In-house Vs. Outsourced Digital Marketing – The Ultimate Comparison

Have you ever considered the best way to organise your digital marketing function?

Or perhaps you’re preparing for a growth phase, and it’s time to make some choices about how you resource your efforts?

Deciding whether you hire a full-time digital marketing team or outsource to an agency can be challenging. There are lots of things to consider, many of which are hidden from plain view. Especially if you’ve never been through it before.

That’s why we decided to put together this comparison for you. The rest of this post will help you make an informed decision about what the best path for you and your business is, by clearly outlining the Pros, Cons and Tie-Breaks when it comes to hiring a full-time digital marketing employee or outsourcing to an agency.

Full disclaimer up front: at Marketing Results we’re positioned as a “Full Time Digital Marketing Employee Replacement”. But I’m not here to sway your opinion either way – we recognise there’s a case both ways, depending on your situation.

Let’s get into it then…

Pros of In-House Digital Marketing

Cultural Immersion

If you hire a full-time team member for your business, they can immerse in your culture and values 24/7.

Your brand has a unique history, vision and goals that you’ll need to explain clearly to an outsourced team if they’re going to help convey it in your marketing message.

An in-house team has a much easier job making this connection with your brand. Not to mention that engaging with internal team members can be an effective digital marketing strategy in itself.

Here’s an example of Nokia doing just that:

A brand connection for in-house vs outsourced digital marketing

Image Source: LinkHumans

Internal Business Intelligence

Someone on your internal marketing team will have extensive internal business knowledge.

This means they will have specific insights when performing analytics and interpreting your data, that an outsourced team won’t be able to access.

Faster Processes

Your own employees will have the best understanding of your company, its products, and customers. A team that’s in-tune with your business can respond faster to internal and market changes.

Also, some marketing tasks require input from other departments (product, IT, etc). They’ll need less time to get up to speed on your marketing needs, and know exactly what areas of your business have been affected by changes.

Outside agencies can only work with what you tell them.

Access To Specialist Product Experts

The kind of team you need will depend on your business and product, but building your own team gives you the opportunity to hire the right mix.

For example, a business selling a new kind of workout equipment may need to rely on the expertise of bodybuilding experts, nutrition experts and many other team members to market their product. It’s unlikely you will find a digital marketing agency with these specialist credentials.

Cons of In-House Digital Marketing

Lack of Skills

Digital marketing requires many brains – the person who is a genius at copy is different from the person who is a genius at design, or development, or analytics, or strategy,

Someone who is genuinely EXCELLENT at a broad range of skills will be;

  • very hard to find
  • very hard to keep, or
  • very expensive

Working with an internal team means at least some of them have to have skills in all of these areas, and according to B2B leaders, skill gaps are a big problem – 79% of B2B managers and leaders reported noticeable skill gaps in the teams they manage, ranging from data analysis to core digital marketing techniques to customer insights.

Lack of skills for in-house vs outsourced digital marketing

Image Source: B2BMarketing.Net

Never Enough Enough Time or Focus

A lack of time, budget, and reputable training can stall in-house digital marketing teams from learning the skills they need to succeed.

A lack of time means that over 80% of digital marketers learn on the job:

a wider skill set for in-house vs outsourced digital marketing

Image Source: MarketingLand

This can be a big problem when working with an internal team. If everyone has a maxed out work load and a reduced skill set, it can be hard to take care of your changing marketing needs.

No Direction

Working with an internal team also means taking the time to develop a digital strategy, and guiding your employees on the right path to execute that strategy.

This learning curve takes time and money, which might be why many marketers are still struggling to develop a focused digital strategy according to a survey conducted by Regalix.   44% of organisations are “on track” or better.  56% lag behind.

the learning curve for in-house vs outsourced digital marketing

Image Source: Regalix

High Cost

The cost of hiring an internal digital marketing team is substantial.   Salaries are only the first consideration

The true cost of employment includes:

  • Hiring/recruitment cost
  • Training cost
  • Management supervision
  • Performance reviews
  • Paid holidays
  • Benefits
  • Equipment (Office furniture, hardware, software) cost
  • Floor space
  • Professional development cost
  • Ramp up cost (time spent at less than full efficiency while they learn your systems)
  • Cost of mis-hires

Research from Bersin by Deloitte found that recruitment can cost nearly $4000 per individual hire, and here’s how much some specialised digital marketing professionals are earning every year:

cost for in-house vs outsourced digital marketing

Image Source: Moz

Scalability Problems

If you have an in-house team and want your marketing efforts to be scalable, the only way to do that is to hire more talent.

