In-House vs. Agency Marketing: What’s Best For Your Business?
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Any business with a desire to be successful needs to incorporate some sort of marketing plan into its operations. But with the rise of digital and social media, not to mention various other creative avenues, marketing is a lot more of an undertaking than it was years ago when radio, television and print media were the three mediums used to get the word out about a specific product or service. But behind any marketing plan and brand identity, organizations often have to answer one big question before really digging into these efforts: Is this work performed in-house or outsourced to an agency?
There’s no real right or wrong answer, but there are a variety of factors that you should weigh to come to this determination for your organization. In this post, we’ll take a look at some of the pros and cons of going in-house versus partnering with an agency for your marketing efforts so that you can make the decision that’s right for your firm. Here’s a closer look:
In-House Marketing: What You Need to Know
As the name implies, in-house marketing means that you’ve either hired an individual or a team of individuals to work exclusively for your company. While an in-house marketer can consist of just one person to carry out all associated duties, it’s generally much more effective if it’s a team effort. On this note, there’s typically an individual responsible for managing marketing content, a professional associated with content writing and search engine optimization (SEO), a designer and a social media specialist, among others.
In this section, we’ll take a closer look at the pros and cons of having an in-house marketing team on your company’s payroll. Here’s a look:
In-House Marketing Pros
Perhaps the biggest advantage of having an in-house marketing team is that these individuals have the ability to become experts in the industry, understand its challenges and the competition. These professionals can establish a marketing strategy based on their analysis of the industry and their specific brand’s potential to gain market share. For many businesses, it’s far easier to hire in-house staff to become experts within their organization, industry and market than have to explain it to an agency or pay a third-party marketer to do the homework on things themselves.
Brand consistency is important in building a company, and this is another advantage of having an in-house marketing team. Since all materials are produced, reviewed and pushed out by an in-house team, there’s a real opportunity to ensure brand consistency and alignment in everything that is released – both internally and externally.
Greater creative control
An in-house marketing team consists of full-time employees that are working with each other toward a common goal at least 40 hours a week. Not only does it permit a greater level of creative control over materials that are produced, but this sort of dynamic also helps to streamline communication within the team. Streamlined communication can lead to more productive meetings and conversations, better and faster decision making, and, ideally, a higher level of quality.
No conflict of interest with an agency
We’ll discuss this more later, but one of the major drawbacks of working with a marketing agency is that you may run into situations where a particular agency represents other clients in your industry, which may lead to a potential conflict of interest. Additionally, depending on the industry your business is in, it may be difficult to find an agency to work with based on how many of your competitors they also represent. There’s no conflict of interest when you’re marketing team is in-house because they’re only working for one company: yours.
In the right circumstances, hiring your own in-house marketing team can represent cost savings versus going the agency route. This is especially true for small, growing companies who likely don’t have the budget for an agency and may only be hiring one or two marketing professionals to start. In addition to the hourly fees that often come with hiring an agency to perform marketing duties, you may also be on the hook for a monthly retainer fee to ensure you’re continuously able to be represented by the particular agency you’re working with. You’d be surprised at how much the costs have the potential to add up.
In-House Marketing Cons
Potential for complacency
When you hire an in-house marketing team, there’s a greater likelihood that the professionals you’re bringing aboard are less experienced and possibly without some of the skills that those in an agency would be able to offer. This isn’t a bad thing, as the idea is that these professionals will develop new skills and turn weaknesses into strengths as they evolve within the organization. However, it’s important to hire the right professionals that are highly motivated to learn these new skills or else complacency can set in. When complacency sets in, it’s difficult for a professional – and the organization they work for – to grow.
Geater potential for burnout
In addition to complacency, there’s a greater likelihood of burnout among an in-house marketing team. Materials need to be created and deadlines need to be met in order for a company to achieve its goals. When things pile up, the position can turn into much more than just a 40-hour job, requiring professionals to work at odd hours. The burnout can be real, and it can lead marketing professionals to seek positions in less-demanding industries and companies.
The hiring process
Finding the right marketing professional or marketing team can make for a tedious hiring process, and then you have to account for training and onboarding to get the individual or individuals up to speed on everything and what’s expected of them. Noting this, it can often be easier to hire an agency and let them take the reigns of your marketing than trying to force something in house.
