By Carrie Hopkins

It’s a back-and-forth dilemma for every VP or Director of Marketing: Should I spend time and money to build a marketing team or just hire a marketing agency? Each comes with its own benefits and drawbacks. Here are some things you should consider as you weigh your options:

1. Cost:

According to PayScale, the average marketing specialist salary is roughly $50,000, but the cost to hire and retain a full-time employee is not limited to the paycheck. You’ll want to factor in the cost for your time recruiting, onboarding, and training a new employee. There’s also healthcare, vacation, bonuses, learning and development, and providing office space and equipment for them when they arrive.

The cost of an agency partner can vary depending on the pricing model, level of integration with your company, and timeline of your goals. Most agencies begin with a six-month agreement that is broken down into a monthly payment.

Oftentimes, your contract will automatically renew and transition into a month-to-month agreement with a specified opt-out notice period. Some retainers will be broken down by deliverable, while others may be based on a point system. With an agency partner, you’ll be paying for the skills and execution of many marketers rather than just one. Keep in mind that you may be paying a marginal markup for this all-access pass.

2. Areas of Expertise

If you have a smaller budget, an in-house team will likely be comprised of a mid-level manager who facilitates and junior-level marketers who execute the work. Although this offers a great opportunity for growth, you may be missing out on true expertise. It’s also common for in-house marketers to end up wearing a lot of hats, so when you bring in a higher level employee, it’s likely that their expertise will be diluted over time due to growing responsibilities.

However, in-house marketers can have something agencies don’t always have: industry knowledge and experience. There’s immense value in an employee who’s been around the block and can speak your language from day one. They’ll also be able to navigate political nuances as their tenure increases.

The best marketing agencies are comprised of specialists in particular verticals, rather than generalists. Their employees focus, train, and execute in one specific area of expertise. Agencies bring a more diversified skill set to the table. Be sure to do your research and understand who is actually doing the work before you sign a contract.

At SmartBug™, our marketing strategists come in with an average of 10 years of experience. We’ve been in your shoes and can relate to the complexities of your needs.

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3. Scalability

An important question that you should ask is, “What are my goals and how fast do I need to get there?” Understanding whether you’re looking for a new brand strategy, lead generation, analytics, website work, or something else will give you a clear vision of your end goal and can help you decipher which plan of attack makes the most sense to get there.

If you’re under pressure to get a campaign running or to generate quality leads ASAP, an agency may be your best option. Agencies have the ability to scale very quickly because of the multiple marketers touching the process. However, there may be a very detailed discovery period to get the team up to speed so be sure to take that into account with your timeline.

Small internal teams will have the industry knowledge and personal connection to the overall goal, but the execution is more difficult. If you’re not in a hurry to scale, building an in-house marketing team might be a good option for you.

4. Productivity and Accountability

Agency employees touch many different accounts, products, services, and industries. This catapults their professional growth and makes them valuable for their next career move. If you hire an agency based on one person that is executing the work, you may be on borrowed time.

On the flip side, full-time employees can get comfortable and stay longer than they should. This opens up your team to complacency and stagnation—and firing an employee can be a difficult task. You’re putting all of your bets on one person when you hire a full-time employee. In house marketers can get bogged down with internal projects or pulled away to meetings which and impede their productivity.

If you’re choosing to hire an agency, it is still a great idea to have at least one in-house employee that can keep projects moving and understand the end goal. This person will be able to approve marketing content, report on performance to leadership, and onboard the agency so you are working towards the same goals.

Trust is important when you are outsourcing your marketing efforts. Having a designated point of contact will help keep your marketing campaigns on the right track. When you are looking to work with an agency, make sure they are setting you up with a team of experts. This way you know there is accountability and consistency.

5. Tech Stack

One huge benefit to partnering with an agency is the access to their tech stack. They pay for memberships to tools like Lucky Orange, Optimizely, and Unbounce. Although you could purchase these tools in-house, the price would add up rather quickly. It would also require an employee to train and understand how to use these products to their full potential.

It's Not ”One Size Fits All”

Hiring a full-time employee could be the right option for you. Hiring a marketing agency could also be the right option for you. Both have benefits and drawbacks, but it's about understanding the unique needs of your company and what fits into your overall strategy.

If you choose to hire a marketing agency, do so with care. The same can be said for an internal hire. Be sure the candidates check all of your boxes.


Before you start researching agencies, you need to determine

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Carrie Hopkins

About the author

Carrie Hopkins Carrie Hopkins is a Nashville based strategist for SmartBug Media. She comes with ten years of B2C marketing and has a passion for lead generation. She earned her bachelor's degree from University of Tennessee and MBA from Trevecca Nazarene University. Read more articles by Carrie Hopkins.

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