A question many businesses have about digital marketing, however, is whether they should keep their marketing in-house or partner with an online marketing agency. It’s an excellent question, and this guide aims to answer all your questions about in-house vs. agency marketing.
Watch the video above and keep reading to learn more about the pros, cons, and cost of in-house and outsourced marketing!
What is the difference between in-house vs. agency marketing?
In-house marketing relies on an internal marketing team, which your company maintains, to market your business. In comparison, agency marketing uses an external or outsourced marketing team, which you pay to use, to market your business.
[Table] In-house marketing vs. agency marketing
Get a quick summary of the differences between in-house vs. agency marketing with this table:
|In-House vs. Agency||Pros||Cons||Cost|
$250,000 / year
Software and tools
$20,000 - $200,000 / year
In-house marketing revolves around building an internal marketing team to develop, manage, and maintain your digital marketing strategy. The question is, should your business invest its resources in an internal versus external team?
Keep reading to find out!
The advantages of in-house marketing include:
- Brand familiarity
When you have an internal marketing team, they know your brand, which informs all their marketing decisions and materials. While agencies will get to know your company’s value, tone, and overall brand, that process takes time.
It’s also easy to access your in-house marketing team — just walk over to their desk or office. In comparison, agencies aren’t located right next door. You need to call or email to chat, which is why (if your business outsources its marketing), you want a responsive agency.
In-house marketing teams focus 100% on your business. While agencies will learn your brand and dedicate time to its marketing strategy, they also focus on other clients and their marketing needs. Depending on your company, you may prefer having a team all to yourself.
When you outsource your marketing, you share the responsibilities of your marketing strategy. In some cases, businesses prefer to have complete control over their marketing, which can make working with an agency difficult. That’s why, if you like having that level of control, it’s best to build an in-house team.
Creating an in-house marketing team does come with some drawbacks, though, including:
- Talent recruitment
Establishing an internal marketing department takes time, whether you’re hiring one person or three people. The average time to hire for a marketing position is around 50 days — that’s almost two months.
That’s a lot of time and a lot of work.
Your human resources department, for example, needs to create and outline the listing, as well as work to attract applications. Not to mention, they must schedule interviews and will likely require your input before choosing the new hire.
It’s a massive investment for your business to build an internal marketing team, as well as maintain it.
- Employee costs
Maintaining an in-house marketing team isn’t the cheapest investment.
For perspective, check out the average salaries for a few different marketing roles:
- Digital Marketing Manager: $65,000
- Digital Marketing Specialist: $49,000
- SEO Specialist: $48,000
- Social Media Marketing Specialist: $48,000
If you average these salary numbers, you will get an average salary of $52,000.
These numbers, however, don’t include additional costs that come with maintaining an in-house team, like taxes, insurance, retirement plans, and even equipment. On average, these expenses are 40-100% of an employee’s salary, meaning the average marketing employee costs over $70,000 each year.
If you have an average-sized marketing team (which is three people for a company with 25-49 employees), that means your business probably invests more than $200,000 each year to maintain your marketing department.
For small-to-midsized companies, an in-house marketing team is a tremendous investment. That’s why the cost of maintaining these teams is one of the most significant drawbacks of internal marketing — it’s a massive commitment.
While a marketing agency isn’t free, they’re often much more cost-effective than in-house marketing.
- Software expenses
Besides the cost of hiring and maintaining an in-house marketing team, you also have marketing software expenses. These expenses can range from SEO tools, like Ahrefs and SEMrush, to freelance services, like graphic design or web development.
While you may still invest in tools like these when partnering with a digital marketing agency, you can often count on your agency to have a toolset. You don’t have to worry about the cost of these programs because the agency pays to use them.
The abilities of your team, company, and marketing budget is another drawback of in-house marketing.
If you focus on building your marketing department from local candidates, your area limits you. Depending on your location, this factor can slow your recruitment efforts substantially. In comparison, an agency can provide the team and tools to help your business.
When you can scale your marketing efforts and business, it’s a tremendous benefit.
Unfortunately, it’s harder for in-house marketing teams to scale than agency teams.
That’s because agencies have access to a larger number of team members with various skill sets. If your business wants to up its PPC campaign, for example, you call your agency and they get it done. That’s not the case with in-house marketing.
