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Agency vs In-House Marketing: Which Is Best for Inbound?

5 mins read

With the growth of inbound marketing as a response to failing outbound techniques, more and more companies are adopting inbound methods as the key means of marketing. Given that a large part of the philosophy relies on being an authority on a particular niche and that you need to produce swathes of content to attract and nurture leads, it's tempting to conduct your own inbound campaigns. 

But which is best for inbound: Agency vs In-House Marketing? Let’s look at the following key inbound techniques and see which comes out on top:

  • Content knowledge
  • Content production
  • Inbound understanding
  • Inbound implementation
  • Business responsibility

Content knowledge

As a business, there’s no doubt that in-house employees will always have an advanced level of knowledge of their own particular industry, niche and product when compared to agency staff. That’s the nature of working with your own product all day everyday.

There’s no use in beating around the bush, this first round is clearly going to be a win for going in-house.

However, it should also be noted that agency inbound marketers are highly skilled too. They're experienced in researching a buyer persona and writing to interest, stimulate and educate them. This more than compensates for any potential setbacks in comparison to in-house staff's knowledge of the industry in question.

Purely in terms of knowledge about the industry, niche, product or service being marketed, in-house employees will have more inherent knowledge.


Agency Strengths

Agency Weaknesses

  • What they lack in depth of knowledge compared to your own staff, they make up for in SEO writing expertise.
  • Effective agencies are skilled at researching in order to produce effective content.
  • Rare for an agency to know your niche, product or service inside out from the start.
  • Need to spend time getting to know your industry, company, service and niche.


In-House Strengths

In-House Weaknesses

  • Good core understanding of your business and industry due to working in it each and every day.
  • Communication is easy so in-house inbound marketing team is immediately aware of any changes or demands from the business.
  • Potentially less aware of changes in the wider inbound world. Less expertise than a dedicated agency.
  • Unlikely to be 100% dedicated to inbound marketing so other responsibilities could undermine in-house inbound efforts.

Agency 0 - 1 In-House 

Content production

As alluded to in the above point, what separates an agency inbound marketer, from one who works in your current in-house workforce, is the fact that they know the ins and outs of inbound marketing.

They know the facets of a working inbound marketing campaign. How each part relies on another and how to optimise each and every piece of content produced in order to lead to more conversions.

Digital22 Sign_Mayzin&Chris (1) (3)-min

Agency inbound marketers also have a wealth of experience created by working for a portfolio of clients. They know what works and what doesn't, what's current and what's the future. All to make sure your inbound marketing stands out.

Content production does not just entail writing a series of blog posts and offering an eBook for download. To mention just a few others, your inbound team will have to produce: 

  • Blogs (which will generate organic traffic)
  • Call-To-Actions (which entice clicks)
  • Landing Pages (with copy)
  • Forms (which are attractive to users but collect worthwhile information)
  • Various Premium Offers (eBooks, white papers, infographics, case studies... in order to appeal to every stage of the Buyer's Journey)
  • Video (as this is what consumers increasingly want)
  • Email Copy (as well as planning workflows)
  • Social Media Copy (and management)
  • Paid Ads Copy (and management)

All of this needs to be of the highest quality, well suited to your multiple target personas and analysed during and after each campaign in order to fine tune your process.

As you can see this is a lot to ask of an in-house employee who also has other responsibilities. Also, for an inbound campaign to be fully effective, it can't be an "as and when" or "whenever you can" approach; it needs to be a constant focus.

Should other marketing demands or responsibilities impact your in-house inbound marketing efforts, previous work could be diminished because your content production and sharing has suffered in the meantime.

An agency being employed to do this removes those worries.


Agency Strengths

Agency Weaknesses

  • Due to inbound expertise, they know what works for your target persona(s) and what doesn't.
  • They have the resources and skills to produce effective content.
  • Removes the time and resource pressures away from in-house staff.
  • Expert agencies will have their own SEO and PPC teams that you can utilise.
  • Access to the best inbound marketing software.
  • Need to spend time vetting agencies and agreeing what is included in the price (amount and depth of content, level of social media management, etc).


In-House Strengths

In-House Weaknesses

  • Immediately accessible (depending on other responsibilities).
  • Usually offer limited experience with the full inbound process and content production processes, due to not being a dedicated , inbound specialist.

Agency 1 - 1 In-House

Screenshot 2019-10-22 at 15.39.07

Inbound understanding

A true inbound marketing team understands how important both PPC and SEO are to the full inbound process. PPC helps attract some quick hit traffic and opens up remarketing. It definitely has a place on the inbound roster. SEO is crucial to make sure your keyword research and domain authority are continually being improved.

