When is an in-house digital marketer better than outsourcing to a digital marketing agency?

Joel Gerschman

If you’re aiming to grow your business via digital marketing channels like Google Ads, SEO and Facebook or Instagram, how do you determine when hiring an in-house marketing resource is better than an external digital marketing agency? There are 3 key criteria to consider.

This video will help you apply them to your business, so you make the right decision for your growth.

Episode Highlights

  • Anyone you hire needs to be a genuine expert in virtually all the digital channels that your business is focused on – and why anything less won’t be enough to grow your business.
  • A breakdown of the different areas of digital marketing and the skills and knowledge needed to manage them effectively. And why it’s so hard to stay on top of it in 2022.
  • The reality of the costs involved in hiring a truly competent digital marketer (and avoid someone learning on your dime).
  • What kinds of businesses it makes sense to bring digital marketing in-house and the questions you need to ask to determine if you’re one of these businesses.
  • At what level does the digital marketer or agency need to understand your business to help grow it? Here Raph makes an analogy to help explain the levels of knowledge needed to reach the destination.
  • The importance of communication at different levels to ensure all relevant parties are clear about the business objectives, the digital marketing roadmap to reach those objectives, and the actual execution of digital marketing campaigns. It’s also important to have clear and fast communication when it comes to inevitable issues that come up such as stock shortages.
  • A hack that has been a game changer in communication at Digital Autopilot.
  • The extra costs and headaches involved with hiring an in-house digital marketer.
  • Joel summarises the 3 most important factors for choosing an in-house digital marketer vs an agency:
    • 1. They need to have the right expertise of the various digital marketing channels.
    • 2. You need to be realistic about the costs involved for each option
    • 3. How much they need to understand your business to really make a positive impact


Joel (00:03):
Hi there. It’s Joel and Raph here from digital autopilot. And we’ve got an interesting question. This is one that I often get from business owners as a coach. And they’re often trying to implement different marketing strategies to grow their business. And one of the questions I get is: What’s the criteria to work out whether an in-house digital marketing resource is better for us than employing an external agency. How do I make that decision? And I often give them three critical criteria to think about. One is the extent to which they understand or can understand the business. Two is the costs. And three, perhaps the most important is, do they have the right expertise to be able to manage the marketing channels that are essential for business growth? I’m going to throw it over to you Raph. Can you talk us through those criteria in a bit of detail to help people make that decision for their business?

Raph (01:12):
Yeah, sure. So on one hand I feel a little bit biased here because, you know, Joel and I, we, we run an agency, but at the same we had discussions like Joel mentioned with business owners about in-house versus agency. And I think the answer is, it really depends. I’m not one to say that it’s always an agency. Whilst I’d like to say you should always come to an agency, I actually don’t think that’s the reality. The reality is it sometimes does actually work out when you have someone in-house. So, what I I’ve observed in working with other businesses that either have had somebody in-house who then come to us, or they’ve worked with us and then go in-house, and sometimes we’ve worked with the internal digital marketing expert in the company….

Raph (02:14):
And we’ve sort of seen that perspective as well. So sort of, I guess, the three sides. But there’s a few areas that I feel are important that will help you succeed if you want to have somebody in-house. Number one is they need to be an expert in virtually all the digital channels that your business is focused on. And, and I mean, genuinely they are real experts, not just people who say they’re good at everything in digital, but they really don’t know. Like they know enough to ask a few questions here and there, they know enough to I’d say be dangerous as we sometimes say, but they really don’t know enough to take your campaigns, your digital marketing to the next level.

Joel (03:05):
And Raph, getting practical about that… so for example, we’re saying that if you are running a… You need to run a Google ads campaign, and you’re wanting to run a Facebook campaign and you’re wanting to do SEO, you know, organic… they really need to be expert in each of those areas. They can’t just have a superficial knowledge of…

Raph (03:24):
I’ll go even more. I’ll go even more granular. I mean, if you’re talking about an e-commerce client or an e-commerce company, I should say, not only, you know, within Google ads, you’ve got search, you’ve got, performance max or the new AI, machine learning driven, automated campaigns. You’ve got shopping, you’ve got display, you’ve got remarketing. So just within that Google sphere, you’ve got search ads, which need to be well written. The Google shopping is run by a merchant feed. So you need that technical, knowledge or experience for display and re-marketing. You need the skills of knowing what images to use, what calls to action…that’s also for search as well. There’s understanding the analytics and how to take the trends, the data, and turn that into meaningful actions within a campaign. So you need to be, quite expert in understanding all that. Facebook is a different beast whilst it still can have its, uh, My speakers just changed one second.

