One of the questions we hear most often from small and mid-sized business owners who are experiencing some growth and are ready to make a more serious investment in their marketing is: “Am I better off hiring in-house marketing staff or outsourcing to a marketing agency?”
The truth is, in-house marketing staff and marketing agencies can both produce high-quality work. The answer to the question above depends on your company’s resources and needs.
The clear benefit of in-house staff is that they’re there to work on your marketing projects full-time. However, we think that marketing agencies provide the opposite, and perhaps more valuable benefit – they’re there when you need them and not when you don’t. You don’t have to worry about salary or benefits when you hire an agency. You get a per-project cost, and if it sounds reasonable, you can expect the project delivered at that price.
The other main benefit of marketing agencies is that they usually have personnel that specializes in the sector of marketing you want to focus on. Whether you need design, paid advertising, social media, SEO, or all of the above, a good marketing agency will have an expert in each of these fields ready to deliver results. Hiring a marketing employee gets you one marketing generalist; hiring an agency gets you a whole team of experts.
Do some large companies benefit from having in-house marketing staff for each of the above fields? Certainly, when they can afford to spend hundreds of thousands per year on marketing. But for small and mid-sized businesses, the value of a marketing agency lies in its efficiency: they’re experts and there only when you need them.
With that being said, you should keep the expectations for the marketing agency you hire just as high as for an employee:
- An in-house employee is responsive – so should be your agency. If you’re the kind of boss who likes to be updated frequently over the course of a project, the right marketing agency for your should be able to accommodate that.
- Your agency should be results-driven. Be clear about the results you expect at the start of a project. The right agency will underpromise and overdeliver. If your expectations are somehow unrealistic, it’s the agency’s job to tell you so before they accept the project and your money.
- A marketing agency should provide value through the entirety of your relationship. A good in-house marketing employee will think critically and suggest new marketing initiatives, so your marketing agency should continually provide you with new ideas about how to improve your marketing strategy.
If you have a small or mid-sized business ready to up its marketing game by hiring, you owe it to yourself to do a cost-benefit analysis and consider an least one Request for Proposal to an outside agency in order to weigh all your options.