Digital marketing, while worth the investment, definitely comes at a cost—especially if you’re trying to establish a robust internal team. From spending thousands of dollars on a marketing stack to hiring full-time employees to investing in PR campaigns, building an in-house marketing department from scratch isn’t a cost-effective option for most local businesses.

By outsourcing your company’s digital marketing operations, not only will you be able to dodge certain unnecessary costs and focus on other areas of your business, but you’ll also be working with industry experts capable of delivering actual results.  

And while outsourcing your digital marketing operations is often a good business decision, we can’t stress enough the importance of choosing the right marketing agency or partner. As much as we hate to admit it—many marketing agencies out there are incapable of delivering the results they promise. 

To help you understand how to choose the right agency, we’ve put together this blog post with insights from industry experts. 

Let’s get started.

Should Local Businesses Build an In-House Marketing Team or Hire a Marketing Agency?

So, there are pros and cons to building an in-house marketing team and outsourcing your marketing efforts to an agency. How do you know which is the better option for your business? 

We reached out to Josh Cremer, the Creative Director of a Boise-based local marketing agency redfox visual, who shed light on whether it makes sense for local businesses to build an in-house marketing department or outsource their digital marketing operations:

“When deciding whether to build an in-house marketing team or hire an agency there are many factors to consider, both financial and strategic. To put together a winning marketing strategy, you need numerous strategic experts on your team—with expertise across different areas—design, strategy, copywriting, creative, etc. Hiring full-time employees is expensive—we’re talking $200k+ in annual company expenses for 4-5 positions or fewer.

An agency, on the other hand, provides these specialists to you at a fraction of the cost. Just like you’re able to sell your product or service to multiple customers, we do the same thing, but our product is marketing and advertising.

This gives your business what you need, for what you can afford, while giving the agency the ability to cover its expenses based on the revenue generated from helping you and other businesses grow.”

Not only is building an in-house marketing team expensive for local businesses but if they have a pretty limited budget, they will be limited in terms of resources. 

That being said, let’s dive a bit deeper into why local businesses should hire a marketing agency.

3 Reasons Local Businesses Should Hire a Marketing Agency

Allow us to share the three big reasons local businesses should hire a marketing agency:

  • You’ll save money.
  • You’ll work with industry experts who are capable of delivering results.
  • You’ll free up time to focus on other critical areas of your business. 

Let’s touch on each of these reasons one by one.

1- Save Money

When we reached out to Josh, we asked him to share an estimated cost of how much local businesses should expect to spend to build an in-house marketing department.  

Here’s a breakdown:

in-house costs

Note: These costs can vary. The amount you’ll spend will depend on different factors like the size of your team, the complexity of your campaigns, how much you’re planning to spend on advertising, and more. 

When you hire a marketing agency, you won’t need to worry about a lot of the expenses that come with having an in-house marketing team. 

You won’t have to hire full-time employees. 

You won’t have to invest in a marketing stack. 

You won’t have to pay benefits. 

Instead, depending on your requirements and campaigns, you can get started for as low as $1,000 a month (that’s the bare minimum we’d advise you to invest to see decent results).

2- Work with Industry Experts Capable of Delivering Results

Should you decide to build an in-house marketing department, you’ll have to spend your time finding the right talent. And trust us when we tell you that finding marketing experts capable of delivering results is not easy, especially if you have a limited budget.  

On the other hand, when you hire the right digital marketing company, you will be working with strategic marketing experts with years of industry experience. 

These are not people who just claim themselves to be marketing experts. They will help you try, test, and optimize different marketing strategies to understand what’s working for your business and what’s not. 

They have well-established systems and processes in place to help their clients hit their KPIs and achieve their goals. 

3- Focus on Other Critical Areas of Your Business

Let’s say you run a local restaurant in Arizona and have a pretty limited marketing budget. 

Now, if you can’t afford to hire a full-time employee but really want to kickstart your marketing operations, then chances are that you may ask one or more of your already existing staff members with little-to-no marketing knowledge to handle your restaurant’s social media handles, run paid ads, send emails and more.

Asking your non-marketing employees to run your company’s marketing and/or advertising campaigns might work in a pinch, but it isn’t something we’d advise long-term. 

Despite their best efforts, if they don’t really know what they’re doing, they’ll struggle to help you achieve results in today’s saturated market. 

And since they’ll be spending their time running marketing campaigns, they’ll have less time to focus on their primary tasks. 

When you hire a marketing agency, you and your staff can focus on other important areas of your business as you’ll be letting the experts take over. All you’ll have to worry about is reviewing monthly or quarterly marketing reports.

