You can’t have a viable business in 2020 without a significant website and a digital marketing plan. Years ago, a business would simply advertise in the Yellow Pages. To leap over your competition you had two choices, name your company “AAA Puppies” to be first on the page or make your advertisement a full-page to dwarf the competition. 

Life has gotten a bit more complex since then. 

Today, you need a website that accurately and professionally tells the world why they should do business with you or donate to your cause. And then you need the world to be able to find this great website. If you are buried on page four of a typical Google search, you might as well not exist. 

In the Yellow Pages days, if your advertisement was large enough and the world was looking for puppies, you could easily grab their attention. And then your competition started doing the full-page ad as well and you had to run two full-page ads. The marketing “arms race” continues today.

Your competition is developing amazing websites and arming them with Search Engine Optimization strategies that ensure they will show up in a web search before you. So what do you do? 

What’s the solution? 

You really want an in-house marketing team of dedicated, company-loyal and knowledgeable staffers. But if you had that, you would not be reading this article. You do have a few people you could turn to in a “do it yourself” approach, you could hire a marketing company or go with a freelancer or two. 

So how do you choose? 

You probably have two notions tugging against each other: I want this but it probably costs that. It’s the internal debate we have every time we have a choice with a finite amount of money, time, and knowledge. What takes precedence? That’s for you to decide.

Making a decision in the world of the finite. The deep cut.

You’ve cut yourself, it’s deep. 

Option A is to run to the drugstore and buy a Band-Aid or three. 

Option B is to seek out a trusted friend who used to be a nurse to look at it, disinfect it, and cover it as best he or she can.

Option C is to seek a doctor and get a full medical evaluation that probably includes stitches. 

You are choosing between limited amounts of knowledge, limited amounts of money, and limited amounts of time. 

By choosing option A and doing it yourself, you are saving time and money but are not fully knowledgeable as to the extent of your injury. 

With B, you gain some knowledge as to the severity of the wound and it only costs a little more time and money. 

Options C gives you access to the most knowledge, takes the most time, and costs the most money. 

Now your decision probably comes down to where that cut is, doesn’t it?

If the deep cut is on your face, you go with the doctor, no matter the cost of time and money.

So the choice is yours and only you can do the mental arithmetic to come to a decision that works best for you.

It’s the same with choosing a marketing solution for your company. You have a certain amount of knowledge, time, and money. In hiring someone to help you, or even doing it yourself, you have to examine each area to see what you have and what you need.

If you have a great deal of knowledge and limited time and money, you go in one direction.

If you have a limited amount of knowledge and lots of time and money, you go in another. 

We’ve laid out a few scenarios to help you come to the right conclusion for yourself. Like the scenario with the deep cut, having what’s important to you thought out first makes the decision to budget for the “treatment” that much clearer.

Do you have expertise in digital marketing? 

The more you know up front, the more options are available to you.

The In-House Solution. Can someone on your staff help improve the performance of your website? That will be really helpful, if it doesn’t take them away from something else you want them to do. 

A freelancer will have their areas of expertise that can definitely help. If your needs move outside of that, then you are left hiring another freelancer. Many homeowners, when taking on large remodeling projects around the house choose to act as their own general contractors. They have a clear vision of what they want to go along with the knowledge about how best to achieve it. They have the time to vet, hire, and manage a collection of tradesmen to compete it. If you have this time and skill set, going with one or a collection of freelancers might be a good option for you. If you are less inclined to spend the time on this or lack the knowledge of the changing digital environment, you might want to hire the expertise of a professional marketing company.

A digital marketing company gives you access to an integrated team of professionals in all areas of digital marketing from software solutions architects to graphic artists to website developers. They are keeping up with the trends, have lots of resources, and can guide you through the best solution for your unique company.

Do You Know What Your Needs Are?

The more you know exactly you want; the more options are available to you.

Do you have an emergency or do you come armed with a well thought out plan for the next two years? 

Do you just need to survive the next board meeting or expand your business well into the 2020s? 

Is your project small, uncomplicated, a one-time thing or something more complex and lengthier

Some of us don’t know what we need. We hire interior decorators or online shopping gurus to tell us what’s in vogue or to help us stay up with the trends. Our interest or expertise is in other areas and so we hire experts. 

