Agency vs In-House Marketing - What’s the Difference?

When it comes to marketing, there are a couple different options for businesses. They can either outsource their marketing to an external marketing agency, or keep everything in-house with an in-house team.

Each option has its own set of pros and cons, so which one is right for you? Here’s a look at the pros and cons of marketing agencies vs in-house teams, so you can make the best decision for your business.

Hiring an agency:

Agency marketing offers your business an outsourced marketing team, which uses various digital marketing techniques to grow your company. The question, however, is whether a marketing agency is your best option. Here are the pros and cons of using an agency.


  • Expertise

When you partner with an agency, you get to choose from the most experienced companies in a way that supports your goals. For example, you can choose to hire an agency with a background in your industry, or one with a heavy focus on your preferred strategy, like PPC or social media.

Working with such an experienced partner can help your company get the most value and return on investment (ROI) from your marketing efforts. If you’re looking for the best use of your marketing budget, an experienced agency can often deliver.

  • Capabilities

A digital marketing company often comes with skills that in-house teams are difficult to match due to the sheer number of people a business owner would need to hire. These capabilities can range from accessing beta features in Google Ads to having extensive data on effective tactics and strategies.

For example, if your business wants to try a new strategy like implementing display ads, but has little experience with it, an agency could offer a distinct advantage. They do have experience with display ads and can use their knowledge to help your company get the best results.

  • Software and Tools

An agency has access to the best softwares and technology for your marketing system. As subject matter experts and dedicated professionals, agencies are on top of the latest trends, techniques, and tools. When you use their services, you also get access to the most up-to-date technology and strategies. This will give your organization a competitive edge and ensure your business isn’t left behind. 

Having an agency will also save you money and time. The costs associated with the different softwares needed to run an efficient marketing campaign can be extensive. The cost of such tools is offset with an agency because they can use the software for a suite of clients, while you would only be paying for their own use. And the time it takes to train employees on new technologies and tools can create a lag in your results that you wouldn’t get if you used an agency.

  • Diverse Specialties

Marketing agency employees have a vast and diverse collection of expertise, skills, talents, and passions. They work with a variety of different clients and can accommodate all of your marketing needs—including SEO, social media, PPC, print ads, and so on.

This level of skill diversity and experience is uncommon when building an in-house team. Instead, you may find yourself hiring individuals who can do a little of everything without a level of mastery in any of their tasks. The skill set diversity achieved with an agency results in better collaboration and innovation, helping you create and execute a marketing plan that converts.

  • Unbiased Options and a Fresh Perspective

An in-house team will work on your brand all of the time. The routine and repetitive nature that comes with working on the same tasks each day can send them into a creative rut. Employees and business owners also tend to be too close to the business to see it from an unbiased perspective. Agency members, however, work on unique projects and different brands daily, keeping their creativity levels high and their perspective open. 

When working with an agency, you benefit from each member’s fresh perspectives, new ideas, and creative skill sets. Just like your customers and clients, they are an outsider looking in, so agencies can look at your company objectively. They can see your products and services in the same light as a customer would and create messaging and visuals that represent your brand while meeting customer expectations and needs. This keeps people interested and engaged.  

  • Scalable

Compared to an in-house marketing team, an agency can scale both up or down quickly to meet your business needs. 

Whether you’re looking to increase your paid advertising efforts during a busy season or improve your presence across social media networks, an agency can adapt their strategy quickly and efficiently. For an in-house marketing department, it’s challenging to respond to changes.

It’s even more challenging if your business wants to pause its marketing efforts.

For example, maybe you want to pause ad campaigns during your slow season. If you hired a team to manage your paid campaigns, that leaves you in a place where you either have to reduce your staff or lose money.

  • Cost

When debating between an agency or an in-house marketing department, many businesses want a cost comparison. While internal marketing departments can cost upwards of $200,000 per year, agencies cost anywhere from $10,000 to $200,000 per year.

That’s because agency pricing is dictated by your needs versus hiring at least 3 employees for an in-house team to handle all the different tasks. 

For example, your business may partner with a digital marketing agency for SEO services, which would cost around $1500 to $5000 per month or $9000 to $24,000 per year. That’s significantly less than what you would pay an SEO specialist, where the average salary is $57,000.


  • Location

While working with an agency has many benefits, not being able to walk over to their office to talk to them is a definite downside. Communication becomes a barrier that takes more work to overcome.

That’s why, if you decide to partner with an agency, especially if they’re in a different time zone, work with one that has experience with these kinds of client relationships. They’ll often have processes in place that make working with them seamless.

  • Multiple Clients

Digital marketing agencies work with various businesses. This can make some companies feel their business is not a priority. If you work with an experienced and client-focused agency, however, you shouldn’t get this impression or feeling.

  • Control

While they will require your approval on some campaign decisions, providing an agency with the freedom to make strategic choices can help your business get the best results for your marketing campaign.The problem is that you won’t have creative control over every step and there is a lack of flexibility for swift changes in an agency. With in-house, you can have them drop everything at a moment’s notice to work on a new unanticipated opportunity. With an agency you can’t just switch everything up.

Hiring in-house:

In-house marketing consists of building an internal marketing team to create and maintain your digital marketing strategy. Here are some factors to consider when thinking about building an in-house team.


