Mano-a-mano: In-house vs marketing agencies

Mano-a-mano: In-house vs marketing agencies

Whether you’re a start-up or a well established brand, there’ll come a time where most businesses will be looking to make a decision about how best to run their marketing. Should you ride the wave and do it yourself, invest in building a dedicated team internally, or entrust a specialist agency to get the job done?

There was a time when marketing was the domain of the agency. Businesses, would outsource the task to ‘the creatives’, handing them the job of getting the word out with a mantra of “you do what you do best, and I’ll do what I do best”. However, recent decades have seen the rise of in-house marketing teams based on the idea that if you can have individuals immersed in your business and available 24/7, you’ll surely create better results.

Developments in technology and access to online resources have certainly made it easier for businesses to take the task under their wing internally. And while there’s merit in having an in-house team, there’s arguably something missing from the equation that only external marketing agencies can bring to the table—whether that’s on their own, or working in tandem with in-house teams.


Blanket individuals vs specialised individuals

When hiring an in-house team, you’ll likely be looking for individuals who can cover a lot of bases. While these individuals have their merits, it’s worth considering the value of having people who are specialised.

Generally the best individuals to hire in-house are t-shaped in their expertise—they’ll have a good understanding of everything across the board in the realm of marketing, but will have a deep-dive specialism in one or two certain areas. These people are rare, often hard to find, and command a big asking price.

Hiring an external agency will give you access to a team of people that are skilled across the board. Rather than having a blanket individual or a single t-shaped specialist, you’ll be able to fill in the gaps when it comes to specialisms across the board. You might even get lucky and land a team full of t-shaped individuals, all with their own specialism but able to look at and advise on the bigger picture.


Access to the little black book

Often external agencies bring access to a whole wealth of high quality contacts and resources. Fully immersed in the marketing industry, their insights and vast networks of people can help locate the highest quality individuals you’ll need to drive your brand forward. Many agencies partner with others to produce deliverables that are not only of the best quality, but to produce innovative, market-leading solutions with the mentality of “if we can’t do it, we’ll find someone who can”.

From key contacts working in TV and Radio, to journalists and event organisers, having an agencies black book at your disposal is a valuable asset.


Keeping on top of the tech game

It’s imperative that marketing agencies work with the latest software, and the best agencies make it their business to use tech to keep track of campaign analytics, design professional material, and perform market research. From an in-house perspective this is often just beyond reach—purchasing the latest tech can cost a fortune, not to mention the costs of hiring or training someone to use it.


Immersed vs new perspectives  

Becoming immersed in a business is key to success and it would seem in-house teams have that covered. At face value it’s a clear asset, but it’s worth considering that it treads the fine line of stale subjectivity. Creativity is all about making links between seemingly unrelated things, and the experience working with other industries and businesses agencies have can make for a wealth of insights that can contribute towards objective, fresh-thinking.

An outside perspective can also bring the benefit of questioning if you’re taking the best possible approach to your marketing. It’s hard to rock the boat when you’re nice and comfortable inside, but to push forward creatively you’ll need individuals who aren’t on the inside. They’ll be the ones to look at the bigger picture, ask the tough questions, and give the boat a nice little nudge to make your brand really stand out in the right way.  

It’s worth noting that working with an objective party can not only help from a creative standpoint, but also help reduce risks and marketing blunders. Looking at the marketing strategy or campaign message from an objective perspective identifies any risks or threats that could have a negative impact on the business—something that Pepsi could have used when it came to their disastrous ad with Kendall Jenner. As Jason Snyder (chief technology officer of brand experience agency Momentum Worldwide) said “Brands often suffer from myopia when trying to articulate their own value to the marketplace”.

It’s also arguable that you don’t have to be in-house to really get to know a business. The best agencies will dedicate the time to really get to know every aspect of what’s going on. It’s often the only way to identify the right problems and produce the right solutions that create real ROI.


Small team vs big team

Whether you hire just an external team, or plan to share the load between in-house and external, two heads are always better than one. And while it’s true that too many cooks spoil the broth, it’s all about controlling where you put the work. Often agencies can offer much needed support to in-house teams that are spread too thin. Outsourcing overflow work can accelerate the process of building campaigns and delivering marketing deliverables.


Addressing costs and time

It’s often a worry that because agencies aren’t spending all their time on your account, you won’t get the support you’re looking for. It’s therefore easy to turn internally for the dedication you want someone to have for your brand. But the fact is, for a modern agency to survive they need to be reactive and nimble. Specialised skill sets get the job done, while dedicated account managers make it their business to know your business and drive time management and reactive tasks from within the team.

Meanwhile, when it comes to that all important cash flow, hiring an external marketing agency will not only significantly contribute to the increase of your company’s ROI, but in most cases will probably end up costing a lot less than if you hired a similarly skilled full in-house team.


Whether you chose to build in-house, venture to an agency, or branch out and build an internal-external outsourced marketing team hybrid, there’s never a one-size fits all approach to marketing. Overall it’s well worth considering your long term goals, what you need to do to achieve them, and aligning that with where you’re going to source your marketing.

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