The cost of building a marketing team vs. hiring a marketing agency

ArticlesMarch 30, 20235 Minutes

Should I build a marketing team or hire a marketing agency?

This is a question many business owners or marketing directors may struggle with. As their business grows and they need to build out a more comprehensive marketing strategy, which approach is the most cost effective, building a marketing team or hiring an outside marketing agency? 

There are two cost considerations that can be looked at when deciding what makes sense for your organization – hard costs and time costs. Looking at both of these before making a decision should prevent any surprises down the road.

Hard cost comparison

These costs are the most obvious to compare when looking at building a team or hiring an agency. On the internal marketing team side, hard costs include things like salaries, benefits, equipment and software licensing. We’ve used the average salaries from RGD’s 2021 salary review for the key team members you’d need on your team.

When hiring a marketing agency, there is typically a defined scope of work for a specific time period for an agreed to cost. For our comparison, we’ve used the example of a multi-channel marketing campaign, typically executed over 12 months.

Of course the internal team could work on other projects over the course of the year, but would likely still come in higher than if you hired an outside agency for the same work. Internal marketing teams are most effective when there are multiple, continuous marketing initiatives each year.


Time cost comparison

Time costs are a little bit harder to quantify than hard costs. These are costs associated with the hiring process, training, and ongoing management of an internal team vs the initial engagement of an agency plus any regular touch points.

Looking at the internal team side first, here are few things to consider.


Hiring a team takes time

These are the typical to-do’s when adding a new hire to your team:

  • Create the job description(s) and posting
  • Post / share / pay for the position to attract applicants
  • Sort through all the CVs sent your way
  • Interview the top candidates (assuming you can qualify all of their skills)
  • Onboard them into your organization

Also keep in mind, during this time you are less focused on any actual marketing initiatives on the go and may lose some of the momentum you’ve worked hard to gain.


Maybe freelancers would work?

There are a high number of qualified freelancers out there that you could contract to deliver a specific component of your marketing executables. Keep in mind that means additional coordination on your end to make sure everything aligns and works with the other freelancers for a cohesive campaign. Rather than focusing on your marketing initiatives, your time may be spent organizing review meetings with different individuals, all with varying schedules, to keep everyone on the same page and on track.

Be wary of unicorns

Wouldn’t it be simpler if you just hire one marketing manager or specialist that can do everything you need? They can write snappy copy, design eye-catching materials, create informative infographics, develop new pages for your website, integrate a media campaign and track the results of everything. The reality is that finding all of that in one person is highly unlikely. Each of those require unique skill sets. And if someone says they can do all that, we’d recommend doing some serious reference checks.


On the agency side, there is still time required to kick things off. This is needed to make sure your chosen agency understands your goals, challenges and the competitive landscape. A good agency will see themselves as an extension of your team and will want to learn as much as they can before building out their approach. (Unsure where to start in selecting an agency? These are our three tips when it comes to picking a marketing partner.)


From there, depending on the project, there may be regular touch points to go over progress, as well as monthly reports or reviews to look at results. The agency should be taking the lead on these updates and making necessary adjustments as you go.