The overarching goal of marketing is to drive leads to the sales funnel. But broken down, marketing covers a lot of ground; from brand messaging and market research to content creation and SEO, just to name a few.
As a startup grows, there will likely come a point at which additional marketing help becomes necessary to handle the volume and scope of marketing work that needs to get done. When this time comes, leadership must decide if they would rather focus solely on developing the in-house marketing team, hiring an agency to run everything or some combination of the two.
Better understanding of the business and goals
One of the greatest advantages to having an in-house marketing team, whatever the size, is that they will have an up-close, in-depth understanding of how the business operates, what long-term goals look like, and how marketing fits in to that overall vision.
Another big advantage in-house teams have over marketing agencies is that they only have one client to focus all their attention on, allowing them to dig deeper and fully immerse in the business. Per week, that’s far more time and focus spent working on marketing objectives than an outside agency would realistically be able to devote.
Access and efficiency
With an in-house team that is always there, it’s generally far easier to get work out the door as needed. Access to information and cross-functional collaboration should also be much more streamlined in-house, as there are also far fewer communication boundaries.
While there are advantages to focusing solely on one brand, over time this can also sometimes lead to inside-the-box thinking, as teams get into habits and similar ways of thinking. Outsiders may be able to bring a fresh perspective to old problems.
Lack of experts across fields
While it depends on the size of an in-house team, most smaller teams are skilled in a few areas but limited in others. While agencies are usually equipped with marketing experts across every function, this isn’t really practical for a small startup.
It can be expensive
Depending on your hiring strategy, putting together the right team can be pricy. In addition to salaries and benefits, consider the cost of the tools the team will need to do their job, such as software.
Wide range of deep expertise
One major advantage agencies offer is that they have experts in nearly every marketing function, including social media, pay-per-click, SEO, web design, graphic design, etc. This access to multiple experts comes much cheaper than it would be to hire in-house.
Agencies can bring a critical, fresh eye to the table. Because they work with multiple clients, they may already have a perspective on what has worked and not worked within certain industries and target audiences.
In order for agencies to compete with each other, they must stay on top of the newest marketing tools and technologies. Purchasing all of these tools in-house can be highly cost-prohibitive, whereas they are accessible through agencies.
Juggling multiple clients
Agencies are working with multiple clients, and a single marketer on an account may be juggling six or more clients at a time. While the team may be good at working under pressure, they can become spread thin across accounts. It can be difficult, and in some cases impossible, for an agency to replicate the availability that an in-house team offers.
Loss of control
Delegating marketing activities to an agency, while timesaving for founders, also means a certain loss of control. It requires a lot of trust, so it is of course, important to work with trustworthy agencies with well-regarded reputations for producing stellar work.
Misaligned expectations can be costly
To start, it will take time to familiarize the agency with the business and its goals and expectations. If this process is rushed, it can lead to misalignment and mistakes that are not cheap. It’s crucial that the agency and startup are on the same page to avoid this.
How to choose?
In addition to these strengths and weaknesses, long-term goals should also be considered. Generally speaking, many businesses do some combination of in-house and outsourced marketing. For example, marketing functions such as general communications, brand messaging, content creation, etc. are things that may be better handled in-house by teammates who know the brand inside and out and can react quickly. Depending on the size and expertise of the in-house team, contracting an agency for specialized functions such as PR around a new launch, digital advertising, or graphic and web design may be beneficial.
The way a startup allocates marketing resources can also change over time as the business grows. Of course, there is no single approach that is best suited to every business. The best strategy will be the one that gets a business closer to its long-term goals and offers the greatest potential return on investment.