Is the best marketing team in-house, independent or through an agency?

Your marketing strategy plays a major role in business success. What's the best way to develop and implement one? Should you do it yourself, hire someone to work for you, or hire a separate company?

Man holding tablet with marketing automation
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Marketing doesn’t just happen on its own. Whether you’re an entrepreneur, the marketing lead, or you’re in some other position of power, you’re going to need help to execute your marketing vision and achieve your goals. But how you seek that help will have a drastic impact on your overall effectiveness, cost and working style.

Generally, there are three options to choose from:

  • Hiring full-time workers. Full-time workers are always plentiful and are one of the most straightforward options for executing your marketing strategy.
  • Enlisting the help of an agency. Agencies are also an option, with a host of experience and a full roster of specialists who can help you get the job done. According to Agency Spotter, there are more than 120,000 marketing agencies in the United States alone.
  • Recruiting consultants, contractors and freelancers. There’s also renewed interest in independent workers; as entrepreneur Sam Ovens attests, consulting businesses are rising in popularity, and meanwhile, the gig economy is inspiring more people to become independent contractors.

You also have the option of mixing and matching these methods to create the ideal combination for your business’ needs.

Full-time considerations

Full-time employees give you a sense of control, collaboration and loyalty. Once you find a good candidate, they’ll be working with you — and only you — on a regular basis, coming up with new ideas and flexibly helping with other projects as they arise. Depending on the person you hire for the job, you may be able to blur the lines of their responsibilities too, which is important for small businesses with shifting demands.

Some of the problems with full-time employees revolve around the costs; even an inexperienced job candidate will cost you a full-time salary, benefits, additional office space and even more peripheral costs. Small businesses may only be able to hire one or two employees at most, which can be limiting — especially since you’ll have to resort to generalists, rather than specialists, to handle your tasks. Plus, as noted by the SBA, you’ll have a lot more paperwork to deal with too.

Agency considerations

Agencies come with a number of advantages as well. Working with an agency gives you access to a dynamic range of personnel, each who are specialists in their respective niches. This means you’ll be able to solve problems faster, come up with better ideas, and execute more for the same amount of money. You’ll also usually get better overall service, since the agency’s survival depends on your satisfaction as a customer. Agencies are better at setting and achieving goals to keep their customers happy, but there are some drawbacks to this arrangement.

For starters, you’ll have less control over day-to-day processes, and less overall transparency since your agency won’t be working in your office. And, though according to The Sales Lion, costs vary depending on agency size and specialization, most agencies worth their salt come with expensive monthly retainer fees that not all businesses can afford.

Independent considerations

Independent contractors, freelancers and consultants are the hardest batch to pin down since they come in so many shapes and sizes. Most are specialists, rather than generalists, which means you can piece them together into whatever team you need for the job; this makes them the most flexible and adaptable option of the three. However, costs vary dramatically, with some entry-level freelancers being dirt cheap and some high-level consultants charging hundreds of dollars an hour.

The biggest problems you’ll find with independent contractors is finding — and keeping — the ideal talent for your team. It’s difficult to find candidates who meet your skill set, experience, and cultural requirements but still operate within the range of your budget. Beyond that, these people aren’t tethered to you or your business — meaning they could easily leave if a better opportunity came along. Having backups and some measure of redundancy is ideal if you’re working with freelancers consistently.

The bottom line

All three options exist and remain valid options because no option is strictly better than either of the others. It all depends on what your goals are, how your business operates, what you’re willing to spend, and how you’d prefer to interact. In many cases, striking a balance between multiple methods (such as having both in-house workers and freelancers) is the best approach, but you may find that one method stands out more than the others for your business.

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