It’s a battle many businesses contend with when looking for the right digital strategy to improve visibility and sales – doing in-house marketing or outsourcing their marketing to an agency. Choosing between in-house vs agency marketing can be challenging, and there are key considerations that should be made before making such an important decision.
This blog post outlines the advantages and disadvantages of using an in-house marketing team and an outsourced marketing agency, helping you understand what’s right for your business.
In-house Digital Marketing
In-house marketing means that all marketing activities are managed internally within the business. In-house marketing can be handled by one single representative (often referred to as a marketing manager, marketing assistant or eCommerce manager). If budget allows, a business may recruit an in-house team to replicate the digital agency model.
Advantages of In-house Marketing:
- Knowing your team
You may want to know exactly who is running your digital marketing campaigns and, if you want to stick with in-house marketing, you can handpick your team members right from the very start. First, however, you have to be prepared to invest lots of time and resources in recruitment to ensure you’ve got the right people representing your brand.
- Industry and business knowledge
They’re paid to be devoted to your brand and can spend every single day understanding exactly how your business works. They will also have a deeper understanding of your product or service because it’s all they’re working on.
If you opt for in-house marketing, you’re not required to travel far to communicate with your team. You can tap the shoulder of your desk neighbour, message them on Slack or wave from the other side of the office to get the attention of your marketing team. As they are in the same building, timelines can be moved, and new decisions can be implemented quickly as communication is simpler.
- Cheaper for smaller businesses
Opting for in-house marketing is often favoured amongst smaller businesses and start-ups. Their budget is tight, and they typically want tighter reins on their marketing spend. Understanding how to manage your digital marketing budget is important before making your decision to ensure you make the right choice.
Disadvantages of In-house Marketing:
- Limited creativity
Having a team devoted to your business is all well and good; however, hiring individuals to work on your brand day in day out may hinder overall creativity. When your in-house marketing team is deeply involved with the day to day running of the business, it may be harder to step outside of those activities, develop a broader perspective, and strategize how to grow the business.
- Skills and experience
If you use an in-house marketing team, your business may suffer from a limited skill set. Although you may hire individuals based on their digital marketing skills and experience, once they are embedded into the in-house team, they may struggle to find the time and resources available to continue developing their skills. You also only have access to a limited range of skills by going in-house, so you may have to compromise on some of the expertise you were hoping to utilise.
If your business can only afford one or two members of an in-house marketing team, there’s a limit to what can be achieved in any given week. As well as the creativity and strategy time involved before a campaign can go live, there’s also the creation, development, and optimisation of campaigns, not forgetting the management and performance tracking required.
That’s a lot of work for a small in-house marketing team to cope with. It’s also common that they are added into other facets of the business too, which can slowly diminish the focus of campaigns and dedication to the digital marketing strategy.
Using an outsourced marketing agency often involves a full handover of digital marketing activities to a specialised agency partner. A digital agency acts as an extension of your business but uses an expert team of digital strategists, analysts, and creatives who put brands in the right place at the right time in front of the right people in the digital marketplace to cultivate growth online.
Choosing the right digital marketing agency can be difficult, and there are a number of different agency types that can be used. In the simplest terms, opting for an outsourced marketing solution puts an experienced team of digital specialists at your disposal.
Advantages of Outsourced Marketing:
- A wider and more advanced skillset.
Digital agency marketers are experts at what they do. They devote time to industry training and keep abreast of the latest digital marketing trends to develop professionally and provide you with a better service. At Zelst, our team includes specialists in biddable media, SEO and content, and this allows our individual skillsets to be focused and our collective work to be comprehensive.
- Increased creativity
If you opt to use an outsourced marketing agency, you can benefit hugely from an ‘outsider’ perspective. The agency specialist works with numerous unique client accounts, and every day is different. This helps their minds to stay fresh, alert and, most importantly, creative. In addition, they are continually exposed to a huge range of businesses and industries so they can step outside of the confines of monotonous routines and offer innovation.
