Should I Engage An Online Marketing Agency or Hire A Team In-House?

Ming Yeung

Disclaimer: This article may seem to be biased especially since it is written from an Agency’s perspective. However, if you could spend the next 5 minutes to rationalise with the flow of thoughts, it may open up your mind.

In today’s technological epoch, online marketing is indispensable in growing one’s business.

The question then is how and by how much? Should businesses hire a digital marketing agency, or should they hire an in-house team?

As an agency, we unabashedly believe that working with an agency is the smarter choice.

But of course, it must be a competent agency.

As cash is king, and that ROI is the key KPI for most businesses, it may seem that only big companies can afford to work with agencies, while smaller or cash tight companies should hire an in-house team to cut costs.

From our clients, we also understand the concerns of working with an agency:

  • costly
  • may overcharge using lack of transparency

If that’s what you’re thinking, it’s totally fine! In fact, you should feel this way if you’re concerned about your business.

But let me show you another way of thinking, and see how it might apply to your business.

1. Digital Marketing Is A Solution, Not A Problem

Look at it this way, digital marketing is the solution to spreading awareness about your brand and your products, and it is the vehicle that communicates what your business represent to your potential consumers.

In other words, it is what differentiates your brand, drives sales and procures repeat buyers – the lifeblood of your business.

As such, shouldn’t you employ only the best agencies to grow your business?

Why choose the easy way by cutting costs and settle for mediocre results?

This is similar to how companies cut their advertising budgets sharply in recessions – a good short term fix but what you sacrifice now, you pay for later.

Just like how if you turn off the engines of a plane flying at 36,000ft, it does not drop out of the sky. Indeed, as far as the pilot and passengers are concerned, life continues as normal with the plane only very gradually losing altitude. But eventually, it will crash and burn.

It’s the same with businesses..

Get an amazing engine, and you wil soar above your competition.

2. Agencies May Not Necessarily be More Expensive – In Fact, They Are An Investment, Not A Cost

Although it seems that agencies are more pricey, it may not be the case, as an in-house team incurs other costs which you may not have thought of.

a. Recruitment costs: time and effort needed to create an ad and interview potential candidates. But the key issue is do you know the qualities of a good digital marketer?

b. Training costs: a lot of time is needed to equip employees with the relevant skills (SEO, SEM, copywriting, etc). But what is more important, assuming that they have little to no experience, is that they do not know the ins and outs of the industry, and they are likely to commit mistakes. Can you afford these mistakes?

c. Turnover costs: with new employees, proper career progression paths have to be drawn up. Even then, there will be employees who leave and the whole cycle continues again. Not forgetting that there are other considerations such as maternity leave and reservist periods.

More importantly, working with an agency just makes more financial sense.

Let’s say you have a $50k annual budget. What do you get with a small in-house team?

Likely, a single headcount that cost easily more than half the budget, with the remaining budget into payroll taxes, staff benefits, office space, computers, phones and supplies. How much are you left with as actual marketing spend for advertising?

In the same scenario, how much can you get out of a $50k budget working with an agency?

Here’s a suggestion and breakdown of your $50k budget in engaging an agency:

  • Allocate $40K on SEM to drive PPC traffic to your website
    Having an evergreen traffic acquisition program is key to expose your brand and services whole year, especially when people are searching for your services. A $40K annual budget on SEM could mean getting you monthly guaranteed traffic of 2000~5000 visitors to your website! (If you have a smaller budget, check with us on how much estimated traffic you could get monthly!)
  • Spend $10K on Google Analytics tracking and review with a certified consultant!
    Once you have a steady stream of visitors to your site, it is imperative to understand which marketing channels are the most effective. To get some insights on the visitors to your site, do a 1 time Google Analytics Audit and half-yearly review of your site traffic with your agency

And all these backed by years of experience and proven methologies.

Working with a competent agency is an investment, not a cost.

Working Together with An Agency

Working hand-in-hand with a competent agency is an investment, because:

(1) We can focus our attentions and energy on the areas we are proficient in, e.g. you get to focus on business development, R&D, producing better products, while we leverage our experience, contacts, and expertise to increase your online presence and generate sales.

As resources are limited, we must channel our resources towards our core competencies and get the most out of them. No point trying to do what we are not good in/trying to do everything and ending up being mediocre in it.

In today’s world, the rules have changed, being good is the new average. It’s no longer enough to be “just enough” or just good. It’s imperative to be exceptional, to be different, to stand out amongst all the noise.

And this single mindedness on focusing on core competencies is what drives exceptional business growth.

(2) You can leverage on our years of experience – all the different campaigns we have undertaken in different industries, the mistakes we have made, and of course the smashing successes we have achieved.

These experiences are priceless.

(3) Finally, you can trust that agencies are kept up to date with the latest trends of the industry, and are cognizant of all the ins and outs of it. Leveraging this knowledge helps agencies take a shorter path, a faster path, and a more effective one towards helping you achieve your marketing needs.

Results are what agencies can promise.


Even though we advocate working with an agency, if you have the time, tools and talents on hand, then by all means form an in-house team, they can be invaluable.

For those planning to work with agencies, do hire what you can afford. View this as an investment, and weigh that investment against what one or more piece of business could be worth to you.

Regardless, many businesses can’t afford not doing digital marketing.

Why not do it with the best?

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