Digital Marketing For My Business: In-house Or Agency?

by Simon Trafford on June 22 2017


The first thing you’re probably thinking is, “oh great, Social Lite is blogging about whether or not I should hire an in-house marketing employee or an agency. Of course they’ll tell me to hire an agency!”

A million times no. The answer to the question of hiring in-house or agency is not a simple one - and any agency that is all sell sell sell to every customer that walks through their door is not only doing the business owner a disservice, but the agency as well. A marketing partnership, whether it be through an employee, freelancer or an agency, is a marriage. And like any marriage, the partners must be compatible. It’s just as hard on us when we realize that maybe… maybe we’re not right for each other.

At Social Lite, we believe that great marketing that delivers sales is always a team sport. In every one of our campaigns, no fewer than a six person team will be responsible for ensuring campaign success. But we understand that an agency is not for everyone, so let’s explore all the ways you can start a marketing campaign in your business.

The following post will address the myriad of ways that marketing can fit into your organization, the costs associated with doing it yourself, hiring freelancers, in-house marketing people, or an external digital marketing agency.

Alright, now let’s talk about...

The 4 Ways to Fit Marketing Into Your Organization

  1. Do It Yourself

  2. Hire freelancers

  3. Hire an in-house marketing team

  4. Hire an agency

Do it Yourself Marketing Cost, Time Investment and Stress Level | Social Lite | Edmonton, Alberta

Do-It-Yourself Marketing

No one knows your business better than you do and you’ve come far enough in your business journey that you’re wondering how to step up your online marketing game. If you consider yourself a good marketer, you know the tactics that work and you know how to execute them. The problem is that your day is already full, and the last thing you want to be doing is trying to write blog posts at 11pm so that you can keep up with your content creation schedule or editorial calendar.

The Pros Of Do-It-Yourself Marketing:

  • You know your business inside and out. You know your brand voice, your target audience and your buyer personas. You know what works and what doesn’t. Maybe all you need to do is dump a bunch of money into Google Adwords, post 5 times a week on Facebook, and people gladly throw their money at you. If that’s the case, great. Keep doing what you’re doing and hope you don’t fatigue your method.

  • You can have your finger on the pulse of your marketing activities in real time. Every Tweet, every post, every ebook is written and designed by you. How is that not the best situation ever?

  • It’s fun! You get to create, entertain, communicate. It’s a break from the slog of banking, accounting, running numbers, fiddling with inventory.

The Cons Of DIY:

  • It’s time consuming. You have a million more “important” things that need to get done, and as a result, marketing gets pushed to the far corner of your desk every time.

  • Keeping up with the fast pace of change in the digital marketing field, as well as mastering all the skills you will need: blogging, photography, design, video website creation, etc., is nearly impossible.

  • It's not your super power. People devote their lives to very specific niches in the online marketing game. There's no way you can master all of the elements of marketing, let alone one of them.

When DIY Marketing Works:

Managing your company’s own digital marketing activities can absolutely work in the right circumstances. Here are a few of those examples:

  1. Your business is part-time. You could almost call it a hobby; it defines you, it’s fun, but it’s not your primary source of income, which means you can devote as much time you like to marketing.

  2. You’re in the very early stages of the business and marketing is just not in the budget. You know you need it and you’re willing to go skip sleep to make sure it gets done. As your business expands, you're eventually going to have to shift your focus to your product or service, because that is where you're the true expert.

  3. You have a very specific marketing tactic that consistently drives sales, doesn’t take a lot of your time. An example of this would be an online clothing company that has 500,000 Instagram followers. Want to sell out the new product line that just came in? Create one post.

Simply creating one post requires you to wear many hats as a marketer; You’re a photographer, a copywriter, a graphic designer, and a content coordinator all in one. It might feel like a simple task, but there is more to it than meets the eye. Remember, Marketing is a team sport.