In our blog post on generating content ideas, we talk about the importance of consuming content to create it. A digital marketing agency will always find this easier when working on a range of clients on any given day. In fact, one of our clients saw a massive 905% increase in organic search traffic thanks to the implementation of a stellar content marketing strategy.
- Agencies are good at time management
Outsourced marketers are naturally adaptable to changing tasks – it’s part of the job description. Working on a number of different client accounts requires an agile way of thinking to ensure the smooth workflow of the agency overall. That means if you need to change the focus to a new project or campaign, you know your outsourced marketing team can keep up.
- Equipped with adequate resources to perform effectively
In-house marketing teams are typically small and consist of one or two people who, although they may have knowledge and expertise in a particular area of digital marketing, will be limited in others. Working with an outsourced marketing agency means you have access to specialists in every area of digital marketing with the added benefit of an account management team who can strategise and advise you on how to make the best use of your budget for the biggest return on investment.
- Cost-effective in the long-term
Outsourced marketing gives you access to a bigger and more diverse team without spending money recruiting a huge in-house equivalent. While hiring an agency may seem more expensive at first, you benefit from more expertise and knowledge to grow your campaigns for more of those all-important sales.
You can really see the impact of a quality outsourced marketing agency in one of our case studies, where one of our long-standing clients was drawn in by the lure of a different marketing agency. As a result, their organic visibility dropped from over 80% growth to a significant decline and only started climbing again when the company brought Zelst back on board.
Disadvantages of Outsourced Marketing:
- It may take a little time for an agency to align with your brand.
Unlike an in-house marketing team, outsourced marketing agencies have to work harder to ensure they fully understand the business and your target customers. Strong communication and a close working relationship can resolve this, and as soon as we sign up a new client, we hold an immersion meeting. Immersion meetings are a great way to grasp how a business truly works and meet the key team members.
- They may have a conflict of interest.
Outsourced marketing agencies have lots of clients in their portfolio, and there are some agencies out there who pride themselves on being specialised in a particular sector (food, beauty, fashion, etc.) This industry focus can mean that some digital agencies are dealing with a number of clients who are actually in direct competition with each other, leading to a conflict of interest.
Here at Zelst, that’s exactly why we don’t work with anyone in the same sector. Before starting a relationship with any new client, we ensure we can focus entirely on that client as we always have one objective in mind – to help our clients be industry leaders.
- Requests may not be actioned immediately.
Outsourced marketing agencies deal with lots of different client requests on a daily basis, so occasionally, you may have to wait. However, digital marketing agencies are extremely well-practised in prioritising tasks. If something should require immediate attention, you can feel reassured that an account manager will always be on hand to get the job done.
Choosing In-house vs Agency Marketing
Choosing between in-house vs agency can be difficult, but once you know the pros and cons of each, it’s easy to see where your business sits and what is required for your brand to really grow online.
If you aren’t sure which is best for your business, ask yourself these questions:
- What is my marketing budget?
If you have a strict marketing budget, generally an outsourced agency is the best way to go – although they can seem like a big expense, it works out much cheaper than trying to hire enough skilled people to get the same results.
- How much time do I have and how would I prefer to spend it?
An in-house marketing team will need training and time to integrate within the company and understand the culture. However, once they’re ready to go, an in-house marketing team can save time as any communication can be done internally.
- When do you need results?
If you’re looking for results quickly, an outsourced agency will be able to get started much more quickly than hiring a team. They’ll be able to bring fresh ideas right out of the gate, and the range of experts will likely get the ball rolling much faster.
Sometimes, just choosing one or the other isn’t best for your business. In that case, you could always try a hybrid model. This is a great middle step if you would like to build your own marketing team but don’t have all the resources for it – you can bring on one or two people to get them integrated and still have the benefits of varied, expert knowledge.
There is no real answer to the debate of in-house vs agency digital marketing, because it all depends on your business. If you would like to speak to one of our specialists about managing your next digital marketing campaign, please get in touch today and see how we can help – we’d love to chat!