How to decide which makes more sense: hiring staff or a creative agency

Deciding between in-house staff or a creative agencySo you have a marketing need. Now the big question: Does it make more sense to engage a creative agency to help with your marketing efforts or hire employees with the expertise directly?

The answer? It depends.

Maybe you want to dive into content marketing, and don’t have anyone currently on staff with that specific expertise. Maybe you have in-house expertise and know exactly what you want to do – and how you want to get there – but you’re simply out of bandwidth.

The deciding factors

Deciding which path makes the most sense for your company depends on a lot of factors.

•  What type of marketing support do you need?Infographic thumbnail - in-house staff or creative agency
•  Is it a one-time effort or an ongoing initiative?
 Do you need writing? Design? Web development? PR expertise? Social media? SEO?
 What’s your deadline?
 Do you have expertise in-house? Do you need to?
 Do you have bandwidth to handle the marketing need?
•  What’s your budget for the initiative(s)? For the year? For the next few years?
•  How much time and resources do you have to search, hire and most importantly, train, one to five new employees to acquire the same level of expertise?

Use this infographic to help you walk through each of these factors for your business. And then let’s talk about cost.

What’s the bottom-line cost?

If you’re like most businesses, budget, time and expertise will be the ultimate decision-makers. While engaging a creative agency may seem like a costly endeavor, it may actually be more cost-effective than hiring a new employee.

Before deciding to expand your marketing staff, let’s see just how much it may cost you. For our purposes here, let’s say you want to expand your social media/content marketing efforts. Finding someone with true expertise in that discipline is crucial. Junior-level experts in this field typically expect an annual salary of no less than $70,000.

Now let’s take a look at what that $70,000 actually translates to, according to a recent CNN Money article:

actual hiring costs of employees
If you’re hiring someone who will need training, you also have to factor in half of their first-year’s salary since it will take approximately six months for your new employee to start producing consistently. In our example, that adds another $35,000 to the $87,792 for a grand total of $122,792.

And that’s for ONE discipline. Typically, marketing is an integrated effort, taking into account all disciplines. If you need to add more employees for additional disciplines, those costs keep climbing.

So the question then becomes: Is there a need to have this expertise embedded in your company? If the answer is “yes,” then adding staff to your marketing team may be the right choice for you – depending on all of the other factors.

If the answer is “not necessarily,” then engaging a creative agency as an extension of your existing marketing team may make more sense. Let’s see how…

Why a creative agency may make more sense

For about the same cost of hiring one employee, a creative agency gives you:

in-house staff vs. creative agency1. A team of cross-functional experts at your fingertips –with years of experience in business strategy, marketing strategy, social media, content marketing, communications, graphic design, web design and development, digital marketing, PR, video marketing and search engine optimization (SEO), to name a few.

2. Additional cost savings of 10 to 30% on outsourced services – including direct purchases and marketing programs, lead generation through inbound marketing, printing, media buys, advertising, etc.

3. Increased efficiency & productivity – instead of adding projects to existing employees’ plates who may not have that expertise, adding a creative agency to the mix increases efficiency, reduces burnout and enables your current employees to focus on their area of expertise, increasing productivity.

4. No training required – because agencies have numerous experts on staff in various disciplines you don’t have to take time away from your business to train them.

5. Easily scale your marketing efforts – without adding additional employees, which means you save time and money.

6. More than just marketing expertise – agencies provide leading-edge strategies, best practices for your industry and access to advanced marketing technology.

Before choosing an agency, there are few things to keep in mind:

•  Personality: Make sure their personality, style and values match with your company’s to ensure an easier working relationship with your existing team.

•  In-depth understanding: The agency should hold in-depth discovery sessions with you to understand what your business, sales and marketing objectives are before providing their proposed solution. This in-depth understanding also helps the agency determine the disciplines needed and time involved to provide you with an accurate cost estimate for the marketing initiatives.

•  One-time or ongoing services: Not all initiatives require a one-time, up-front fee. Many can be handled through an ongoing monthly fee – similar to many other business services, which can make the cost less prohibitive.

•  Cost: Don’t be too quick to accept the lowest bid for your job. Some companies will propose a low hourly cost for your project but will drag it out for months, ultimately costing you more money than if you go with the firm who accurately projects costs, delivers on time and is easy to work with. Remember: You get what you pay for. At the same time, negotiating is a fully acceptable tactic, and most creative firms are willing to work with you to agree on a cost that fits your budget.

There is no one answer when deciding whether or not to hire directly or engage a creative agency. It simply depends on what’s right for your business once you consider all the factors.