Hiring a Marketing Agency vs Building an In-House Marketing Team


So you’re looking to build or expand your marketing efforts? Great, you’ve come to the right place. You may have a map and are ready to set sail, but which direction is right for you? Should you build an in-house marketing team? Or should you hire a digital marketing agency?

The path isn’t always clear but understanding the pros and cons of both options can help you make a better decision.

So let’s get into it. When debating between building an in-house marketing team or hiring a digital marketing agency you should start by asking yourself the following three questions:

  1. What’s your budget?
    • Include the cost of labor, tools, media, and any other relevant considerations.
  2. What’s your timeline?
    • Is this a long-term or short-term project?
    • How quickly do you need to get started?
  3. What are your goals?
    • How big are your goals?
    • Are there specific projects you need to accomplish or is it more general?

Having a clear understanding of your business needs is an important first step before making a decision about hiring an in-house or outsourced marketing team. Now, let’s take a look at the pros and cons of each option.

The Pros of Building a Marketing Team In-House

  1. Subject Matter Experts
    One of the biggest benefits of an in-house marketing team is that they become subject matter experts (SME) on your industry, product or service, and target audience. An in-house marketing team only has to think about your business and your business only.SMEs are invaluable assets to your company. By staying up-to-date on the industry, SMEs can help provide competitive intel, drive strategy, and identify opportunities for growth. The SMEs on your marketing team make it much easier to create valuable content, build ads that convert, and align marketing strategy with company goals. There are industry-specific agencies and consultants that can also serve as SMEs but no one will understand your business like someone working within the business itself.
  2. Control
    Building an in-house marketing team will give you a lot more control over the marketing strategy and execution. Having an in-house marketing team allows you to control who works on your team, what hours they work, and how projects are prioritized. But, in order for a business to grow, owners have to slowly give up control over time. Giving up control can seem a little easier when all the decisions are made by people working in the business daily.
  3. Focus
    In-house marketing teams only have one focus — your business. In-house marketing teams are aligned with the company’s vision every step of the way. They can pivot quickly, react at a moment’s notice, and adapt as the focus changes.

Agencies, on the other hand, are focused on multiple businesses. Their focus can’t always be on your business. A moment’s notice for an in-house team may be a 24 – 48 hour notice for an agency.

The Cons of Building a Marketing Team In-House

  1. Cost
    Building a marketing team in-house does come with a cost. Every hire you make comes with a salary. A team of five can cost you around half a million a year. However, salary isn’t the only cost associated with an in-house marketing team. In-house teams require software to get the job done. According to a survey by Airtable, 60% of marketing teams regularly use 20 or more tools. Gartner’s 2021 study on marketing budgets found that marketers will spend 26.6% of their budget on martech solutions. This is higher than all other categories including labor and media.
  2. Bandwidth
    There’s a lot of debate over the number of marketers a company needs. Typically, we don’t see teams with more than 10 marketers until the company has reached more than 250 employees. This often leaves in-house marketers with limited bandwidth. In fact, limited bandwidth is the top challenge marketers face according to a 2020 survey by Drift.
  3. Finding and Keeping Talent
    We all feel the pressure of finding and holding on to great talent, especially during the “great resignation”. In fact, 33.3% of marketers voluntarily resigned during the great resignation. Yeah, a third of every marketing team resigned. Companies with in-house marketing teams will feel the effect of losing team members a lot more than they would if they were working with an agency. Not to mention, it takes an average of 40 days to hire someone in a marketing role.Keeping talent is getting just as hard as it is to find talent. Inflation, mental health, and lack of growth are all contributing factors to employees leaving for new companies. Unfortunately, most marketing budgets are not equipped to foster growth within their teams. In the 2022 CMO Survey, only 4% of marketing budgets are allocated to training and education (down from a pre-covid high of 5.8%).

The Pros of Hiring a Marketing Agency

  1. Expertise
    Just like an in-house marketing team, agencies have their own subject matter experts. However, their expertise is in specific marketing functions. Marketing agencies will typically have SMEs in the following areas:

  2. Cost
    Hiring a marketing agency is typically more cost-effective than building a team in-house. Working with a digital marketing agency will give you the power of a full team without the labor cost. Remember when we mentioned a team of five would cost close to half a million a year? That same budget would allow you to accomplish some pretty big marketing goals with an agency. Additionally, agencies come with their own set of tools. This can help offset some of your martech costs so you can allocate that budget elsewhere — like your ad budget.Marketing agencies are here to support your business so you can pick and choose what digital marketing services you need. As your business grows you can easily add on services instead of hiring more full-time employees and waiting for them to get brought up to speed.
  3. Speed
    Agencies have a lot more bandwidth that an in-house marketing team. There are multiple people working on your projects helping to accomplish tasks at a much faster rate than an in-house team. Outsourcing to a marketing agency is a great way to speed up the timeline.Similar to the first two points, agencies have no problem taking on new marketing initiatives. Whether your goals change or they grow, marketing agencies have the experience and bandwidth to plan and execute new concepts quickly.

The Cons of Hiring a Marketing Agency

  1. Multiple Clients
    Unfortunately, your company will not be your marketing agency’s only client. They will need to split their time among other businesses. This means they won’t always be focusing on your company. However, having multiple clients can sometimes be a good thing. Agencies can spark inspiration for your business while working with another. What worked for one client might also work for your business; that’s where that whole experience thing really starts to pay off.
  2. Control
    Unlike an in-house business, you won’t be able to control an agency’s work schedule, who they hire, or who they take on as a client. This isn’t to say you won’t have any control. You choose what the agency focuses on, you have final approval on deliverables, and you can make adjustments as your goals change. However, if you really want a successful relationship with a marketing agency you’ll have to get comfortable with giving up a little control. Be communicative, adhere to deadlines, and trust the process — you’ll see the results you want.
  3. Alignment
    When it comes to working with an agency there are often times when you may feel unaligned in the strategy, deliverables, or overall vision. Because they are not actively working in your business finding alignment can take a while. The longer you work with a marketing agency the more aligned you’ll be. Better communication will lead to better alignment between marketing agencies and their clients.

In-House and Outsourced Marketing

Choosing to build an in-house team or work with a digital marketing agency doesn’t need to be an all-or-nothing decision. Often the best solution is when a digital marketing agency is brought on to support an in-house team.

In-house teams with limited bandwidth or expertise in certain areas can outsource specific functions to a marketing agency. In return, the in-house team can learn from the agency and grow their own expertise. This type of partnership typically sees better success because the in-house team acts as the main point of contact for the marketing agency, keeping goals aligned.

Choosing between hiring a marketing agency or building a team in-house is a big decision. Both options come with positives and negatives but it really depends on what’s right for your business.

Think a marketing agency might be the right solution for you? Let’s chat.