Wondering how to choose a digital marketing agency? This guide will help.
Digital marketing is any marketing activity on an electronic device, most often connected to the internet. It's a term which covers areas like search engine optimisation (SEO), content marketing, email marketing, and any more.
If you decide to do digital marketing you can choose between an in-house team or an external agency (or a band of freelancers, but we're not covering those here).
Here are the top-level benefits of working with an agency:
- Traffic: more people visiting your site
- Conversions: more visitors becoming customers
- More revenue: the money your new customers spend
Below we explore a few factors to help you decide between in-house powerhouse, or an agency of experts for hire.
Agencies either charge a one-off price for a campaign or a retainer for ongoing servicing. Cost will vary depending on the size of the agency, their prestige, the scope of the project, and various other factors.
Quoted numbers may seem high initially, but it's worth thinking about what the money gets you:
- The time of many team members
- The insights from expensive tools and software
- The expertise to extract and action the best insights
- The experience to effectively design and implement strategies built around these insights
With an in-house team you are responsible for recruitment, meaning recruiter fees, redundancy packages, pension contributions, holiday pay, sick pay, and various other costs on top of their salary.
You are responsible for development: training costs, progress reviews, and so on. You are also responsible for provision of a workspace: a computer, a desk, office supplies, facilities, a parking space, etc.
Outsourcing to an agency absolves you of all of these responsibilities.
With an agency, your money gets you access to multiple minds, each of which whom has specialist areas and interests. Using the equivalent of an annual salary for one in-house copywriter, for example, could give you access to a team including copywriters, graphic designers, social media managers, email marketers, content strategists, and many more.
Instead of hiring a jack of all trades, you buy slices of the time of kings.
But you have less steer on how this expertise develops. With an in-house team, you can curate their training and development in a way which best suits your business; with an agency, the ebb and flow of the industry usually dictates their development.
You also only have access to this expertise while paying: it does not become a permanent part of your team.
Agencies have to keep abreast of all the latest changes to stay competitive and continue to attract custom. This gives them huge motivation to learn and grow, and clients will benefit from this.
Often with in-house teams this learning happens more slowly, if at all. There is risk of inertia: for in-house teams to get stuck in a rut of doing what works, rather than looking for things which could work better.
Results are a good motivator for an agency. If at any point you feel they are not achieving how they should due to a lack of knowledge, you can move on. This is harder with internal staff.
As above, agencies have to know their way around industry tools to stay competitive. This knowledge lets them drill deeper into the data, to extract more and better insights, and to incorporate these into your digital marketing strategy.
They cover licensing fees, too. Software licenses can be hundreds or thousands of pounds per month, so removing this cost from your balance sheet is probably a favourable decision.
An in-house team will have a much tighter grasp of your competition, unless you work with an agency who are particularly established in your niche. This insight into competitor behaviour can be a blessing and a curse. A blessing because things that work can be replicated and things that don't can be avoided; a curse because in-depth knowledge of your niche ecosystem can stifle creativity by framing everything in one box.
Conflict of interest
It is not unheard of for an agency to serve two companies in the same industry verticals. In this case, you and your competitor both receive the same expertise. There are pros, because you still rise above companies in your niche who aren't investing in their digital marketing, but there are cons too: you will have less chance of standing out above the whole crowd.
Your in-house team live up to their name: they're under the same roof as you and you can easily talk to them if need be. It's easier to build rapport with team members than it is to agency employees. This may lead to a longer delay for questions, comments, and concerns to trickle down to the people with the knowledge to address them.
Do you want an entire marketing strategy designed and implemented or do you want someone to write the content for your company blog? The former lends itself better to an agency; the latter to an in-house part-timer.
Because digital marketing is such a wide umbrella, it's worth bearing scale and scope in mind when evaluating the points above. An agency won't always be more cost effective than hiring and training in-house staff, but most of the time it probably will be.
In short, deciding whether to hire a digital marketing agency or employ an in-house team is a series of trade-offs.
You exchange some level of direct control for a reduction in the amount of things you must actively manage. Reports and catch-ups exist to plug this gap and to demonstrate that things are getting done.
You exchange a lump sum of cash for expertise which will not become a permanent part of your team, but you see the results much more quickly, and do not have to worry about organising and overseeing training and personal development.
While all of the factors above will influence your decision, the guiding factor should be digital marketing metrics like traffic, conversions, and ROI. A successful relationship with the right digital marketing agency will deliver those things.