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In-House Marketing Vs Agency – 3 Ways to Choose your Partner (Pros and Cons)

Ever feel like there just aren’t enough hours in the day? 

As a small business owner, you’re the CEO, the janitor, and the marketing manager (or at least you’re trying to be). 

You wear so many hats, your head starts to spin. 

And with your never-ending to-do list… 

Marketing often gets pushed to the back burner.

Every minute spent wrestling with marketing is a minute you could spend on other parts of your business.

So you’re now considering hiring others to do the work for you.

Because let’s face it. You didn’t get into business to be a professional marketer.

And that brings us to the ultimate question…

Should I hire internally? 

Or should I hire a digital marketing agency? 

Let’s see how we can help you choose.

My advice – in-house marketing vs agency hires

I’ve heard it more times than I can count: 

“Marketing is sucking the life out of me. I can’t decide if I should build a marketing team myself or hire an agency. Any advice?”

Actually, I do. 

So let’s break down the pros and cons of building a team vs. hiring a digital marketing agency, so you can choose what’s best for your business.

Build your own dream team

There are definite advantages to having a dedicated crew on your payroll. 

But before you start interviewing candidates, here’s a quick rundown of the pros and cons to help you decide.

Perks of building your own crew

  • It helps with brand consistency – Your team knows your brand inside and out, so everything stays consistent across the board.
  • Gives you direct control – You get to decide exactly how to market your business and that you can adapt on-the-fly. 
  • It creates a strong company culture –  Your marketing won’t feel forced. It’ll feel real and it’ll capture your vibe. 

The cost of going in-house

  • It’s damn expensive – Think salaries, benefits, training… expenses can add up really quickly.
  • Finding the right talent is hard – The competition for marketing talent is fierce, so get ready to put in the work.
  • You need to commit time – Hiring a team can free you up, but it also means managing them. It’s like having a puppy. They might need constant attention, especially during early days. Making matters worse, you need to train them if you’re on a budget.

Work with agency experts

Sometimes, the DIY route isn’t for everyone. 

This is where marketing agencies come in.

Let’s check out the good, the bad, and the ugly to help you decide if they’re the right fit for your business.

Skip the training, get results

  • You get access to instant expertise – You’re basically hiring a team of specialists who are committed to hitting their KPIs. They range from SEO experts to social media specialists… and they’re all under one roof.
  • It gives you a fresh perspective – They’ll look at your business with fresh eyes and develop ideas that will make customers do a double take. 
  • It’s scalable & flexible – They can work within your budget, so you’re not stuck with a one-size-fits-all marketing plan that breaks the bank. Caution though, many agencies offer templated marketing plans.

The cons of hiring an agency

  • You lose direct control – You’ll still have the final say, but you’ll be handing over some decision-making power to your partners. It’s not a bad thing, but when you don’t see eye-to-eye, then it can be.
  • It’s hard to find the right fit – Expect to spend time researching one that fits your brand and your budget.
  • They talk out of their a** a lot– They love acronyms and jargon. So, you’ll need to prod a bit, especially at the beginning. Ask them to talk plainly and simply. You’re not an expert.
in-house marketing vs agency + relationship between brands and agencies

Marketing matchmaker – 3 ways to find your perfect partner

You’re busy enough. 

You don’t have time to go on a series of “bad dates” as you look for your spark.

Here are three battle-tested ways that will help you find your perfect “match,”  whether it’s building an in-house A-team or partnering with a killer agency. 

Know your business inside and out

Marketing can feel like you’re browsing a massive hardware store. 

You need to know what you’re building. 

This way, you won’t be tempted to grab everything in sight.

So before diving headfirst into building an in-house team or hiring an agency, take a deep breath and get to know your business better. 

Understand your goals

Are you trying to spread the word about your brand?

Maybe you want more visitors to find your content. 

Or you’re trying to get more qualified leads.

Knowing your goals helps you find a partner who has the skills to help you reach your goals.

Speaking from experience, I love it when our clients come to us with clear challenges and goals they want to hit. 

Because let’s be honest…

When you know what you’re trying to achieve, it’s easier to map out a winning plan that gets you there without wasting time or resources.

Know your strengths and weaknesses

Before you jump into making a choice, do a quick marketing audit. 

Do you have a knack for writing email blasts that people actually open? 

Is your website design stuck in the early 2000s?