Agency Marketing: What You Need to Know
Unlike an in-house marketing team, working with an agency is essentially outsourcing your marketing needs. In other words, rather than performing the work in-house, you contract with an agency – typically comprised of many professionals that specialize in all different aspects of marketing – to handle such duties. Ideally, agencies work to become an extension of any business, learning a company’s goals, brand identity, core values and purpose statements, and more.
In this section, let’s take a closer look at the pros and cons of outsourcing your marketing work to an agency.
Ideal for campaign-specific marketing
While working with an agency can be beneficial for offloading a variety of marketing tasks, it’s particularly helpful when it comes to launching any type of marketing campaign. With the bevy of skilled professionals on hand, an agency likely knows just what it takes and what is needed to implement and launch a successful campaign.
While in-house marketers are typically hired in with a certain level of experience, the hope is that they grow and develop with a firm and attain new skills along the way to make them more well-rounded professionals. Marketing professionals in an agency setting are typically already seasoned professionals. Some agencies even have professionals that specialize in a specific area of marketing. It’s this experience and high level of quality that can serve as a major advantage of going the agency route. Nobody will have to grow or develop into a role, because these professionals already have the know-how and expertise to make things work. In a certain sense, you shouldn’t have to worry about the hands that your marketing is in, thereby permitting everyone else within your company to focus on the things that they do best.
Space, software advantages
The average marketing professional salary is about $62,000 per year. While we already mentioned how having an in-house team often offers cost-savings for the right type of company, there are other financial considerations that should be weighed before making a decision. For instance, an in-house marketing team doesn’t just consist of in-house, full-time employees that a company needs to budget for, but there will also need to be funds budgeted for software, tools, equipment and more. Aside from this, a company may also have to allocate office space for marketing professionals to work and collaborate in. When you add the cost of employee salaries and these other intangibles together, it may make more sense to outsource marketing duties to an agency.
While there may be contracts signed and retainer fees when you sign with an ad agency, working with them tends to be fairly flexible. For instance, if you want to transition efforts or strategies, agencies usually have the capability to make adjustments quickly and effectively. It’s one of the benefits of having a staff of professionals with various different skill sets.
Greater conflict of interest potential
Many agencies have an ethics policy that they abide by when selecting new clients. For instance, if an agency works with a certain automotive brand, it’ll likely decline to work with any other automotive brands due to conflicts of interest. Noting this, it may be difficult to find an agency to work with if there are many experienced brands already in your industry, especially if the more experienced and recognized agencies are already representing established brands in your sector.
Potential for scheduling, capacity limitations
When you work with an agency, you’re at the mercy of their current workload and you have to fit into their schedule and plans as much as they have to fit into yours. In some situations, you may need to work with more than one agency depending on capacity limitations, which can only go to further complicate things and bring more “cooks into the kitchen” as it pertains to your overall marketing efforts. The potential is there for disorganization and not operating fully in sync with each other.
Agencies are also likely working with many clients, and how they prioritize them is something to consider. You don’t want your company to be an afterthought.
While a good, experienced agency has a history of working across a variety of different industries, you can’t underestimate the time that it’s going to take for them to learn your brand, the message you want to convey and any brand requirements you have in your marketing. Aside from this learning curve, there’s also a time commitment that needs to be there from your company to help the agency get up to speed with how you want them to represent your company. Ideally, it’s a good partnership and the start of a long-term relationship, just as it would be should you hire an in-person marketer or marketing team, but don’t underestimate the upfront time commitment that’s going to come with working with an agency.
The stigma of ‘not being a part of a business’
Ideally, an agency should strive to become a true extension of the business that they’re working with, but the truth is that this division between company and agency can sometimes be a debilitating factor. There can often be a barrier there that’s difficult to break down. While it’s the company that essentially calls the shots, it should be a relationship with give and take – where an agency can use its expertise to deliver what its clients want.
In-House or Agency? What’s Better
Like we said in the opening, there’s no real right or wrong answer – just a situation that works best for your particular company. For instance, it’s more common for smaller or medium-sized companies to have in-house marketing staff, as the budget often isn’t there for a marketing agency for what they want and need to do. For bigger organizations with larger budgets, it might make more sense to offload some work to specialists. It’s even common for some organizations to have both in-house marketing staff and to work with agencies on certain campaigns that might interfere with the more day-to-day work that marketing employees are responsible for.
It’s also important to properly assess what your organization’s marketing goals are. If there are only one or two things that you want or need to be managed as it pertains to these duties, then hiring an in-house person is likely to be more than adequate. But if you’re looking for a more comprehensive marketing strategy, then working with an agency is likely to be the better bet.