With in-house marketing, you have limited team members and limited resources. If you want to scale your efforts, you need to either decrease work elsewhere or hire another team member, which takes time.
- Employee turnover
When you have in-house staff, you have employee turnover.
That becomes a negative in the in-house vs. agency marketing debate, though, because the loss of team members can slow and hurt your marketing efforts. It can also put pressure on remaining staff, which can result in poor performance and even higher turnover rates.
With an agency, you don’t have to worry about your strategy getting paused. They’ll partner you with another team member and keep your campaign moving forward. For your business, that means you can continue getting value from digital marketing.
Agency marketing provides your business with an external marketing team, which uses various online marketing strategies to grow your company. The question, however, is whether an Internet marketing agency is your best option.
Keep reading to find out!
Working with a digital marketing agency vs. an in-house marketing team offers a few benefits, including:
When you partner with an agency, you get to choose from the most experienced companies in the industry. This perk allows your business to hire agencies with a background in your market, for example, or a heavy focus on your preferred strategy, like SEO.
Working with such an experienced partner can help your company get the most value and return on investment (ROI) from digital marketing. If you’re looking for the best use of your marketing budget, an experienced agency can often deliver.
A digital marketing company often comes with skills that in-house teams can’t match, especially internal marketing teams at small-to-midsized businesses. These capabilities can range from accessing beta features in Google Ads to data on effective tactics or strategies.
For example, if your business wants to try a strategy like geofencing, but has zero experience with it, an agency could offer a unique advantage. They do have experience with using geofences and can use their background to help your company get the best results from geofencing.
- Software and tools
With an online marketing agency, your business doesn’t have to worry about researching or purchasing marketing tools. Your agency will often have access to these tools already, like for keyword research, and use them for your strategy.
In some cases, digital marketing agencies will also have marketing software that can make measuring and tracking your online marketing campaign easier. WebFX, for example, provides its clients with access to MarketingCloudFX.
This software, which uses artificial intelligence and machine learning technology, can not only track your marketing ROI but also analyze your marketing strategies to find ways to improve your campaign and get better results from it.
- Diverse specialties
Many agencies will also offer your business access to team members that specialize in areas like:
- Social media
- Paid advertising
- Conversion rate optimization (CRO)
- Web design
- And more
This level and degree of specialization allows your business to take advantage of multiple marketing channels, from social to email. In comparison, if you manage your marketing in-house, you have to limit your efforts or hire a jack-of-all-trades team member.
Compared to an in-house marketing team, an agency can scale quickly to your business.
Whether you’re looking to increase your paid advertising efforts during a busy season or improve your presence across social media networks, an agency can meet your needs. For an in-house marketing department, it’s challenging to respond to those needs.
It’s even more challenging if your business wants to pause its marketing efforts.
For example, maybe you want to pause ad campaigns during your slow season. If you hired someone to manage your paid campaigns, that leaves them (and you) in a predicament when it comes to finding work.
When debating between an agency or an in-house marketing department, many businesses want a cost comparison. While internal marketing departments can cost upwards of $200,000 per year, agencies cost anywhere from $20,000 to $200,000 per year.
That’s because agency pricing depends on your needs.
For example, your business may partner with a digital marketing agency for SEO services, which cost around $750 to $2000 per month or $9000 to $24,000 per year. That’s significantly less than what you would pay an SEO specialist — the average salary is $48,000 or $67,000 with benefits.
Working with a digital marketing agency does come with drawbacks, including:
You can find agencies across the world, which becomes a disadvantage for businesses that want to work with a local marketing company. For example, maybe you find the perfect agency for your organization, but they’re across the country.
This situation can prove challenging when aligning schedules.
That’s why, if you decide to partner with an agency in a different time zone, work with one that has experience with these kinds of client relationships. They’ll often have processes in place that make working with them seamless.
- Multiple clients
The fact that digital marketing agencies work with various businesses can make some companies feel neglected. If you work with an experienced and client-focused agency, however, you shouldn’t get this impression or feeling.
When you work with your account manager, you should feel like they’re a part of your business and your team. That’s a sign and quality of an experienced digital marketing agency. If you feel pushed off by your agency, it’s not necessarily a sign that you need an in-house team but that you need a new agency.
Companies that prefer to have complete control over their marketing campaign will experience some growing pains when working with a digital marketing agency. That’s because agencies often work best with some freedom.
