Digital Agency vs. In-house Marketing Manager. Which one to hire?

At some point, every growing business faces the issue of either employing an expert, bringing in a freelancer, or contracting an agency.

The company chief tries to estimate the most effective business model at a lower cost. It’s time to figure it out as there are no general tips and recommendations.

In-house Marketing Manager vs. Digital Marketing Agency - which one is better to hire?

You can’t just hire a marketer and tell them: “I need more requests and sales.” Actually, sometimes it’s possible, but the price will be extremely high. 🙂

Also, you can’t transfer responsibility for the results to him. Digital marketing won’t work unless you understand the key points, which are:

  • the company objectives that the digital marketing will help to implement;
  • the results you want to get by using it;
  • the amount of money you’re willing to spend on it;
  • the investments you want to get back;
  • the human resources you need for this.

The lack of a clear system leads to a lack of marketing

Remember that first comes the goals of the company, then the correlation between digital marketing and those project goals. Next comes the customer’s path, and, finally, advertising. And only after that is there room for analytics, improvements, adjustments, and testing. And the cycle repeats itself over and over.

What is the problem with digital marketing? Why doesn’t it work sometimes?

First, we need to define the key objective for an internet marketer and an agency.

Hit company goals and targets

Remember the goals you set for your marketer or contractor? Were they clear enough? Did they match your financial capabilities and human resources? Were the goals based on specific results, or were they abstract like these ones: to launch a social media campaign, to write blog posts? Is the budget realistic? Were there any goals at all?

The marketer’s objective is not just to run ads in the right areas but rather to build a path for the customers to follow, which is the process that leads the user to purchase a product or service. But, in so doing, the expert should know how much to spend on the advertising campaigns and what kind of return on the investment, they should expect to get, at least approximately.

Marketing simply won’t work until you know the objectives of your digital marketing efforts, become clear on what tasks you need to set for the team, and acquire control techniques for their implementation.

comparison between outsource and in-house

1) In order to set proper goals for a marketer or agency, you, as a director, should realize what results you’d like to pursue with the help of digital marketing.

2) In order to evaluate whether the results that your team or contractor provides are justified or not, you need to know:

– What really impacts your sales;

– What to ask and what to control when setting a task;

– What key performance indicators (KPIs) you should set;
– What return on marketing investment (ROMI) you could get.

3) For your employees or contractors to work efficiently and to not waste your funds, you should get them interested in the development of your project, and you or someone from your side should be involved in providing them with everything necessary.

Outsource or in-house?

Over time, business owners face the problem of either building their own marketing team or contacting an external agency.

All solutions have their pros and cons. If you remember this statement, you can find the most appropriate means for solving the problem, making the most of the advantages and circumventing its shortcomings. But this is only possible with a deep understanding of the area and its pitfalls.

What is in-house?

In-house specialists are people employed by the company. This type of cooperation, like any other, has some specificities that will be considered below.

Cons of choosing in-house specialists:

  • importance to hire the "right" person;
  • the need for education and project management;
  • the work has to be “looked after”;
  • workload uncertainty of a specialist after reaching the support point, that is to say, when the bulk of the work is done;
  • paid software for SEO specialists for $350+ per month;
  • extra costs for advanced training;
  • occupational burnout of a specialist and career glass ceiling.

But, beyond that, an in-house specialist tends to do what they want. If a person gets the position of PPC or SEO specialist, they probably won’t like an offer to run a company’s social media networks or fill up a website with content after the project has reached a support point. They will choose to set up an advertising campaign rather than draw unprofessional banners.

Many employees are unwilling to change SEO specialist responsibilities and professional development to the work that there is simply no one to do.

If your choice fell on in-house, it is important to consider the following aspects.

  • think over a career map – the perspectives for the in-house team or an individual employee;
  • set a trial period, collect feedback from executives;
  • negotiate everything at the outset of the project;
  • schedule a meeting once a week to maintain focus on priority tasks;
  • work on backlogs to understand goals and visualize tasks.

What can outsourcing offer?

As a rule, an agency can offer comprehensive expertise, which a staff specialist can’t provide. That’s because the agency’s internal team works on different projects and has extensive experience in very specific areas due to the nature of the work they do.

Their reaction time is better. Although agency specialists may be in a different time zone, they will definitely get in touch when agreed.

Timing control and planning make it possible for specialists to work without being distracted, which means that they can carry out tasks in a focused and high-quality manner.

Outsourcing advantages:

  • strict personnel selection;
  • steady working process on the project, regardless of holidays and sick leaves;
  • management is totally on the part of the agency;
  • the cost of paying for the services rests with the agency;
  • a whole team is there to help. If any challenge emerges, a specialist can consult with colleagues, which means that he can cope with task faster;
  • training as well as an exchange of experience with customers and between techs;
  • If there are changes in the set of services, the agency will recalculate the cost. This allows you to control your costs.

Outsourcing disadvantages:

  • an agency doesn’t have as deep involvement in the project as an in-house specialist do;
  • the time a manager spent on the project is included in the cost of work;
  • non-predetermined work will not be performed;
  • the lack of possibilities of cultivating specialists.
in-house marketer vs. digital marketing agency

Some customers believe that they will lose in terms of price, as every additional hour is tracked by the agency. But there are varying aspects to this. With long-term cooperation, the agency provides bonuses and their own input, which can significantly help in the development of the project. They should be heard and applied because the comprehensive expertise and extensive experience of the agency allow us to see non-obvious weaknesses.

What important things need to be considered if the choice falls on outsourcing?

For the most effective relationship, it is necessary to take into account several points:

  • before starting any cooperation, request the team member’s resumes and team case studies; It is essential to familiarize yourself with their portfolio, especially to see if they have completed any relevant projects in the same sphere. This is the easiest and most reliable way to understand whether or not you would be a good fit.
  • you need to get involved in the project; In other words, you should participate in the discussion of goals, tasks, and results; be interested in the processes and subsequent stages; find out what is needed for development and how you can help.
  • you have to arrange real or Skype meetings with the team at least once a month to understand the situation and make timely adjustments;
  • you need to check monthly results or check reports together;
  • it is important to make recommendations.


To sum up, there’s no clear-cut answer to the question of whether to use a Digital Agency or In-house marketing manager. The choice depends on many nuances, in particular, on the type of work. It is equally important to understand whether the company will be able to provide a full-time employee with stable full-time work. The choice of cooperation scheme requires considering your situation and carefully weighing all the pros and cons.

The choice of cooperation model also depends a lot on the goal that you are pursuing, as well as the resources, financial capabilities, and geography of the project advancement.

The vast majority of representatives of large and medium-sized businesses choose the model “in-house + marketing agency.” Small businesses often entrust their marketing only to agencies or hire a freelancer if their budget is very limited. The communication on tasks in such cases is usually carried out directly with the owner or marketing director of the company.

When choosing an external agency, we recommend reviewing its portfolio of successful cases. The best variant is the marketing team specializing in a similar niche or having work experience with similar projects and tasks. You should also remember that for the total team involvement in the project with a solid understanding of your business, an appropriate budget is required.