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February 19, 2016

Cindy Penchina, President


I’d like to talk frankly for a second about a taboo subject: money.

It’s bad form to mention money, and it’s something everyone is really apprehensive about. It’s awkward and frustrating – but ultimately every business transaction comes down to it. So let’s get real, and talk business in a serious way, without shuffling our feet or using euphemisms.

Is hiring a marketing agency worth the cost?

Short answer? Yes.

Here’s the long answer. A relationship with a marketing agency isn’t cheap, and it shouldn’t be. In the same way a really great car isn’t cheap, or a high-quality computer isn’t cheap, or a financial advisor isn’t cheap: you get what you pay for. And yeah, a great marketing agency can run you into six digits a year. Even on the low end, you’d be looking at something like $70,000 a year for dedicated marketing support.

So the question I get asked all the time is, well, why someone should hire an agency instead of just bringing someone on in-house. Surely that’d be less expensive.

It’s not. Not really.

You need to consider what that $70,000 a year gets you in both cases.

Let’s start with the in-house model. You hire a full-time junior-level marketing manager to handle all your marketing efforts. She’s pulling in, say, $60,000 a year – but she can’t do everything on her own. She’d need to bring in outside resources for copywriting, web design, graphic design, and more to cover skill gaps and to help her use her own time more efficiently. The cost of managing your marketing strategy plus actually implementing it adds up quickly – and that’s before you consider all the rest of the overhead a new team member brings with them, from insurance to benefits to equipment costs. You could be looking at overall costs approaching a full $100,000 a year.

And all that really gets you is one person.

With a marketing agency, all those resources are built into the retainer. Because a marketing agency is supported by multiple clients, the costs of maintaining the team are distributed, giving you a significant discount on the same level of marketing you’d get from a dedicated in-house team. For essentially the cost of one in-house marketing manager and a stable of outside vendors (with their own costs built into their fees), you get an entire team working on your behalf.

And it’s a team of seasoned professionals, including web and print designers, web developers, copywriters, and strategists, who are able to work more quickly, more efficiently, and more effectively than one harried person in an office struggling to wrangle a team of offsite contractors.

Let’s think about the other hidden cost of building your own marketing department: turnover.

Building a department isn’t a matter of hiring people. It’s a matter of hiring the right people, with the right skillsets, temperaments, personalities, and inborn talents to help you accomplish your goals. That’s a lengthy and often expensive process – which an agency has already done. It’s the difference between building a computer from scratch and buying one at the store: the first may be cheaper in the short run, but it comes with a significant opportunity cost in lost time.

There’s a lot to be said for plug-and-play.

The point of this isn’t to convince you to do something you aren’t comfortable with – if you’re not sure an agency is the way to go, don’t hire someone until you are. But the truth is that agencies are a more effective use of your money. And while the cost may seem higher upfront, the value is immense. So while building your own department can be tempting, the costs associated are significant.

So why not go for the experts?