Should you hire a growth agency or build your own team? 4 dangerous pitfalls to avoid

In the last decade, startups like Facebook and Instagram proved that growth-centered businesses can and do become wildly successful.

As a result, every business is looking to work with a growth agency or have an in-house growth team…And that is no exaggeration.

Google works with growth marketer Neil Patel. DropBox reached its $10 billion valuation thanks to Sean Ellis; yep, that is the guy who coined the term “growth hacking”. Even Fox News hired a growth agency to help one of their overseas subsidiaries!

The writing is on the wall; growth is key, and the whole world is starting to figure that out. If you do not join the race, you risk getting lapped and left behind in a decidedly unglamorous cloud of dust.

The great news is that successful growth marketers, whether in-house or outsourced, pay for themselves quickly. So as long as you make prudent choices you do not have to worry about expenses. You can afford to grow.

The awful news is that since growth marketing is a new field. There is a bunch of amateurs, try-hards and even outright crooks out there… And picking the wrong people to run your growth can be very costly.

Now, even though we are a growth (marketing) agency, we we will not try to tell you that agencies are necessarily the way to go.

Instead, we will give you the facts you need to avoid wasting time and resources. Here are 4 dangerous pitfalls to avoid when deciding between a growth agency and building your own team, starting with…

Mistake #1 – Misunderstanding the Growth Hacking Process

Growth hacking is a marketing strategy where rapid-fire experimentation is used to find effective strategies and insights. At the moment, it is the fastest known way to achieve business growth – and new-age startups like DropBox, AirBnB and Instagram have shown us its efficacy.

However, growth hacking is not just something you can tack onto any existing business and expect results.

The success stories listed above, as well as giants like Facebook and Google, were based on experimentation to begin with – and as a result, aggressive growth marketing fit their operations like a glove.

If this is not the case for you…

If your organisational structure and operations are rigid, resistant to change and costly to experiment with…

You will find that having your own growth team is difficult and only marginally effective.

Just consider that to succeed, a growth marketer may need to experiment with…

  • Your product
  • Its packaging
  • The way your product is delivered to consumers
  • Your promotional strategy
  • Your manufacturing process (if there is one)

And a whole lot of other things. This means they will need cooperation from your entire organisation. If this is not something you can provide, you are better off hiring an agency that can come in and get things done quickly without involving your entire company.

Another reason to consider hiring an agency is to avoid mistake #2…

Mistake #2 – Confusing Smarts with Expertise

The idea behind growth marketing is to experiment quickly. That is how you get the insights and “hacks” that propel your business forward.

As a result, the best professionals are not necessarily the smartest. They are just the most active and aware when it comes to real-life results.

This means that an incredibly smart interviewee, or agency manager, may have nothing to offer you in terms of growth marketing. NOTHING!

And while some companies have luxuries like time and money, what you want is someone who comes in and makes things happen immediately. Right?


That is why you should always look at recent work and not just theoretical knowledge. In this sense, agency staffers tend to have an edge because they work in the field a lot across different industries.

A major exception is when you get the opportunity to hire a growth wizard that has significant experience in your field. If this happens, and the expert is looking for employment, the right choice is almost always to hire them over an agency.

The one thing that should never be a consideration in your choice is…

Mistake #3 – Thinking Money

When deciding between an agency and an in-house team, one thing you should not concern yourself with is money.

That is a bold statement to say – but hear me out!

The longest a growth marketing campaign should take before delivering tangible results is 3-6 months. You certainly have to be able to bankroll your marketing for that long when looking at help with growth.

However, you should also have the expectation that your efforts will pay for themselves – and avoid penny-pinching on people who can significantly affect the future of your company.

This does not mean we are telling you to spend as much money as possible on the best expert out there.

However, if we are talking marginal price differences – think up to 20% – our recommendation is to pick the best people possible instead of the cheapest ones, agency or in-house team.

TIP: Whatever your choice may be: make sure you can afford it for at least 6 months! Growth takes time, but it is definitely worth the waiting!

Mistake #4 – Seeing Growth as Separate

As we mentioned in Mistake #2, growth hacking is not so much a separate strategy as it is a highly experimental approach to marketing. If you are serious about succeeding with flair, you will likely end up playing around with your product, your promotional efforts and, ultimately, your business.

In this sense, your entire organisation has to be growth and experimentation-oriented. Everyone has to be willing to make the changes your business needs to grow explosively. Otherwise, it will not work.

In this sense, hiring an in-house team and getting an agency both have their own advantages.

An in-house team may be able to spread growth-oriented culture through your organisation. The risk is that the reverse happens, and a rigid company culture harms the effectiveness of your growth team.

On the other hand, an outside agency will be less influenced by your organisation and find it easier to teach growth culture to your employees.

So to wrap things up, let’s recap on the 4 growth mistakes you want to avoid in your business:

  1. Misunderstanding Growth Hacking
  2. Confusing Smarts with Expertise
  3. Thinking Money
  4. Seeing Growth as Separate

As long as you remember to steer clear of these rookie mistakes, you will find it easy to pick a growth team – in-house or outside – to take your business forward and usher in a new age of super growth.

Just remember that ultimately, it is always about the professionals and not who is signing their paychecks. Plenty of the growth marketers in our company used to work for companies and may do so in the future; the transition is not a difficult one.

Are there any mistakes we forgot to mention?

Have you had any experience hiring a growth agency and/or building a growth team inside your company?

If so, let us know your thoughts below. We love reading them – and your comments help us make better content for the blog, so you will be helping out thousands of other readers by leaving a few words below!

BONUS TIP: when choosing for the option of a growth agency, always look at their team. Is it mature enough? Do they have enough resources? What is their proven track record? (Do not look at logos at their homepage, ask for numbers and references!)

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