Even a great product can fail if not marketed properly. This is especially true for small businesses where you want potential customers to immediately connect with your product. With such a big emphasis on marketing, startups are finding it overwhelming to know where to start; which leads them to the question: digital marketing agency or in-house team, which one to choose?

In this article, I’ll take a critical look at both digital marketing agencies and in-house teams, list all the pros and cons, and help you decide which option best suits your business’ needs. Ready? Let’s get started!

Digital Marketing Agency vs. in-house team: What to consider

1. Costs

In my opinion, the cost is one of the most important, if not the most important thing to consider when you are choosing a digital marketing agency over an in-house team. Yes, you don’t want to compromise on quality, but you don’t want to get bankrupt in the process either.

If you’re a startup on a tight budget, you already know how important it is to spend your money wisely and get the best bang for your buck.

According to Glassdoor, a Digital Marketing Manager’s salary can range anywhere from $16,000 to $295,000. Although the final amount depends a lot on the location, industry, the experience of the person you’re hiring, etc., it’s still a lot. And that’s just the salary for one person, not a whole team. 

Don’t fool yourself into thinking you can hire a jack of all trades (but master of none!); sooner or later you’ll feel the need to go more in-depth with your strategy on each channel, and that’s simply not a realistic goal for just one person.  

Hiring a digital marketing agency, on the other hand, gets you a whole team with each individual being an expert in their field: SEO, paid search, content marketing, social media, etc. This is a huge plus over the potentially limited resources – and expertise! – of a small in-house team! Which brings us to the next thing to consider: skills.

2. Skills

Digital agency marketers live and breathe online marketing 24/7/365; it’s the only way they can grow clients’ accounts and remain competitive on the market. They are also more seasoned, given all the client accounts they have managed over the years.

If you want to hire an in-house team, you’ll have to prioritize the skills and experience you need; you’ll probably end up with a much smaller team than a digital marketing agency could offer you. 

These skills and experience are critical when you’re trying to push a product forward, and the average skills and experience of your in-house team can only help you grow to a certain extent.

Not to mention that in-house teams are often stretched thin, leaving campaigns on autopilot. Account inactivity is the number-one reason for compromising campaign results!

3. Product understanding

One of the objections startup founders have regarding hiring a digital marketing agency is the fact that they won’t be able to understand their product as an in-house team would. To a certain extent, that’s true. But the gap is not as big as you think.

There’s definitely a learning curve involved when working with an external digital marketing agency. But frankly speaking, if you were to hire someone in your team today, they would still need to learn everything about your product from scratch. 

So no matter which option you choose, after an initial calibration period, things can run smoothly and you won’t notice a significant impact of the fact that you are outsourcing services. 

4. Tools

Last but not least, you’ll have to consider access to tools. Marketing tools are not cheap at all; in fact, if you insist on paying and tracking all the subscriptions and licenses yourself, the cost could be higher than paying 4 or 5 more full-time salaries

Moreover, you’ll need to trust your team to stay on top of industry trends to make sure they’re not missing out on a game-changing tool, or wasting your money on something they barely use.

On the flip side, a digital marketing agency provides you with industry must-have tools without any additional costs for you. Agency marketers are trained and can use these tools to their full potential; they’re also constantly looking for the next best thing that can ease their work and boost your results.

Digital Marketing Agency vs. in-house team: Which one to choose

Overall, there are pros and cons to working both with digital marketing agencies and having in-house teams. Choosing one over the other really depends on your business and the goals you want to achieve. 

Also, keep in mind that you always have a third option as well: a hybrid. If you really feel the need to, you could hire a small in-house team to take care of day-to-day marketing tasks and outsource specific needs to a digital marketing agency. This sounds like a win-win situation to me.