Agency vs in-house marketing: Which one is most cost-effective?

Digital marketing is the secret to consistent business growth, high conversion rates, and increased revenue. With over 4.6 billion people on the internet, this marketing tactic is the only way to ensure that you engage with a large section of your target audience. 

Whether you're looking to implement SEO strategies, social media advertising, content marketing or pay-per-click ads, at some point, you'll need a dedicated digital marketing function to support your business goals. This then raises the most important question; should you hire an in-house marketing specialist or partner with a digital marketing consultancy? 

We've compiled an in-depth guide on both options, including their pros and cons, to help you make an informed decision. 

What are the differences between a consultancy/agency and in-house marketing?

In-house marketing requires an internal team to develop, maintain and handle all your businesses' digital marketing efforts. Agency marketing, on the other hand, is where you outsource your digital marketing needs to a marketing consultancy, like ESM Inbound. 

Here's a quick summary of their differences based on several factors.

  • Skillset

While digital marketers are highly diverse, few of them are adept with each of the digital marketing fields. It's also difficult for one person to effectively handle all your digital marketing as you scale, so you'll have to hire several experts. 

Marketing agencies, on the other hand, usually have a pool of experts, each dedicated to a specific area of digital marketing. This kind of specialisation allows the professionals to grow their skills in one area and thus provide more value. 

  • Adaptability

The digital marketing field is diverse, and tactics that were effective a few years ago are now obsolete. Most digital marketing consultancies dedicate vast resources towards their employees, so they are likely to be well-versed with new technologies. 

In-house teams, however, can be more adaptable when it comes to changes in high-profile tasks. Agencies handle many clients and often require prior communication before making changes, which could slow down your campaigns.  

  • Creativity

Digital marketers are naturally innovative. However, if they are constantly doing the same tasks, their creativity is likely to dwindle. Since an in-house team is solely dedicated to you, this task repetition may impact their productivity. 

Marketing agencies, on the other hand, handle multiple clients, so they're always implementing new strategies. This keeps them on their toes, and they're likely to bring in the fresh perspective that your business needs. 

  • Cost 

Generally, in-house teams allow for cost flexibility; you can try out new ideas, create a lot of blog post content, strategise and adopt new digital marketing methodologies without incurring extra costs.

Marketing consultancies, however, typically offer service packages, which can work out as more cost-effective but means you only get what you pay for. For instance, if blog posts were not part of your package, you'll have to incur the extra cost

  • Control 

In-house marketing teams give you more control over your marketing than agencies do. You can review ad copies, make real-time changes to your marketing strategy or update your website without much fuss. This kind of collaboration can also be achieved through a consultancy, although specialists will be more likely to lead with their expertise and advise on ways to do things.

What are the benefits and drawbacks of agency vs in-house marketing?

Before investing in an in-house team or engaging with a marketing consultancy, you should consider their benefits and drawbacks. This will give you a clear picture of the route you should take. 

In-house marketing


  • High levels of accessibility and collaboration: you can oversee and make changes to projects in real-time. 
  • Dedicated resources: all of your in-house marketers are 100% focused on your business. It is hard to get this level of dedication in an agency.
  • Control: you have complete control of your marketing and the direction it takes. 
  • Brand familiarity: an in-house team knows all aspects of your business and will use this information to create personalised marketing strategies. 


  • Finding the right talent is expensive and takes a lot of time. According to LinkedIn, hiring can take anywhere between a couple of days to 4 months. 
  • It's not always cost-effective, especially when you need to hire several experts.

Digital marketing consultancy


  • Diverse talent: agencies usually have multiple experts in various digital marketing fields, so you have a wide pool to choose from. 
  • High capabilities: if you'd like to try out new digital marketing techniques, an agency will always have a skilled expert.
  • Wide range of marketing tools: the agency package is usually inclusive of the software and tools you'll need, which are often expensive.
  • Scalability: marketing consultancies can easily scale up to meet your growing business needs. 


  • They have multiple clients: they aren't solely focused on your business, and your business may not get the attention it needs to thrive.
  • Unfamiliarity: Unlike in-house, not being a part of your business means it may take a while for the agency to get to a great level of knowledge about your products or services.

What is the average cost Of hiring a digital marketing manager in the UK?

There are several costs associated with hiring an in-house digital manager, including;

  • Recruitment
  • Onboarding
  • Training
  • Salary
  • Benefits.

You also have to incur professional development costs so that they can stay informed of any current digital marketing methodologies. The average salary for a digital marketer in the UK is £33,632, but you'll incur more due to training and recruitment costs. 

What is the average cost of using a digital consultancy in the UK?

Digital marketing consultancies often have various packages depending on your business's size and marketing needs. On average, the rates are £400 to £10,000 per month for small and medium-sized businesses. This is inclusive of the human resources, software, and tools required for your marketing. 

Should you hire an in-house marketing team or use a digital marketing agency?

Both options have distinct benefits and drawbacks. Hiring an in-house digital marketer will give you control over your marketing efforts and ease collaboration between the stakeholders and the team. Your employees will also dedicate their skills to your business and use their in-depth knowledge of your organisation to create marketing strategies. You may, however, have to hire multiple personnel, which can be expensive. 

Marketing agencies, on the other hand, have a diverse pool of skilled marketers, are highly scalable, and have all the tools needed to implement your digital marketing strategies. They, however, handle many clients, and your business may not be a priority to them. 

The decision to hire an in-house marketing team vs a digital agency should be dependent on your business goals, organisational values, and budget. Go for the option that seems cost-effective and will help your business grow. 

If you'd like help creating effective digital marketing strategies for your business, ESM Inbound would be delighted to help! Contact one of our experts today for an interactive consultation.

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