We've written before about the pros and cons of hiring a digital marketing agency compared with hiring an in-house marketer or marketing team. Two separate client conversations last week brought the topic back to our attention and gave us some insight into the topic from their point of view.It's a tough decision for a business owner or director when they realise that the business has grown to a stage that they can't just muddle along doing what we like to call "random acts of marketing" and squeezing it in when they find the time.

For a business to grow in a strategic and planned way, its marketing also has to be strategic and planned. What's more, the plans also need to be implemented in a consistent and professional way. Plans are no good if they never get off the ground, or equally if they are carried out by people who don't have the right skill set. But we will come to that later!

Hiring Your Own Marketing Team

First let's look at what would be involved if you wanted to carry out all (or most) of your marketing activities in-house. You'd probably want to start with one person and gradually build a team from there. So the initial decision will be what sort of person you want to employ and at what level of seniority.

Marketing Team interview

Your options are:

Marketing Assistant

A junior-level marketing assistant who can move work along, implement your ideas and most likely post to social media (it's always the juniors who are tasked with social posting, even though it is one of the most visible ways of representing your brand in public and should be taken way more seriously). You'd reduce some of your workload in terms of hands-on tasks but you'd still be the one doing the thinking and planning and making the decisions, and so you'd need to be comfortable with retaining the overall responsibility and being the one who needs to get the ball rolling as well as sign off on any content that is produced. The junior will most likely grow into the role over time, but if you are only hiring one person, they won't have anyone to learn from and so their opportunities to learn best practices and develop their knowledge will be limited. 

Marketing Executive

A marketing executive brings a level of expertise that allows them to not only carry out plans competently with little supervision but also contribute valuable insights to your marketing efforts. They have probably honed their skills in a few specific areas of marketing, making them capable of making informed decisions independently, at least in some cases. This level of experience means that they can take on more responsibility in executing campaigns, freeing you up to focus on the broader strategy. Their knowledge and competence will enable them to run your marketing activities on a day-to-day basis with a small level of input. 

Marketing Manager

A senior-level marketing manager will be able to take care of the planning, collaborate with you on strategy and make decisions. They will have sufficient knowledge and experience to devise and run strategic and impactful marketing campaigns. They can provide valuable insights, drive innovation, and ensure that their marketing efforts align with your overall business goals. Their focus is on setting the direction and overseeing the execution, and so they may not be as inclined to get involved in the nitty-gritty tasks such as scheduling social media posts, monitoring analytics, or creating content. Their expertise lies in making strategic decisions, creating a plan to achieve the business goals and overseeing the execution of that plan.

Web designer


A graphic designer is another option if you have a lot of creative work, such as exhibition stands, social media posts, infographics, presentations etc. To make a professional impression, it's much better to hire a designer than to rely on your marketing person to give it a go. There are certainly some great design tools out there, such as Canva, but they are no substitute for an expert. From selecting the right colour schemes and typography to ensuring consistency in branding and messaging, a designer can help you maintain a cohesive look across all your marketing channels. In most cases, companies outsource their design work to an agency or freelancer as they don't have regular enough work to keep an employee occupied but it does depend on the nature of the work.

When you start looking at these options, it is apparent that it's difficult to just pick one person to look after all your marketing, and even with all those options you'll still need additional help with tasks like video editing, copywriting and technical skills involved in making changes to your website.

A point to note is that marketing people move jobs A LOT. You'd probably expect a marketing executive to stay for 18 months to two years. if you only have one marketing employee and they leave, you lose all the knowledge and have to start from scratch each time you hire someone new.

The Cost of A Marketing Team

So let's say in the long term, you decide to hire a marketing manager and a marketing assistant and outsource your design to a freelancer.

Looking at Indeed.com a senior marketing manager in Edinburgh would command around £60,000 a year and an entry level marketing assistant about £25,000. A freelancer designer might charge around £500 to design a brochure. Apparently the true cost of employing someone is as much as 1.7 times their salary, which means that assuming you give the designer work every month,  your team is costing £150,000 a year. And that's not counting web developers, videographers or other specialists you might need from time to time.

