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How to Decide: Marketing Agency vs. In House

By Carter Severns on

Aside from the Great Chicken Sandwich Debate of 2019, Creative Cave doesn’t like to take sides all that often. That said, we can say two things with absolute sincerity:

1. Louisianans really know how to make a chicken sandwich, but Chick-fil-a still takes the cake...or sandwich rather

2. Companies have almost too many choices when it comes to building out their B2B marketing machine in order to grow their business

While we’ve discussed many of those choices in the past – paid media vs. content, hiring a writer, picking content for every stage of the B2B buying process – we have yet to address one of the most significant decisions of all:

Should you use an in-house marketing team or an outside agency for your B2B marketing needs?

Of course, there’s no definitive answer to that question since it depends on each company’s situation, goals, and a whole lotta variables. Likewise, it’s not even a binary decision since you could always choose the freelancer route or a combination of different solutions. However, to keep things simple and help you make the best decision, let’s start with the strengths and weaknesses of in-house teams and agencies to see which might fit your needs best.

In-House Marketing

We probably don’t need an elaborate definition since the subheader is pretty straightforward. In-house marketing means you’re using full-time employees for every facet of your marketing, from ideation to implementation and all points in between.

Benefits of In-House Marketing

 

  • Your people only work on your brand and messaging
  • Employees have a better understanding of your brand and culture
  • An in-house team is immersed in your specific product or service, usually understanding it better – as well as your industry, in many cases – better than an outsider could
  • You control an employee’s time, allowing you to allocate it as you see fit
  • Full-time employees get to know each other very well, forming bonds that could benefit your message and brand through a heightened sense of teamwork and camaraderie
  • In the case of a team working from the same office, communication is efficient and streamlined since everyone is sharing the same space

Drawbacks of In-House Marketing

 

  • People working exclusively on your product/service, brand, and messaging can also be a detriment, limiting their experience and exposure to innovative thought in other industries or the overall marketplace
  • In-house marketers can quickly develop a case of tunnel vision, where they lack a broad perspective and rely too much on shorthand and other insights that are clear to other employees but not to an outside audience
  • Between salaries, benefits, payroll taxes and more, employees are expensive and can require significant training and ramp-up time
  • Technology is another significant cost, where every piece of hardware, software, subscriptions, conferences, and training fall entirely on the employer
  • Supervising an in-house team requires significant time, attention, and resources that you could devote elsewhere
  • Expanding your team means recruiting, interviewing, hiring, onboarding, and ramping up a new employee
  • Once a project is complete and doesn’t extend into the future, or strategy/budgets change, you must choose between keeping your labor costs unnecessarily high or laying off team members that no longer have a defined role

Agency Marketing

For obvious reasons, we’re pretty darn familiar with the intricacies of a marketing agency. And despite what you might think, while we’ll preach the benefits of hiring an agency all day long, we’re also not blind to some of the drawbacks in using some agencies. So here we go.

Benefits of Using an Agency

 

  • Hiring an agency isn’t going to cost nearly as much as hiring a full-time team
  • An agency uses specialists in focused areas of marketing to maximize impact, i.e., paid media specialist, SEO, content writing, design
  • Agencies add a level of professionalism and accountability that other non-in-house solutions usually lack
  • Like an in-house team, agencies provide a cohesiveness from working together all day, every day
  • Agencies stay on the cutting edge of technology, training, and development
  • Expanding your marketing – like adding paid media, for instance – is basically instantaneous with an agency and doesn’t require the time and effort of adding to an in-house team: recruiting, interviewing, hiring, and onboarding
  • An agency gets to utilize experience from a variety of different client companies and industries to add insights that an in-house team often lacks

Drawbacks of Hiring an Agency

 

  • Communication isn’t as efficient as a purely in-house team, where an agency doesn’t share the same working space as the client
  • An agency won’t have the same in-depth knowledge of your industry and products/services, but we have some thoughts about that as well
  • Some agencies allocate their time and attention by the size of the client contract so smaller companies might not receive the same service as larger ones
  • Clients can feel as if they’re at the mercy of an agency’s hourly rate, paying for a “working lunch” that includes 10 minutes of working and 50 minutes foosball

Read Next: How B2B Inbound Marketing Can Sustain Continued Growth


One of the common factors between both the benefits and drawbacks of in-house teams versus agencies is flexibility or, more precisely, lack thereof. Simply put, working with the right agency provides you with cost efficiency and agility that an employee-based solution will always struggle to match. And that’s really what it all comes down to – choosing the right agency. Choose poorly and your marketing will suffer. But if you pick the ideal agency for your needs and goals, you’ll find that it’s one of the best decisions you’ve ever made.

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