If you know what you need, if you know the digital landscape, if you are comfortable with the dimensions of your project, then your options are wide open and you can do well with almost any solution.

The In-House Solution. Turning to a member of your staff is beneficial in that they know your company, its needs and your culture. They may not be up to speed with the rapidly changing landscape of the digital marketing world or have the time to get a large project done on time.

The Freelancer. If you can articulate exactly what you want, a freelancer can be a great solution because you don’t have to spend time and money figuring out where to go. They are probably current in the trends but may not possess the breadth of knowledge and skills for a larger project.

The Digital Marketing Company. If you are not quite sure what you want or even the solutions presently out there, you might want to harness the power of a marketing firm that can speak to every aspect of the digital marketing universe and are constantly updating their credentials in the field. 

How Important is Excellence to You? 

The less the final product has to be excellent, the more options are available to you.

Not every building has to be the Taj Mahal. Not every deep cut needs stitches, especially if it’s in an area that no one will ever see. 

The In-House Solution. You might just need a quick fix to your website and Janet and John have the ability to do just that. Problem solved.

The Freelancer. Most freelancers are experts in one or even several areas of digital marketing and can provide a fine solution to many of  your issues.

Digital Marketing Company. If you must have the best this and every time, you can’t go wrong with choosing an experienced group of professionals that have quality-control procedures built in and for whom their industry reputation means the world to them.


The more time you have between now and when you need your problem solved, the more options you have. 

Are you in a situation where everything is about the short-term? Do you just need to survive the next board meeting? Is the board fussing at you to tweak something or show immediate results? Have things been going well and you now can think long-term? Do you have time to think strategically?

The In-House Solution. If Janet and John can squeeze in some website work in between their other duties, and there’s no rush on your end, this might be the perfect solution.

The Freelancer. Most freelancers can respond quickly to your needs. They are, however, limited in their ability to ramp up the work to hit a crazy deadline.

The Digital Marketing Company. If you must have a deadline hit, if you like the idea of a team of  professionals with overlapping expertise or if you think you might need the “drop everything and help out this one customer in a pinch” ability, then this might be the way to go.

Your Unique Culture

The more your marketing solution connects with your company culture, the more successful you will be. 

The In-House Solution. Clearly Janet and John know your company and its needs. Their ability to translate that to an effective digital strategy is more complicated.

The Freelancer. A freelancer could be flexible enough to get to know your company and bring that knowledge to bear on developing a digital strategy. Having all the expertise needed in one or two people is less likely

The Digital Marketing Company. Forming a relationship with a team of dedicated professionals is a great way to get your identity “out there.” By speaking with a wide variety of experts, your uniqueness can be translated into a look, a design, a strategy because several people are listening and translating who you are into what the world is looking for. 


If you are thinking long-term, you go in one direction, short-term you have more options.

The In-House Solution. It’s less likely that Janet or John would be a great long-term solution given the many areas of expertise needed to be successful in a rapidly changing digital landscape.

The Freelancer. You could definitely have a long-term relationship with a freelancer or two that could serve you well. They can keep up with the trends and would only be lacking the breadth of expertise that may be needed. 

The Digital Marketing Company. Having a team of experts on call is probably the best solution for a longer relationship and developing long-range strategies.


Having no budget at all is the best solution to handle all your digital marketing needs.

The In-House Solution. The cheapest route would definitely be to turn to a current staff member and glean from their knowledge as far as it goes. Small projects, simple solutions, short-term thinking, this might very well be the way to go.

The Freelancer. A freelancer can probably always quote a price that’s less than a marketing firm. Their overhead presumably is low. The hidden cost might be their lack of experience in pricing out larger projects or your time and frustration of having to assemble several freelancers to work together and having to serve as the project manager yourself. Like with Janet and John, for small projects, simple solutions, short-term thinking, this might very well be a fine solution.

The Digital Marketing Company will always be the highest priced solution, up front. There are fixed costs to having so many experts housed and on call. But they can save you money with accurate project quotes and built-in quality controls. Like with the deep cut, sometimes the most expensive choice is the best one because the problem is affecting an area of great importance to you, your face. 

Or in digital marketing terms, the face of your company.

A global team of digerati with offices in Washington, D.C. and Southern California, we provide digital strategy, digital marketing, web design, and creative for brands you know and nonprofits you love.

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