A detailed guide to vetting and hiring an e-commerce PPC agency: When to hire an e-commerce PPC agency vs. an in-house PPC specialist

When to hire an e-commerce PPC agency vs. an in-house PPC specialist


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. 

  • Is it better to hire an in-house PPC employee or a PPC agency?
  • When to hire an e-commerce agency
  • When to hire a full-time e-commerce PPC specialist
  • When to bring your e-commerce PPC strategy back in-house

Is it better to hire an in-house PPC employee or a PPC agency?

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:

  1. When first starting out, it makes sense to outsource PPC management to an independent contractor or agency.
  2. As you scale up your marketing efforts, you hire a generalist marketing manager with a wide range of skills who is now spending all of their time managing different agencies and freelancers, from content marketing and PPC to social media marketing. So, you decide it makes sense to build an internal marketing team full of specialists.
  3. This works until your company grows and your team is overloaded, then you look to hire and bring on one or more digital marketing agencies to handle all of the overflow work. 

When to hire an e-commerce agency

Here are some of the pros that come with working with an experienced eCommerce agency or even a generalist agency. 

Get specialized knowledge

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. 

Gain “a team” for around the price of one full-time hire 

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. 

Quicker to scale 

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.

Free up your team’s time to work in “their zone of genius” 

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. 

When to hire a full-time e-commerce PPC specialist 

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. 

Focus on your core competencies 

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. 

Gain more control 

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.

Centralize brand messaging and communication 

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. 

When to bring your ecommerce PPC strategy back in-house

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: 

  • Poor communication: Do you struggle to get a fast response from your agency contact? This is problematic for any profession, but trends and opportunities in PPC marketing are here and gone in a flash. If you can’t get your agency to respond quickly, then your campaigns suffer.
  • Repeated failures: The nature of marketing involves trial and error. Not every campaign will be successful. Watch out for agencies that make the same mistakes repeatedly without learning from them or making corrections.
  • Lack of trust: An agency relationship should be a partnership. If you don’t trust that your agency has your best interests in mind and is working toward mutual goals, then it’s time to move on.

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. 

Conclusion

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. 

Get started today. 

This page last updated on March 21, 2022 by John Doherty

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