Should I Hire a Marketing Agency or Build Our Own In-House Team?

To ‘build’ or to ‘buy’, that is the question…

Let’s review the pros and cons of each. Our research has shown that working with a digital marketing agency can be 33% more effective than hiring an in-house team of marketers, but let’s review and you can be the judge of what is best for your business

Who is This Guide For?

This is aimed at CMOs and senior marketing officials who are not sure if they need to hire a digital agency, or their own in-house staff.

Maybe you’re at the end of your contract with your digital agency, and you’re wondering if bringing these services under your roof would be a better fit. Or maybe you’ve been paying a full-time staff, and you’re wondering if you can get more value for less money.

A Digital Marketing Agency Partner Vs. An In-House Team

Here are the most important factors you need to consider when debating in-house versus outsourced marketing.


Brain Power: Pros and Cons

Digital Marketing Agencies:

For the cost of hiring 1 full-time senior level marketing employee, you can get access to 8-12 senior marketing minds through an agency. The collective experience and knowledge base of a team will always be better than relying on a single mind to solve a problem or come up with a new idea.

In-House Marketing Staff:

You get to handpick your employees and train them on exactly how you want things done. However, if you don’t already have a seasoned digital marketing expert on staff to do the hiring, you won’t know what to look for.

Also, to ensure their skills stay sharp, you need to pay to continuously up-train and recertify your employees. Whereas an agency is responsible for the cost of training their own employees, without any additional costs to you.

And finally, if an employee quits or gets fired, they take their experience and expertise with them, so you have to start all over again and pay to find and train their replacement.

Advantage: Agency


Cost: Pros and Cons

Digital Marketing Agencies:

You’re only really paying for the things that will move your marketing needle forward. Your money pays for the staff, skills, and tools you will need to run your campaigns.

In-House Marketing Staff:

With a full-time employee, you have to pay their salary and a host of other things, like:

  • Employee benefits
  • Vacation
  • Yearly bonus
  • More office space/ utilities

And these costs will literally grow each year as each employee gains seniority.

We have this very useful “Agency Vs In-House” calculator you can use to figure this all out:

We always do “buy vs build” calculations before executing on any project.  Often if it’s not our core competency, we often find it’s better and cheaper to buy it then to build it.

Advantage: Agency


Tools and Equipment: Pros and Cons

Digital Marketing Agencies:

A good agency comes with all of the industry’s must-have tools. At Powered By Search, we invest $250,000 into tools each year and our clients get access to all those tools for free.

We also test and try all of the new tools on the market, to always ensure we’re using the best.

In-House Marketing Staff:

You would have to pay and track all of the subscriptions and licenses yourself, and the cost would be higher than paying 4 or 5 more full-time salaries!

Also, you would have to trust your staff to stay on top of industry trends to make sure they’re not missing out on a game-changing tool, or wasting your money on something they barely use.

In the world of web design and UX alone, some of the industry’s most used tools include:

Tool/ Program/ AppTaskCost
Sketch – sketchapp.comUX/ design prototypes$99
Flexitive – flexitive.comDisplay bannersUp to $1,284.00/ year
Hotjar – hotjar.comLanding page heatmap, trackingUp to $7,068.00 /year
Invision app – invisionapp.comDesign feedback, collaborationUp to $5,400.00 /year
Adobe creative suite – Photoshop, illustrator, InDesign etc.Design, photo editing, vector graphic illustrationUp to $959.76 /year
Conversion monk – conversionmonk.comExit pop implementation, trackingUp to $10,800.00 /year
unbounce.comLanding page creation, split testing, trackingUp to $5,988.00 /year
leadpages.netLanding page creation, split testing, trackingUp to $2,388.00/ year
usertesting.comReal, user-based landing page feedbackUp to $7,500.00 /year
shutterstock.comStock images, vectorsUp to $4,788.00 /year
optimizely.comLanding page creation, split testing, trackingUp to $30,000 /year

Advantage: Agency


Culture: Pros and Cons

Digital Marketing Agencies:

It’s hard to find a digital marketing agency that aligns with your company culture. When there’s a culture clash, the work suffers. Time is wasted, deadlines are missed. It can be an arduous process that gives you lukewarm results.

This is the exact situation that causes people to fire their agency, and start looking for an in-house staff.

However, you can avoid this by making sure you hire the right digital agency. During the hiring/interview process, we recommend you make sure, your would-be agency:

  • Is focused on your goals and KPIs, not their own
  • Can tell you exactly how their methodology will help you, without vagueness
  • Has a specialty and expertise, without claiming to be masters of everything
  • Can show proven success

You can get a sense what we value (hint: it’s you succeeding) and our core values, right from our employees’ mouths, by watching this video.

The Biggest Challenge of Keeping an In-House Marketing Team

You get to choose every employee personally and make sure they fit in with your company’s visions and values. And, if you all have the same logo on your paychecks, you’re all invested in this company’s success, right?

However, if marketing people aren’t surrounded by other marketing minds, they can sometimes feel bored or isolated. This means their work will suffer, or they’ll simply quit on you.

Most marketing people prefer to work for an agency. They like having creative bounce-boards, and like-minded people who understand their challenges.

Also, you may not always have enough work to keep them busy. This means you have to pay them to do nothing or find something else for them to do. This can lead to copywriters being asked to help out with event planning… Which leads to copywriters quitting.

How This Can Help My Business Today

As you can see, in most cases it just makes much more sense to work with a digital marketing agency. Hiring an in-house team may cost you a lot more, and bring you a lot less value than you were expecting.

In-house employees may make a bit more sense for smaller companies, if you want to hire a marketing Jack-of-all-trades who does a bit of design, can do a bit of social media, and can write sales copy. However, at the enterprise level, it just makes a lot more sense to work with the digital marketing agency to run your detailed and complex campaigns.

Key Takeaways:

  • An agency gives you access to more minds
  • An In-house staff brings a lot of “hidden costs”
  • A full suite of marketing tools is incredibly expensive
  • Marketers working on in-house teams tend to get bored and quit

Want to know all the red flags you need to look out for when looking to hire a digital agency?  Usually the proof is in the numbers.  Be sure to run the numbers with our “agency vs in-house” calculator here.

How to Hire a Digital Marketing Agency Worksheet

Swipe our how to hire an agency worksheet so you can hire the ‘right’ digital marketing agency for your business.

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