Some e-commerce business owners think they should either hire a full-time employee, build out an entire internal marketing department, or work exclusively with marketing agencies.
In reality, it’s a lot more nuanced than that. Most e-commerce businesses work best when they work with both in-house marketing hires as well as freelancers and agencies. The cycle of how heavily you skew towards one side will depend on your current marketing budget, existing marketing activities, and return on investment.
In this post, we’ll cover when you should hire an e-commerce PPC agency vs. hiring full-time staff, alongside the pros and cons of each.
The answer depends on your company culture, budget, and current marketing goals. However, in our experience, most e-commerce businesses will end up hiring both eCommerce PPC specialists in-house as well as agencies.
Here is the most common scenario that we see play out with 7 and 8-figure e-commerce businesses:
Here are some of the pros that come with working with an experienced eCommerce agency or even a generalist agency.
It is well-known that agencies are training grounds for some of the best-in-class PPC specialists. When you work at an agency, you are regularly overseeing more than half a dozen accounts. Many of which have large budgets.
Not only are they in the weeds for these accounts, but they are expected to keep up with current PPC trends and best practices. These benefits are only amplified for niche e-commerce PPC agencies.
Unless you are lucky enough to snag an ex-agency employee, you’d be hard-pressed to find an in-house employee with this level of experience. Not to mention if you even find a PPC unicorn, their skills will likely diminish over time, given the other responsibilities that come with an in-house role besides managing campaigns.
While agencies are more expensive than hiring a freelancer or consultant, you get a team for the cost of one full-time employee. Sometimes, a little less or more.
Working with a top-notch e-commerce PPC agency means you’ll have an account manager alongside specialists overseeing your account. You don’t have to worry about W2 management, payroll taxes, or any of the other overhead costs associated with full-time employment.
Working with an agency makes it easier to increase ad spend and ramp up your budget if the strategy is working.
A full-time, in-house team doesn’t allow much flexibility because you’ll need to hire and train more people, plus you’ll need budget approval for salaries and benefits packages.
On the other hand, if you need to pivot or downsize your PPC strategy, it is easier to do with an agency. You can pause a campaign or decrease agency costs more easily than you can with an in-house team. If you want to do that with an in-house team, you need to terminate or furlough employees.
This is particularly relevant for early-stage e-commerce companies with one or only a few marketers on the team. If you have a generalist marketer overseeing all of your marketing efforts or a handful of junior marketers, then hiring an agency to manage your PPC campaigns can free up your team’s time to focus on other areas of marketing. They can focus on one or two things and not feel like they are being pulled in a million different directions.
While some companies prefer working with agencies, others thrive by hiring an in-house team to handle their PPC marketing. Here are a few of the benefits of hiring an in-house PPC specialist.
In-house PPC specialists have the luxury of focusing exclusively on your brand.
Agencies have multiple clients to juggle, your brand is the sole focus for an in-house employee. They’re likely working closely with other in-house teams and sitting in on all company meetings, not just the ones directly related to PPC. This gives them a greater awareness and deeper understanding of the business overall.
When managed well, agencies can be motivated to feel like they are a part of the company’s success and will want to work harder and stick around longer.
When you’re managing an employee, they’re only working for you. So, this means you have more control over what they work on and how fast they need to respond when problems surface or opportunities arise.
This is not the case when working with an agency. More often than not, your dedicated account manager is likely managing multiple accounts. This can delay response times, especially if they need to loop in others at the agency. Whereas an in-house employee or team can be more responsive because they don’t have to go through an extra layer of communication to get the job done.
As your marketing team scales, you may find that your in-house marketers are suddenly spending all of their time managing different freelancers, consultants, and agencies. This results in an overwhelmed team and inconsistent brand messaging across all of your marketing channels and campaigns.
Bringing your PPC strategy and management in-house can help you streamline communication, brand messaging, and analytics.
As we alluded to earlier in this post, you’ll likely cycle between hiring full-time employees and agencies throughout your business’s lifecycle.
Sometimes, you might need to part ways with a PPC agency due to performance reasons, such as:
More often than not, deciding to move your PPC management in-house is due to company culture reasons. Your business needs might be so specialized that it makes more sense to have an in-house team.
As your e-commerce business evolves, your marketing needs are likely to change. It may make sense to hire an agency today, but down the road, an in-house team or a hybrid model could be the more cost-effective solution. Evaluate your current situation and future goals when making the call, and don’t be afraid to change direction as needed.
If you are thinking about hiring an e-commerce PPC agency, our team can help with finding and vetting the right e-commerce PPC agency. Schedule a free call with our team.
This page last updated on March 7, 2023 by John Doherty
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