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Marketing Agency vs. In-House: How To Know Which One is Best

Whether you’re a start-up or an established company, the battle of in-house versus agency marketing is a big one. Pros and cons never seemed more relevant when it comes to deciding the most efficient and effective way to reach your marketing goals.

Do you want to leverage the outside vantage point of agency experts, or do you see the strength in an in-house team that can experience life in the trenches of your company? On the flip side, do you want to fund offices and education of an in-house operation or do you take advantage of external manpower?

In-House Marketing vs. Marketing Agencies

These questions can all be given some insight as we explore the advantages and down sides of each angle. After reading this post, you’ll have a better understanding of how to critically evaluate your company’s needs and resources in order to make the right decision.

The Pros and Cons of Marketing Agencies

When you hire a marketing agency, you’re investing in the professional expertise and creative services of people who eat, breath and sleep marketing. They are 24/7 marketing machines. Production is what they do, and results are what they deliver.

Additionally, agency life brings together subject matter experts from all marketing fields; putting them on the same team. The combination of this much brainpower results in a highly resourceful group of people who can make executive decisions backed up by industry knowledge and experience.

Working for a variety of clients gives an agency the upper hand when thinking of diverse and unique ideas — the benefits of an outside vantage point. Not to sway the vote, but an agency will also be able to give you advice when navigating potentially tricky situations. They experience a lot of wins, and a fare share of setbacks, which means they will have a good idea of what to do when kinks show up in your marketing or business model.

Marketing requires executive buy-in and to get it, agencies must demonstrate return on investment. This is an area of strength for reputable agencies, who rely on ROI to keep and grow business. Your tracking and testing potential is much higher with an outside firm than an in-house team. If your results start to take a dip, you can always adjust with the agency and scale your approach either up or down — both fairly simple processes when working in this capacity.

Working with agencies has its downsides, too.

Typically, you’ll pay a higher, premium price to do business with the more effective agencies. Also, any adjustments to workload or project will be tracked and can increase the cost for projects.

There's also the matter of discovery. Before an agency can begin delivering results, they will have to go through a time-consuming discovery process to learn your business, it's positioning, the technical aspects, etc..

Pros and Cons of In-House Marketing

For as many positives as were listed for using an agency, an in-house marketing team has a long list of benefits as well. If quality is of concern and your company frequently goes through revisions and last-minute changes, a team of marketing professionals internally can change priorities and spend extra time on particular pieces as needed. You should be warned that even though this may sound like a way to cushion deadlines, the last-minute revisions can still increase costs.

Going hand-in-hand with the need to confirm details at every step in the process is the “tight-ship” mentality that often requires the oversight of a company executive. An in-house team can be monitored internally at any time, building trust and confidence in the marketing process. This back and forth is what determines the relationship between leadership and marketing and can ultimately lead to real shifts in mentality. Once a company leader has bought into the marketing process, there is a lot more creative space to be innovative and beef up the strategy.

Historical knowledge of past ideas — successes and failures — is a valuable asset to a company and one your in-house marketing team will have. That intimate knowledge of the company will grow with their tenure and will give them the ability to tie into the happenings effortlessly. This will be extremely beneficial during brainstorming sessions and incubating successful strategies.

In-House vs. Agency: Which is Best For You?

The downsides for both in-house talent and agencies need to be at the forefront of your mind when weighing the options. The decision to go in-house will most likely force modern marketing practices to come at a significant cost. Internal teams often face huge workloads and squishy deadlines that get altered due to the revision process mentioned above. These factors won’t leave much time for staff to stay well versed in new technologies and approaches. As for cost, the office overhead for getting started down this path will be high, but if managed correctly, could pay off in the future.

When it comes down to making the final decision, it is wise to keep all of the above in mind. A lot will depend on your company’s existing culture, marketing goals and dreams for the future. It’s impossible to say one is ultimately better than the other, but it is definite that one is better than the other for you based on your situation.

Make sure to discuss the pros and cons with your leadership team and get a variety of opinions before taking the jump. If you give it the time it deserves, you’ll land in the right place.

If you're considering hiring a marketing or design agency, I recommend you get a free brainstorming session with Lean Labs' president, Kevin Barber. Reserve 30-60 minutes to discuss the ins-and-outs, pros and cons, to discover the best plan for your company. This brainstorming session is a favorite of both clients and non-clients. There are no sales-pitches, just helpful advice from someone who's been there, done that.

Written by Chelsea Robinson / October 29, 2014

Chelsea Robinson is a communications professional dedicated to inbound marketing. Currently a full-time Marketing Manager for a NCAA Division I university, Chelsea is passionate about digital and social communications. She contributes posts covering a variety of topics to the Lean Labs blog. When she’s not writing, Chelsea enjoys exercising, fishing with her husband and hanging out with her dog.

Articles by Chelsea Robinson