The battle stands as whether to hire a marketing agency vs marketing in-house. When it comes to digital marketing, this can be a critically important decision for many businesses.
As an all-round Marketer who has worked for many different industries for the past 20+ years, I feel very confident in giving this advice. I have worked in-house and hired numerous agencies over the course of my career and have learned a lot about the strengths and weaknesses of each path.
Keeping that in mind, I’m going to take my agency hat off for a moment and give you an honest breakdown of the differences between hiring an in-house marketer and hiring a marketing agency.
Basically, there are 3 reasons to consider before choosing to pick a marketing agency or hiring an in-house marketer.
In general, Digital Marketers tend to have very specific skill sets. You have paid Search Specialists, Social Media Gurus, Content Marketing Experts, Conversion Rate Optimisers… and the list keeps growing. The bottom line is that, online marketing is way too complex for one person to be an expert at everything.
So, if you hire a Pay Per Click (PPC) Specialist in-house, you can expect them to do a great job at PPC campaigns. But what if paid search isn’t working out? How about if your competition is driving great results with Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) or Content Marketing? What do you do then?
Obviously, you could just hire a content marketer, but that may not necessarily be in the budget or you may not be completely sold on the idea yet. What should you do then?
Companies that hire in-house often struggle to diversify their online marketing efforts. After all, investing in a new marketing channel is a risk. If you hire someone and it doesn’t work out, you’ve just created a very difficult situation for yourself.
As a result, these companies often end up stuck in one marketing channel that isn’t even working that well.
If you’ve got a great landing page designer but terrible ads that are driving the wrong traffic to your site, you may have trouble getting good results from your campaigns. Would this be your Graphic Designer’s fault? Of course not!
If that’s the way you are operating, you probably won’t end up getting the online marketing results you’re hoping for.
On the other hand, with a good marketing agency, you have access to a wide range of skills and experience.
For example, at typical marketing agencies, all of their account managers are members of marketing teams that include experts with a wide range of online marketing specialties: Google Ads (AdWords), Facebook, SEO, Graphic Design, Conversion Rate Optimisation, Quality Assurance and more.
Individually, each team member is good at what they do, but collectively, they provide much more value than any single person or even a small team could.
As a bonus, since each team member is actively working with a number of accounts, they are constantly expanding their experience and skills in finding effective solutions that could be applied to new campaigns and different situations.
As a result, the clients don’t end up with account managers who have narrow vision or who lose creativity over time. Instead, each clients get 9 sets of eyes on their account on a regular basis.
At first glance, this might seem like a more expensive way to do things. After all, if you can’t afford to hire an extra person to diversify your marketing efforts, can you afford to pay a marketing agency to do it? This simply IS NOT the case.
Most companies don’t need the dedicated services of a full-time Google Ads expert, a full-time Graphic Designer and a full-time Facebook Expert. Although, they would benefit from the services of each.
Unfortunately, if you’re hiring in-house, it can be extremely hard to find a Google Ads Specialist or an experienced Web-Designer who is willing to only work only a few hours a week.
In a marketing agency, that same Google Ads Specialist could manage multiple accounts. That would keep this Specialist busy enough to justify full-time employment with the agency, even though any given account might not require his full time and talents.
When you work with a marketing agency, as a result you get the skills of high-level Experts in a variety of specialties without having to hire them full-time; that’s a game changer for your business!
So, when it comes to skill diversification, should you go with an agency or hire in-house? Really, when you get right down to it, this is a question of resources.
For larger companies, it may be worth the investment to hire a marketing team covering a variety of channels and skills in order to implement successful in-house marketing efforts. After all, if your marketing needs are significant enough that they justify hiring dedicated experts, you may get the best results from hiring Marketers to work on your channels full-time.
However, for most businesses, agencies are a great option for diversification. Majority of companies don’t need or can’t yet afford to hire a full team of dedicated Marketers. So, working with an agency can be a great way to widen your marketing initiatives without significantly increasing your overhead.
Awesome Digital Marketers are extremely creative, but with that creativity comes an aversion to boredom. Imagine looking at the same set of keywords every day and being expected to make magic happen. It’s possible but it can get very boring.
As a result, many good Marketers change jobs every 2 to 3 years. That might keep the Marketers sane, but it is not great for the businesses they are leaving. We all know that it takes a lot of time and work to get a new marketer trained and your digital marketing dialled in.
If you have to get someone new, up to speed, every time your in-house Marketers get an “itch to try something new”, you may find yourself struggling against a marketing glass ceiling.
In fact, we’ve had many clients leave us because they hired someone internally to manage their online marketing… and then come back when they finally figure out that marketing is broader than they expected or that person leaves for bigger, better or at least newer opportunities.
