In-House vs. Agency Marketing: Which is Best For You?

by | Dec 1, 2020 | Digital Marketing, Inbound Marketing

Whether you’re a manufacturer, an e-commerce retailer, a housing developer, or a dentist, marketing is important. It’s what gets your company’s name out there, and it’s what brings in the leads you need to grow. 

So, it’s not a big surprise to hear that you need marketing. 

How you implement marketing is the tougher choice. 

Depending on your industry and your business size, you’re probably looking at either in-house marketing support or hiring a marketing agency. Whether you’ve just started your search, or aren’t sure which direction to go, this blog breaks down the in-house vs agency marketing comparison, so you can make an educated decision based on your company’s marketing needs. 

In-house vs. Agency Marketing: What’s the Difference?

The two most popular ways to effectively market your company are to hire someone in-house or to hire a marketing agency. The most basic difference between the two options is who you hire.

When you choose to hire in-house for your marketing team, you find and hire a new employee who works in your office, and whose sole responsibility is marketing your company. 

When you hire a marketing agency, you’re working with a team of marketing experts to develop marketing strategies that will help your company reach your goals. 

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In-house vs. Agency Marketing: The Breakdown

If you’re just here for a quick assessment, take a look at this chart. 

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In-House Marketing

Basically, an in-house marketing team is best for the company that wants constant, immediate contact with your marketing support.

It’s good to know that this quick communication doesn’t translate to fast turn-around time.

Remember, you just have one, maybe two people on staff. Though you can talk to them at the office, they might not be able to implement your plans instantly, because they probably have a lot on their plate. 

Marketing Agency

A digital marketing agency is best for the company who wants a comprehensive marketing strategy and is looking for expert advice on every aspect of it.

Agencies have specialists on staff for everything from SEO to content strategy, social media, PPC, and even email campaigns.

With the added capacity, a marketing agency can typically implement a wider breadth of marketing campaigns faster than a one or two-person in-house team could. If agility is important to you, a digital marketing or inbound agency might be the better option for you. 

Still stuck? 

That’s chill — I’ve got a complete breakdown just waiting for you. Let’s go step by step through some of the most important points that could sway your decision between in house vs. agency marketing. We’ll start with expertise, but feel free to use the menu below to navigate to whatever you’re most interested in. 

Expertise: Your Team vs. A Team of Specialists

If you’re investing in marketing, you want someone who knows what they’re doing. In-house vs agency marketing each offer a different type of expertise. 

In-house marketing: Your team

  • You hire someone who works on your team to market your company. They are personally invested in the company and have a very close understanding of your brand. 
  • They’re just one person. While they may have marketing expertise in a wide range of marketing subjects, they’ll have to apply that knowledge broadly, across a range of marketing tactics.

Marketing agency: A team of specialists

  • When you hire an agency, you have instant access to a team of marketers with specialized expertise in every marketing channel you’re interested in. From PPC and paid search specialists to SEO wizards and content strategists, you have access to a breadth of knowledge that’s as deep as it is wide. 
  • If you choose to work with an agency, you will have to bring them up to speed on your brand and your products.
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Time-to-Onboard

Another big consideration to make when evaluating the decision between an in-house marketer vs. a marketing agency is how long it will take to onboard, and how long it’ll take to see results. The process of hiring a marketing employee or hiring a marketing agency will take time, but after you’ve completed the process, a team of marketers is going to be able to get to work a bit faster than a single marketer would.

In-house marketing: 

  • Hiring. You’ll have to advertise your position, run through interviews, and ultimately hire someone. Then, that person will have to get up to speed with your company and begin implementing marketing tactics. 
  • Just one person. Most companies start an in-house marketing team with just one person. While you get the benefit of your very own, personal marketer, that also comes along with the drawback that they’re just one person. It could take months for them to strategize and build out every marketing campaign you have in mind. 
Marketing agency: 

  • Finding an agency. Just like hiring an in-house marketer, you’ll still have to interview and assess a few different agency bids before you can choose a marketing agency that’s right for your company.
  • More hands on deck. Once you’ve chosen an agency, the onboarding process is much faster. Since your marketing agency has more people to support your marketing efforts, they can get started with more campaigns, more quickly. That means faster returns for you.

Communication

Communication is important to your marketing strategy’s success. Your marketing team has to understand your brand, your company, your audience, and of course, your goals. Having a clear path of communication is essential to ensuring that your marketing team is implementing tactics that deliver the kind of success you’re looking for. 

In-house marketing: 

  • Your team is in the office. You don’t have to worry about a lag in communication, if you need something done, you can just walk over to your marketing manager’s desk. 
  • Your team is small. Remember that quick communication doesn’t mean quick implementation. Just because your marketing team is in-house doesn’t mean they’ll have the capacity to complete every task right now. (We’ll talk more about capacity next.)

