As your business grows, you’ll probably find yourself asking the question – to build, or to buy? Investing in your marketing is a huge decision, and certainly not one to be made lightly – the path you choose can have long-term impacts.
Let’s explore the pros and cons of in-house vs. agency marketing and how both options can complement your business and overall goals.
An in-house marketing model means you’re responsible for all strategic planning and execution of marketing initiatives, starting by hand-picking your team. While this is extremely important to some business owners, others just see a headache.
While you can interview as many candidates as it takes to find your perfect match, it’s important to remember that you likely won’t find someone who ticks all the boxes. Building an in-house marketing team for a small business often requires a unicorn.
A variety of subject matter expertise and skillsets usually means hiring more than one or two team members. The size of your first marketing team will probably be smaller than that of an agency, so keep in mind you might have to prioritize your wish list and compromise on some of the expertise you’re hoping to bring on board.
An in-house team requires additional administrative/human resources management, including salary, training, equipment, holidays/sick days, and more. In fact, building an in-house team is typically more expensive than choosing to partner with an agency. Employees will have to be paid for any time off any it can be difficult to find coverage during longer absences.
Since an in-house team is usually, well, in-house, team members are typically available at a moment’s notice, but that doesn’t necessarily mean there won’t be other priorities on the table. Sometimes it can be easy to lose sight of marketing objectives with an in-house model due to competing business initiatives at play.
- You can hand-pick your staff
- Staff is only focused on your business
- Available at a moment’s notice (most of the time)
- Requires a variety of subject matter expertise and skillsets typically not found in one or two people
- More expensive (salary, benefits, training, etc.)
- No coverage during vacations, holidays or sick days
- Responsible for HR, skills development, cost of tools, etc.
- Not as much exposure to activities of other companies online
- Difficult to scale team up and down quickly or cost-effectively
- Easy to lose sight of marketing objectives with competing priorities from other parts of the business
- You’ll have to prioritize the skills and experience that you want on your team
- The size of your first marketing team will probably be smaller than that of an agency
- Growth is limited based on the average skills and experiences
In an agency marketing model, your business’s marketing efforts are outsourced to an accountable team of experts responsible for your marketing success.
Marketing agencies typically offer a variety of skills, services, and tools, and are prepared to hit the ground running on marketing initiatives with no training or guidance necessary. Thanks to a wealth of experience working with other clients in a variety of industries, agency marketing partners can bring new insight, solutions, or potential partnerships to your attention.
From a human resources perspective, agency partners will provide back-up solutions to keep your business on the right track when account coordinators or project managers have to step away. Plus, you only pay for the time that’s spent working on your account. Agencies are nimble by nature and can easily scale up or down to meet your business’ needs.
When you work with a marketing agency, it’s unlikely that you’ll be the only client on their radar. Most agencies have a roster of clients to support, and while that doesn’t mean you should worry about not getting the focus you need, it’s certainly something to be aware of. A marketing agency that works with multiple clients shouldn’t make you feel like you’re not getting their full attention – they should feel like a seamless extension of your existing team.
- Typically offers a variety of skills, services, and tools
- Responsible for ensuring staff have the appropriate skills and tools to do the job
- A wealth of experience working with other clients in various industries
- Pre-existing relationships that may benefit their clients
- Responsible for ensuring team members are up-to-date on the latest industry news and practices that impact your business
- Provides back-up during sick days, vacation, accountable to you and responsible for your success
- Pay only for time worked
- Nimble and can scale up or down to meet your needs
- Focuses on more than one client
- Isn’t dedicated to one client full-time
A Hybrid Approach
It’s not always cut and dry – sometimes businesses can benefit from a hybrid model of agency and in-house marketing efforts.
Most agencies will be happy to work with you to build a suitable approach to help achieve your business goals and supplement your existing or soon-to-be marketing team. Sometimes this means assigning day-to-day tactical implementation to an in-house team and leaving more strategic marketing activities such as campaign planning to an agency partner.
It All Comes Down to Business Goals
While there are no right answers, it really comes down to your overall business goals. If you’re trying to grow your business, you’re more likely to be successful (and less stressed!) when you hand the reins over to a reliable and experienced partner to handle your marketing efforts. What’s most important is finding a solution that you’re comfortable with and one that provides you with the most value while you continue to grow.