Should You Hire an Online Marketing Agency or Build an In-House Team?

Online Marketing Agency DecisionIn this day and age, you need an online presence. And, you can’t do it alone.

Once you’ve made that realization, that’s when you begin asking yourself: “Why hire a digital marketing agency?” and “Would hiring a marketing person be smarter?”

Even as a digital marketing agency, at SVM we can totally understand the uncertainty. Who will be handling your company’s marketing and making sure your business goals are met is an extremely important, and difficult decision.

In this blog post, I’ve laid out the main factors that affect the agency vs in-house marketing conundrum as well as several questions to ask yourself to help figure out this all-too-common, yet difficult decision.

Factors to Consider When Evaluating Hiring an Agency vs In-House Marketing

In order to help you settle questions like “Why hire a digital marketing agency?” or “Why hire an employee?”, here are 5 basic factors to consider when deliberating these questions:

  • Overall cost
  • Resource availability
  • Staff experience
  • Marketing specialties required
  • Staff reliability

Overall Cost

Many business owners assume that it’s more expensive to hire a marketing agency than to hire in-house.

It’s true that there’s a certain amount of stability in knowing how much money is being paid month-to-month to employees. However, when evaluating costs, remember to consider everything involved in hiring an employee:

  • Training
  • Computer/office equipment
  • Healthcare and retirement benefits
  • Overhead
  • Bonuses and raises
  • Time off

Another expense associated with an in-house digital marketing team is software. Keeping up with technology is extremely important in the complex marketing game. Subscriptions to all the necessary software applications could run well into the thousands.

In comparison, a digital marketing agency already has subscriptions to the latest software and absorbs that cost themselves. Plus, you won’t need to train anyone on the software (or pay for training!).

Although it’s commonly believed that agencies are expensive, here are a few reasons to reconsider this misconception:

  • You get a marketing plan customized to your business goals and only pay for the marketing services you need.
  • Unless you need additional marketing initiatives during a certain month/period for a special event or campaign, your marketing expense will be consistent month-to-month.

Resource Availability

Two perks of having an in-house marketing person are:

  • They are dedicated to marketing only your products and/or services.
  • They can jump into impromptu meetings and phone conversations with no delay.

Since an agency has other clients, they have to balance their time amongst them and may not be available for spur-of-the-moment meetings.

On the other hand, a digital marketing agency will assign multiple resources to your account (depending on your needs). If you call them with a question, there will usually be someone to help you.

If you’re a startup or paying for marketing for the first time, you’ll find that an agency is more flexible for scaling. If you must pull back your marketing for a few months, one quick phone call and it’s done. Whereas if you have an in-house staff, it could mean reduction in the workforce.

The timing of the marketing initiatives you need implemented may also be an issue. To get someone in-house, you have to:

  1. Advertise
  2. Sort through resumes
  3. Contact candidates for interviews
  4. Interview
  5. Decide and hire
  6. Onboard
  7. Train

Hiring an agency and getting them up to speed can be a much faster process than hiring a new employee. There are many agencies with niche focus that can easily get up to speed on the specific products and/or services you sell. For example, SVM works with manufacturers, distributors and B2B service providers making the agency an expert in the B2B industrial trade.

Staff Experience

After several months of training and time spent with your company, an in-house marketer will have gathered information to a degree that’s difficult for an agency to replicate. For a startup business, this can be an invaluable resource to have within the growing business.

However, as mentioned previously, marketing agencies work across many sectors and industries. And, many end up specializing in a certain field, like medical, retail, manufacturing, and so forth. So, it’s very likely that there’s a digital marketing agency out there that specializes in your sector.

Marketing Specialties Required

Depending on where your business is on the growth scale, the marketing tactics employed will probably vary. For example, if you are new to marketing, your tactics will most likely focus on website development and attracting new visitors. However, if you are a recognized brand, you may need to focus a bit more on content marketing, social media marketing and email marketing to nurture and convert current clients.

Because the related technologies change so quickly, it’s hard for one person to have a deep knowledge of all these specialties. That’s why marketing experts usually choose one specialty. This means it can be hard to find one person who has a working knowledge across all basic marketing tactics.

However, this is where an agency really shines. An established, reputable agency will have at least one expert in every specialty. Working with an agency means you don’t have to worry about overlooking any marketing tactics that could help you reach your business goals.

Staff Reliability

When hiring in-house marketing staff, you need to pay attention to make sure they don’t stagnate or become bored. This is because marketers are extremely creative. To feed that creativity, they must be exposed to new information and challenges on a regular basis. Otherwise, their work might suffer, or they may start looking for a new opportunity after a few years.

Marketing agencies are structured such that if an employee leaves, someone else groomed for the position can step right in to their place. Their departure won’t affect your marketing services.

It Doesn’t Have to Be Black and White

When wondering “Why hire a digital marketing agency?” or “Why hire a new employee?”, the answer isn’t always going to be just one or the other. Depending on your company’s needs, you might choose to combine agency services with an in-house marketer. For example:

You want to run a campaign that requires a skill set your in-house marketer doesn’t have, so you supplement with agency services.
You ramp up marketing quickly with an agency, then turn over the coordination to an in-house marketing manager.

Clarifying the Agency vs In-House Marketing Question

Answer the following 9 questions to help you figure out whether you should hire a marketing agency, an internal marketing expert or a combination of both:

  1. What are my marketing goals?
  2. What’s my overall available budget for marketing?
  3. Does my business have the benefits, perks, and advancement opportunities to keep marketing staff creatively challenged and enthusiastic?
  4. Do I need to keep marketing in-house for logistical or confidential reasons?
  5. Do I need to use a wide variety of tools and specialties for my marketing campaigns?
  6. Does my business have a complex or multi-faceted product that requires specialized sector/industry knowledge in order to market it well?
  7. Do I have the energy, time, and other resources to help a new marketing employee get up to speed and execute well?
  8. Are my marketing needs urgent and time-sensitive?
  9. How do I envision my company’s marketing process in 6 months? One year?

Quick Tip on B2B vs B2C Marketers

Digital marketing firms can have a variety of specialties in the marketplace, so make sure you look for a partner with experience and commitment to your business sector. For example:

  • If you are a business that sells its products/services to other business, look for a B2B (business-to-business) digital marketing agency.
  • If you are a business that sells its products/services to consumers, look for an online marketing company that specializes in B2C (business-to-consumer).

SVM has specialized in online marketing services for the B2B industry since 1995. We have helped manufacturers, distributors, industrial service providers, and many other B2B companies generate leads and sales through targeted marketing tactics.

Looking to evaluate your current marketing initiatives before making a decision on hiring internally or externally? Check out our essential online marketing checklist. This “how to” guide will put you on the path to online marketing success. It contains 4 checklists with 60 questions that will help you focus your thinking and approach.

Not sure where to get started? Request a free online marketing analysis now. You can begin this process by finding out if your website is helping or hurting your business.

Laure Helemski
About the author

Online marketing strategist on a mission to help B2B businesses effectively reach their target audiences and convert them.

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