By: Kristin Elms

Date: December 14, 2016

Much like the chicken or the egg, deciding whether to hire an agency or your own in-house team can feel like a question without end (or beginning). If you are thinking about hiring an agency or utilizing an internal team, it’s likely you’re doing endless research to gather what you can on every point you need to consider. You might also be considering running for the hills, or waking up in cold sweats as numbers swirl about. While this is a question that can be difficult to answer, a little inside knowledge can help. I have been on both sides of the fence, with over 6 years in-house and 7 years on the agency side, I’m happy to share my perspective. Ultimately, your project, campaign or business goals will drive the final answer, but here are a few things to consider that I’ve discovered along the way.


What It Means To Work With An Agency

Hiring an agency of any sort (Digital, PR, Content, Social, etc.) means that you’ll be working closely with other individuals to tackle your project. The agency will need to be brought into the details and dynamics of the brand, its stakeholders, and your project goals. In some form or another, the project’s tasks will be completed with the assistance of this agency. Depending on the type of agency you’ve chosen, you will be involved, either as a day-to-day point person, or working with them directly to complete your project. Keeping them in the loop on the company’s day to day is critical to your project success.


Agency Benefits

Experience and Skillsets

In terms of experience, it’s likely that you’ll have access to a range of levels of experience from junior to executive level. You will also have access to decades of knowledge within your vertical or industry. Most agency professionals have worked at several agencies in their career. This experience exposes them to hundreds of brands, thousands of projects, and a depth of knowledge working on challenges similar to your own.

Not only will you have access to a full team, but you’ll often have access to a wider breadth of talent; multiple departments, and disciplines of people who have a skillset that you may need to tap into, even if it’s just for a day.

Scales to Meet Client Need

An agency can supplement holes of experience of your in-house team, and can scale to meet your project needs quickly. Need a photographer tomorrow? You’ve got it. Need a web developer who specializes in ExactTarget or Umbraco? Done. Want an expert in optimization? Here you go. Often, agency partnerships extend beyond the immediate team, and they have a pool of independent contractors who are already vetted, proven reliable, and available when needed.

Outside Perspective

It’s easy to get caught up in the internal challenges and short-sightedness that happen when you work in-house. Having an outside perspective can be a much needed reminder of how your business is perceived by your customers. An agency doesn’t have the (unintentional) internal bias your employees may have and can see outside the walls of the company.

Built-in Relationships

Often, agencies have built-in partnerships with technologies and tools that provide perks and discounts. It also means that getting support and access to these tools is just a phone call away as they have existing relationships already in place.

Peace of Mind

When hiring an agency, every dollar you spend is put toward your project. You won’t pay for internal meetings, administrative time, or breaks. The contract you have with the agency is built on deliverables. This can allow you to put your time and resources toward other business objectives.


Agency Challenges

Brand and Business Intimacies

Getting your agency up to speed really shouldn’t take long, but if you don’t have brand documentation in place, this can be a hurdle. A good agency will start a project off with a kick-off call, at least. The onboarding process, getting to know the brand and its stakeholders can’t be rushed. Same goes for your business model, operations, and processes. If there is a transfer of knowledge that needs to happen to get things going, be open and flexible with your agency from the beginning.

Less Control

Any outside entity will have less impact and control over what happens behind the closed doors of the conference room. Your agency isn’t included in the day-to-day of the company, and keeping them up-to-date does take time and effort.


This is a hard one to admit, but agencies know that since they’re not sitting in your bullpen, they may seem harder to access. It’s true, you may not be their only client and they too have working hours, but a good agency will put communication and responsiveness at the top of their priority list.


What It Means To Hire (Or Utilize) An In-House Team

Using an in-house team means that your team will be working together to accomplish the company’s goals—be it business, marketing, or other. An in-house team is often committed and motivated to accomplishing these goals.


In-House Benefits

Brand Ownership

Your in-house team will always have a better pulse on the company, its goals and vision. Because of this, the internal team will have brand ownership and will be quick to understand and adopt a brand voice, adapt a message for the brand’s audience, and instill the company’s vision throughout.

Personal Stake

Everything you do has an internal reward and adds experience to your team’s resume. This might be launching a successful campaign, testing out new platforms, or changing your website’s look and feel—this experience will stay with your team, and make the next project easier.

Communication and Turnaround

Having resources that are accessible and present could make all the difference to your project, depending on its needs. Your employees will know the company intimately and are up-to-date on all company changes. Internal access to decision makers can speed up an approval process, or assist with getting different initiatives pushed through.


In-House Challenges

Staffing Challenges

Finding a candidate that has the skillsets you are looking for and is a culture fit can be like looking for a purple unicorn. It can also mean that you’re going to look at many resumes and hold countless interviews before finding the right candidates. Once you have a full team of unicorns, and one quits, you have to start the hiring process over again. This leaves others to cover and take on what needs to be done during the transition. This can snowball into larger challenges, overburdening your team, leading to burnout.

Skillset Limitations

New projects often require a new skillset and the time (and resources) to learn the new skill. Whether it is composing emails that generate clicks and sales, having access to press contacts to promote a new product, or an understanding of JavaScript to be able to implement optimization experiments, someone internally has to know how to do the thing that needs to be done. Often this means hiring the skillset or using trial and error. Each option has costs and risks.

Speaking Of Cost

You’ll notice that one (major) thing I didn’t cover is cost. Since projects and teams differ widely, it’s hard to say what will be more cost-effective for you. But there are great articles that discuss cost, and really get into the nitty gritty.



Whether you hire your own staff to fill out your marketing team or hire an agency to fill in the holes (or to be your marketing team) depends entirely upon what your business needs. Looking at the whole picture of your company and deciding what is the right fit and the right expertise needed all the time versus some of the time can often help make the decision (easier).