If you’ve ever compared marketing in-house vs. agency vs. freelancer, you know there are many important factors to consider. Making the right choice for your business starts with defining your marketing objectives and weighing them against your strengths and weaknesses. In this blog, we’ll review in-house, agency, and freelancer marketing models to help you make the best decisions.
What is In-House Marketing?
With an in-house model, the bulk of your company’s marketing is handled by your own employees. Most businesses with an in-house team don’t use freelancers or agencies to supplement their marketing. Building a strong in-house marketing department starts with identifying the most important roles and filling them with experienced professionals who know how to achieve your goals.
Your in-house marketing team should include a marketing manager/CMO, creative director, and specialists in:
- Internet marketing: SEO, local SEO, PPC, content, email, and social media
- Web: design, development, UX design, eCommerce, hosting, and maintenance
- Creative: branding, strategy, and print media
You may choose to supplement a small in-house team with the expertise of a marketing agency, which can handle areas outside of your strengths. We’ll take a closer look at the most common in-house marketing models below.
Common In-House Marketing Models
There are three main in-house marketing models: full competency, traditional, and hybrid:
- A full competency in-house team possesses comprehensive digital abilities and doesn’t require any external support.
- A traditional in-house team handles the bulk of your marketing efforts and only occasionally seeks support from third parties.
- A hybrid in-house team (or in-house marketing agency) is a separate in-house “agency” that works outside of your marketing team. They’re structured like a traditional agency, but their only client is your parent company. Hybrid teams typically take a more holistic look at overall marketing strategy and will occasionally outsource highly-specialized tasks to agencies.
Benefits of In-House Marketing
There are several pros of handling your marketing in-house vs. agency advertising. We’ll dig into each of these benefits in the following sections.
1. Brand, Product, & Service Knowledge
One of the biggest benefits of going in-house vs. agency is your existing employees’ familiarity with your products, services, and unique value proposition (UVP)/unique selling proposition (USP).
Your internal employees may also have a better grasp on your personas and where prospects and customers are in the buyer’s journey. With the right training, your in-house team can become resident experts who speak to your target audience using the most effective marketing channels.
2. Company Investment & Consistency
Your in-house marketing team is deeply invested in your success, as your fortune is also their own. Plus, rather than marketing several businesses, all of their attention is focused on your brand.
In-house designers vs. agency marketing can also help you ensure brand consistency and boost your team’s creativity. In fact, 56% of businesses feel they became more creative after consolidating their marketing under one roof.
3. Improved Communication & Flexibility
In most cases, marketing in-house vs. agency means faster communication and enhanced collaboration. Even if some of your team members are remote, you can connect instantly with them for important meetings and conversations.
More immediate communication allows you to make decisions quickly and respond to new trends. It also minimizes lengthy lead times because you can easily communicate with stakeholders. Additionally, you can make quick changes to time-sensitive assets and deliverables, rather than waiting on third parties.
4. Data Ownership & Transparency
Going in-house vs. agency can give you a better understanding of fundamental marketing data (like spend and results) to facilitate more informed decisions. And if you do choose to work with an agency from time to time, data ownership can help you select the right services since you know your strengths and weaknesses.
An awareness and clear understanding of your marketing data also promotes transparency across your organization. In fact, 59% of marketers feel bringing their advertising in-house contributed to increased transparency, better information/resource sharing, and enhanced communication.
Drawbacks of In-House Marketing
While there are benefits to marketing in-house vs. agency advertising, there are also several significant drawbacks to be aware of.
1. Creative Stagnancy & Routine
Focusing on the same topic(s) for extended periods of time can get old quickly, negatively impacting your marketers and creative team. This can make it more difficult to generate fresh ideas or get a solid grasp on what your competitors are doing. And if your team becomes too entrenched in routine, they may stop thinking outside the box.
2. Inexperience & Lack of Resources
Depending on how niche your industry is, new employees may not have the necessary experience and knowledge to produce high-quality work. Properly training new hires takes time and may end up diverting your focus from essential marketing duties. If you don’t have enough talent within your in-house team, you’ll want to hire a marketing agency to fill in the gaps.
3. HR Difficulties
Successful marketing requires a long-term strategy, so it’s very important to hire talent who will stay with your company. You’ll have to make strategic adjustments every time an employee leaves, which will slow down overall progress towards your goals.
Turnover also heightens pressure on remaining team members to pick up the slack, which can result in unsatisfactory work or cause other employees to leave. Plus, it takes much longer to hire and train new personnel than it does to partner with a marketing agency.
4. Pricey Software & Tools
Marketing and creative tools (e.g. SEMrush, HubSpot, ActiveCampaign, and Adobe Creative Cloud) are an expensive proposition for in-house teams with limited budgets. Plus, you’ll need to vet potential tools to determine which ones are right for your business, which can be very time consuming.
What is a Marketing Agency?
Marketing agencies employ specialists who work with you to achieve your business goals. Their staff are experts in a variety of areas, including web design/development, content, and SEO, among others. Depending on your bandwidth and needs, you can outsource some or all of your marketing to an agency (like Tower!)
Benefits of Hiring a Marketing Agency
There are many pros of working with an experienced digital marketing agency vs. in-house advertising. We’ll review the most significant benefits of working with a digital marketing agency vs. freelancers or an internal team below.
1. Immediate Results
Agencies employ seasoned marketing experts who can usually deliver results more quickly and effectively than an in-house team. They can also efficiently scale up or down with your needs, which means you won’t have to let go of internal employees if you want to pause your marketing efforts. And as we mentioned above, it takes more time and effort to hire new team members than it does to partner with an agency.