  • Brand Clarity and Familiarity

When you have an internal marketing team, they have clarity on what your brand is and what it stands for. They understand exactly what makes you unique, which informs all of their marketing decisions and materials. An outside agency will take time to learn the ins and outs of your brand.

  • Accessibility

In-house marketing teams create easy access — just walk over to their desk or office. In comparison, agencies aren’t located just down the hall. You need to call or email to chat. If you do choose to outsource your marketing, you’ll want an agency that communicates quickly and effectively.

  • Focus

In-house marketing teams dedicate 100% of their focus to your business. While agencies will learn your brand and dedicate specific time to your marketing strategy, they also focus on other clients and their marketing needs. Having an in-house team will also mean more hours devoted to the marketing efforts. It’s just much more expensive. Depending on your company and situation, you may prefer having a team all to yourself.

  • Control

When you hire a marketing firm, you delegate many of the responsibilities of your marketing strategy. In some situations, businesses would prefer to have total control over their marketing from planning to creation. This can make working with an agency difficult and you may prefer an in-house team.


  • Hiring & Onboarding

Establishing an internal marketing department takes time and work, whether you’re hiring one person or three people. 

The average time to hire for a marketing position is around 40 days and requires hours of work. Your time and effort will be aimed toward writing and publishing job listings, reviewing candidates, and scheduling and hosting interviews. It’s a lengthy process.

Once the hiring process is wrapping up, you also have to deal with the onboarding issues that will arise and the hurdle the first few employees face as there is no established marketing expertise within the company. For an agency they have the expertise built in. For a business, however, there might not be anyone else in the company that even knows how to identify a talented marketer.

  • Employee Costs

Maintaining an in-house marketing team isn’t a cheap investment.

For perspective, check out the average base pay for a few different marketing roles:

Digital Marketing Manager: $121,318
SEO Specialist: $56,527
Content Marketing Specialist: $56,939

These numbers, however, don’t include additional costs that come with maintaining an in-house team, like taxes, insurance, retirement plans, and even equipment. On average, these expenses are 40-100% of an employee’s salary. You can see how quickly that would add up.

  • Software Choices and Expenses

The different softwares you will need for your marketing are not exactly cheap. The variety of tools needed to run a successful marketing campaign can add up quickly. You’ll need everything from SEO tools, email services, design software, and more.

The cost is also not the only concern where software and tools are concerned. Choosing the tools you need and the tools that will work best can be time consuming. A marketing agency will already have the tools needed that they know well and will optimize their use. 

  • Skill Set Diversity

Where an agency is built of people who specialize in different areas of marketing and have years of experience in their specific arena, an in-house team is often limited in their skills. 

Internal teams are built in a way that has one person handling multiple task types in the campaign. They may be doing SEO, social media, and ads all at the same time which limits how much time they can spend in the details of each. It also creates a limit to how much they truly learn about each task.

  • Scalability

Because an in-house team is limited in their skill sets and available time, it’s harder to scale internally than it is for agency teams.

If your business wants to enhance its Google Ad campaigns, for example, you call your agency and they get it done. That’s not the case when working with an in-house team.

With in-house marketing, you have limited team members and resources. If you want to scale, you need to either reduce efforts in a different area or hire another team member, which takes extra time and money.

  • Employee Turnover

The loss of team members can slow and hurt your marketing efforts. It means you have to hire someone new and train them all over again. During the process, it can put pressure on remaining staff, which can result in poor performance and even higher turnover rates.

With an agency, there’s no worry about your strategy slowing or stopping. Instead, they’ll partner you with another team member and keep your campaign moving forward.

Our Recommendation for Small & Medium Size Businesses

For small to mid-sized businesses, we recommend hiring an agency for a number of reasons. Using an agency is more often than not a more economical and effective way to market the business. It’s very rare to find that one unicorn employee who has the depth of skill needed to handle every aspect of your marketing strategy. Normally this presents the issue of needing multiple people to cover the various skill sets that are needed.

Usually, a single employee has one strong skill they excel in. They may be good at SEO but lack in design, or they are a great writer, but don’t have the technical skills needed for ad development. Your marketing would be great in certain areas, but suffer in others, and hiring multiple employees can cost a lot of time and money. 

Agencies can meet most marketing needs without the need to hire a variety of marketers. Small and medium businesses save money, get better results, and have less stress overall.

Our Recommendation for Large Businesses

Large businesses have the budget and resources to develop an in-house marketing team which is great! The place where a marketing agency may come into play, however, is when an in-house team is either stuck in a rut or unfamiliar with new marketing practices.

Hiring an agency can help keep a business’s marketing up to date and provide new ideas and perspectives. If you need new inspiration for a great ad campaign or social media strategy, it can work really well to bring in a “boutique” agency that specializes in what you need. Agencies aren’t the best fit for managing day-to-day work at the large level, but they help keep things fresh. It’s better to use an agency for specific campaigns rather than long term work.

In-House or Agency?

Deciding whether to hire a marketing agency or build an in-house team is not a simple task. Weighing the pros and cons of each option is critical to ensure you make the best decision for your business. 


In general, we recommend that small to midsize businesses outsource their marketing needs to an agency to save money, time, and stress. Large businesses should consider hiring an agency for specific campaigns where they need fresh ideas and outside perspectives. 


Each business has to decide for themselves which option fits their situation and needs. But if you’re ready to take your business to the next level, we’d love to chat. Fill out the form below to see how RELLO can best help you.

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