Should marketing be done in-house or by an outside agency? It is a question that has plagued business managers for decades and one that we will, finally and definitively, answer today! Or, maybe not. In fact, there is no one-size-fits-all approach. Some businesses are better suited to in-house marketing teams while others are better off hiring an agency (or agencies). In some cases, a combination of both approaches is necessary. Like most decisions, it really comes down to pros, cons, and trade-offs. Let’s examine what each method can do.
An In-House Marketing Team Will Provide Buy-In, Focus, Accessibility and Industry-Specific Knowledge
An in-house marketing team is down the hall and at the ready. They were hired because they demonstrated a compatibility with your company’s culture and values.
“Naturally, a full-time internal employee is much more closely invested in a company’s success and growth than any external agency team would be,” says Cheryl Baldwin, Director of Marketing & Communications at WSI Digital Marketing. “Given a marketing agency’s responsibilities to a number of different clients, it’s more difficult for external marketers to fully get a sense of a company’s day-to-day culture and values.”1
Since in-house marketing teams are solely focussed on their organization’s objectives, they offer more flexibility to immediately respond to changing priorities and strategies. And forget phone-tag, they are usually physically located in the same building as the company’s other departments.
Industry expertise is another benefit. With their singular focus, in-house marketing experts will be well aware of company objectives and possess a deep understanding of the industry, competitive set and brand differentiators.
“In-house employees are paid to live and breathe your brand, and to have a keen understanding of your given industry.” explains Courtney Baird-Law, content manager at adaptive marketing automation platform VBOUT.” 2
An Outside Agency Will Provide a Wider Range of Skill Sets
An agency will typically have a solid team available, enabling you to take advantage of one-stop shopping. Specialists in all areas of marketing will be in place, in possession of current technology, and up to date on the latest trends and practices. An agency has everything it needs to get started today: the software is licenced, the training is up to speed, and they have access to a wide network of specialists if necessary. Simply put, it’s difficult to form and maintain an in-house team encompassing that breadth and depth.
While an agency may lack the dedication to your company that an in-house marketing department is likely to have, this can also be seen as a positive. With their outside perspective an agency is equipped to give you a fresh perspective, free of any politics, bias or brainwashing that may exist within your company.
Cost Concerns: In-House is Cheaper, Right?
Agencies are not cheap, but neither is assembling an in-house team. In addition to salaries there are a myriad of additional expenses to consider such as office space, training, software licences and more. Recruiting is a costly venture and, when a member of your in-house team leaves, the process repeats. Sure, agencies bake these costs into your bill, but there are other clients to share that burden; at the very least, you’re spared those headaches. Measuring which option creates the better bang for your buck must be done on a case by case basis. If your needs are of a limited scope and qualified people are already on the payroll, it makes no sense to contract externally. In contrast, if the task ahead is wide ranging with no internal team in place, contracting an agency may make more sense than starting from square one.
An Agency May Have the Inside Track on Top Talent
Many highly qualified people choose to work for in-house marketing departments. As previously mentioned, they get to hone their talents in a singular area without divided loyalties.
On the other hand, top-talents are often drawn to agencies where they can flex their muscles in a fast-paced environment, working alongside other creative people on a wide range of projects. Without this atmosphere of collaboration and variety, some creatives will become bored, to the detriment of their work.
Choosing which course of action is ideal for your organization is a matter of strategy, self-reflection and math.
As Baldwin explains, “The key is defining your organization’s marketing goals and weighing them against your own team’s strengths and weaknesses.”1
1 Baldwin, Cheryl. “8 Key Business Factors of the In-House Marketing vs. Agency Marketing Debate.” WSI. Accessed July 16, 2019. https://www.wsiworld.com/blog/in-house-marketing-vs-outsourced-agency-marketing.
2″In-House vs Agency Marketing: Which One Is Best for You?” Digital Doughtnut. Accessed July 16, 2019. https://www.digitaldoughnut.com/articles/2018/march/in-house-vs-agency-marketing-which-one-is-best.
LeClaire, Ryan. “Should I Hire a Marketing Agency or Build Our Own In-House Team?” Powered by Search. April 05, 2018. Accessed July 16, 2019. https://www.poweredbysearch.com/blog/marketing-agency-vs-in-house/.
“Signalfire.” Signalfire. Accessed July 16, 2019. https://signalfire.us/news/in-house-vs-agency-marketing/.