up to date on SEO and paid search trends.

To remain competitive, marketing agencies have to stay updated on the latest marketing research and trends. They also work with many different clients and industries, which gives them exposure to innovative tactics and new technologies. Where the in-house team struggles, an agency can help. For instance, the agency can manage their paid advertising campaigns, optimize their webpages for target keywords, and design creative material, like videos, ads, and brochures.

Agencies bring an outsider’s perspective that can help in-house teams identify opportunities to innovate.

a hybrid marketing approach with in-house team and marketing agency

How do you decide what’s best for your company?

Again, when you’re having the in-house marketing vs. agency debate, it’s important to take a serious inventory of your specific use case. What’s the best approach for your organizational makeup? What kind of results can you expect going one direction or the other? These are essential questions to ask—the answers can be the difference between highly effective digital marketing or an inefficient one that only drives cost, not lead-generation.

When evaluating digital marketing agencies, we recommend that you focus on the following areas:

  • Strong digital reputation, including reviews, testimonials, and case studies that demonstrate real ROI
  • Agencies that prioritize communication by assigning a dedicated account manager from day one
  • A holistic approach to digital marketing versus guaranteed results and quick fixes

Considering hiring a digital marketing agency, but not sure what to do next? Feel free to reach out to us, we’re happy to answer any questions. We also offer a free digital marketing assessment that may shed a little light on what services will help improve your bottom line. 

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