2. Fresh Viewpoints
Agencies hedge against creative stagnancy by providing an unbiased assessment of your marketing and innovative plans for improvement. They may suss out opportunities that you’ve overlooked because they’re not as immersed in the day-to-day operations of your business.
If the agency you choose already has experience within your industry, they’ll probably have a solid grasp on what’s already been done and what’s trending. This frees up valuable time for you to focus on highly-specialized marketing that requires in-house levels of expertise.
3. Experience & Expertise
Agencies typically specialize in certain industries, so you’ll easily be able to find one with an in-depth understanding of your market’s challenges and opportunities. And because agency staff have experience across every area of marketing, there’s no need to build a large in-house team.
Most agencies also have established connections with trusted third-party vendors like photographers and videographers. Ultimately, partnering with an accomplished marketing agency helps ensure you get the best value and highest return on investment (ROI).
4. Lower Costs
Working with an agency is usually less of an upfront and ongoing investment than hiring and training a team of in-house marketers. You also won’t have to spend any time or money on training new internal employees. Plus, agencies already subscribe to the best marketing tools, so you won’t have to invest in pricey software.
Drawbacks of Hiring a Marketing Agency
There are many benefits of partnering with a digital marketing agency vs. in-house advertising, but there are also a few cons to keep in mind. However, these drawbacks can easily be negated by working with a client-focused agency that always keeps your best interests in mind.
1. Different Locations
If your marketing agency is located in a different time zone than your business, it may be difficult to schedule video meetings or phone calls that fit everyone’s schedules. You may also be unable to meet in person, which can be valuable at the beginning of a client-agency relationship.
2. Less Attention
You may end up feeling neglected and out of the loop if your agency isn’t completely client focused. If your account executive doesn’t function as an extension of your in-house marketing team, it’s time to find a new agency.
You’re not working under the same roof as your agency, so communication and decision making typically take a bit longer. Additionally, your agency may sometimes be slower to address your needs depending on their workload, priorities, and internal concerns.
3. Lack of Control
Working with an agency requires you to give up some control over your marketing, since they work best with the latitude and freedom to make strategic decisions. It’s very important to find an agency you can trust to always have your best interests in mind. Giving their experts the space they need to make strategic choices will net you the best results while also reducing roadblocks and bottlenecks.
What is Freelancer Marketing?
Freelancers are hired on a contract basis and provide specific marketing services to clients on a project-by-project basis. In some cases, freelance marketers also have full- or part-time jobs at other companies. You’ll find freelance marketers that specialize in every aspect of marketing, from content creation and web design to local SEO and social media advertising.
Tips for Hiring a Freelance Marketer
There are several important items to keep in mind when hiring a freelancer vs. agency advertising or building an in-house team:
- Review their portfolio to gain a sense of their experience and skill level
- Closely examine their LinkedIn profile, resume, and cover letter (if applicable)
- Request referrals and testimonials from their previous clients
- Choose a freelancer with knowledge of and experience with your industry
- Interview multiple freelancers and compare them based on skills, experience, and rates
Benefits of Hiring a Freelance Marketer
If you’re considering hiring a freelance marketer, there are several important benefits to be aware of. We’ll take a closer look at each one below.
1. Inexpensive Option
If you don’t have the budget to hire a marketing agency or build an in-house team, freelancers are probably your best option. In fact, 40% of businesses prefer freelancers because they’re a flexible and affordable way to quickly scale up or down.
Since they aren’t full-time employees, freelancers save you money because you don’t have to provide them with benefits. There are also no long-term commitments, and you only pay for the marketing and creative work you need.
2. Enhanced Agility
If you employ in-house marketers, freelancers can quickly step in when your team is overworked and their productivity is flagging. Plus, freelancers usually don’t have to give two weeks notice to a current employer, so they can start immediately and hit the ground running. And because you aren’t confined only to people in your immediate area, you have access to a larger pool of talent.
Like agencies, experienced freelancers can bring a fresh perspective that revitalizes your marketing and helps you think outside the box. Marketing trends are always changing, so agility and adaptability are key to success.
3. Low Maintenance
As we alluded to above, freelancers are much easier to hire, manage, let go, and replace than full-time employees. They also require less of an emotional investment from you as an employer. It can be difficult to fire underperforming full-time employees due to legal protections, but this isn’t an issue with freelancers.
Drawbacks of Hiring a Freelance Marketer
There are multiple cons to consider before choosing a freelancer vs. agency marketing or an in-house team. Here are the most important drawbacks to be aware of.
1. Longer Timelines
You’re probably not your freelancer’s only client, so it’s important to prepare for longer turnaround periods and project timelines. It may also be difficult to integrate freelancers into your existing systems and procedures, which can slow down the onboarding process. These impactful delays can be especially problematic if you’re in the early stages of developing your company.
2. Disconnected Schedules
If your freelancer is extremely busy or lives in a different time zone, it may be difficult to schedule phone calls and coordinate meetings. Plus, the flexible working hours associated with freelancing means they may not always be available during the traditional workday, unlike agencies or full-time employees. Be sure to consider who will coordinate freelancer schedules, oversee/review their work, and set deadlines to keep them on schedule.
3. Variable Quality
Anyone can freelance, so properly vetting candidates is crucial to making a wise investment. Some freelancers may not have the skillset to handle multiple marketing functions, which means you’ll have to hire several people. And piecemealing your marketing often produces disjointed, lower quality work than you’d receive from an in-house team or agency.