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Inhouse vs Agency: Which Is More Effective?

July 1, 2020
7 Min Read

For any startup or business, an inevitable decision to be made when planning your growth strategy will be: Should I hire an in-house marketing team, or work with external freelancers or marketing agencies?

The decision between hiring an in-house marketer or partnering with a marketing agency is a difficult one to make, especially as having the right marketing team setup can make or break your company.

In this article, we'll take a critical look into the pros and cons of maintaining an in-house marketing team versus working with agencies and marketing freelancers, to help you understand which approach might be the most appropriate for your company.

In-house Marketing Teams

Many founders and executives prefer the idea of maintaining their marketing and growth capabilities in-house. Naturally, this leads many to prefer hiring in-house employees to drive growth. However, having an in-house marketing team comes with its own set of advantages and disadvantages.

So what are the pros and cons of having an in-house marketing team?

Pros of having an inhouse marketing team:

• Dedication and alignment with company values: Full-time hires spend more social time with other members of the company, and it's easier to embed full-time hires in the company's culture and values. This can positively affect motivation and commitment. 

• Ease of monitoring: In larger companies, having employees inhouse can make it easier for conventional leadership teams to monitor and track the employee's productivity.

• Familiarity with your brand: Inhouse employees live and breathe your company's brand. It is easier for inhouse hires to understand the creative aspects of your growth strategy intuitively.

• Maintaining an inhouse competitive advantage: There is less risk that competitive knowledge gleaned from your marketing campaigns leaks out of the company. That being said, this is still susceptible to losses with employee turnover.

Cons of having an inhouse marketing team:

• Higher costs and time to recruitment: Traditional hiring practices are slow and subject to high recruitment costs. You will have to create job listings, disseminate openings, interview, and hire for each role. An average time-to-hire for a marketing position is 50 days.

• Might not get the best expertise: Digital marketing has become increasingly sophisticated in recent years. Hiring processes heavily favour industry and brand-name experience, rather than execution or specialist experience, resulting in companies employing more generalists marketers. This leads to a skills gap in marketing teams.

• Higher employee costs: Benefits, in-house training and dealing with employee turnover adds further pressure to the company bottom-line. 

• Less adaptable to market trends: Marketing efforts are multi-varied, and marketing campaigns are becoming increasingly agile. In-house teams might be slow to adopt new marketing and tech technologies, preferring traditional skillsets which they were hired for.

External Hires: Marketing Agencies and Freelancers

Agency marketers and freelancers thrive under pressure and are more inclined to remain digitally relevant to keep your business performance high in order to retain your contracts.

As a result, these outsourced hires often offer more in-depth marketing expertise and possess more contemporary knowledge than in-house marketing teams.

Pros of hiring a marketing agency or freelancer:

• More specific and updated expertise: Agencies and freelancers have more relevant experience than in-house hires as they tend to specialise in one particular marketing function, such as Facebook and Instagram Ads to search engine optimisation (SEO), and have gained experience from working on hundreds of accounts.

• Diverse range of expertise: In addition to having a more profound depth in knowledge, working with agencies and freelancers also gives you access to a more broad range of expertise that can be difficult to hire inhouse, such as:

  • Account-based marketing
  • Facebook and Instagram ads
  • Google Ads
  • Conversion rate optimisation (CRO)
  • Search engine optimisation (SEO)
  • App store optimisation (ASO)

• Adapted for agile projects: Working with agencies or freelancers allows you to quickly add additional human resources to your team for new projects, at shorter timeframes. This also allows you to cater to seasonal trends, such as hiring additional freelancers or agency staff during October, November and December to prepare for the Black Friday and festive sales rush. 

• More efficient work processes: Agencies, in particular, will often have more established work processes for marketing workflows, from setting up Google Analytics to weekly reporting, than in-house marketing teams.

• More focused on hitting KPIs and results. Agencies are paid on a contractual basis, and are held more accountable for results and KPIs. A poorly performing agency will likely get axed much quicker than a poorly performing marketing team. It's far easier for you to switch agencies within weeks than to replace your in-house hires, a process that will take many months.

• Lower costs: While marketing agencies and freelancers might charge a higher day rate or retainer relative to in-house hires, there are savings to be made as you do not have to provide office space, benefits and other costs.

Cons of hiring an agency or freelancer:

• Onboarding costs: There is plenty of front-loaded work in working with agencies, with the need to onboard both parties; agreeing on work processes, culture, KPIs, and reporting methods.

• Difficulty in verifying the right agency: Agencies often provide case studies of their most stellar successes, but stop short of giving examples of clients that failed to achieve their targets. It can be difficult to verify an agency's true capability.

With Traktion, you can hire from a range of pre-vetted digital marketing agencies to drive growth. The discovery and hiring process is totally free, ensuring you work with the most relevant digital marketing agency for your needs.

Traktion gives you access to the best agencies with a proven track record of success.

• Might not be as dedicated as an in-house marketer: Being an external party and handling multiple clients could mean agencies have less bandwidth to respond to communications as swiftly as a full-time employee would.

• Management of sensitive company data: To reduce the risk that your marketing data might be mishandled, it is crucial to pick an agency whom you can trust, and be supported by legal representation.

All agencies and freelancers on Traktion have agreed to respect intellectual property rights and confidential information, as detailed in our Platform Service Agreement to safeguard trust on the platform.

Final Thoughts: A Fluid Marketing Team Setup

It is actually a false dichotomy that a company has to choose between hiring inhouse against partnering with an external agency or freelancers. A company's marketing team setup can be a lot more fluid. Especially in these COVID-19 times, as more companies move towards a new era of remote work, integrating freelancers or a marketing agency to your team can be done easily and efificently.

For one, hiring freelancers can be a smart way to augment existing marketing skillset gaps in your full-time team. For example, you might wish to hire a full-time CMO in-house with a few other key strategic hires, and then partner with an agency for your performance marketing needs.

Or, if you have difficulty sourcing key high-level hires, you might choose to hire a part-time freelance CMO to help craft your marketing strategy, and have your mid- to entry-level hires inhouse.

Whether you are hiring a freelance talent or looking to partner with a full-service marketing agency, Traktion matches you to pre-vetted  marketing talent for your exact needs. Get started here.

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