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By September 9, 2016 Blog No Comments


The marketing agency versus in-house debate rages on, as businesses assess the impact for themselves and the UK economy from the recent ‘Brexit’ vote. Arguably this decision is now even more important with uncertainty in the air, your marketing activity really has to cut through a lot of noise.

There is a vast amount of work that goes into marketing a business, which requires time, energy, resources and money. The cost of choosing the wrong option for your business can be huge, so let’s evaluate the pros and cons of outsourcing vs in-house marketing.

The pros of outsourcing to a marketing agency…

As the Marketing Manager for a business you will by necessity become a specialist in your particular industry and have a detailed knowledge of your products and services. Agencies on the other hand have experience across a wide range of industries and exposure to the latest techniques in the world of marketing.  This external perspective means they are able to challenge you strategically at the outset of a project. They can also advise on what has and hasn’t worked for other clients. This can be extremely valuable, especially at times of major change or when introducing a new type of campaign.

Cost can be one of the biggest deciding factors in evaluating the way forward. The average salary for graphic designer or web developer is around £25,000-35,000 per annum depending on your area of the UK. You might see this as a price worth paying if you need someone on a full-time basis but you could retain an agency for far less than this and you wouldn’t have to worry about covering holiday periods or an employee being off sick. You would also be able to scale up and scale down without worrying about internal resource implications. Giving you and your business the flexibility of investing in what you need, when you need it.

One thing that should never be overlooked is specialist knowledge. When hiring in-house, an all-rounder will always be the smart choice, especially for a small team. However, it can be virtually impossible to recruit someone who has all the skills you need in the course of a marketing year. When using a marketing agency, you gain access to specialists with years of experience, including artworkers, designers, copywriters, web developers, SEO experts and strategists to name a few. This will also enable outsourced marketing to have a reduced lead time compared to in-house, due to the scale and quality of resources a marketing agency has available.

Last but not least, agencies have the freedom to come up with out-of-the-box campaigns and push boundaries. They will come to a project with fresh eyes and be able to inject a level of creativity that may not be possible by using an in-house designer.

  • Your marketing is strategic and purposeful
  • Can be less expensive than building and maintaining an in-house team
  • You have access to a range of specialist expertise
  • They offer creative, surprising, outside of the box thinking

 The cons of outsourcing marketing…

Although there are lots of advantages, commissioning an external agency isn’t the best option for all businesses. If you have a full-time need for one particular type of work e.g. making regular website updates or posting to social media accounts, then an in-house resource should be more cost-effective.

You may also worry that it will be time consuming to get an agency up to speed on your business and communicate your requirements. This can be a particular issue if you use multiple agencies and/or have numerous ad hoc projects. One way round this is to make sure you limit your roster so that each agency gets a reasonable amount of work and to try and structure your activity so that you can brief in several projects in one go. Clients sometimes worry that they won’t get the best deal from agencies unless they shop around for each small project, but in reality this can be counter productive as agencies have to build in extra time on each quote to get up to speed on a client’s business. In our experience, if there is the prospect of developing a long term relationship with a client, most agencies are willing to invest their own time and money to understand a client’s business and won’t pass this cost on. Partnerships such as these enable a short hand to develop between client and agency which means the whole briefing process will run quickly and smoothly – and ultimately this is what generates the best results.

Arguably the biggest risk when outsourcing your marketing is choosing the best match. Although it’s a lot easier to switch agencies then switch your in-house team, it’s still causes some disruption. You have to ensure your outsourced partner has a good reputation and fits with your business. Word of mouth is often the best form of recommendation – so if you see an effective campaign or a great website, don’t be afraid of asking the Marketing Manager which agency they use. Another way to source agencies is through third party selection websites such as the IPA and Recommended Agency Register.

However ultimately, there is nothing like trying an agency out for yourself. Rather than going through a time consuming pitch process, if you see an agency you like just ring them up and see if they will work on a small trial project for you. They will be happy to oblige and you will be able to judge for yourself if they are the agency for you.

  • More costly for full-time requirements
  • Potentially more time spent briefing
  • Risk of choosing the wrong partner

Overall – What should I do?

As with any business decision, you need to fully explore all options…

A lot will depend on the life stage of your particular business. If you have a large marketing team, you may want to keep strategic planning in-house and simply make use of the creative services a marketing agency offers. At the other end of the scale, if you are the managing director of a small firm or start up you may want to use an external agency for all aspects of marketing to start off with, before committing to recruiting in-house resource.

One important thing to consider is time. How much time will it take to manage the marketing agency relationship day-to-day by approving documents and collaborating vs how much time it would take to recruit, train and manage an in-house team or individual.

There are agencies out there to suit all shapes and sizes – so if you do decide to outsource some or all of our marketing, you shouldn’t find it too difficult to find the ideal partner. And hopefully it will be the start of a beautiful relationship!