As a business owner or manager, you have a ton of decisions to make.
And each one can weigh heavily on your mind as they can make or break what you’re trying to build.
When it comes to digital marketing, you have a couple options. (The marketing itself is NOT optional.
Should you hire a marketer for your business? Or, should you employ the services of an agency?
There are pros and cons to both sides of the coin.
My goal for this post is to educate you on the four crucial angles most people don’t think about when considering an agency vs. an in-house hire to handle the digital marketing for their business.
This is easily the number one variable you think about. And from a high-level view, it often favors an in-house hire.
For example, if you were looking to hire a digital marketer for your business, you’d be looking at an average salary of about $84,000. But from our experience, this would be for the big-city inbound marketers. On average, you’d probably pay a starting marketing hire around $50,000.
That said, if an agency would cost you $72,000 for the year ($6,000/mo) – to cover your email marketing, website design, blogging, lead generation and more – then an in-house hire sounds like a $20,000 cushion.
If it was all about the money then we could call ourselves Bill Gates and call it a day.
Unfortunately, there are a few more angles to consider.
This one quickly lowers that hypothetical $20,000 gap.
Once you’ve found a qualified new hire (and not a costly bad one), then it’s time to consider the following:
How long will it take until they fully understand your business inside and out?
How quickly will they learn all the software, terminology and skills necessary to run successful marketing campaigns?
At Flight Media, it takes approximately 12 months for a marketer to get a full understanding of everything we do. That includes software programs, strategies, implementation, etc.
Continuous learning in the arena of digital marketing is expensive.
There’s no question about that.
But it’s absolutely necessary if you want to get traffic, attract customers, and ultimately thrive.
Here are some examples:
And that’s just a sampling of what’s available in terms of training.
Bottom line: CE is unbelievably time consuming. (i.e. 💸💸💸)
This will be the death of me. (Or something close..)
So we’re clear, the software listed here is just for marketing – it doesn’t include the software you require to run your company.
Here are a few pretty necessary ones just for the marketer:
Estimated Software: $248/mo (or $2,976 per year)
I didn’t include the cost of software like Hubspot, SEMRush, or a social media management software because those will be needed regardless.
These software programs are essential to successfully manage digital marketing. For every one you don’t have, you’re shooting yourself in the foot.
Trust me. I did that once or twelve times.
Hate paying matching employer taxes? Hire an agency.
*Quick disclaimer: I’m not a tax pro. Nor do I desire to be one.
Currently, in Ohio, we pay 6.2% social security tax + 1.45% medicare tax on an employee salary (7.65% total).
On a $50,000 salary, that adds $3,825 annually.
What about a contracted digital marketing agency? Zilch. Nada.
You may offer these, you may not. (I’m talking about paid leave, supplemental pay, insurance, and retirement.)
If you do, you know that benefits in the private sector added an average cost of 30.2% to an employee’s salary. (Depending on what you offer.)
What does a new digital marketer need to run campaigns?
A new Macbook Pro, desk, chair, headphones, and bean bag of course. (They could take or leave the office space.)
Total cost: $2,000 (lasts about two years)
$2,000 / 2 years = $1,000 per year.
These are probably the least considered costs but definitely necessary.
Now, if you’re a nerd like me, you’ll take the average rent per square foot multiplied by their workspace square footage to find the average cost for space.
We spend about $500/yr for each person’s workspace. For utilities and internet, we make it a bit easier by dividing the annual bill by the total number of people in our company. (Yes, that means the cost will shift.)
Sure, you can get more granular, but that’s the easiest for us. If you have more people, the cost will be a bit lower. But if you’re a 15-person team and you pay $600/mo ($7,200/yr) for utilities & internet, then you’re paying $480/yr for each employee.
Take your average snack and drink bill for the year and divide it amongst your employees.
That’ll quickly add another $300. Total added: $1,280+ per year
Of course, your business can be run just fine with nearly all your employees remote, but, if you’re selling a product, you’ll need warehouse space or alternative storage for your inventory, and you’ll likely have to pay for it.
Adding up the numbers, an average hire will cost you between $25,000-$30,000 on top of the $50,000 salary. (Quickly putting you in the $75k-$80k range — similar to a digital marketing agency.)
All the money aside though, it really comes down to how valuable an agency vs. an in-house hire.
Who can provide the most value (i.e. ROI) for the spend?
The good thing about an in-house hire is that they’re always three steps away. You can pop in their office and put them on another task on command.
(Unless they’re remote. Then they’re just a *ping* away.)
However, the true challenge lies in their ability.
Running a killer digital marketing strategy requires not only marketing skill, but design, development, writing, and project management skill, too.
I’m sure you’ve heard the cliche phrase…
Often, you’ll find someone who is “well-rounded.”
They may be able to stay afloat for a few months, but as the marketing efforts start compounding, it’ll quickly turn someone into burnt toast.
On the other hand, a digital marketing agency will be stacked with straight-A players like:
All experts in their individual fields. All masters.
However, if you do happen to find someone who is a master of all five of those areas, give me a call.
Because you just found a unicorn.
When it comes to digital marketing, there can’t be major lag.
Here’s a pretty common scenario with your in-house marketing unicorn, Joe:
You: Joe! I had this great idea. To increase sales for our newest product, what if I put together a video for YouTube and launched it by Friday?
(*Finishes his current project and begins setting up the script for the video, building a landing page, writing follow-up emails, writing the announcement email, scheduling social media posts to promote it, and writing Facebook ad copy for a paid campaign on Friday at 4:30pm.)
You (on Monday): Hey, Joe! Is everything set up?
Joe: No. Give me the rest of this week.
As a business owner, you’ll have a million ideas. But there are about 50 tasks associated with every campaign idea you have.
For one person, setup time is ample.
For a team, it’s almost instant. (Or within a few days, tops.)
But what if the campaign was timely? What if you were trying to run a Black Friday sale?
Then it’s even more important to prepare and launch everything on time! Late execution can be costly.
Making the decision to hire a digital marketing agency or in-house isn’t an easy task – but it’s a necessary one.
While I may be a bit biased (I own Flight Media, an agency), I’m a very analytical guy.
And the numbers don’t lie.
Run them, tweak my numbers to your situation, but whatever you do, educate yourself before making impactful decisions.
With traditional marketing continuing to fizzle out, digital marketing is the new standard.
Whether you try to find a unicorn or hire an agency, it’s essential that you keep your forward momentum if you want your online store to scale.
Originally published November 2017; Updated March 2021