Investing in new marketing initiatives is a valuable strategy, but it’s limited by internal budgets.

It’s no surprise then that securing enough budget for marketing initiatives remains the second biggest challenge for internal marketers (the number one challenge is proving ROI, which perhaps speaks to the effectiveness or otherwise of some digital marketing teams).

Scalability problems for in-house vs outsourced digital marketing

Image Source: Hubspot

When you hire an agency, they already have the resources available to them and can scale as soon as you are ready.

An agency can function as a useful “implementation support resource” to an internal marketing manager or team who don’t have the time, specialisation or budget to implement everything in house.

Difficulty Finding Talent

Research by Bullhorn found that 64% of recruiters report a shortage of skilled candidates for marketing roles.

This is compounded by the fact that digital marketing professionals are more in demand than ever.

Moz conducted a study of digital marketing job listings on and saw massive spikes in the listings:

Difficulty finding talent for in-house vs outsourced digital marketing

Image Source: Moz

Less talent and more demand means finding talent for your team could be all the more difficult.

With the best digital marketers in high demand, it also increases the chance that you will hire the wrong person.

Mis-hires can be extremely costly, and here’s why:

  • You must first identify that the person is off track
  • Then you will need to provide some intervention (e.g. management) and monitor their performance
  • Next you need to figure out that the intervention hasn’t worked
  • Fire them and pay out any entitlements
  • Most likely go without the function for a while
  • Rehire and go through the whole process again

Pros of Outsourced Digital Marketing

A Wider Skill Set

Hiring an agency means you get access to senior experts to develop your strategy – plus lower-cost implementers to make it happen.

These experts are charged with keeping up with the latest trends, techniques and technologies. And training budgets and resources are significant for marketing agencies.

Truly keeping up on these changes can seem like a full-time job in itself:

a wider skill set 2 for in-house vs outsourced digital marketing

Image Source: MarketingLand

This skill set is also more flexible. You can ramp up and down quickly, re-align or stop with very little notice.


Hiring an agency is the “expert team” approach – you get the right brains in the right quantities – so you can get what you need and don’t over-pay for what you don’t need.

And 96% of marketers feel that the breadth of marketing skills needed for team success has increased dramatically:

Specialization for in-house vs outsourced digital marketing

Image Source: MarketingLand

Outsourcing gives you access to a larger team of expert copywriters, strategists, marketing tech, designers and more who specialise in each digital marketing role.

It’s Cost Effective

Outsourcing can save businesses up to half the cost of hiring a full time marketer.

You save money on recruiting, training, salaries, and benefits – and any other hidden staffing costs that you can’t predict.

The cost of outsourcing depends on your needs, not individual salaries.

And sure, the “per hour” cost will probably be higher than an internal resource on paper (but you’ll get more done in the time AND you don’t have the high hidden cost of a full-time employee).

Measurable ROI

They’ve done it before, which means they can get in and get the job done quickly.

And the best marketing agencies are results focused. They design their engagements based on hard outcomes rather than “processes” or being seen to be “trying hard”.

This solves an internal marketers biggest challenge – Proving ROI:

Measurable ROI for in-house vs outsourced digital marketing

Image Source: Hubspot

An outsourced team knows how to analyse key performance indicators of a digital strategy to monitor ROI. They use this information to test, optimise and improve campaigns.

This is a valuable asset, considering that proving ROI of marketing activities unlocks budget too.

Cons of Outsourced Digital Marketing

Less Control and Speed to Market

Offloading work to an agency makes it difficult to maintain as much control over your campaigns. And an agency who takes projects and runs with them without keeping you in the loop can be problematic.

This typically means less access when and where you want it – you have to plan more and it may be harder to shoot from the hip with a new campaign that needs to go out “yesterday”.

No Full Time Employees

Agencies have many clients, and you’re just one of them. They MAY be less available, or slow to complete work – it depends on who you work with.

If you need to suddenly change tack and scramble to achieve an urgent task, they may  not have immediate availability or capacity to help.

On the other hand, full time employees are devoted to your needs and your needs alone – and you get a lot of control over what they do next.  (That may be a good or bad thing!)

Integration Challenges

The marketing partner is external so they may take some time to understand and absorb your culture.