That brings me back to one of the conversations we had with a client. They commented that if they didn't use us they would have to employ several people to do the same job.

The other conversation relates to the cost of sorting out mistakes and missing opportunities.

In the words of a client "We moved our marketing activities to Red Evolution... following several years of employing in-house marketers. Since doing so, our direct enquiry levels have more than doubled so far, and are on track to treble this month... We have all facets of our marketing streams and platforms fully interacting with each other and resulting in direct new business."

The Cost Of missed opportunities

Unfortunately, over the years we have sorted out more broken websites than you'd believe. There are so many aspects to be aware of and it's very easy to miss something, particularly if you're not an experienced web developer.

We've picked up on a few websites telling Google not to index them, when we've been asked why they aren't getting much traffic. 

We've found websites telling Google that the old version of the site is the right one and to ignore the new version (which looks like this when it's fixed).

We've found sites that performed really well being killed stone dead when a new site comes online because the urls have changed and haven't been redirected.

We've found four identical versions of sites (http, https, http://www, https://www)

We've found duplicate pages competing with each other.

We've found Google ad campaigns actively targeting paid clicks for things that the company doesn't provide which wastes time as well as money.

We've found enquiry forms that don't send enquiries.

Not to mention issues with branding, logos, YouTube channels, Facebook pages... the list goes on.

While these are all genuine mistakes, they can be really damaging if they aren't picked up quickly. If your business revenue relies on your website being found on a search engine and generating enquiries and that stops working, it is disastrous. 

You have the cost of fixing the mistake - which is usually fairly minor if you find an expert who knows what to look for - as well as the opportunity cost of the enquiries you didn't receive and the new customers you didn't attract.

When you look at it that way, the cost of hiring an expert team doesn't seem unreasonable.

The Value A Digital Marketing Agency Can Add

Digital marketing agencies can either fulfil the role of an entire marketing department or they can fill in the gaps. By providing a wide range of services such as they can help clients make sure they have all their bases covered. Their services normally encompass search engine optimisation (SEO), pay-per-click (PPC) advertising, social media management, content marketing, email marketing, video editing, web design, web development as well as strategy, planning and data analysis.


Strategic Planning

Creating a strategic digital marketing approach heavily relies on analysing and interpreting data. This data forms the basis for making informed decisions and developing effective marketing strategies aligned with business objectives. However, number crunching can be time-consuming for the average marketing department, and it requires a deep understanding of ever-evolving analytics tools and techniques.

The expertise and experience of digital marketing agencies can be extremely helpful at the strategic planning phase of any campaign as they have the resources and up-to-date knowledge to navigate the complexities of data analysis and the skills to interpret the data to inspire creative ideas and aid decision-making.

Having a well-informed marketing plan ensures that you spend every penny of your budget on tactics that have been thought through and work together to meet your overall marketing goals, rather than the point-and-hope method of jumping on the next new shiny idea just so you can say you are doing something.

strategic palnning


For example, most companies outsource some or all of their design work rather than employing a graphic designer. The choice is mainly because the nature of design work means that they can't keep a designer busy all the time and it's risky to delegate design work to non-designers if your brand and image is important to you.

It's also important to realise that designing for the web requires a unique skill set that goes beyond traditional graphic design. Web design involves considerations such as user experience, responsive design for various devices, and conversion optimisation. A web designer must understand how to create visually appealing layouts that are also functional and user-friendly. They need to look great but load quickly, and also take into account how easy the designs are to develop and how accessible they are. 

Writing Compelling Content

When it comes to writing marketing content, it's not just about putting words on a page. It's about creating a story that captivates your audience, engages their emotions, and ultimately drives them to take action. Many people have a natural ability to write, but when it comes to crafting a blog post, a case study, or a web page, they may find themselves at a loss for words. This is where working with an agency can be a game-changer.

Having a digital marketing team on your side takes away the stress of writing content for your website and frees up your time to focus on looking after your own customers. 

Moreover, an agency will work with you to develop a comprehensive content plan. This plan will outline the purpose of each piece of content, how it fits into your overall marketing strategy, and how it will help you achieve your specific goals. By having a well-thought-out content plan in place, you can ensure that every piece of content created serves a meaningful purpose and contributes to the success of your marketing efforts.

