015 - Mastering Marketing: Agency vs. In-House Secrets

Welcome to Women Powering E-commerce, where I share my journey as a female entrepreneur in the e-commerce world. Today, we'll dive into a critical topic for every business owner: marketing. Specifically, we'll explore the advantages and disadvantages of hiring a marketing agency versus building an in-house team. As someone who has experienced both approaches, I'll share my insights and personal experiences to help you make an informed decision.

Welcome to Women Powering E-commerce, where I share my journey as a female entrepreneur in the e-commerce world. Today, we'll dive into a critical topic for every business owner: marketing. Specifically, we'll explore the advantages and disadvantages of hiring a marketing agency versus building an in-house team. As someone who has experienced both approaches, I'll share my insights and personal experiences to help you make an informed decision.

The Organic Marketing Journey

When I first started my e-commerce venture, I recognized the significance of organic marketing, including SEO, CRO, and email marketing. Initially, I made the mistake of hiring a freelancer without thoroughly vetting their expertise, resulting in a disappointing outcome and wasted investment. Realizing the need for control, my husband and I delved into learning the principles of SEO to craft our own successful strategy.

With our in-house team members, we managed organic marketing effectively for several years. However, as trends evolved, we discovered that strategies that once worked no longer delivered optimal results. Adapting to the changing landscape, we now maintain a specialized in-house team to handle all aspects of organic marketing.

Navigating Paid Ads with Agencies

On the other hand, we explored various marketing agencies for our paid ad campaigns, such as Google Ads, Facebook, and TikTok. Although we considered building an in-house team for this aspect, we continue to collaborate with agencies due to their expertise and convenience. However, I'm open to the possibility of bringing paid ads in-house in the future.

Pros and Cons of Marketing Agencies

Marketing agencies offer specialized expertise with diverse skill sets, providing objective perspectives and scalability to adapt to your needs. They can be cost-effective compared to maintaining a full-time in-house team. However, communication challenges and limited control over strategies may arise.

Pros and Cons of In-House Marketing

In-house teams possess an in-depth understanding of your brand, immediate response times, and greater control over marketing efforts. However, they may have limited resources and expertise compared to specialized agencies, leading to higher costs and difficulties in rapid scaling.

My Preferred Approach

Based on my experiences, I find in-house marketing more suitable for my business. Control, quality of work, and effective communication outweigh the challenges. As my company grows, I may consider transitioning paid ads in-house as well.


Whether you opt for a marketing agency or an in-house team, each approach has its merits and drawbacks. Understanding your business's needs and long-term goals is essential in making the right decision. For now, I'm thrilled with the in-house approach for organic marketing, and our agency partnership continues to deliver favorable results for paid ads.

Please take a moment to rate and share this podcast to help empower more female entrepreneurs. Follow me on social media and your preferred podcast platform to stay updated on new episodes. Thank you for joining me today, and I hope you gained valuable insights and inspiration to keep growing and taking action toward your goals. See you next time!

Episode Transcription

015 - Mastering Marketing: Agency vs. In-House Secrets


Welcome E-Commerce Empresses to this episode of Woman Powering E-Commerce. Join me every Tuesday and Thursday as I take you behind the scenes of my journey as a female e-commerce entrepreneur. Together we'll explore the highs, the lows, inspiring you to take action and achieve your own business goals. So let's get started.


Today I want to talk about marketing, specifically whether it's best to deal with an agency or hiring in-house to do your marketing. Have you ever asked yourself this question? I have, and still do sometimes. But I'll share with you my pros, my cons for having dealt with both, and maybe it can help you with your decision-making.


So a little bit about my background and experience so far. Maybe I can divide it in two, I usually like to deal with the organic marketing a little differently from the paid ads. So by organic we're talking about SEO, CRO, email marketing, etcetera, and paid ads. Well, anything you can have paid ads on. Whether it's Google Ads, Facebook, TikTok, you name it.


So for the organic, when I first started my e-commerce business, I understood the importance of SEO, but knew nothing about SEO.


So first experience, I hired a freelancer. And that was my first, biggest mistake at that time. Just because I had no clue who I was hiring, how to do a background check. So I invested, I think it was 20K, and it was a total fail. No results. No results.


And that's the thing, right, with SEO? It takes time before you see results. So if you don't have a good person, well, months later, that's only at that time you'll know if it worked or not.


And so after that experience, we said, okay, no more freelancers for now. Until we know a little bit more about what SEO is all about. So we hired an agency. And at that time it was for a fixed rate per-month, and it felt like it would be more reliable. It worked okay, but we decided to still not stay with that. We changed it.

[NEW_PARAGRAPH]And the reason for that is because we felt like we needed to gain more control as to what was going on behind the scenes. Because we knew some work was getting done, because we were paying them monthly and we asked for some reporting and feedback, they would give that to us. But it was more, we had to ask for changes to be made.


So I felt like I needed to gain that control. So what I did is, with my husband, it led us to learn more about the principles of SEO. So we just had to do the work a little bit, without doing it too much. At least learn the basics, the principles, and find our own recipe.


Because there's not just one way of doing things in SEO, and it constantly changes. And so what happened is that we did find a recipe, and it worked great.


And once we found that, we of course didn't have only SEO work to do. So we hired quickly, and someone in-house to manage our organic marketing portion. And what we did is train that person to do the work, and execute on the recipe that we had found at that time.


So that worked well for a few years. It actually got us really good traffic. The issue over time though, over the years is that what worked 10 years ago doesn't work anymore. But it did really do well for several years. But eventually we just had to ... Reality hit and we realized, okay, we have to find something else. We cannot use the same recipe we did years ago.


So today, for all organic traffic and marketing, what we do is we still hire in-house, as this is what has worked the best for us. And the only difference is that now we have a much more specialized team.