Raph (04:53):
Yeah, so… Facebook is a different beast. You need, you need a bit more understanding of writing direct response copy because Facebook, hits your potential audience at a higher level of the funnel where they’re not really that interested or they might not be looking for you. So you need to get them down through a funnel. So, so that digital marketing expert within your company needs to understand that psychology versus the Google ads, which is lower down the funnel. People who go to Google type what they want. Then you’ve got SEO. SEO is another skill set. Content writing, link building, the technical aspects of the on page SEO. So it’s quite a diverse range of skills. And, and the reality is, you’d be very, very lucky if you could find one person that has all these skills at a level that you need to actually grow and take your company to the next level.

Raph (05:50):
So I think the reality is is that you might have somebody in-house who knows maybe 75% of those skills really, really well. Maybe let’s say Google ads, Facebook ads, but then the SEO, the organic, they know enough, but then they might need to outsource some of it and get some outside assistance. So if there’s enough resources within a company, then you can use them for let’s say the content writing or something like that. And it also depends on how big the business is and how busy it is, how complex it is. Are there multiple branches within the business? If so, um, it would be a lot. And then the next thing is let’s say you can find someone like that. The question is cost. So, you know, looking at the Australian market, you’d be lucky to find somebody who’s genuinely an expert at most or all of these things for less than a hundred, 120K I think per year. You’d probably be looking at 150, maybe 200,000 to get someone who genuinely will be able to hit the ground running, will not need to be trained, they’ll do their own training as well. They’ll be, self-motivated fully immersed in these, uh, different skills and sort of knowing what’s going on in the world.

Joel (07:03):
People sometimes I think do make a bit of a mistake or maybe there’s a misconception that you can kind of employ someone at the, you know, the 60, 60, 70 grand level…

Raph (07:18):
The junior junior type level.

Joel (07:20):
Yeah. Junior, or even a little bit more experience than that. And then assume they’re going to actually be able to implement your digital marketing campaigns. They may be able to do some things. They may be able to set up an email newsletter. They may be able to get a Google Ads campaign going, but can they optimise it? Can they achieve the kind of return on investment? My experience is that someone at the 60, 70 grand level is, is rarely able to do that. And you’re going to need someone, who’s got a different level of experience and that’s obviously going to cost more.

Raph (07:56):
Yeah, look, it might, it might be possible. You might get lucky, but it to find a gold nugget like that will be, like you said, very, very rare. It might depend on your business situation. For example, you might be a business owner of a small business and you’ve dabbled in Google ads yourself, and you’re trying to get somebody to help you. So there, you might be able to help them and guide them a little bit and you could grow, but for most business people, it’s not going to be like that. You’re going to be an expert in your business and know how to run your business, but this digital marketing stuff, you’re not going to know. So to get somebody really good and to make it, to turn your website into a real revenue generating aspect of your business, you’re going to need an expert and it’s going to cost, but it’s, you know, it is possible.

Raph (08:38):
I’ve seen that with businesses that are, particularly with the one business that I can think of. They had a couple businesses online that were doing over 20 mil revenue per year. So they had the resources and they found someone who was really good at a lot of these things. And we worked with them for a couple of years, but then they, they grew to a point where they were actually able to take on that person internally and there was enough work for them. That’s the other thing is if you get somebody full time, are you able to afford it? If you’re able to tick those boxes, is there enough work for them to keep them busy, satisfied, and, you know, working in the business? And the advantage as well of having somebody in-house is that they have intimate knowledge of the business and they can speak to the team, so’s also that speed.

Joel (09:24):
How important is that?

Raph (09:27):
Look, it’s very important to know the business, otherwise, how are you going to translate the goals and the objectives and all the little nuances, into the digital marketing campaigns, and to communicate it effectively. It’s like a salesperson effectively.