That being said, let’s look at the three serious tips local businesses should consider when choosing a marketing agency.

3 Serious Tips Local Businesses Should Consider to Choose the Right Digital Marketing Agency 

Hiring the right marketing agency is a must. You don’t want to get involved with an all-talk, no-action marketing agency that locks you in a three or six months retainer only for you to later realize that you’re stuck and not achieving the results that you desired. 

We’re here to help you make the right decision. 

1- Don’t Work with Agencies That Guarantee 100% Results

The first red flag that you should look for is a marketing agency that sounds like – 

“Hey! We’ll help you rank at the top of Google within 3 months. Guaranteed Results”

Google clearly mentions on their blog that no one can guarantee a #1 ranking on their search engine. 

Local businesses should be beware of marketing firms that guarantee 100% results, claim to have special relationships with Google. 

If a digital marketing agency is guaranteeing results, then either they are desperate and want to lock you into a contract or they will implement grey or black hat search engine optimization tactics that may get you in trouble down the road.

Similarly, you should be beware of marketing agencies promising that they will help you get 10,000 Instagram followers in a month or a 50% email click-through rate.

That’s not how digital marketing works.

There is no one-size-fits-all solution. The best marketing teams in the world try and test different strategies to understand what’s working for a business and what’s not. And based on the results, they further pause or optimize their campaigns. 

If a certain strategy helped one of your competitors increase their conversion rate by 5%, that doesn’t mean implementing this exact strategy will help you achieve the same results.  

Hence, we would advise you to stay away from agencies that guarantee 100% results. 

2- Do Your Homework & Ask the Right Questions

If you run a local business and have zero clue about digital marketing, then chances are most all-talk, no-action marketing agencies may try to confuse you with marketing acronyms and slang. 

The reason many of these agencies use these slang and acronyms in front of local business owners is to make them believe that they are the experts and know what they’re doing.  

This is why it’s really important to do your homework and learn the basics—so you can go into conversations with potential partners with confidence. Make sure you know the answers to questions like:

  • What is digital marketing?
  • How do search engines work?
  • How do paid ads work?
  • Who’s your target audience? 
  • What are email open and click-through rates?

You can even hire a freelance consultant with a proven track record who will help you vet these agencies and find the right fit—but that’s optional.

Alongside doing your homework, it’s important to ask the right questions while talking to potential agencies. While these questions may vary depending on your needs, some basic questions that you can consider asking are:

  • Have you worked with businesses similar to ours?
  • What results did you help your past clients achieve?
  • Do you outsource any work? 
  • Who will you appoint to work with us on a regular basis? 
  • What does your marketing stack look like?
  • How much time will we have to spend interacting with you?
  • What does your audience and market research process look like?
  • We’re looking for a white-hat marketing agency, so can we rely on you to implement white-hat tactics?
  • Tell us about a project that worked out really well and one that didn’t. 

While these are pretty basic questions, they’ll help create a smoother vetting process.

3- Look for Signs of Desperation

As much as you’d like to hire the fit for you, a results-driven marketing agency would want to ensure that your business is the right fit for them. 

We reached out to Victoria Gamlen, who runs a consulting and micro-agency for local businesses in Scottsdale, Arizona. She said, “You want a marketing agency that’s going to vet you too—that goes for any type of marketing, but especially local. It’s a red flag if they send you a proposal and are willing to onboard you no questions asked. By taking businesses on no questions asked, that means churn is built into their business model.”

The right marketing agency will shoot dozens of questions your way to better understand your business model, market, and audience. Also, they’ll want to know more about your requirements, expectations, budget, and more. 

Once they’re clear on the requirements, they’ll craft a proposal for you and send it your way. If they are bombarding you with emails or calls asking you to sign a contract or willing to onboard you without asking you any questions, then we’d advise you to stay away from them. 

Choose the Right Agency

Hire the Right Marketing Partner for Your Business

Alongside the tips we have mentioned above, some other important ones that local businesses should seriously consider while vetting local marketing agencies are:

  • Review their past projects thoroughly
  • Look at their search engine rankings and social media engagement. 
  • Read reviews across Google, social media, and other review sites where they’re listed.

Finding the right marketing partner is critical to your long-term success. If you choose poorly, you’ll end up wasting your precious marketing dollars without achieving the desired results.

Logan Wooden
Logan Wooden Product Marketing Manager, Retail

Logan Wooden is a Product Marketing professional at Podium, the premiere marketing and communications platform that connects local businesses with their customers.

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