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    As your business makes plans to grow through various marketing channels, the first question that pops up usually resembles, “How the hell do I get this all accomplished?” More directly: Should I hire and develop full-time employees to focus on my digital marketing, or should I seek help from an agency?

    The answer depends on your business, your goals, your budget, and how much time you’re willing to invest. For example, the sheer number and types of channels you want to immediately deploy could make hiring an experienced agency your best option. On the other hand, if you plan to only focus on growing a few channels to start and you want immediate access to your team, adding staff might be the best way to go.

    Marketing In-House

    Nobody understands your business better than your own people do. Although agencies can profess their impending commitment when you sign the contract, they can’t hold a candle to the on-staff marketer who has an unyielding grasp of your company’s product, industry, history, vision, goals, and competitors. Your people live it every day and what agencies can provide in outside perspective, they lack in background knowledge. Depending on how niche your industry is, it may take an agency some time to get up to speed, and even then, internal staff will always have more immediate access to in-house experts and can, in turn, produce more in-depth, technical, and authoritative content.

    Pros Cons
    Hand-pick your entire team High cost of a small specialized team
    End-to-end control of your marketing Hiring and training new staff (time/money)
    Nimble and quick to respond Requires office space and supplies
    Live, eat, breath the business Tunnel vision and burnout
    Sick days, paid vacation, and benefits.
    Marketing burnout from lack of variety
    Need to be (micro)managed

    Marketing with an Agency

    Experience and expertise are perhaps the two greatest advantages of working with a dedicated marketing agency. With an agency, ideas can flourish, and strategic direction can be set without limits based on a team’s proficiencies. What’s more, when working through a problem with an agency, you gain its collective wisdom. Established agencies have not only encountered a wide range of scenarios and challenges, but also have tested and experimented with an assortment of tactics and channels—turning your emergency into just another day at the office.

    Pros Cons
    Structured, proven processes Multiple accounts dividing teams focus
    Diverse, well-rounded skill sets Less control over campaigns and projects
    On top of marketing trends Learning curve for your business and audience
    Manages projects so you don’t have to Lack of accessibility
    No payroll taxes, benefits, or training required
    Spending flexibility
    Able to quickly scale up or down

    The Hybrid Model

    This isn’t an “agency or bust” situation. There’s no one-size-fits-all solution to digital marketing, and every business is unique. In fact, many companies allow their in-house and agency teams to collaborate, outsourcing certain tasks while keeping others internal. For example, under this hybrid model, your in-house team may handle strategy and promotion while production is run through an agency.

    Comparing Costs

    By now you’ve probably discovered that one-off projects and Band-Aid campaigns meant to fix a marketing issues are not nearly as effective as a long-term agency partner creating dynamic assets and continuously measuring and adjusting production based on your audience’s habits. With this in mind, let’s say you partner with a digital marketing agency for one year. Below are the estimates for the average agency retainer of the course of a year compared to the expense of two full-time employees. (Note: in-house expenses has taken into account 18% for benefits and taxes)

    In-House Minimal Team (one year) Full-Service Agency Partner (one year)
    Digital Marketing Manager: $73,427 + 18% = $86,645 Monthly retainer = $8,000 (roughly 54 hours of work @$150/hr)
    Designer: $55,199 + 18% = $65,135 $8,000 x 12 (months)
    Total = $151,779 Total = $96,000

    *Salaries based on Glassdoor national averages. Updated Nov 29, 2016

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