Feeling like your ads aren’t quite pulling their weight? 

Doing this can help you fill in the gaps and make it easier to decide between going in-house or working with a team.

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Goals are locked and loaded – now what?

If you have a clear, long-term vision for your marketing strategy (and a budget that won’t cry every time you swipe your credit card), building an in-house team might be the best move. 

This way, you have complete control and can customise your marketing strategy.

But if you find yourself needing expertise you don’t have existing in-house talents, that’s where agencies come in.

Spend smart, save big

Let’s talk about the B-word: budget.

Go big or go home? Not exactly. 

When it comes to choosing between hiring in-house or working with an agency, it’s not just about throwing money at the problem.

Be real with yourself (and your bank account).

How much can you realistically afford to spend each month? 

Be honest with yourself about your budget, and factor in all the costs, hidden or not. 

When doing this, I like to come up with possible scenarios that will affect cash flow. 

What if all things work out and it starts to rain sales? 

What if a campaign goes bust and delivers sh*t results?

Doing realistic forecasts can help determine realistic costs. 

It helps you make sure that you’re covered no matter what happens.

Let’s peek behind the curtain

Here’s a quick rundown of what you might be spending on, whether you build a team or partner with an agency:

  • In-house crew
    • Salaries
    • Benefits
    • Holiday Leave
    • Sick Pay
    • Public Holidays
    • Office equipment (hello, fancy ergonomic chairs!)
    • Extra overheads (electricity, internet, rent)
    • Hardware and software
    • Automation tools 

Basically, all the bells and whistles to keep the machine running.

  • Marketing agencies
    • Retainer fees
    • Project-based fees for specific campaigns
    • Performance fees (depending on their deal structure)
    • Other agency fees and taxes
    • Usually a 30-day to 12-month lock-in contract

Always read the fine print to avoid bill shock.

Think long-term, save big

Both building your own team and partnering with an agency have their pros and cons, money-wise.

A good agency can deliver proven results that pay off big-time in the long run.

Taking the time to hire an in-house team gives you a dedicated crew at your fingertips. 

No matter which one you choose, remember…

Focus on long-term value, not just the price tag. 

Sometimes, an option that seems expensive can save you money (and headaches) down the road.

The hybrid approach — best of both worlds?

It isn’t always black and white. 

Who says you can’t combine your in-house talent with some outsourced expertise?

Here’s how it can work

For example: you can hire in-house marketing members to handle content creation and daily social media management.  

They’ll perform the tasks that need a deep understanding of your brand voice and identity.

Then, for specialised projects like complex paid advertising campaigns or SEO, you can bring in a rockstar agency or consultant.

They’ll bring the skills and experience you need to dominate different marketing channels.

If everything goes as planned, you’ll be golden. 

All bases will be covered and you’ll have time to work on your business, not in it.

Levelling up with more reinforcement 

Just because you’re rocking a combo crew doesn’t mean you get to chill all day.

You’re still the captain. 

You’ll need to make decisions and keep things going in the right direction.

Never be complacent. Ever.

If you need a little more reinforcement, you can also work with a fractional CMO.

Need a marketing strategy overhaul? 

Bring them in for a deep dive.

Just need some guidance on a specific campaign?  

They can be your on-demand marketing specialist. 

Think of them as a high-powered digital marketing consultant

They bring the strategic thinking and expertise of a full-time CMO, but without the full-time price tag.

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So… in-house vs agency? 

Believe me, I wish I can give you a straightforward answer. 

There’s no magic formula.

It depends on your unique business and marketing goals.

Good thing, there are simple steps that you can take to get the decision-making process started: 

  • Before diving in, map out goals. What are you trying to achieve? What kind of help do you need?
  • Be honest about your budget. Don’t forget to factor in hidden costs for both options.
  • Consider a mix of in-house and outsourced resources for flexibility and cost-effectiveness – even on the management level. 

The bottom line? You hold the power. 

Weigh the pros and cons and don’t be afraid to experiment. 

Embrace the process and have fun with it.

It boils down to what will work for you and your business. 

Choose the right approach that can save you precious time, resources, and ultimately, money.

Ultimately, you’ll be able to find the marketing dream team that works for YOU. 

Josiah is a multi-award-winning digital marketing consultant and former journalist for the Australia Times. He now helps 6-7-figure brands as a Fractional CMO to generate predictable leads and sales growth.​

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