Hiring a Marketing Agency vs. In-House Talent: Which is Best?
The choice between hiring a marketing agency and hiring in-house marketing talent is a difficult one. It’s a crucial decision that can have a dramatic impact on the effectiveness of your marketing.
There is no single path to universal marketing success. Which decision you make should depend entirely upon the nature, needs, goals, structure and management style of your company.
Marketing Agency vs. In-House Talent
Before making a decision on hiring an agency or hiring your own employees, there are some questions you should consider.
What do you want to accomplish?
What kind of oversight do you want over the marketing process?
What is your marketing budget?
How much time can the management team spend on marketing projects?
For a lot of companies, working with a marketing agency makes the most sense. It costs less than full-time employees, and you get access to multiple skillsets and experts. However, answering the questions above can help determine if your company wants to go the agency route, or if having someone onsite makes more sense. For some companies, a mixture of agency talent, and on-premise employees is the best formula for success.
The Strengths of Hiring In-House Talent
It may sound obvious, but the main strength of a permanent, full-time employee is that they are physically present. In-house employees are always accessible. They know your company intimately and are naturally up-to-date with all developments.
On-premise employees make some marketing tasks much easier. For example, if your company needs to shoot promotional video from its sales floor or factory, the in-house employee has the access to make it happen.
Another advantage of hiring full-time employees is the ability to get real-time project status. For hands-on managers, having an employee in the office allows you to keep your fingers firmly on the pulse of the company’s marketing efforts. You can give close supervision and instant collaboration at all stages of the marketing process.
The Downsides of Full-Time Marketing Employees
The downsides of hiring in-house talent are focused around issues of productivity and costs, and skill shortages. In-house employees spend as much as 50% of an average workweek on routine administrative duties, such as answering emails, attending meetings, and advising coworkers. And you can’t forget about personal timewasters like Facebook, lunch, vacation, breaks, etc. This culminates in possibly less than 20 hours per week spent on productive work that leads to deliverables.
In-House talent also brings up the possibility of limitations, in either marketing experience or skillsets. If you need something that falls outside the full-time employee’s professional purview, you must incur extra expense, time, management effort, and risk in order to secure the services necessary to fill in the gaps.
The last, but definitely not least, concern of hiring full-time employees is the commitment. Onboarding a new employee takes time and money, and even if they’re very talented, when they exit, it leaves a major hole in your marketing department. If the hire is a bad hire, you lose a lot of time and money in them. Not to mention, the work that goes into replacing them if they leave, or you have to let them go.
Working with an agency has its downsides as well. The most glaring is a disconnect between the company and the agency. Agency talent is not intimate with the day-to-day of the company, and keeping them up-to-date takes time and effort.
Communication is also a liability when working with an agency. If the chosen agency doesn’t proactively keep the client in the loop, they can feel detached from their own projects. This brings a level of stress into the relationship, and anxiety over the health and progress of every project.
There is also the fact that agencies aren’t available like employees are. If something needs done quickly, or completed locally, an agency is handicapped. For instance, at one time, Lean Labs was approached to handle the social media of a local gourmet baker. We had to turn it down, as it would have been a waste of their money.
We couldn’t snap Instagram photos of their products, or the bakery. We couldn’t take a video of the latest satisfied client picking up their wedding cake. We couldn’t snap candid photos of the teary-eyed mother picking up their children’s first birthday cake. Only someone present day-in-day-out can do that specific job like it needs to be done.
The Strengths of Hiring a Marketing Agency
The primary strength of hiring an agency is in talent surplus, and productivity. An established agency is fully equipped to handle all problems associated with marketing. An agency can only remain in business if they deliver value and maximum efficiency at a reasonable cost.
When you hire an agency, you have access to a wider breadth of talent. You’re not limited to the skills of just your employees. Instead, the agency can fill the gaps regardless of the skillset needed to perform a marketing task. When there is a gap in skills to accomplish a certain task, the agency will handle hiring additional talent to complete it.
In-house marketing employees rarely have these types of industry connections. If an in-house employee is faced with a task that he or she is unfamiliar with, the company must suffer the hassle and expense of either vetting and hiring temporary freelance talent or providing extra education and training to its current employees.
That brings us to another advantage of working with an agency. When you work with a quality marketing agency, you don’t pay for administrative issues, internal meetings, correspondence, or employee breaks. 100% of your investment goes directly into producing marketing deliverables. You don’t pay taxes, benefits, or vacation time. Literally, all the money spent on a relationship with an agency is invested into actual deliverables, allowing more capital to be dedicated to moving the needs and growing your business.
For all these reasons and more, an agency is usually in a much better position to deliver marketing projects on time and on budget.
There is no one-size-fits-all answer when it comes to whether you should hire an agency or a full-time employee. It all depends on the job to be done, the budget, and the goals of each individual company.
In many cases, companies rely on full-time employees to run the show, and hire an agency to fill the gaps. For others, they need an agency to take the reigns and market their company from an expert perspective.
If you’re still wondering which one fits your company the best, set aggressive goals. Plan out the tasks that will accomplish those goals. If you need help with this, a mastermind call with a trusted advisor is a good idea. Once you know what you need to accomplish, you can make a better decision on who you need to hire.
Ryan's experience ranges from higher education to SMBs and tech startups. When not doing digital marketing, he's sure to be enjoying some kind of nerdy pastime.