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Hiring for Digital: Agency vs. In-House

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Should you rent or buy? It’s a common conflict in real estate, but it’s actually just as relevant when you’re a business owner building your team.

Agency vs. In-House – Hiring for Digital Marketing

Almost nowhere is this more conflicting than when you’re looking to enhance your online strategy. Debating whether to build an in-house team of digital professionals or work with an external digital consulting company or agency is common, especially for companies who are just getting serious about their online presence.

Lean companies want to know if it’s a better use of funds to work with an outside source on an as-need basis, while established organizations sometimes contemplate if building an in-house department could help scale efficiency and returns.

Ultimately, both have their pros and cons. Let’s take a closer look at some things to consider when making this choice.

Agencies may have more resources

When you hire a digital agency or consulting firm, you’re essentially getting access to an entire team of specialists. Their combined knowledge may include topics like web development, UX and UI design, social media management, SEO, content marketing and more. This can be crucial for an organization that needs a holistic approach to online marketing, as it gives you access to multiple knowledge points and lets you make better decisions about where you want to focus your resources.

You might hire one or more specialists for your in-house team, but digital marketing is such a complex sphere that it’s unlikely a couple professionals will provide a full scope of expertise to rival an agency. If there’s a specific area you want to look at, such as social media strategy or tightening up your website’s SEO, it might make sense to hire someone in-house, but working with an external digital consulting company will give access to a much more comprehensive set of tools & know-how.

An agency can be more stable

Turnover is real, is unexpected, and there are many reasons for it. If you’re a newer company with a limited budget, you might find yourself hiring digital professionals that move on to better paying positions. People get bored, they struggle, or they come on board only to learn there is not as much capacity to change as there is desire. There are plenty of reasons why you might find yourself with a full-time professional who wants to move on, and this is a real problem if your strategy is dependent on one – or even a few – in-house team members.

Barring a catastrophe, you’re much less likely to lose an entire digital consulting company, which means that even if one or two employees come or go, you’re not losing the entire backbone of your department.

How much time do you have to teach the ropes?

While some agencies specialize in certain industries, most of them work with a wide range of businesses. They’re experienced when it comes to learning the ropes quickly and prioritizing certain parts of digital strategy based on your industry and client base. In other words, they are experts at hitting the ground running. While it’s not inconceivable that you may be able to hire a full-time professional who is ready to make change on Day 1, they may not have the breadth of experience that you’re looking for. Adapting to the needs and tones of different businesses is like a muscle – the more it’s used, the stronger and more effective it gets. Agencies get to use this muscle almost constantly, which gives them an edge.

There’s no reason you can’t have the best of both

Sometimes companies choose a hybrid approach, depending on how their company’s needs shift over time. For example, they may work with a digital agency to kickstart a strategy and gain a stronger grasp of their company’s strengths and weaknesses. Through working with an external agency, they may be able to identify where it would make sense to hire an in-house team member down the road.

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Agency vs. In-House – summary

At the end of the day, like most business decisions, it comes down to your company’s values, budget and long-term goals. External agencies and digital consulting companies are a fantastic way to leverage diverse resources and have access to services on an as-needed basis. They have the potential to provide both more stability and more in-depth knowledge. An in-house team can have these qualities too, but hiring a full-time, in-house specialist isn’t in every company’s budget and there is some risk associated with having a select few people act as the backbone of your strategy.

Do your research on agencies, assess your long-term needs, have a strong sense of your hiring budget, and you’ll be on your way to finding the perfect option for your growing business.

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