Outsourcing can make it difficult to keep all your marketing activity integrated and complementing each other, unless you outsource the WHOLE function.

This requires close coordination of your marketing message on social media, paid advertising, blogs, and other platforms.

The Wrong Fit

You could end up with an agency that just isn’t a good fit for your business.

Perhaps they don’t have experience in your industry, or they don’t understand your audience, or they don’t work well with your business structure and needs.

This just comes down to picking the right one.

How to Choose

It’s clear that digital marketing overall has benefits that are continuing to grow.

how to choose for in-house vs outsourced digital marketing

The real factor to consider is how capable your in-house team is at taking advantage of these benefits:

Image Source: Marketing Mag

If your in-house team is limited, you have two options for ensuring continued growth:

  • Outsource or collaborate
  • Add to your internal team

Because of the benefits of marketing integration, many businesses prefer to grow their internal team. But it comes with limitations:

  • Lack of budget to hire new talent
  • Inability to find the talent you need
  • Restrictions on your ability to scale fast

If you find yourself in that situation, you’re not forced to abandon your internal team and go completely outsourced.

Many businesses opt for a mix of in-house and outsourced digital marketing activities:

mix digital marketing activities for in-house vs outsourced digital marketing

Image Source: Smart Insights

Ongoing digital marketing activities that aren’t necessarily campaign-based could make sense to do in house:

  • PR
  • Content marketing
  • Social media

Specialised, campaign based activities that require certain talents could be best outsourced:

  • SEO
  • App development
  • Display ads
  • Webpage design
  • PPC
  • Copywriting

This is a generalisation, because ultimately the tasks you outsource will depend on your internal team’s skills and your digital strategy.

In the end, a mixture of in-house and outsourced team members might best help businesses reap the benefits of both options.

An Example Agency Program

Disclaimer: This is where I tell you about what we have to offer and “sell” a little bit. Feel free to stop reading if you’re not considering the outsourced alternative above, or you’re totally happy with your current arrangements.

Are you wondering what an agency program actually looks like?

We specialise in generating pipelines of qualified sales leads for organisations who sell complex services or major products (such as financial services, property services, education and training, consulting, high ticket products etc.).

Here’s an insight into our Gold Client Program which is appropriate for focused or single-service campaigns:

We get our highly capable digital specialists to create state-of-the-art traffic generation campaigns, install a testing and tracking system, then tweak and optimise the heck out of your online sales process.

Then we throw in the services of a pro copywriter, who works with you to perfect your sales message so you’re clearly, undeniably BETTER than everyone else in your market.

And once your online sales process is ticking along nicely, we add email marketing and nurturing strategies to move prospects deeper into your sales funnel.

We don’t do this so you can sit back and relax on the beach with a pina colada (though you’re welcome to do so if you’re able).

We do this so you can concentrate on doing the thing that YOU are best at in your business.

Those that have an imaginary business think the Gold Client Program is expensive – your investment will be around $9K in the first 3 months (plus traffic).

Yes, if you have an imaginary business, that’s pricey.

But if you have a REAL business, it’s CHEAP.

Here’s why: compare that to hiring an employee… ANY employee.

In Australia, $9K will get you a new graduate 2 days a week for 12 weeks. That graduate will likely have NO experience and limited real-world skills.

In the Gold Client Program, it buys you a crack team of website development and optimisation specialists who know how to do one thing: make your website make money.

You can spend the next 3 months trying to cobble together a team of freelancers, or you can get the best team money can buy working on your site right away.

If increasing the revenue and profit of your current website by 100 to 300 percent over the next 12 months would translate into a significant boost to your business, I invite you to consider joining us on one of the most profitable journeys you’ll ever take.

The first step is very low-key. I invite you to request your complimentary Online Marketing Strategy Session.

The Strategy Session is a 30 to 45 minute session with me on the phone in which we will discuss your current website results and where you want to be – then formulate a plan to get there. (If you don’t yet have a website, we can also discuss the best way to get started, although I should mention we only work with well-funded startups).

Of course, there’s no obligation whatsoever. This is just a no-risk way for us to get to know each other a little better and explore whether or not there’s a fit.

Click here to contact us now

Since I’ve held your interest this far and you’re still reading, chances are the Gold Client Program could be exactly what you need to put your online marketing on auto-pilot so you can focus on your core business.

Get in touch and let’s see if this is right for both of us.


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