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In-House Marketing vs. Marketing Agency

When it comes to marketing your business, there are really only two options. You can build out an in-house marketing strategy, or you can choose to work with a marketing agency. There are pros and cons to each, but ultimately the right choice will largely depend on your business and your goals.

Dritschler Media

In-House Marketing Overview

In-house marketing can look different depending on how you choose to hire freelancers or employees. Ultimately, you as the business are in charge of hiring, training, managing, and tracking the performance of an in-house team.

Freelancers

Most small businesses choose to hire a variety of freelancers in the early stages of developing their marketing strategies. This is a great option if you know exactly what the freelancers will be required to do, and if you know exactly how to track their performance. In our experience, we’ve found that most small businesses have an idea as to what they want a freelancer to do, but they do not know exactly how to train, manage, and track performance effectively. Often times we see a freelancers performance being judged on metrics that may lead to practices that will ultimately hurt the business over time.

One time we heard a story from one of our clients where hiring a freelancer had gone completely wrong. The number one metric they tracked to evaluate the performance for a social media freelancer was likes and followers. After the freelancer couldn’t deliver large enough metrics within the first month, they resorted to purchasing likes and followers (which is a prohibited practice). This in turn damaged the business in such a way that they didn’t find out until 4 months later what had been done. The damage of which would take roughly a year to repair.

On the flip side, hiring freelancers is a great option if you’re looking to fill a variety of part-time roles, and you have an experienced marketing manager on your payroll full-time. Working with freelancers should generally be more affordable than hiring employees, and you can expect to have more experienced talent available to you. Some freelancers also charge per deliverable rather than time. Depending on your marketing strategy this may be a more desirable form of compensation.

Employees

As a business grows, hiring in-house marketing employees becomes both necessary and attractive as you can pay for time rather than deliverables. You also have significantly more control over employees compared to freelancers. You can monitor them more effectively, track performance more easily, and an employee is more likely to adopt the company culture and understand the company’s brand better than most freelancers will be able to.

When a business hires marketing employees, it’s still of paramount importance that the company has an experienced marketing manager qualify them. It may be even more difficult to qualify the marketing manger in the first place. Regardless, you can ask to see proven experience for exactly what your business is looking for when you make your hiring decisions. The hiring process for employees is more rigorous than hiring a freelancer, and you should be able to qualify someone based on their experience if they’re able to provide hard proof of their experience.

In-house marketing employees work for only one brand and company at a time in a specialized or generalized role. In most environments, specialized marketing employees can lose creativity over time and experience burnout from completing the same tasks over the lifetime of their employment. Generalized marketing employees also experience the same thing, but their burnout often time comes from being asked to complete too many different tasks over the lifetime of their employment. The marketing industry has one of the highest employee turnover rates in the world at over 30% annualized.

It’s no secret that maintaining an in-house marketing team can be difficult. It’s common for larger businesses to even utilize both in-house marketing employees with marketing agencies together.

Marketing Agency Overview

You can typically expect to get more value working with an agency compared to hiring in-house employees or managing a team of freelancers yourself. However, the caliber and capabilities of marketing agencies vary greatly. We break down 4 different types of marketing agencies and what you can expect from each of them.

Enterprise Marketing Agencies

These agencies have more employees and more expensive technologies at their disposal. They also carry more overhead, which makes them an expensive option. However, enterprise marketing agencies are able to provide your business with a more consistent expectation and relative safety when it comes to performance.

Engaging an enterprise-level marketing agency at their minimum level of engagement typically yields minimal ROI, so be prepared to spend an appropriate chunk of cash to achieve your goals.

You can expect cutting-edge website designs and unmatched data available to you to make more informed decisions. We see enterprise marketing agencies providing either top-tier social media management services, or generic graphics (which is mediocre). Most enterprise agencies generate impressions and sales through paid advertising rather than growing organically to generate sales.

Specialized Marketing Agencies

Marketing agencies that specialize in either one service category or one industry fit into this category. You can expect to pay a slight premium compared to small business marketing agencies. These agencies are best suited to supplement an in-house marketing team. If your business drives a lot of their sales through a specific marketing channel, or you’re looking to improve an existing channel, working with a specialized marketing agency can radically improve your performance in that channel.