Managing Online Ads

Unless you have a great deal of patience, setting up and running your own search engine advertising campaigns or social media ad campaigns is definitely something to outsource to an agency.

While the underlying principles of online advertising remain the same - normally you pay per click - the vast array of options can make it hard to fathom if it's not something you are dealing with on a daily basis. For example, there are lead gen ads in Meta and LinkedIn, and also awareness ads where you pay by impression rather than by click. In Google ads, there are display ads, shopping ads, video ads, not to mention cpc, cpa, cpm, retargeting... And as soon as you get the hang of it, everything changes!

The main problem with this type of ad is that it is very easy to waste money. Effective advertising tends to be very specific and targeted, and these ads have the ability to be very targeted but it's tempting to target too broad an audience and use very general keywords. The skill is actually in knowing how to reduce the number of clicks so you are only paying for really high quality visits from the sort of people whom you'd like as customers.

Digital marketing agencies will have experts with certifications in Google Ads, demonstrating that they have a deep understanding of the platform and its various options. These professionals are regular users of the platform, allowing them to stay updated on the latest tools and options. As a result, they can provide valuable advice on the most effective approaches for your specific advertising goals.

In addition to providing guidance on strategy, digital marketing agencies also offer ongoing monitoring of your ads. This involves regularly checking the performance of your campaigns and making adjustments as needed to ensure optimal results. By continuously optimising your ads, they'll help you make the most of your investment and drive more of the right type of traffic to your website.

Google Sign

Another benefit is that digital marketing agencies are skilled at setting up tracking data and extracting valuable insights from tools like GA4. This data analysis is crucial for understanding the effectiveness of your campaigns, identifying areas for improvement, and making informed decisions moving forward. GA4 has been known to baffle even the most experienced marketer, so using an agency team who have got to grips with it will help you make data-driven decisions that lead to better outcomes for your business.

For example, using GA4 we were able to identify the exact point in an online sales process where prospects were being lost and suggest simple changes to increase the conversion rate. Without a detailed  understanding of how to set up custom conversion in GA4 we wouldn't have been able to make an impact.

Specialist Skills

There are other, more specific skills that an agency can bring that are unlikely to exist in your average marketing department. These include development and coding to take a website beyond the basics, in-depth SEO knowledge and the ability to keep up to date with Google's latest algorithm changes, conversion rate optimisation skills to help get more leads from website visitors, podcast production and distribution, and video recording and editing to make your visual elements and ads really stand out.

Then there are agencies that have in-depth knowledge of specific software ecosystems such as HubSpot, and they can help you get set up in the way you need, and tailor the system to your company so that you don't need to invest in getting any of your staff trained to that level.

Revenue Growth

A decent digital marketing agency will prioritise work that impacts your bottom line. They should be asking which of your customer segments is most profitable, what your ideal customer looks like and which parts of your business you want to grow. With that knowledge, they will look at the best ways to get you more of those customers and move the dial in line with your business objectives.

While they won't necessarily be able to guarantee you more customers (that is ultimately down to your sales team) they should always be working towards the goal of getting more enquiries of the type that you want to convert.


The Cost of A Digital Marketing Agency

In comparison to the cost of hiring a team who can undertake all the different digital marketing needs of a company, an agency starts to look like very good value indeed. We explore the costs in more detail other blog posts. Even if the agency is supplementing the skills of a small marketing department, the investment is relatively small compared to hiring a couple of extra employees.

If the agency starts to fix issues, increase your online visibility and bring in more leads for you to convert, the additional outlay is going to be negligible in the long term. That is the ultimate test of whether or not your digital marketing agency is worth it.

Inbound tips in your inbox

To get more great inbound marketing tips sign up to our blog and follow us on Twitter or Facebook.

New!  A plain-talking digital marketing podcast  Available in all the usual places  Grab it here
Free Site Audit  Yeah we know, website audits are overplayed.   But what if you could actually get a real expert to pick through your site and  tell you where you’re going wrong?  Get Your FREE Audit

Call us, email us or just click here to book a meeting