Should You Hire a FTE or a Digital Marketing Agency?

When it comes to digital marketing, one of the first questions any organization has to ask themselves is whether or not to handle it in-house or outsource. There are pros and cons to both approaches, and it can be hard to know which is the right way to go.

This blog will highlight some of the pros and cons of hiring a full-time employee (FTE) or a marketing agency so you can come to an informed decision.

Hiring a Full-Time Employee

Having someone in-house can be a smart choice for a business, but it can also be the wrong fit. It largely depends on the size of your organization, the scope of your marketing, what your overall budget is and what metrics you'll use to measure success. 



You have someone on-site for faster communication

Having someone on-site (or on the clock, virtually) is going to make it easier to reach them when you have quick questions or need a fast update. They'll also be more familiar with your teams' capacity and workload since they'll be working alongside other employees.

You can cultivate a strong relationship and strengthen your team

A full-time employee is naturally going to have a much deeper dynamic within the rest of your team than a marketing agency will, just from being on-site and interacting with the rest of your team daily. 

A FTE will be focused only on your brand

A marketing agency will focus on your brand among other clients, whereas a FTE's only client will be your organization, so they will be able to have a deeper insight. 



It's expensive

Hiring a FTE is by far the most expensive option for marketing. The salary of one employee can easily equal or exceed the cost of hiring a marketing agency, especially when you factor in other expenses like benefits, health insurance, taxes, etc.

You need to take more time for onboarding and training

Since a FTE employee will be in your business for the long haul, that also means you'll need to do more training and onboarding to get them up to speed. This can seriously delay content production.

Limited skills and time

It's not reasonable to expect that one person will be an expert in all areas of digital marketing - from SEO, to PPC to content writing. Your new FTE will likely have a few areas they excel at.

Likewise, it's not reasonable to expect that only one employee will have the time to execute all aspects of marketing by themselves, particularly if you throw traditional marketing like print materials or event promotion into the mix.

You'll have to pick-and-choose areas of marketing or hire on more FTEs, which will increase costs further.


Best Fit

A single FTE is best suited for an organization with a larger budget that plans on doing very limited marketing, but growing in the future. Hiring a FTE early means that as your organization grows, you can hire on a digital marketing agency in the future to support the FTE - in this case, the FTE can act as a coordinator and focus on other in-house marketing tactics.


Hiring a Digital Marketing Agency

Hiring on a digital marketing agency is a big leap for organizations. However, it can be the best strategy for those who want to invest in marketing, accelerate growth and have a clear return on investment.



Specialized team members

When you work with an agency, you'll have one (or more) people on a team exclusively focused on one area of expertise. This means that you get the benefits of multiple employees, through one program.

More structure, planning and clearer results

Because most agencies need to plan ahead, your agency will work with you to create a structured content calendar and plan to ensure that marketing never lags.

An agency will also provide you clear reporting and metrics on all marketing efforts so they can attribute leads to their efforts. In turn, this means that you have more data without having to do analysis yourself. 

Less time spent on your end

One of the biggest values of outsourcing marketing to an agency is the time it frees up for your teams. It's obvious that a marketing team will free up time currently spent on things like making ads, writing blogs or sending emails, but they can also take on some unexpected timesucks as well - such as keyword research, competitive analysis or keeping your CRM up-to-date.

A good agency will handle every aspect of marketing - from research to execution - which means that all you need to do is provide approvals or feedback. 



Harder to do things on the fly

When you work with an agency, your business will be one of several that their team works with. This means it's harder to make sudden, last-minute changes.

With an FTE, you can more easily catch them at their desk to do a quick update. With an agency, you'll need to give them more time to make any sweeping changes.

Less involvement at every step

One of the main advantages of working with an agency is offloading time, but for some owners or managers who like to be very hands-on, this can be a challenge. You'll still have final say on all marketing materials, but you won't be as involved in every step of the production process.

Less familiarity with your internal process 

An agency won't have the entire history or insight into your business like an employee will. They can still understand your business, target market and goals but there will likely be a learning curve as your team and their team first learns how to work together and mesh processes.


Best Fit

A marketing agency is the best fit for a medium or large size organization that really wants to invest in marketing. A digital marketing team can work alongside an internal team to support traditional marketing efforts or work independently.


Should You Hire a FTE or a Digital Marketing Agency?

There is no one size fits all solution for every organization. When making a decision, consider:

  • Your digital marketing needs
  • Your current budget
  • Your future growth
  • Your current teams' capacity

A FTE employee makes the most sense for an organization with a large budget that's looking for long-term stability with a narrower marketing scope. A digital marketing agency is a better fit for an organization who wants to boost revenue now and make plans for future growth. 

Free Guide: Beginner's Guide to Digital Marketing 

This in-depth covers everything you need to know to get started with effective digital marketing

What exactly digital marketing is and how it works.
Explore a step-by-step process for running an digital marketing campaign in today’s competitive business landscape.

Best practices for your digital marketing strategy
We walk through how to implement a strategy using digital marketing, email, SEO, social media and online advertising.

How to measure the impact and ROI of your strategy
Make insights-driven business decisions and confidently present the value and impact of  marketing efforts in support of top-level business objectives.

BizzyWeb is a Minneapolis-based digital marketing and web design agency that helps companies get the high-quality leads they need to grow and thrive. Our tactics include inbound marketing, SEO, advertising, web design, content creation and sales automation. We are an accredited HubSpot Platinum Partner and we offer full-service HubSpot onboarding, enablement and strategy for new and current users.

Dave Meyer
Author: Dave Meyer
Dave Meyer is President of BizzyWeb. Dave has more than 20 years of experience in marketing and communications and has presented digital marketing topics to thousands of people across the US and Canada.