Should you hire a marketing team, or build a team of third-party experts? If you don’t have a clear answer in mind, you’re not alone. 

In a recent survey, 91% of senior decision-makers stated that they’ve moved at least part of their marketing efforts in-house, but 56% believe that the biggest barrier is building a team with the necessary talent and skills. Companies, therefore, need to consider which roles or tasks should be outsourced to an agency, and which are worth hiring full-time employees to handle.

Marketing executives share the pros and cons of hiring employees vs. hiring agencies.

Hiring Employees

When building an in-house marketing team, hiring the right employees is a challenging process. That said, an in-house team can have a better understanding of your brand and work together more cohesively than outside agencies. Hiring employees is the more common approach for smaller companies because they can meet their marketing needs without building out a large team.

“Hiring employees, or team members as we call them, is a long-term commitment,” explained Yaniv Masjedi, CMO of Nextiva. You’re not just paying for the work to get done, but there’s additional expectations to empower the individual’s personal growth. This means employees can learn to better serve your company’s mission as well.

“By going in-house,” explained Dave McAnally, VP of marketing at DialogTech, “the key benefits businesses get are full transparency and control into their marketing.” He believes this reason in particular is driving the move towards in-house marketing. With an agency, many times you don’t know where your money is actually being spent, and you have little control over the quality of service.

Related Article: How to Recruit Top Marketing Talent

Hiring Agencies

The agency approach means hiring an agency to handle all or part of your company’s marketing needs. Agencies are generally more expensive than building an in-house team, so it’s often large companies that take the outsourcing approach.

“An agency will bring a built-in knowledge base and process for achieving results,” McAnally said. That’s because they work with a wide range of clients and have built up experience and industry connections that they can leverage. Through their collective knowledge, agencies often have a level of expertise that individual contributors aren’t capable of bringing to the table.

With agencies, there’s no responsibility for you to manage employees. “As such,” explained Masjedi, “you're not responsible for development, professional coaching, and personal mentoring.” Agencies, while often more costly, can save a lot of time and effort. That said, agencies have limited time and financial incentive to go above and beyond what’s agreed upon.

“Often agencies have systems in place and you receive a level of service based on your level of investment,” said Michael Alexis, CMO of Museum Hack. This means agencies will usually have the resources in place to meet project deadlines. An employee, however, can tailor their work to better meet an organization’s needs and aren’t tied to a specific statement of work agreement.

Learning Opportunities

“The other challenge is that if you're a smaller client for the agency,” explains McNally, “you may not get the 'A' talent on your book.” This can be mitigated, however, by hiring agencies that work with clients that are a similar size to your organization.

Related Article: How to Build the Right Team for Cross-Channel CRM and Marketing

When (and How) to Choose Your Path

While it’s not always so clear cut when to keep your marketing efforts in-house or move/outsource them to an agency, there are specific situations where one option has advantages over the other.

“If you need a job executed by a specialist,” Masjedi suggested, “an agency is a great way to go.” When hiring a specialist in-house you risk underutilizing the employee and wasting money. Using an agency, therefore, is great for highly specialized tasks and projects that you only need part-time help for.

There’s also the opportunity for smaller tasks to grow over time. “If you need to move quickly,” added McAnally, “an agency can typically scale faster than building a team in-house because they come with a built-in process and people.” You don’t need to risk making a poor hiring decision by rushing through the recruiting process, and can simply pay an agency to get the work done.

On the other hand, hiring employees can better meet organizational objectives. “If you're looking for a loyal supporter who will grow their skills while supporting their employer, hiring in-house is always the best option,” said Masjedi. Employees can grow beyond what you initially hired them for and become an invaluable asset to your organization.

Alexis has seen tremendous results from hiring a PR employee instead of a PR agency like many other companies choose to do. He said, “We've seen results that have allowed us to reach our target market, bring in revenue and allow us to re-invest in the business.” In the end, there’s not a single approach that fits every organization or situation, so you need to weigh the advantages of hiring an employee or agency when the time comes.