Marketing agency: 

  • You communicate with an account manager. Most digital marketing agencies will have one dedicated account manager assigned to your company. That person will be your point of contact, and they’ll relay any of your requests to key specialists on the team. 
  • Communication can still be efficient. Most marketing agencies have a time limit that keeps them accountable to their clients. If you’re working with a quality agency, you shouldn’t have to wait longer than 48 hours to hear from them. And again, they should have the capacity to handle most reasonable requests quickly, which brings me to my next point: 
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Capacity & Scalability

How quickly your marketing team can get something done is important. If you want to implement a holiday campaign, you shouldn’t have to bring it up in June to make sure it happens by November. Your marketing team’s speed is directly related to its capacity. Scalability matters here too — if your company has a degree of seasonality, you’ll likely want to scale marketing services up or down depending on your current needs. 

In-house marketing: 

  • Capacity and scalability are directly related to how many employees you have. If your in-house team is just one marketing manager, they’ll have less capacity, and won’t be able to take on additional work easily. Scaling down isn’t easy either. 

Marketing agency: 

  • Capacity is given. The point of working with a marketing agency is that you’re essentially hiring an entire team to support your company. They’ll have the capacity to take on more work should you need more service.

  • Scalability is simple. Whether your company needs more or less support, it’s as easy as making a call to your agency account manager. Put more of your budget to PPC one month, or scale up all efforts to gear up for a particularly busy season. 

Keeping Up with Industry Trends

Life moves pretty fast. Especially when you’re working in digital marketing. You want marketing support that is on top of industry trends, so your company is always following marketing best practices that put you ahead of the competition. 

In-house marketing:

  • Your in-house employees are busy. Especially if you have a small team handling your entire marketing strategy, it’s likely that they have limited time to research, take classes, and make sure they’re always following best practices. 
  • You’re their only client. With an in-house marketing team, it’s easy for creativity to drop off. While your marketing team is full of amazing, creative people, they’re always looking at ways to market you, which can cause your strategy to stale over time. 
Marketing agency: 

  • Marketing is your marketing agency’s only job. An agency lives and dies by its ability to deliver results for clients. That means keeping up on industry trends and best practices is essential. A quality marketing agency makes time for continued education on staff because it is necessary for their success. 
  • They see different marketing tactics in action every day. Because a marketing agency works with a range of clients, they’re always testing new marketing strategies, implementing new tactics, and keeping their marketing practices fresh. They can bring everything they’ve learned working with other clients to your marketing strategy.

Cost

The biggest sticking point when it comes to choosing between in-house vs. agency marketing is cost. No matter what, you’ll pay a salary and benefits for an employee, and a retainer fee for your marketing agency. Which costs more? Let’s take a look: 

In-house marketing: 

  • You pay a salary. When you opt for in-house marketing, your expense is equal to the salary of any marketing employees. This includes their salary and their benefits, and it is a fixed cost. 
  • You pay any ad spend. On top of the employee’s salary, you’ll also pay for any ad campaigns you run.
Marketing agency: 

  • You pay a retainer. When you work with a marketing agency, you pay a retainer for marketing services received. Generally, these are fixed retainers, though they can be changed or adjusted according to your company’s specific needs. For example, if you had a little extra room in the budget one month, you could put that money towards an additional marketing campaign. 
  • You pay ad spend. You’ll also pay for any ad campaigns you run with the marketing agency. That ad budget is separate from your retainer fee.

Return on Investment

If the cost section didn’t exactly answer your question about how much it costs to hire someone in-house vs. a marketing agency, that’s because it depends. You might spend between $50,000-$70,000 to hire a marketing manager, and an equal or even greater yearly spend on a marketing agency.

It can be hard to judge what the actual cost of your marketing support will be until you look at the returns. 

In-house marketing:

  • You’ll only return as much as your in-house team can put in. If you just have one person on staff, it can take some time to get PPC campaigns, regular content development, email campaigns, automated workflows, and SEO updates to your website, and more going. 
  • If you’ve got just one person on staff, you’re only going to see returns from what they were able to get going, and it can take as long as a year, or more, to have completely optimized campaigns running.

Marketing agency: 

  • Greater capacity = greater results. No matter how much you spend on an agency (as long as it’s a good agency), they’re able to deliver results faster, because they are more specialized and have more manpower. That means you’ll see greater returns from a marketing agency, and you’ll be able to grow faster. 

In-house vs. Agency Marketing: Where Did You End Up?

At this point, you might have a clear picture of what your company needs, or you might still be stuck. 

Either option is fine. 

Every company functions a little differently and has slightly different marketing needs. Obviously, the Evenbound team is a fan of marketing agencies, because that’s what we are. But, you should know that a lot of our clients have in-house marketing pros, and they still work with us to support that in-house team. 

If you’re having trouble deciding whether in-house or agency marketing is right for you, it’s possible that both might be a better fit. The benefit of working with an agency is that we scale our services to accommodate your business needs.

If you’ve got a kick-ass social media person on-staff, they might benefit from support in SEO or PPC, so they can focus more of their time on what they do really well, and what’s delivering serious results for your company. 

In the end, the choice comes down to what your company needs, and the method that will help fill that need in the most productive and efficient way. If you can’t figure out what you need, or you know that an agency can help support your already busy team, Evenbound is here to help

Decided a digital marketing agency is right for you? Here are 8 Questions to Ask a Digital Marketing Agency before you sign with them.

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