While they will require you to sign-off on your strategy and different campaign decisions, providing them with the freedom to make strategic choices can help your business get the results from your marketing campaign.
Trusting your agency can also help your company reduce the bottlenecks that come with outsourcing marketing. If you have confidence in your account manager to make ad copy tweaks, for example, they can get those updates live and start getting more clicks and sales for your ad campaign.
Agency vs. in-house marketing: Which is better?
If you’re having trouble deciding whether to hire an in-house marketing team or an agency, we understand — it can be overwhelming!
However, we can only provide you with the information necessary for you to make the best possible decision for your unique business.
If you’re a smaller business with few clients, you may be able to handle a marketing campaign on your won. On the flip side, if you’re a small business with a few clients that is looking to scale up, an agency might be the way to go.
Nobody knows your business as well as you do — so it’s all about making the right decision for your business.
Why invest in digital marketing?
As we mentioned before, without a sound digital marketing plan, it will be extremely difficult for interested customers to find you online.
In fact, 46.8% of the world’s population makes an Internet search daily, and that figure is only rising. That means that if your business doesn’t have a home online, you could be missing out on some serious website traffic and increased conversions. That’s where digital marketing comes in.
Digital marketing strategies help to increase visibility of your website online so that more target customers can find you.
Specifically, SEO helps you to appear higher in search engines so that users click to your website, PPC advertises your website in search engine results pages (SERPs), content marketing targets users with valuable keywords, and email marketing helps potential customers keep your business top-of-mind.
What types of digital marketing can in-house and agency teams do?
In-house marketing and agency teams can develop and manage several types of online marketing strategies, though digital marketing agencies tend to have more capabilities in using these tactics.
Since 93% of online experiences begin with a search engine, it’s crucial that you have an SEO campaign in place.
In short, SEO (on-page and off-page) improve your website so that you can appear higher in search engine results pages. You may wonder why we keep mention ranking highly on SERPs, but evidence shows that 75% of people never scroll past the first page of results in Google — so if your website ranks on page two, or even three, there’s a slim chance anyone will even find your website.
This is one reason why SEO is so crucial.
SEO combines on-page tactics like keyword targeting, user experience, and content creation, with off-page tactics, like external link building and increasing reviews to ensure that your website is one of the highest ranking in your industry.
Overall, SEO takes some time to work, and takes some training and expertise to be able to do it on your own.
Pay-per-click advertising is one of the most cost-efficient ways to market your business online.
It works on a bidding system where you determine your most valuable keywords, decide how much you want to pay every time your ad targeting that keyword is clicked, and watch site visits rise.
It’s such a cost-effective strategy because you only pay the search engine when your ad is clicked — not for the ad to appear.
It’s successful because it works almost immediately, and it’s one of the best strategies for marketing to your specific audience with the use of target keywords.
This strategy is beneficial because it allows you to stay top-of-mind with customers that may not need your services currently, it and allows you to keep current customers up to date on specials and new arrivals.
To start a campaign, you’ll have to first collect a list of subscribers, which you can do via contact forms on your website, drawings at your storefront, or simply asking via social media for a user to provide their email address to get your newsletter.
Then, you’ll be able to contact them via email with exciting business information, new specials, coupons, newsletters, and more.
Social media marketing
Social media marketing is important since the number of people using social media grows year-over-year, and in fact, users spend 30% of their time online, on social media. People love social platforms! So you should advertise there too.
Platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat are all great channels to market your business, and you can do so easily — especially with automated tools like Buffer.
When you market on social media, it gives you a chance to increase brand awareness for your company, increase fans, and send people to your website.
Many people don’t consider web design to be a digital marketing tactic, but it absolutely is.
Your website is one of the first impressions a user will have of your business, and it’s extremely important that it’s clean, professional, organized, and informational.
Your web design will either turn people away or keep them coming back for more — and it all depends on their user experience. Google picks up signals when your website provides a great user experience to users and can subsequently rank you higher —another great marketing pairing for SEO!
WebFX is a full-service digital marketing agency
If you’ve decided to hire a marketing agency for your campaign needs, WebFX is a great option.
We’re a full-service agency, which means that we offer everything from SEO and PPC to reputation management and web design. We also offer services like custom infographic creation, video services, and more.
If you’re looking for an agency to take on any sized marketing campaign, WebFX is here to help.
Contact us today for a free quote!