They’re both complex aspects of digital marketing, which need close management in their own right. 

A fully effective inbound strategy relies on the latest understanding of user habits, trends and analytics. Resting on your laurels cannot be relied on at the best of times but especially when it comes to inbound marketing. For example, how prepared is your potential in-house inbound team for managing the growth of AMP pages in the future? Or video?

And what software will your in-house team have at their disposal? How will they manage their contacts and leads? Will nurturing be executed manually or autonomously via a tool like HubSpot?

Software such as this comes with a price and you may or may not have the internal budget to buy a license. Especially if it won't be worked on continuously.


Agency Strengths

Agency Weaknesses

  • Unparalleled understanding of the latest inbound processes and theory.
  • Access to the best software and technology to implement inbound campaigns efficiently.
  • Agency teams are continuously learning and adapting and experimenting. You get to harness these benefits instantly.
  • Expertise comes with a cost.
  • Effective inbound agencies offer more growth and lead generation than traditional advertising - the business needs to be ready for this.


In-House Strengths

In-House Weaknesses

  • Limitations in knowledge are offset by potential cost savings (but less effective ROI).
  • In-house staff typically will have other responsibilities, so whilst it might offer cost savings, there will be a compromise on quality and effectiveness.
  • Software and training comes with an additional cost.
  • It takes time to get up to speed on the theory and how to use the software needed to conduct inbound campaigns.

Agency 2 - 1 In-House

Inbound implementation

Assuming that your in-house team is now as up to speed as possible with the inbound methodology, the theory and strategy, as well as assuming being in a position to use efficient and effective software, such as HubSpot, to implement your upcoming inbound campaigns. It’s now time to get started.

Your in-house team now needs the time to plan and produce premium content for download and workflows for lead nurturing. They’ll also need to write killer copy for your blog, emails, CTAs, landing pages, thank you pages and social media accounts. 

All of these things and more then need to be analysed and improved upon for each and every campaign. Learning from what works and what doesn't, as well as adapting existing content and personas, helps shape the next campaign to be even better than the last. 

Would your in-house marketing team be able to do all of this?


Agency Strengths

Agency Weaknesses

  • Will have several clients so can learn and adapt quickly.
  • Up-to-date inbound strategies and understanding.
  • Has a wealth of past experience.
  • None.


In-House Strengths

In-House Weaknesses

  • Close contact (as mentioned in earlier regards).
  • Limited exposure to what works and what doesn't.
  • Time consuming to execute inbound campaigns effectively, which could detract from other responsibilities.
  • A struggle to keep continuously updated on the methods to implement inbound campaigns (constant new software updates and so on).

Agency 3 - 1 In-House 

Business responsibility

This is probably the most straightforward. Which of the two options is the bigger responsibility to the business: an agency or an in-house employee? Obviously the latter. 

However, you’ll need to decide whether an in-house employee will have the knowledge, tools and time to execute inbound marketing to the same standard as a professional, trusted agency.

If so, it might be worth foregoing the option of a rolling contract with an agency and taking on a full time in-house inbound team.

We understand it’s a hard decision to make but by answering, 'which option will better benefit my business in the long term?' You can choose between an agency or your own team.


Agency Strengths

Agency Weaknesses

  • Will have to be competitive on price to beat off the competition.
  • Can negotiate contracts more frequently than permanent in-house staff.
  • The quality of staff available through hiring an agency is more certain than hiring in-house employees.
  • An agency is easier to dispose of compared to an in-house employee.
  • You get what you pay for (so beware of seemingly too cheap to be true agencies).


In-House Strengths

In-House Weaknesses

  • Can be managed closely.
  • Impossible to know how they will work in the long run. Every in-house appointment is a risk.
  • Expensive month-to-month costs.
  • Training costs.
  • Hard to dispose of if things aren't going well.

Agency 4 - 1 In-House

Screenshot 2019-10-22 at 15.44.19

So there we have it...

When it comes to inbound marketing, there are clear advantages to using an inbound marketing agency. As long as you use the right one, they’ll give you superior insight and understanding, expert content production and the know-how to nurture leads into conversions effectively. 

Hiring an experienced inbound marketing agency is a wise choice if you want to increase your profit margins, develop your brand’s reputation and enhance that all-important ROI. If you’d like to find out how to pick the perfect agency, look no further.

You can download our guide to picking the perfect agency partner for free. The guide covers what an agency can help you achieve, the tools they use, inbound processes they’ll use and what to look for in reviews. It’s the one-stop shop for all things marketing agency.

Click the link below to download today.

This blog was originally posted in 2016 by Paul Mortimer. It was updated for 2020 by Jack Cribb.