An effective digital marketing strategy can help your business reach more qualified leads, close more sales, and expand your brand's influence. However, developing and executing a results-driven digital marketing plan requires specialized skills, tools, and a significant time investment.
Should you handle digital marketing in-house or partner with an agency? Below, we'll explore each approach's pros, cons, and costs to help you make the best decision for your business.
The Case for In-House Digital Marketing
Doing digital marketing in-house allows you to maintain complete control over your strategy. You don't have to compromise or align with an agency's approach. An in-house marketer also gains deep institutional knowledge of your brand, products, customers, and long-term goals. This can lead to more tailored, authentic marketing content and initiatives that speak to your perfect client.
Additional benefits of keeping digital marketing in-house include:
- Cost Savings: You avoid monthly agency fees and retain all income derived from your marketing efforts.
- Agility and Speed: You can pivot campaigns faster without agency coordination and approvals.
- Brand Control: No filtering ideas through an external team means complete control of your brand voice and messaging.
- Employee Loyalty: An in-house marketer often feels more connected and loyal to the brand.
However, some downsides exist as well. Doing all your digital marketing in-house requires an expansive skill set and available time from your staff.
The Challenges of DIY Digital Marketing
Achieving digital marketing success requires a diverse mix of specialized skills, including:
- Content Creation: Writing, graphic design, and video production.
- Web Design and Development: Coding, SEO optimization, and security.
- Paid Advertising: Google Ads, social ads, and retargeting.
- Email Marketing: Campaign creation, list building, and A/B testing.
- Social Media Management: Post creation and community management.
- Data and Analytics: Identifying key metrics and analyzing performance.
Realistically, it's rare for one person to possess expertise across all these areas. You'll likely need to train existing staff or make new hires to fill skill gaps. Both scenarios require substantial investments of time and money.
Additionally, executing a comprehensive digital strategy along with their other core duties can quickly lead to burnout for your in-house marketers. Without proper help and resources, maintaining quality and consistency becomes a challenge.
The Benefits of Hiring a Digital Marketing Agency
Partnering with an experienced digital marketing agency provides access to a full team of specialists who can scale your digital marketing efforts faster and more affordably.
Here are some of the top reasons to consider hiring an agency:
- Proven Strategies: They stay on top of algorithm changes and industry best practices.
- Expanded Capabilities: Agencies offer a wider breadth of digital skills and tools.
- Outside Perspective: Enjoy an objective third-party view of your brand and competitors.
- Performance Focus: Agencies have more motivation to drive significant ROI from campaigns.
- Time Savings: Free up more of your focus for core business operations.
With their depth of talent and the context of managing many other accounts, agencies can create higher-performing digital marketing campaigns aligned with data-backed strategies.
What Are the Potential Downsides?
Working with an external digital marketing agency isn't without a few drawbacks:
- Higher Costs: Monthly or project-based agency fees add up, reducing your profit margins.
- Less Control: You must align strategies with their recommendations and ideas.
- Lack of Context: External teams may need more institutional knowledge about your brand.
- Churn Risk: If account managers leave the agency, you will lose that expertise.
- Communication Gaps: More messages get crossed with an extra team involved.
Defining expectations, metrics, and processes upfront is critical to an effective agency partnership that maximizes ROI and impact.
What Are the Cost Differences?
Determining whether to hire in-house marketers or retain an agency comes down to comparing costs and capabilities.
In-House Digital Marketer Costs
If you are recruiting new hires, budget approximately $80,000 - $100,000 per year in salary and benefits for a marketing professional with diverse skills. If you train existing employees, quantify their time investment into marketing efforts versus other revenue-driving tasks.
You'll also need to invest in digital marketing tools and software. Quality options like SEMrush, MailChimp, and Hootsuite carry monthly or annual subscription fees ranging from $99 to $399 per platform. Ongoing educational resources should also be part of the budget so your team can stay on top of the latest digital skills.
Digital Marketing Agency Fees
Average agency retainer contracts range from $3,000 to $7,000 per month. Many also charge project fees or commissions on the ad spend. Smaller niche agencies often have lower monthly fees, around $1,500 to $3,000, but may have less diverse in-house teams.
When reviewing agency proposals, scrutinize their historical performance and ROI for clients in your industry. An agency with the skills and background to hit your growth goals can still deliver high value relative to cost.
Which Solution Is Right For You?
Whether to hire an in-house marketer or agency depends primarily on your budget, existing resources, and business stage. Here are a few key factors to help you decide:
- Early-Stage Companies: Lean towards DIY or hire a marketing coach for guidance and outsource specialized skills like website development as needed.
- Rapid Growth Companies: Consider hiring an in-house digital marketing manager to develop and implement a custom strategy and supplement with an agency for expanded capabilities.
- Enterprise Companies: Build a full in-house marketing team to own foundational areas like analytics, social media, and branding. Then, partner with agencies to complement skills in SEO, paid search, email marketing, and lead nurturing.
As your needs evolve from year to year, reevaluating whether to adjust internal teams or agency partnerships can help maximize digital marketing impact.
Get A Free Digital Marketing Analysis
Still trying to decide whether to hire in-house marketers or work with a digital marketing agency? Sign up for a free digital marketing analysis from our team of experts. We'll review your current sales funnel, online presence, and analytics to provide data-backed recommendations on the best strategies and resource allocation to achieve your revenue goals.