Agency vs In-house marketing – 4 key considerations for decision makers

  • 25th April 2022
Written by Adam Barrett Brook

An age-old question for companies is whether to bring marketing expertise in-house or to outsource it to an agency. There are pros and cons to each approach and no one size will fit all. But how do you choose what is right for your business?

The number one thing you need to be clear on is the aims and objectives of your marketing function. Once you’ve figured out what you want to achieve and matched these objectives to KPIs (Key Performance Indicators), the choice will be easier.

We often help companies to build their marketing teams and the question of in-house or external staff is indelibly tied to team structure. No role exists in a vacuum and if you do choose to go with an agency, don’t forget to think about who from your internal team, will manage them!

Read on to discover four key points to consider when making the agency vs in-house decision.

1.     What is the key skill that you are hiring for?

Ask yourself what is the key skill that you need from this person? Then ask yourself what level of specialism is required by this skill.

Agency: One of the main benefits of working with agencies is that they hire specialists who focus on one marketing area and who are gaining wider experience from the other clients that they are working on. If you are hiring for a technical role, like PPC, an agency is likely to offer you accreditation credentials and an expert who regularly attends events and training.

In-house: If the skill you’re hiring for is more people-based or organizational, you may find that an in-house hire is more likely to show loyalty and to take the time to understand your business. A Digital Marketing Manager, for example, may be tasked with managing the channel specialists and ensuring that budgets and broad KPIs are met. A deeper understanding of your business will be highly desirable for this role.

2.     How often is this skill needed? 

Not all skills are needed with daily a frequency. A good example of this is development whereby you will often have specific projects requiring development work, but there may be times when nothing is required.

Agency: A key benefit of using external resource here is that you can more easily pay for fewer hours. Rather than covering PAYE requirements like holiday and sickness pay, you may choose to hire, say 20 hours a month, from an agency that you think will cover off what needs to be done.

In-house: Development is very technical and when we talk about this skill, we are talking about more than one person. An in-house development team will certainly require more than one hire and differing skills include those for the front and back-ends of the website. If you have significant development needs then it could be cost-effective and efficient to hire a team. If your need is not so strong, you risk overpaying for this skill and having zero resource available in the case of sickness or absence.

3.     How much do you understand the skill for which you are recruiting?

Do you have a solid understanding of the principles and techniques that underline the skill for which you are recruiting? Your answer to this question will influence whether to go agency or in-house.

If you answered yes: In this case, it may be best to go in-house. If you have a solid understanding of this skill, say brand management, then keeping the function in-house you can feel confident in your ability to both recruit the right person and to assess their performance.

If you answered no: If you don’t have a good understanding of the skill you are recruiting for, going with an accredited agency is more likely to lead to success. Even if the long-term plan is to bring this skill in-house, a good agency will help you to understand the skill and to know what you should be looking for in a permanent hire.

4.     Is your company equipped to stay up-to-date with industry changes?

We all know that the worlds of Digital and Marketing don’t stay still for long, but how many of us are actually attending the reams of webinars and events landing in our inboxes?

Agency: One of the key propositions of an agency is that they are cutting edge – getting the beta tests for new developments in marketing tools and very much ahead of the curve. As such, you can guarantee that an agency’s marketing specialists will be attending key industry events and keeping up with changes impacting your performance. All of this is super important.

In-house: If your SEO team is one-person strong, it may not always be feasible (or possible) for them to attend the events that help companies to stay on top of the latest algorithms, best practice and trends. If you do have the resource to ensure that marketing specialists are keeping abreast of their industry, fantastic! If not, might we suggest trying an agency that will come to you with what is happening in the wider world.

We hope that this helps to address some of the challenges that can be faced by companies trying to choose whether an internal or external hire is right for them. It’s certainly no mean feat, and we’d never say that there was a 100% clear decision to be made. However, following the four considerations outlined above will certainly help.

If you still feel you need help, feel free to talk to us! We love to help companies with marketing structures and even with finding specific staff members and skills functions.