Internal Hire vs. External Agency: Which Makes More Sense?

Apr 24, 2019 4:48:41 PM / by Ryan Bozeman

When companies move to expand their marketing operations, their early steps are often impeded by a common question — “Should I hire a marketing person internally, or work with an agency?”


For many, it can be a tough decision. There are definitive pros and cons that come with both options. An internal hire provides you with a higher level of control and the ability to train them as you see fit. But hiring a single person or even a small team runs the risk of pigeon-holing your strategies into ones that mesh with their skill sets. In a world where digital strategies are quick to change and marketing teams must be nimble, this can present a problem.

Agencies are quicker to onboard, provide more flexibility, and access to a wider range of skills compared to hiring in-house. Agencies reduce a lot of the risk that comes with hiring. Hiring the wrong person can set your company back several months and the cost of re-hiring and re-training is expensive. But those benefits come at the cost of control. Whether or not it makes sense for a company to choose an internal hire or an agency depends upon its unique situation and where they will glean the most value.

Some of the ways in which hiring an external agency might make more sense for your business include:

Agencies Provide Flexibility

Agencies are often flexible in ways your internal teams could never be. Most agencies employee professionals with a wide array of skill sets. A partnership with an agency can give your company unparalleled access to marketing talent at the drop of a hat.

We are, in many ways, still in the “Wild West” era of digital marketing. Companies come and go. Popular strategies change with the season, and new opportunities must be seized to gain an edge over the competition. Internal hires might be skilled — but their ability to turn the ship and try something new at a moments notice will never match an agency.

To find success in digital marketing, companies need to test new things constantly. New strategies, channels, and messages must constantly circulate in and out of your marketing programs to continually identify new opportunities. That flexibility is a big perk.

Onboarding Agencies is Faster

How long does it take to onboard a new employee? Well, that is completely dependent upon the position and the onboarding process that your company employs. A recent survey from CareerBuilder analyzed responses from over 2,300 hiring managers and HR professionals showed that nearly 30% of companies have onboarding programs that last 1-3+ months. That’s a long time but in line with what an effective onboarding process requires. Studies have shown that short onboarding programs result in lower retention rates, you would think that number would be higher.

Often, agencies can be brought up to speed and deployed within a matter of weeks. But it’s not just that they can start work sooner — when you work with agencies the work on the most important aspects of your projects begins much quicker as well. A good agency doesn’t need to be managed. They set the strategy with you then bring their own playbook to run and execute that strategy. Employees require ongoing management.

Agencies have teams of copywriters, designers, developers, and strategists on staff. One the work begins in earnest on a project, agencies are often able to hit the ground running and turn deliverables around in the fraction of the time it would take an internal team. Modern marketing requires agility. The flexibility and speed in which agencies work helps to secure that agility.

Multiple Experts to Learn From

Agencies simply bring more diverse talent to the table. When you work with an agency, you can rest assured that you will never be pigeonholed into a single strategy or direction. Their team will help you to effectively track and measure your programs to find the most effective marketing programs from your business.

Reasons to Hire Internally

While this article has focused on the benefits of hiring an agency, that doesn’t mean that there aren’t some very good reasons to consider an in-house hire instead. Agencies aren’t always the best fit for every situation.

For instance, when you hire internally you receive a full-time commitment from your new employee. They can really dig into your business and understand your industry in full. While some agencies do specialize, even agencies with specializations in your industry won’t be able to devote themselves to your business in the same way that an employee would. You can also screen employees for cultural fit, which is more difficult to do when hiring an agency.

A Tough Decision

Deciding whether to hire in-house or work with an agency can be a tough decision. They both bring some attractive benefits to the table. However, the agility, savings, and flexibility that comes from working with an agency may make it the right choice for companies with underdeveloped marketing programs in competitive industries.

Topics: Marketing Operations

Ryan Bozeman

Written by Ryan Bozeman