Specialized marketing agencies can specialize in just about anything:

  • Web Development
    • Website Design
    • Wix, Shopify, WordPress, Squarespace
    • Custom Code
    • UX/UI
    • Maintenance
  • Search Engine Optimization
    • Technical SEO
    • Link Building
    • PR
    • Content Creation
    • Organic SEO
    • Local SEO
    • National SEO
  • Social Media Management
    • Content Creation
    • Reputation Management
    • Paid Advertising
    • Management
  • PPC (Google Advertising)
    • Shopping Ads
    • Search Ads
    • Display Ads
    • Video Ads
    • Local Ads
  • Lead Gen
    • LinkedIn or Data

Specialized marketing agencies often make large claims, and while an attractive options, every business should be weary of working with specialized agencies that seem too good to be true. Unlike working with enterprise marketing agencies, we actually recommend starting at the minimum level of engagement with specialized marketing agencies. Starting at the minimum level allows the opportunity to get ‘proof of concept’. This allows your business the opportunity to see if the specialized agency can deliver as promised.

Specialized agencies are common among young marketing ‘entrepreneurs’ and side hustlers. So beware of inexperienced and overly priced agencies in this category, as there are many of them. If you are interested in working with a specialized agency, we recommend you speak with another company that is currently using their product or service to see how it’s performed for them.

Small Business Marketing Agencies

The majority of marketing agencies provide a variety of services for small to medium businesses. Our company fits into this category. They typically cover a core range of services that most businesses need to market themselves successfully. Each agency offers varying levels of experience, so check to see if they have worked with any notable brands, and check their online reviews.

Agencies in this category also have a large price range depending on their experience, service offerings, and location. These agencies are best suited to replace in-house marketing employees for most businesses. They may showcase expertise in a specific industry or two, but a great small business marketing agency should specialize in their core services rather than any one industry.

You can expect to pay market rates for services, top-tier websites, and solid performance in general. More experienced agencies may charge a slight premium when compared to less experienced agencies in this category. Agencies in this category may not always have the same level of access to data when compared to enterprise marketing agencies. However, more experienced small business marketing agencies will utilize industry-leading tools to help gauge performance and assist your business in making more informed decisions.

One-Man Team Marketing Agencies

Today is is not uncommon to come across a marketing agency that is completely ran by a singular person. We call these agencies a “‘one-man team’. While most marketing agencies start out as a one-man team, great agencies should quickly grow into a specialized or small business marketing agency within their first 1 to 2 years.

A one-man team either completes all of the work themselves or they outsource everything to contracted freelancers. They might have an assistant to help them manage projects, but most often they outsource everything. Beware of one-man teams that outsource everything! They have a lot of incentives to pay low-cost freelancers for the majority of the work they produce. When we speak with a new potential client who has worked with a one-man team in the past, it’s extremely common to hear that they have been burned or there has been some type of long-term damage to their online reputation after working with that individual or ‘agency’.

One-man team marketing agencies that never grow are either not charging enough for their services to hire the appropriate staff, or they simply can’t retain business long enough to grow sustainably because their service simply doesn’t perform.

That said, you can always find a diamond in the rough! We were once a one-man team marketing agency, all work was completed by Tanner Dritschler (our founder). Our earliest clients benefited from unmatched pricing and superb ROI. Many of our clients have stayed with us since they signed on nearly a decade ago! We’ve grown into what we are today because we retained our clients, and increased pricing to market rates so that we can hire more talent to better serve our growing client base.

Deciding Between In-House Marketing vs. Marketing Agency

When deciding between hiring in-house marketing personnel or working with a marketing agency, you first need to understand the current state of your business and how you want to grow or maintain your sales.

You should also consider if you want to manage an in-house team or manage an agency. Managing an in-house team takes more time and energy, but you typically get more time for your money. An agency requires less time to manage and can provide you with more experience and performance for your money, but if you choose to work with the wrong agency it can have the opposite effect.

What do we recommend?

We recommend every company hire an experienced in-house marketing manager, or at least someone in charge of marketing. This person serves as a brand filter for both in-house teams and agencies. They are able to maintain brand consistency, and they have enough knowledge to effectively qualify an employee or agency.

Routine, specialized marketing tasks that require constant internal communication should be handled in-house (examples include: email marketing, reputation management, posting stories on social media, and operating other internal marketing programs). Most agencies aren’t built to handle tasks like this effectively at scale.

Other reoccurring tasks that require great expertise and time should be outsourced to a marketing agency (examples include: social media management and strategy, content creation, SEO, paid advertising, and other website-related duties). Most agencies can provide more value per dollar spent for tasks like these, and they are usually built to provide these types of services. This provides your business with lower costs and greater ROI than hiring in-house.

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