Hiring an agency vs an in-house marketer

July 25, 2023

agency vs in-house marketer

Working with many businesses of different shapes and sizes and across various sectors has given us a unique insight into the challenges that organisations face when trying to bolster their marketing efforts. 

A common question that comes up for businesses is “Should we hire an agency to manage our marketing efforts or hire someone internally?”. I can say with confidence that as an agency owner we have seen both sides of this debate. In the past we have seen clients opt for a trusty gatekeeper while other times they prefer to rely on the expertise and experience of an agency.

Of course as an agency owner I’m going to recommend you go down the route of hiring an agency… 😉 But for the sake of objectivity and debate I thought it was an interesting topic to explore. So let’s begin and explore the pros of each approach.

Pros of an Agency

      1. Speed

    Any reputable agency will respond to your contact form enquiry or phone call within one working day and will be keen to get started on your project as soon as possible. Once we have a brief and understand the project we’re ready to go. If a client is decisive and things fall into place we can often begin work within 2 weeks of the initial enquiry. As you may be aware, hiring can be a timely and costly process often taking months before  someone is in post. 

        1. Flexibility

      Our terms as an agency depend on the size and scope of a project. For smaller to medium jobs we usually have a 3 month initial contract that then moves to rolling. For larger projects that need more intensive resources we opt for a 6 month contract. As a client the beauty of this is that once the contract is up you can (we hope you won’t) get rid of us at any time with just one month’s notice and no risk of any legal complications, payouts or un-planned for fees. 

          1. No hidden costs

        As a business owner you will know this, but the costs that come with hiring an in-house employee go far beyond salary. Pension, student loan, PAYE, perks, training, computers, office space… the list goes on. Let’s not even discuss recruitment fees! As an agency you pay a monthly fee and we crack on. 

            1. Always available

          Any reputable marketing agency will have someone managing your account whenever you reasonably need them. Christmas Day emails are ideally avoided though. With an in-house member of staff you have to factor in annual leave and ultimately if a person was to leave how you would replace them. As an agency, you pay us, we’ll be here for you.

              1. Experience

            Possibly the most important factor. With an agency you pay for experience and access to industry professionals that would otherwise be extremely expensive on the payroll. In our case as a specialist healthcare marketing agency you get the benefit of our knowledge of many years working with countless private clinics, hospitals and healthcare organisations. We know what works, what doesn’t work, and what might work. We also know the market inside out and can hit the ground running with limited onboarding time.  In our team  we have 15 years experience working at in-house healthcare organisations and then another 6 years of running a marketing agency full time. Ultimately you’re getting an esteemed healthcare veteran to help charge your marketing efforts. 

                1. Limited Management

              As cats and dogs go, the in-house employee would be more akin to a dog. An agency slightly more like a cat. As a cat an agency can get on with things themselves. They might need feeding now and again but apart from that they are happy to get on with things behind the scenes without needing too much attention and resources. An in-house employee is more like our canine friend. You can build a better and often closer relationship with them, but they need  more attention and management. Training plans, courses, one to ones, and heaven forbid they step out of line and end up in the kennel. Anyway, enough of this outrageous metaphor!

              Ultimately, the point is that successfully managing and having the skills to develop an employee takes a significant amount of effort, time and resources that many companies ultimately don’t have.

                  1. Expertise

                In marketing everyone has something they’re best at. For me, my best skill is data analysis and then probably idea generation (not writing I hear you jest). But this is normally always the case with any marketing professional. As an agency we benefit from a diverse multi-disciplined team with a range of skills. If you want hard hitting excellent written copy then we’ll roll out Sophie, if you want a deep dive into the world of SEO then we’ll summon Archie. If numbers are your thing then you might have to deal with me. For social media you’ll get Georgie. Basically we are the marketing equivalent of the famous TV show Eggheads. And as a client that’s the benefit you get. An in-house employee can be a jack of all trades, but can they successfully take on and beat the Eggheads? History tells us it’s unlikely. 

                Anyway, enough of me showering praise on agencies! It’s only fair that I provide you with the other side of the argument. Let’s explore why hiring an in-house employee might be your best bet, ultimately leaving us agencies out of pocket and many stray office dogs, lunchtime yoga sessions and table tennis tables up for sale.

                Pros of the In-House Employee

                    1. By your side

                  An employee is always on the clock for you. At least they should be. They don’t do a few hours and then head off to a meeting with another client. Ultimately they can handle more work at a cheaper hourly rate than an agency will charge and can be at your side throughout every working hour of the day if you so require.

                      1. Higher understanding of your goals/objectives

                    This is crucial and something that can sometimes be an issue for agencies. Working in-house at an organisation gives you the absolute best understanding of what they are doing and what they want to achieve. It’s an enormous competitive advantage if harnessed correctly. Agencies will do their utmost to understand your brand, offering and USPs, but it’s more complex to achieve this on Zoom calls and by scouring your website. An employee should be able to use this in-house expertise to their advantage in a way agencies potentially can’t.

                        1. Culture

                      As nice and friendly as we aim to be as an agency, it’s a stretch for us to say we enrich your culture as a business. An employee can enrich your workplace and bring with them positive energy that translates to a healthy and more productive team. Of course this is in an ideal environment, the opposite can occur as well, but ultimately any relationship with an in-house employee would ideally be stronger than with an agency.

                          1. Ease of communication

                        If you have an office then communication between your team and employees should be seamless. If you all work remotely, it should still be very strong if you utilise essential tools such as Slack, Teams, Zoom etc. As much as the client/agency relationship can involve excellent levels of communication, it’s not always the same. You likely speak to your employees on a daily basis, this might not always be the case with your agency…

                            1. Admin

                          Agencies charge a premium for the benefits they provide. But not all marketing efforts require premium services. As any organisation grows there will be a need for lower skilled, yet essential tasks to be completed that fall under the marketing umbrella. This can include things like scheduling social media posts, digital filing and basic website updates. Sure an agency can do all of these things very competently, but you’ll pay more than you would to a more junior in-house employee. 

                          Ultimately, there is no right answer to this question. Both options provide benefits and the best fit for any organisation will depend on a multitude of factors. As an agency we thrive on working directly with senior stakeholders with no in-house marketing team. But we just as much love working in partnership with an in-house marketing team, working together to build on successes.

                          Two marketers at work at a desk

                          For any help from an agency, you can contact us. For an in-house employee, your best bet is probably Indeed. 

                          Thanks for reading!

                          Highly analytical and passionate about achieving results, Nathan brings technical expertise to every client project.
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