Take a look at the full "Digital Marketing is a Team Sport" INFOGRAPHIC!

Hiring Freelancers Cost, Time Investment and Stress Level | Social Lite Communications | Edmonton, Alberta

Hire Freelancers

Hiring a freelancer may save you some time by not having to do it yourself. You get to be hands-on with the work that is submitted to you and have a personal relationship with a graphic designer, a writer, an SEO guy, or whomever you may hire.

The Pros of Hiring a Freelancer Army:

You’re still in the thick of it when it comes to knowing every detail of your digital marketing activities. You proof every piece that comes through, post every blog that’s written, and you get to transmit your vision directly to a hand picked creative.
It’s definitely not as much work as doing it all yourself.
You can find experts in every field and play them to their strengths.
You’re free to negotiate rates, cut on costs, and you only pay for completed work.

The Cons of Hiring a Freelancer Army:

It is still very much a time-suck to find a team of people, get them on contract, teach them all about your brand, your voice, target audiences, etc. And that’s all before you have to proof their work with an eagle-eye, assign them tasks, write them briefs, send back revisions, and meet with them, Skype with them, and be their best buddy because you’re the only contact they have to the real world.
Reliability. Once you’ve on-boarded your team, there’s no telling when your gifted blogger will get a bigger client that starts to take up all her time. Your graphic designer misses a big deadline? It might not be a big deal to him because he has 12 other clients with deadlines that are just as important as yours.
The minute you think you have a rock solid freelancer, they may vanish, and you’ll have to rinse and repeat your on-boarding process.
When paying for piecework, the hourly rate of a top-notch freelancer can reach that of senior law partner, especially if all you have for her is a one-off project. On the flip side, you can hire cheap out of Vietnam or Bangladesh, but the cons above are compounded.

When Hiring Freelancers Can Work:

You have a decent budget to allocate to your marketing, time on your hands to brief, proof and approve your freelancers’ work, and you like to have a sharp eye on every detail of your marketing materials before they go live. You run a small business on a tight budget and don’t need a constant stream of content running every second of every day, but also require a wide variety of creative content to get the job done (design, copy, web, etc.).

Alternatively, you could have a marketing coordinator that you have hired in-house that can liaise with your freelancers.

Non-franchised restaurants, independent brick-and-mortar retail or clothing stores and start-ups can benefit greatly with this marketing arrangement.

Hire an In-house Marketing Team Cost, Time Investment and Stress Level | Social Lite Communications | Edmonton, Alberta


Hire an In-House Marketing Person or Team

There are a lot of benefits to having an in-house marketer - or team of marketers - to execute your every need. You can hand-pick them, vet them, groom them, build them up, knock them down, they’ll always be there for you. It’s an ideal situation, and if you’re an enterprise level business and can document the systems and processes, it’s a great option to consider. Hiring a team that is, because remember, marketing is a team sport.

I want to be very careful here to distinguish hiring a team versus hiring an individual. I have personal experience in being a lonely marketer for a privately owned hotel. Being the only marketer meant that I had a million things on my to-do list. A list that consisted of every discipline of marketing: design, copywriting, web dev and design, social posting, etc. What naturally happened is that I gravitated towards my “happy place”, which happened to be graphic design. When there’s always a hundred things to do, why not do what you enjoy, because it’s not all going to get done anyway? Though my title was Marketing Manager, I was basically a glorified graphic designer. I was a lonely graphic designer that posted on social media once in awhile.

The Pros of Hiring an Internal Marketing Team:

You have a hand-picked ensemble of marketing professionals with a wide variety of skills.
You can pick and choose which marketing avenues to go after, and hire for those positions. If content marketing works for you, you can hire a writer with chops and a web designer to make their work look pretty, and stop there.
They are at your beckon call to attack any pressing issue that arises. Bad things happen in business, and you have staff on call to put out the flame before it turns into an inferno.
You can deploy them to events, conferences or have them on the floor reporting on the day to day of your company.
They will learn the ins and outs of your company and brand in a snap, then roll with it. They will define your identity and hopefully become thought leaders in your industry.