So as I told you before, we found our recipe, we trained that person who didn't have much marketing experience. They did a really good job. We really appreciated that person's work for a long time. But then our needs changed. And so what we did is we decided to keep it in-house. We decided to hire a more specialized team, meaning that now we were going to teach.


Because we needed to hire someone that had the expertise. We were at a point where we couldn't teach anyone how to do the job. We needed someone that knew much more than us. So now we have one full-time person to do the email marketing, one full-time for SEO.


So I mean, that person is an is an SEO specialist, and we share that person within both companies that we have at the moment. Works out great. And we also hired one full-time content marketing specialist, also shared within both companies. One full-time blog writer.


So I can say at this point that for the organic part of SEO and marketing, we've tested both sides. And I would say that for now, what we love the most and what has worked the best for us is to have an in-house team.


For paid ads now, agencies. We went through several agencies. And to be honest, we're still working with agencies simply because, I don't know if it's because I haven't had the guts to try and hire someone in-house. But honestly, I think it's just more, I haven't taken the time to really analyze what it would take for us to have someone in-house. Maybe one day I'll do that. But for now we've been pretty much satisfied with the agency that we're currently working with. Though we have changed agencies with times.


So what I want to do is just share with you some pros and cons behind each of the things we tested, and maybe it can help you make your own decision. So I'm sure there's not just one great decision, but at least I hope my story can help you.


So you've heard my background and stories, my experience as having dealt with in-house and agencies as well. And here's what I learned.


So, pros of using a marketing agency. I find that when you're dealing with an agency, you're dealing with specialized expertise. So marketing agencies often have teams of specialists with in-depth knowledge and experience in various marketing fields, which provides you with a diverse skillset set.


And that's definitely something you will not have on your own team, unless you have a big marketing team. But when you're starting out, usually it's not something you have. So I think that's a very good thing to have on hand.


So an external agency, they can offer you a perspective that's objective, that's unbiased, on your marketing strategies, and provide objective recommendations for improvement. So that's really, really good.


Another thing I like about marketing agencies is the scalability. Agencies can quickly scale up or down. Their service is based on your business needs. So this allows you some flexibility in adapting in changing marketing demands. So that's another good thing.


One last thing I would say is that it's cost-effective. Yes, agencies can charge a lot. But when you compare the cost of a full-time hire, or even more a whole team to deal with your marketing, for I'd say small to medium-size businesses, outsourcing to an agency can be much more cost-effective than hiring and maintaining an in-house marketing team. So that's my two cents on that.


Now, the cons of using a marketing agency. I'd say my number one con is the communication. It can be very challenging sometimes. Because aligning the agency's vision with your company's goals is not necessarily a given. So you'll have some gaps, you'll have some misunderstandings. So you have to really understand that they cannot read your mind. You really have to detail and tell them where you want to go. Just to make sure you close those gaps.


Another thing is that you do have less control. Handing over marketing to an external agency means that you're going to lose some control over strategies and how things are going to be implemented, which I think is not suitable for all businesses.


In our case, for example, we deal with natural products for pets. And sometimes there are things in our industry that we know can and cannot be done or said. For example, we're in the health industry, so there are certain health claims we cannot make. So that might change the strategy behind the marketing. So that's just an example.


Another thing is they will require time to understand your brand. So it may take some time for the agency to fully grasp your brand identity, your voice, your values. So yeah, that can take some time, and there is a learning curve there for them.


But I would say, at the same, time we could almost say this is the same for when you hire someone in-house. I just think that the learning curve for someone that you hire in-house will be much faster. Because they only have you as their client.


So that's it. Now, pros of in-house marketing. Let's dive into that, now that we're talking about in-house. Number one thing is the in-depth understanding. There is nothing like someone that works for you full-time. They always have their head in your brand, your products, your target audience. So naturally, it'll become much more personalized. And their marketing strategies will be much more aligned to what you want.


Another thing, immediate response. When you have someone working for you, you don't have to write an email, which you don't know when it'll be replied to. Instead of having a reply maybe in a day, two days, three days, you get usually within minutes you can have a response. So I think that's very good.


And having no, or at least reducing any communication delays really helps you just keep a momentum going in your work. And another thing is you do have greater control. With an in-house team, you have direct oversight and control over every aspect of the marketing process. And that's something I really, really appreciate.


And we have regular meetings with all of our teammates in the marketing department. So that is really appreciated, just to make sure we're all aligned and focusing in the right direction, all of us together.


So, some cons of in-house marketing. In-house teams may have limited resources and expertise compared to specialized agencies. Another point is higher costs. Hiring and maintaining an in-house marketing team can be much more expensive, especially for small businesses with budget constraints.


So one last point is, I would say with an in-house marketing team, is difficulty in scaling, because expanding marketing efforts quickly may be challenging with an in-house team, and then before you have a chance to rehire and train them. And as you scale, then it might take a little bit of time, making scaling pretty difficult. But I mean, if you're not growing at the speed of lightning, then you should be okay. And it's usually something you can also predict in advance, that it'll be a need that's coming.


So my conclusion for marketing, I would say I prefer in-house. So later down the road, I'd love to possibly transfer my paid ads in-house. But for now, I feel like we're still getting a good ROI with our agency. But definitely, I love the control you get over your team, the quality of work you get, and the communication that's really good. So that's definitely, for me, things that I really appreciate.


So that's it for today. Take a moment to rate and share this podcast if you love this episode. We need to help many more female entrepreneurs out there.


Thank you for being part of this journey with me. I hope you gained valuable insights and inspiration today, to keep growing and taking action towards your goals. Please follow me on social media. Also follow us on your favorite podcast platform to get notifications every time a new episode is uploaded. See you next time.