Marketing agency vs. in-house: which is best for your B2B start-up?

Blog Start-Up Tips

The B2B industry is currently valued at $6.7 trillion, and that’s only in the US. Globally, the B2B e-commerce market is expected to reach $18 billion by 2027.

This growth means more opportunity for B2B start-ups, but it also means more competition. So how can they position themselves for success? 

That’s where marketing comes in. Without excellent strategic marketing, start-ups blend into the sea of competition. So they have two choices to choose from when building brand awareness and bringing in relevant leads: hiring a marketing agency or an in-house marketing team. 

In this article, we’ll review the benefits and drawbacks of both options so you can make an informed decision for your start-up. 

Here are the questions you need to consider when deciding which option is best for you.

What is your time frame? 

The fact of the matter is that hiring in-house takes time, as does creating a brand, crafting appropriate messaging, and building marketing materials and content. 

Let’s start with hiring. If you go in-house, that means: 

  • Crafting and disseminating a job description 
  • Waiting weeks/months for the resumes to come in
  • Conducting multiple rounds of interviews
  • Narrowing it down and choosing somebody
  • Teaching them about the ins and outs of your company and industry
  • Setting up all the necessary tools they need to conduct your start-up’s marketing. Some of the in-house marketers are more into digital marketing, some are more into content, some are more brand-oriented and some are more strategic driven thinkers. It’s hard to find “one fits all needs”
  • Usually an in-house CMO will need to recruit vendors and internal team members for help with the daily tasks and the different skills needed

Long story short, hiring in-house can be a very lengthy process, especially if you are set on finding the “perfect” hire. By the time this in-house marketer is able to set up the basic marketing necessities, like a proper website, CRM automation platform, content, and brand, months and months have gone by. If you are a more established start-up and have the time and money for this, then this might be the better choice for you.

However, if you are an early-stage start-up with investors pressuring you for return on investment and a million things on your to-do list at all times, it is likely that you would rather not spend so much time hiring for your marketing needs.

You need someone who:

  • Can start ASAP
  • Has proven knowledge and expertise in start-up marketing
  • Is familiar with your industry & best practices
  • Already has all the top-notch, required marketing tools (and a team of other agency experts covering whatever they miss)
  • Has a portfolio of start-up marketing success and benchmarks to inform what best practices work well for other companies like yours 

If this is the case for you, a marketing agency might be the better choice. Marketing agencies can bring added value within days of starting. They have experience conducting marketing for a wide range of start-up industries and have established relationships with vendors for all the marketing activities your start-up may need, from graphic design to SEO, PR, branding, content and messaging, social media to PPC. 

So if you need a marketing department ASAP that can hit the ground running and get your message out there, a marketing agency might be more well-suited for your needs.

Have you hired marketing employees before? 

Next vital question: do you have experience hiring marketing professionals?

If you’ve never hired a marketer before, it’s possible that you won’t know which candidates are the most qualified to run your entire marketing department, scale up your business, and go about setting and meeting aggressive KPIs. 

It’s very easy to believe that someone with perfect English and an impressive resume is fit for the job. But these qualifications don’t guarantee someone is fit to run your start-up marketing. And if you do hire someone who doesn’t end up being fit for the job, you’ll have to go through the hiring process all over again.

The great thing about marketing agencies, on the other hand, is that their portfolios speak for themselves. You can check any agency’s customer success stories, referrals, and portfolios to see exactly what they’re capable of delivering, and whether or not it fits what you are looking for, simplifying the hiring process and greatly increasing your chances of hiring somebody fit for the job. 

Do you know what marketing activities you need most? 

Another important question to ask yourself is: do you know what qualifications are top priority for your in-house marketer to have? Are you familiar with the best practice marketing activities for start-ups and for your specific industry? 

These days, many start-ups think they have to take on everything at once in order to succeed. This causes them to cast too wide a net – Facebook, LinkedIn, content creation, lead generation, branding… the list goes on. 

The reality is that it’s best to choose the most effective and appropriate activities and focus on those. Quality is more important than quantity, but knowing which activities are right for you requires experience and vast knowledge of start-up marketing.

The great thing about marketing agencies is that they are composed of marketing professionals with years of experience in the field and a variety of niche expertises, and can therefore identify the top priority activities to hone in on from the get-go. 

Agencies are also familiar with the entire range of marketing services a start-up needs to succeed, so it is A-okay if you are unfamiliar with your start-up marketing needs, because your agency will have you covered.

And let’s say that your account manager believes a certain marketing activity would be beneficial that they are less experienced with. The good news is that they have a built-in support network of colleagues and vendors at their agency who can immediately be there to support them. 

An in-house marketer, on the other hand, has to juggle everything on their own, without a support system of other experienced marketers and niche experts to assist them. Furthermore, they might have a harder time identifying how best to prioritize the various marketing activities, especially if they don’t have a start-up background. 

What does your budget look like? 

No matter what kind of start-up you’re running, all of them face the challenge of how to make the most of their budgets. Especially if you have a limited budget (which, let’s be real, most businesses do), a B2B marketing agency means you get more talent at less cost. 

How? Firstly, as mentioned previously, although you’re technically paying for one marketer, you’re actually receiving an entire team of experts. This is automatically more pay-off than paying one person’s salary and receiving just that one person’s work in return.

Second, hiring a marketing agency means that all the marketing tools you require are already paid for. It also saves the time and headache of weighing the different options of marketing tools.

If you go the route of hiring in-house, not only are you paying for the person’s salary, but you will also have to cover the cost of any marketing tools they may require. From analytics to content creation to CRM systems, these subscriptions and software can add up quickly.

And speaking of budgets, you may also be unsure how to allocate your marketing budget. Luckily, marketing agencies have years of experience with this and can ensure that you are getting the most for every dollar you spend.

Is your start-up evolving? 

Last but certainly not least, is your start-up evolving? Do things change rapidly? Is growth imminent? 

Hiring a marketing agency means the ability to scale quickly. Agencies always have more employees ready to jump aboard and ramp up marketing efforts if, say, you raise more money and want to dedicate more budget to marketing or if you decide to change strategy. And again – you can count on the fact that all of these are knowledgeable marketers with experience in start-up marketing.

If you go the in-house route and want to scale, you run into the issue of having to go through the hiring process all over again, every time. 

Now That You Asked…

So, there you have it. These are the questions we recommend asking yourself when deciding which route to take in kicking off your start-up marketing journey.

The agency route is better for you if you’re working with a tight budget, are pressed for time, and aren’t 100% sure what marketing activities your start-up needs to reach its goals.

Hiring in-house might be a better option if you have time to cherry-pick the best candidates and know a lot about start-up marketing activities and marketers. 

If you’re looking for a marketing partner to help your start-up reach its potential and be with you along every step of the way, contact us.

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