Joel (09:45):
Let me challenge you for a second there, right? ‘Cause we run a digital agency, right? So, we don’t live inside our clients’ businesses literally. So how does that work?

Raph (09:57):
Work? How, how do we get around that?

Joel (10:00):

Raph (10:00):
So, I’d say communication, it really comes down to communication at different levels. Firstly, having a great onboarding, initial meeting discussion about business history, the business situation, the objectives, and having a real sincere discussion about that and not necessarily just making it about the digital marketing side of things. Like really try and dig in and be curious about the business. How did this happen? And what about stock levels and sales people? It’s discussed, you know, quite from a holistic perspective. So having that initial meeting I think is very important to, and taking notes so that you are, and then over time, you’re going to hopefully communicate. So there’s email there’s phone. We use a lot of loom as well, which is like video, you know, we record our screen so we can convey some of the data and explain things and that helps the client understand because then they can watch it in their own time and then come back to us with their thoughts.

Raph (11:08):
And we’ve found that that’s been a game changer in communication. So I think constant communication with the client we’re working with the client now they’ve got the major stock shortages. As we know, whether we’re in the pandemic or post pandemic, there is, there are stock shortages around the world. The supply chains have not recovered since before COVID in many industries and we’ve got some clients that are doing great business, but there are stock shortages. So how do we deal that? We communicate quite frequently with the client, who lets us know how stocks are for these brands and so forth. So as long as there’s communication, I don’t think you need to be in the business to understand it enough to do your digital marketing effectively. And again, we might address that in another discussion Joel, as to like how much do you need to know to be effective in outsourcing to an agency.

Raph (12:01):
But, um, I think it can still work very well. If you do use an agency to understand the business. The analogy that I thought of…I don’t know if it’s a great analogy…Maybe you can tell me here is that, an airplane pilot does not need to know every destination they’re going to, everything about that destination. They just need to know where are we going to. Good, I’m a pilot, I’m an expert. I know what buttons to press. I know what levers to pull. I know that I have to look at the weather conditions of where we’re going. So I know how to plan and prepare for that. When do we use autopilot? When do we not? When do we go lower? When do we go higher? So I kind of feel that if you do decide to get an external agency or resource to manage the campaign, as long as they know the goals well enough and you communicate well enough and they’re getting the information and there is communication, then they can get you to that goal that you need.

Raph (12:58):
And, and often more efficiently because at the end of the day to have somebody in house, it costs money. You need to pay super, you need to pay work cover, the PAYE. There’s all those extra costs of getting a desk, getting a computer there’s probably 20, 30% more on top of just the salary you have to take into consideration. Making sure they’re satisfied within the business as well. You know, especially in this fast moving dynamic industry of digital marketing, things are changing constantly. So you need to have somebody who’s driven and passionate about this industry and knows how to get the best out of it. So, keeping somebody motivated within the business is important as well.

Joel (13:40):
Can I just summarise…

Raph (13:44):
Yes, I often go off tangents. So yeah, summarise.

Joel (13:46):
We’ve said a few, I think, important things you need to take into account when you’re thinking about an in-house digital marketing resource. So we’ve said, number one, they need to have the right expertise. Right. So if you’re wanting to do Google ads and Facebook and they have to get that and they have to get that at a deep level. That’s number one. Two, you need to think about costs, right? So if you can find a resource who can do all those things, just make sure you’re prepared that that resource is not, is usually not going to be 60, 70 grand. It’s going to be, you know, double that approximately. And so that’s, that’s the second key point. And then the third one is about knowing your business. So an in-house resource does have, um, I guess, an advantage of being there in the environment and understanding your business and that, that is important. But at the same time, a digital agency could do that with the right communication mechanisms in place, is what you’re saying. So those, I guess are the three criteria to think about. There’s not necessarily a right or wrong answer. It needs to be evaluated based on your particular situation. But if you take those criteria into account, you’re likely to make a good decision.

Raph (15:01):
And, and if you have any questions on this topic, in house versus agency, whatever it is, send them through to us. We’re happy to happy to advise you on that.

Joel (15:12):
Beautiful. Thanks very much. Thanks for your conversation.

Raph (15:16):
Thanks for listening.

Joel (15:17):
See you everyone.

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