The Cons of Hiring an In-house Marketing Dream Team:

It could be comparatively expensive.
Your team can be blinded by the fog of corporate culture. You want them to see your company in a certain light. Often they’ll become your echo chamber and neglect to identify the negatives that might turn out to be your Achilles Heel.

When Hiring and In-house Marketing Team Can Work:

Hiring an in-house marketing team can work when you are well resourced and have the budget to hire several multidisciplinary professionals that range in salary from $50-100 thousand per year each.

Hiring a Digital Marketing Agency Cost, Time Investment and Stress Level | Social Lite Communications | Edmonton, Alberta

Hire A Digital Marketing Agency


Hiring an agency can give you the best of a lot of worlds. I know, that sounds biased, but hear me out. If you have a marketing budget, you run a successful business, and you’re looking to grow that business - to take it to the next level, hiring an agency can be cost effective and yield phenomenal results. However, If you’re expecting overnight results, your company is sinking and you’re looking for a rescue boat, or you don’t understand or trust the team that you’re hiring, you’re going to have a bad time.

I’ll say it again, marketing is a slow burn, and unless your team, with a stroke of genius, comes up with a piece of content that goes viral over night and you wake up with a million dollars in the bank, you’ll have to manage your expectations. No amount of marketing can save a company that has a flawed business model. Lastly, marketing requires commitment, consistency, and belief. If you don’t understand the power of digital marketing, how it works, or how it can benefit your company, you may lose faith in before it has the chance to bloom. If you have any hesitation about committing to any kind of marketing, whether it’s DIY, freelancer, in-house, or agency, follow your gut on when and how it is right for you.

Alright Then, On With The Pros Of Hiring A Digital Marketing Agency:

  • You have a team - close at hand - that can execute every discipline of digital marketing at an expert level: content, design, video, web development, strategy, advertising, reporting and analytics.

  • The cost of hiring this team is less than half of what it costs to hire one full time, lonely marketing manager.

  • You can spend your time working on your business at a high level, knowing that your campaign is in flight, rather than worrying about scheduling a few Tweets for next week.

  • You’ll get an outside perspective on what makes your business or product great. When you can’t see the forest through the trees, your marketing agency will be brutally honest with where you’re exceptional, and what you need to re-think.

The Cons Of Hiring A Digital Marketing Agency:

  • There’s a learning curve. The team will take time - up to two months - to get up to speed and become informed in your unique business and industry. An experienced agency may have dealt with similar situations, but it will still take time to figure out what makes you unique and what you’re all about. This is called the strategy phase, and you will absolutely be better off after a team dissects your brand and distills your greatness.

  • An agency can’t be on the floor of your stores, restaurants, or factories 24/7. Though a marketing agency is always “down the hall”, if you host regular events, attend trade shows, or conferences regularly, you may be better off with a full time social reporter to document your engagements, or a one-off hired gun.

  • You’ll have less control. Once the campaign spins up to full throttle, you simply won’t have time to proof and process every piece of marketing that gets pushed live. You’ll have to have a little faith. But like a fish swims, like a spider makes its web, you’ll begin to trust in the professionals you’ve hired and know that they’re looking out for your best interests - putting every ounce of creative energy into your cause. You’ll get to see everything they publish, but sometimes you just have to trust-fall into the arms of a full stack digital marketing agency.


When Hiring a Digital Marketing Agency Can work

You have a marketing budget. It doesn’t have to be huge, but you can’t be picking at the lint in your pocket to make the monthly payment. You understand the power of digital marketing and that the future of sales and marketing reaches beyond your personal rolodex. You understand that digital marketing is not going to blow your business up over night, that it’s slow, steady growth like a great oak tree, rather than the overnight sprout of a dandelion.

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