What’s better, hiring an in-house marketing team or partnering with a marketing agency? It’s a question that nearly every growing business owner will have to answer at some point.
It is an important decision to make, whether you’re a brand new startup or a quickly growing business with 100+ employees. And, like most decisions, there is no one size fits all solution.
Developing your marketing strategy is not black or white either: many businesses commonly rely on both an in-house team and the work of a marketing agency.
To determine the best solution for your business, you need to take an honest look at your team and its capabilities, measure that against your marketing goals and understand the strengths and weaknesses of both in-house and agency marketing.
Analyze Your Marketing Resources
The first step in determining whether an in-house or agency marketing approach is right for you is to take a comprehensive look at your resources and the capabilities of your marketing team. Do you have any marketing employees? What are your marketing goals? Identify what you can and can’t accomplish, what skills or talent gaps you need to fill to achieve your goals, and what your budget is to make it all happen.
When assessing in-house marketing skills don’t forget to look at efficiencies. If you have someone on your team who knows a little bit about website development, it may take them six hours to accomplish a task that an adept web developer can do in one hour. While professional development is important, examine what goals you need to achieve and determine if it’s more efficient to outsource those skills.
Adding in-house staff may help cultivate company culture and values. Having your team in-house can help with communication as well: impromptu brainstorming and getting feedback can be easy when everyone is in the same office. However, it can be challenging and costly to build a team with all the skills to run and successfully implement your marketing strategies. You’ll need to build a marketing team with expertise in SEO, web development, graphic design, paid media management, and more.
- Deep organizational knowledge
- An established marketing point of contact for all departments within the organization (sales and service)
- Salaried employees are fully committed to their organization alone
- Can be more responsive to take on ad hoc requests
- With permanent in-house staff, you have less flexibility to scale up or down without adding or furloughing (salaried employees can’t add more hours without overtime, and you can’t reduce hours without a lot of HR paperwork).
- It becomes difficult to see the forest through the trees – when you’re in an organization, you know what’s important to the organization so it’s hard to see things from an outsider’s perspective. You also know what the company does inside and out, so it can be difficult to overcome content bias.
- With a fully in-house marketing team, it is sometimes challenging to vocalize a contrary opinion. Without the right culture, an internal team can succumb to the “yes men”, who focus more on being liked than vocalizing a foreseeable issue with a program or strategy.
Working with an agency, you reap the benefits of specialization. You get comprehensive expert-level knowledge, up-to-date industry best practices, and access to the work of creative professionals that is impossible to match in-house. Agencies have the talent and the capabilities to take your marketing strategies from 0 to 100 faster and more efficiently than an in-house team. With agency marketing, you also benefit from the flexibility to contract out more or less work based on the demands of your projects, which isn’t as easy with in-house staffing.
- They handle multiple clients so you get proven best practices in real-time from the agency learning about how their different strategies and client programs perform.
- You get more access to skill and strategy: agencies should have case studies of all the things they can do. Instead of having only a few skills, a full-service agency has the skills to tackle any current challenge or unmet needs. This is especially important during this time of intense transition due to the pandemic.
- Partnering with an agency means you also gain an ally and sounding board. If you need to bring in an outside “consultant” to convince your executives of the optimal strategy, agencies can be very convincing and have little political stake in the organization.
- They will tell it like it is: good agencies tell you what you need rather than asking what you think you need. This information should be based on a combination of data and experience.
- Strategy plus tactics – most marketing employees have a few solid skills and are good at tactical execution, but it’s rare to find employees that are solid on strategy and tactics. With a good agency, you will get it all.
- Managing Up: good agencies will manage you, rather than you having to manage them. They will tell you a solid plan, key milestones, your level of effort and will provide clear communications and tasks for you to accomplish. If the project seems chaotic, run, don’t walk, away from the agency.
- High-quality work typically means a higher cost per hour. You get what you pay for, so keep in mind those cheap agencies are outsourcing work and usually have low quality.
- They are not dedicated to you full time unless you are paying for an outsourced CMO function.
- Responsiveness to your needs may not be consistent across agencies. Some agencies have dozens of clients and can take a long time if they don’t view your work as a priority. Look for an agency that meets deadlines. Don’t be afraid to ask what their turnaround time is and how often they meet their delivery deadlines. References from their past clients are a great way to discover this.
The Hybrid Marketing Approach
Like most things in life, marketing is nuanced. Choosing between in-house and agency marketing is a spectrum, and the best approach for your business might be somewhere in between. Perhaps a hybrid solution of a small internal marketing team handling project management and building company culture paired with the creativity, technical skills, and flexibility of an agency makes the most sense for you.
The in-house role:
- They are a consistent, single point of contact for the agency, responsible for gathering feedback and materials for the agency, and disseminating agency deliverables for review within their team.
- An in-house marketing point person has deep knowledge of the organization and systems. Instead of an agency taking the time to discover how the organization is set up, one contact can easily communicate that information.
- Their knowledge of the organization allows them to quickly review agency deliverables for accuracy.
- They can manage and foster productive agency relationships: having an internal champion who provides the necessary resources, manages deadlines, and makes sure that bill doesn’t go into arrears makes for a great relationship over time.
The agency role:
- Provide industry knowledge and market strategy. Clients now have the broad expertise of a full-service marketing agency behind them.
- Develop a plan based on the client’s goals and objectives, with the ability to quickly deliver results.
- Execute on a timeline and provide high-quality, expert work.
- Communicate and organize resources, content, or interviews needed from the client.
The Right Solution for You
It can be tough to know where to start in building your business’s marketing approach, but Greenlit Marketing is here to help. GLM is a boutique, full-service digital marketing agency that prioritizes finding the right solutions for our partners.
Book a consultation and start building your marketing strategy today!