The Problem With The In-house Marketing vs. Agency Debate
Google ‘in-house marketing vs. agency’ and you’ll receive 540,000 search results. The entire first page of these results is almost identical in theme. They all try to debate and answer the question: “Which is best?”
“Not sure if you should build an in-house marketing team or hire an agency?”
“Which one is for you?”
“Which is better?”
Granted, anyone who Googles in-house marketing vs. agency may well be looking for this exact debate. The intent is certainly to find opinions that will help them decide which option to choose.
The problem is, the two are not mutually exclusive.
In-house marketing vs. agency – why one or the other?
It doesn’t have to be a case of one or the other; in-house marketing or agency.
Increasingly, we’re seeing brands take aspects of their marketing in-house, particularly digital activities. Yet this doesn’t necessarily mean that all digital marketing is done in-house.
It’s a case of weighing up which are the skills that can be insourced via recruitment or training for the existing marketing team, and which skills should still be outsourced to digital marketing agencies.
In my experience, those brands that have marketers knowledgeable about digital marketing in-house, yet outsource some aspects of this to digital agencies, see fantastic results from having both tactics in play.
For example, social media community management is something many businesses will manage in-house because there is often a need for real-time response, while internal staff have the complete brand and cultural understanding to handle incoming comments and potential complaints.
However, this same internal social media team may not have the capability to create original social graphics, videos, or fully-fledged advertising campaigns, in which case it makes sense to outsource this to an agency.
It works the other way around too.
A digital agency might specialise in technical SEO and therefore be a great partner to rely on for this expertise, yet the internal team are fantastic content marketers and therefore, this part of the wider SEO strategy can remain in-house.
In-house digital teams and agencies work well in tandem, with each playing to their strengths, so long as there is clear collaboration and a solid process throughout.
If I had to choose one…
If we’re going to toss up in-house marketing vs. agency as two completely opposing sides, it’s easy to list the pros and cons that are purely marketing or finance-related.
Anyone can figure out that in-house marketing means paying a salary whereas agency services require a fee or a cut of the marketing budget.
Or that in-house marketing teams are more invested in a company’s success because it is their focus all day, every day, and their primary income. Whereas an agency has a portfolio of client priorities to juggle.
Less considered are the long-term benefits of in-housing when it’s a result of internal training and professional development, versus simply hiring new marketing talent.
According to LinkedIn’s 2018 Workforce Learning Report, a whopping 93% of employees would stay at a company longer if it invested in their careers.
Naturally, better staff retention means fewer dollars spent on recruitment and less time and resource spent on onboarding new employees.
In short, if there’s an opportunity to both satisfy an employee with learning and development in digital marketing and this means being able to insource parts of the digital marketing plan that don’t need agency input, it’s a no-brainer.
Even if most of the digital is still outsourced, having a team member confident in digital topics is still a high priority. This is the best way to ensure that both sides are fully across what is expected and delivered from marketing activities.
As someone who has founded two businesses; one where companies outsource their digital marketing to me, and one where I train in-house teams to execute their strategy, I definitely don’t see one option as better or competing with the other!
Build digital strength in-house but partner with agencies to fill skills, knowledge and resource gaps.
Do you feel the same? Thoughts on the in-house marketing vs. agency debate are very welcome below!