In-House vs Agency for Marketing Automation, which is better?

7 months ago

Either you’ve decided to bring a new marketing automation platform into your tech stack, or you have a fully implemented solution and are looking to optimise its usage. But should you hire a full-time employee to manage your CRM system, or partner with a specialist agency?

Having worked both in-house and for marketing automation agencies, I’ve come across the in house marketing vs. agency debate many times, and have seen the effects of both decisions first hand. While there are positives and negatives on both sides, I’m firmly convinced that working with an agency partner to implement and maintain your CRM is the right call in the vast majority of cases.

In this post, I’ll walk you through the key considerations when choosing whether to hire or outsource your marketing automation, so you can make the right decision for you and your business.

Factors to consider before choosing in-house or agency

When a skills gap is identified, the default position for most businesses is to reach out to recruiters and bring someone into the team on a permanent basis. Before scouring LinkedIn, it’s worth taking a step back to think about the size and shape of the project at hand. Consider the following:

  • How long is the project likely to last?
  • How will workload vary throughout that time?
  • What does good look like in 6, 12 and 24 months?
  • Who else in the business has similar or complementary skills?

By getting a better understanding of the amount and type of work required at each stage of the implementation, you’ll be able to make a more informed decision about how to resource it.

Pros and cons of agency vs in-house: Which is better?

It’s a common misconception that hiring in-house is always the most cost-effective way to fill a skills gap. CRM management has historically fit this mould. For example, it typically takes 6-12 months to realise the full value of Salesforce, and close management is required on an ongoing basis. In this case, it usually makes sense to have someone on hand full-time.

More modern marketing automation platforms like HubSpot, however, need little to no admin and can be effectively managed by existing Marketing and Sales teams. HubSpot also has a much shorter time to value of just 57 days. This means that past the initial implementation, your new CRM admin is likely to be twiddling their thumbs.

The one exception to this is if you’re hiring a CRM professional with strong marketing automation skills. If your long term plan is to have them build out inbound marketing campaigns, there may be enough work to sustain a permanent position.

Ultimately, both options can work in different circumstances and it’s up to you to make the decision that best suits your needs.

Digital marketing agency vs in-house

Hire in-housePartner with an agency
Implementation period > 6 monthsImplementation period < 6 months
Regular CRM management requiredMinimal CRM management required
Role includes long-term marketing automation activityMarketing automation activity covered elsewhere

Common misconceptions of in-house CRM managers

Below, we’ll explore some of the common misconceptions of in-house CRM managers to help you decide if agency or in-house is the best route for your business.

It’s always cheaper to hire in-house

CRM consultants don’t come cheap and it’s not uncommon to pay up to £70,000 per year. If you can’t find enough ongoing work to sustain them for 40 hours per week, a specialist agency may actually work out cheaper.

Hire in-housePartner with an agency
3 months @ £70,000 PA = £17,500HubSpot Marketing Professional Onboarding, 90 days = £2,600

You need someone in-house to accommodate ad-hoc requests

While it’s true your employees don’t have other clients to contend with, marketing automation agencies will usually work with you to agree to SLAs. It’s actually in their best interest to deliver a high standard of work in order to retain clients.

But who will run the reports!?

In the early days of CRM, it was common to have someone manually run weekly and monthly reports, and distribute them to stakeholders ahead of key meetings. With HubSpot’s self-service dashboards, this is now easy to automate.

Other benefits of selecting a marketing agency

What other benefits can you expect from partnering with a marketing automation agency?

Many agencies have multi-channel expertise, allowing you to dip in and out of services such as PPC and SEO to support your wider marketing activity. Working with multiple teams under one roof also promotes closer collaboration, leading to efficiencies of scale and better results as insights from one channel can more easily be applied to another.

Agencies that specialise in a particular marketing automation platform, such as HubSpot, also have the benefit of experience across a wide variety of clients. They can tell you what’s working for other businesses like yours, to help you get ahead. Many agencies also have a close partnership with their chosen CRM provider, giving them access to additional knowledge and early access to new features via private beta.


The main consideration when it comes to resourcing your CRM implementation and management should be what happens after the initial project. If the workload is likely to be highly involved for a prolonged period, it may be worth investing in in-house skills

If the long-term roadmap is irregular or not yet defined, however, it may be worth employing an agency to cut costs. If expected work doesn’t arrive later down the line, it’s much easier to reduce agency spend than to renegotiate or terminate a full-time contract.


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