On the other hand, at a marketing agency, Digital Marketers get to work with a variety of businesses from many different industries. This challenges them and keeps their creativity flowing, which helps employee retention and better performance for each account.
When you work with a good agency, they should have multiple people involved with your account. If your primary point of contact gets sick or goes on leave, you won’t have to wait for the agency to get someone up to speed on your business. They’ve already got people on hand who understand your company and know how to keep the ball rolling for your business.
Generally speaking, if you can’t offer new and interesting projects continually, it’s probably best to go with a marketing agency.
This is especially true for small and medium businesses as they have less to offer; both in terms of variety and compensation, and typically experience higher turnover.
Hiring in-house is like putting all your eggs in one basket. If you’re sure none of the eggs will roll out, you are probably in a good situation. If losing an egg or two would cripple your marketing efforts, it might be good to use an agency.
Most businesses don’t spend enough on any given online advertising platform to merit that platform’s attention. For example, spending $200,000 a year on Google Ads might seem like a lot of money to you, but it’s not even a blip on Google’s radar.
That’s a bit harsh, but really, a couple hundred grand isn’t that big of a deal to Google, right?
However, boutique agencies manage many millions of dollars of monthly ad-spend on a variety of ad platforms like Google Ads (AdWords), Facebook, LinkedIn and many more.
Since agencies manage such large amounts of ad-spend, advertising platforms work hard to help them deliver the best results possible for their clients.
After all, if Argonyx Marketing suddenly decided that Google Ads is a waste of time and money and recommended that our clients stop using it, Google would lose a lot of revenue.
Agencies often get special perks that aren’t available to most businesses; perks that can be passed to clients in order to effectively assist their growth.
For example, here are a few of Argonyx Marketing’s agency perks:
Often, we’re able to provide our clients with access to new marketing options prior to their general public release such as extended headlines, lead form extension, Gmail sponsored promotions, etc).
Since ad platforms want us and our clients to succeed, they assign some of their own top people to oversee our client’s accounts. That way, they can ensure that our accounts are getting the time, love and attention they need. In addition, these reps provide additional ideas and insights from their internal data that the general public does not have access to.
Anyone who’s tried to contact Google or Facebook about problems with their account knows that it can be an uphill battle to get your needs met. Thanks to our partner status with various ad platforms, we can quickly get a real person on the phone to address policy concerns, irregularities in accounts and many other support items.
A good marketing agency is able to provide their clients with numerous advantages like these that are unavailable to the general public. As you can probably imagine, these perks offer companies a real leg up over their competitors.
Lastly, in addition to the ad platforms themselves, digital marketing agencies often have partnerships with other marketing companies that allow them to provide their clients with discounts and premium services that they might not otherwise have access to.
Essentially, because agencies deal in volume, they can get, and pass on volume benefits that are unavailable to most businesses.
Unless you are working for a mega-company like Apple or Amazon, it’s hard to merit the attention that ad agencies get from ad platforms.
Now, that doesn’t mean that you can’t be successful without this level of support, but it is going to be much more difficult. It all boils down to how important the competitive advantages of these perks are to your company.
If you’re in a close-fought race, working with an agency might just give you the advantage you need to pull ahead of the competition.
There are a lot of reasons why people pick a marketing agency or simply decide to keep things in-house. Both are completely viable ways to grow your business.
For larger companies, if they have the budget, an entire in-house marketing team is worth the investment. Being able to have people who are already so invested in the brand is a huge plus! How ever those that cannot afford the in-house team often lean towards utilising an agency as to widen their marketing initiatives, without increasing overheads. Unfortunately for agencies, the brand message can be loss in communication.
But with the large sum of creative minds in a marketing agency, they are able to provide clients with out-of-the-box campaigns that can surely shock the market. In-house marketing however are usually restricted in their thinking as they aren’t exposed to the mass of variety in agencies. And what would happen if your in-house marketer or even worse whole team quit? how would you pick it up?
Lastly, everyone loves perks and taking advantage of them can get you a long way! Additional budget, faster support, these are just some of the many benefits agencies score through their devotion to marketing platforms – unfortunately which many in-house marketing teams struggle to score.
Agencies offer a lot in the way of skill diversification, predictability and partner perks, which is why many businesses find that going with an agency is the best way to grow their business.
By the way, putting my agency hat back on now, if this article has made you wonder if working with a marketing agency would be right for your business, let me know in the comments.
I would be glad to take a look at your business and give you a fair appraisal of your situation.
You’ve heard my two cents, now it’s your turn.
Have you chosen to hire in-house or use an agency?
What was the biggest factor in your decision?
Are there any advantages or disadvantages to using an agency that you’d add to this list?