When business owners decide to ramp up their marketing efforts, they’re often confronted with one challenging question:

Should we hire a marketing agency or set up an in-house team?

The answer to this question is never easy or immediately obvious. There are countless considerations, and only you can decide what’s right for your company. Even so, we’d like to help you weigh the option with some insider insight. If marketing is not your area of expertise, some of the pros and cons of your marketing options are easy to overlook. And as a digital marketing agency serving a wide variety of industries, we’ve learned a lot from our clients about what they gained—and sometimes what they had to let go of—by giving up the in-house team to work with a firm.

Here are some things to consider when deciding between hiring a marketing agency and handling things in-house.

What is the Cost and ROI of a Digital Marketing Agency vs. In-House Experts?

This is one of the biggest considerations for business owners, for obvious reasons. Unfortunately, we can’t help you with exact numbers. The cost of working with a digital marketing agency varies widely depending on the type and extent of the services you require, and the cost of hiring an in-house marketing team depends on how many people you plan to bring on board and the determined pay rate.

However, here’s what we can say:

Hiring an in-house marketing team can sometimes feel like more bang for your buck because the people you hire are being paid to work for you only. You have all their attention every day. But the investment and potential risks are often higher than hiring a firm. On average, hiring a new employee takes 42 days and costs around $4,129. Then once they’re hired, you’re paying insurance, taxes, onboarding costs, benefits, and other expenses on top of salary. Plus, if you’re hoping to save money by hiring mostly junior or mid-level marketing specialist, you should also be prepared for high turnover. Lower-level employees change jobs every 2-3 years on average, which means starting the hiring process all over again. And that doesn’t even factor in the burden of a bad hire, which happens to most business sooner or later. The average return on investment for a bad hire is -298%.

Now, could all these problems happen to a marketing agency? Sure. But when it does, it doesn’t affect you. When you hire a firm, it’s their job to give you excellent marketing solutions and help grow your business, no matter what’s going on internally. You pay the same and receive the same, no matter what.

A marketing agency typically charges you a flat fee based on agreed-upon services. If you choose an experienced agency with a proven track record, your ROI is likely to be high. And because there are fewer variables and less fluctuation in your marketing expenses, your ROI is also easier to predict and easier to interpret.

Comparing  Digital Marketing Skill Sets

This depends on who you hire. Most digital marketing agencies are genuine experts in their field, equipped with experience and up-to-date industry knowledge. But of course, there are always bad apples. In the same way, you could hire a fledgling social media marketer right out of college, or you could hire a superstar who’s headed social media marketing for major corporations (though it won’t be cheap).

So, when we talk about who is likelier to get you the results you want, it’s less about who has more skills and more about who can provide a greater diversity of skills.

Digital marketing is such an expansive field, and no one expert—or even two or three experts—can give you top performance in every area of marketing. There are copywriters, graphic designers, editors, SEO experts, etc. The person who oversees your PPC campaigns may not the same person you want producing videos for you. Hiring enough people to cover every channel of digital marketing well is pricey. Especially if you want seasoned experts who don’t have to learn on the job.

A digital marketing firm already has an expert team in place. Hiring an agency is like hiring an entire staff at once . . . only less expensive. You don’t have to worry about the graphic designer also trying to make sense of your Google Analytics metrics. Every aspect of your digital marketing strategy will be handled by someone who specializes in that skill.

Understanding Your Company’s Digital Marketing Strategy

This might be the one area where an in-house marketing team does have a clear advantage over a digital marketing agency. While any firm worth its salt will take the time to study your company and clarify your brand and voice with you, there is something to be said for a marketing team that is there for every staff meeting and is savvy to your business’s evolving goals, structure, and ideas. Having in-house marketing staff also means working with people who are dedicated exclusively to your business. You can certainly find a digital marketing agency that gives you focused attention, but you’ll never be the only client.

That said, you do benefit from the fact that your digital marketing agency has other clients. When a firm has diversified experience, its team members then have more ideas to pull from. They find it easier to think outside the box and look for less-obvious strategies that might meld well with your vision.

Access to Digital Marketing Tools and Technology

If you’re investing in an in-house marketing team, you’re likely willing to invest in the tools and technology they need to succeed. You will likely also hire professionals who have already mastered those tools and understand the technology. However, if you’re like a lot of business owners, you want to budget for the bare minimum . . . spend exactly as much as you have to for effective marketing tools, and not a penny more.

This is another area where it’s beneficial to you that marketing agencies work with several clients. In order to serve a diverse range of businesses, a firm needs a wide selection of tools. From analyzing keyword performance to creating explainer videos to social media analytics, an established digital marketing firm is prepared to do far more than meet your most basic needs. They can open up new opportunities and provide insights you’d never even considered.

Plus, all these extra tools help them devise a powerful digital marketing strategy. Their access and tech expertise allow them to research your online performance, analyze your competitors’ strategies, and get to know your audience’s values, interests, and where to find them. When they combine these insights with your vision and objectives, they can create a deliberate, fully integrated digital marketing strategy. They can offer you a measurable ROI and create a foolproof system for analyzing and optimizing their efforts.

If we sound a bit biased towards digital marketing agencies, it’s because we are. But for good reason. We’ve worked with many companies who have hired great marketing minds but just kept hitting a wall. They had a great product and the potential for an engaging brand. They just didn’t have the same range of resources and skill specialization with their in-house team.

That’s our two cents. But only you can say what’s right for your business. If you have any questions or want to talk through the options, our lines are always open. Contact us anytime. 

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