When it comes to internal vs. external marketing, people usually are talking about one of two things. First of all, they are comparing how we market to our customers to how we can use these same skills with our staff. Secondly, people also talk about the benefits of using an in-house marketing team versus outsourcing marketing to an external marketing agency. All these areas overlap, so we’re going to address them both here.

The crux of the debate regarding internal vs. external marketing comes down to a business’s size and its goals. It’s up to each firm to decide what is most cost-effective and useful for its needs. So that you can make informed decisions, here is the lowdown on marketing for an internal audience vs. an external audience, as well as the advantages and disadvantages of having an external agency handle your marketing.

marketing audienceThe Audience

Internal vs. External Marketing

When referring to your target audience, internal marketing tends to get left behind in external marketing’s dust. Regarding audiences, let’s start by defining external marketing, because this is what most people are familiar with. And we can use this as a springboard to compare and contrast it with internal marketing.

What Is External Marketing?

External marketing is about adding value to your brand for your customers and clients. It helps them to reach you and helps develop understanding, loyalty, and trust. External marketing tends to consist of marketing materials, messaging, and branding. It’s what you might do on your website and via social media for the direct benefit of relationships between your business and your clients. External marketing in this respect helps you to understand your customers, serve them better, and help them through the sales funnel intending to make them repeat customers.

What Is Internal Marketing?

When you are performing internal marketing, you are still engaging with an audience. This time, however, the audience is internal to your business, which means that there will be some significant differences between this and external marketing.

One of the most pronounced differences of internal vs. external marketing is that your internal marketing audience comprises people with whom you already have relationships. Internal marketing builds from a position of strength and aims to deepen those relationships, rather than casting a net to make new relationships.

Other goals differ too. For example, internal marketing does not busy itself with persuading staff to buy products or use your services. Instead, the goal is more likely to be about understanding your people, helping them build satisfying and meaningful careers with you, and giving them what they need to perform better for themselves and for the company.

media platformsInternal vs. External Marketing: Media And Platforms

This is an area in which there are more similarities than differences. When it comes to external marketing, social media tools such as Facebook and Instagram are often popular. They are no less popular with internal marketers. They are great for connecting people, sharing information, and telling stories.

If you have found connecting with potential clients challenging, take heart in the fact that rather than trying to attract an audience, you will be able to use your skills to strengthen what you already have. Using powerful and user-friendly tools like Instagram, Pinterest, and Facebook, you will be able to build community and connect your workers, not only to your company and its values, but also to each other.

A strong, supportive culture is a great boon for any company. On paper, it can reduce employee turnover, boost creativity, and lead to more ownership and innovation. It allows you to make sure that everyone in your business understands the firm’s ethos and that everyone is moving toward the same goals.

If one day your business needs to pivot and you want your staff to be on board, you will be able to help make this happen with internal marketing tools. You’ll have a means of communication with your workforce, you’ll be able to deliver important messages about your direction, and you’ll be able to monitor feedback. This makes internal marketing tools vital to your toolkit, to be nurtured and used judiciously.

Equally, if your business is going through a tough time, such as in the face of extreme economic challenges or disruption from competitors, your internal marketing channels will help you rally your troops. You will also be able to gather ideas and intelligence from the people who make the business happen, which can directly help the strategy and success of the firm.

The interactivity of social media channels is a great benefit for businesses when they use them for internal marketing. Other forms of marketing are also valuable, though. Just as you have an email marketing list as part of your external marketing strategy, delivering a newsletter to your staff helps keep your people up to date and shows that you value the people who keep your business running.

Internal vs. External Marketing: Goals

One of the main ways that your internal marketing will differ from your external marketing is in the overall objectives of both. This is great news. It means that you don’t necessarily need to use a whole new set of tools or techniques to engage with an internal audience as opposed to people external to the business. Everything that you learn or have learned about external marketing can be applied to your people.

Whereas an external marketing campaign might focus on leveraging buyer enablement, boosting engagement by offering discounts on products and services or promoting the benefits of what you do, an internal marketing campaign might highlight the skills of workers, such as with “employee of the month” or “outstanding contribution” for their work and/or ideas. More tangible prizes might include paid time off or gifts, such as hampers. Incentives can demonstrate to your workers the value of their input.

Make sure to also emphasize the importance of people collaborating and working together so that internal competition does not become damaging! You might achieve this by rewarding entire teams for the performance of individuals. Or you may decide to reward everyone in some way, while highlighting the achievement of one or more staff members. This can help everyone to realize that bringing more to the business benefits everyone and that this is a culture in which there are only winners.

By maintaining a consistent internal marketing strategy, you can bring together a disparate workforce. If your workers already have a sense of community, you can deepen this through your marketing efforts. Remember to listen to what your workers want. With external marketing, the focus is on meeting the customers’ needs and helping them to connect with your business. Do not forget this approach when determining your internal marketing objectives and strategy. Take your cues from your people and help them do better in ways that are meaningful to them and your company.

Internal vs. External Marketing: Acquiring And Retaining Talent

If you don’t already invest in internal marketing, we think it’s time to do so. With so much of today’s workforce consisting of millennials and younger people, soft skills, job satisfaction, community, and meaningful work are all becoming more important. Increasingly, people are looking for positions that align with their values and lifestyles. You can use internal marketing to develop and share your values so that you can connect with candidates who already share your ethos.

Think about Google and Apple. People who crave working for these firms are unlikely to be doing so simply because they are some of the best at what they do. In addition to their dedication to excellence, these firms have clear cultures regarding their commitment to their workers, the importance of creativity and downtime, and the value of individual efforts.

There are people out there who want to work for a business like yours. With strong internal marketing, you can help strengthen your business identity and connect with them.

Your workers are a great way to sell your business, because word of mouth is incredibly valuable. Whether people who work for your business are happy or unhappy, you can be sure that they are telling others about it. Use the power of word of mouth to your advantage by ensuring that you take care of the needs of your staff.

Internal marketing will help you understand what your staff want and enable you to deliver it. There might be no better way to stay on the pulse of what is going on with the staff culture of your business. Just observing your internal social media channels and interactions can provide very useful information. If you want more specific information, you can ask directly. Again, your internal marketing channels can facilitate this.

Internal Vs. External MarketingWho Does The Marketing?

Internal vs. External Marketing Teams

Now that we’ve covered what it means to market to audiences whether they are internal or external to an organization, it’s a great time to look out who is going to do this marketing. Are you going to do this in-house or will you lean on an external marketing firm for the heavy lifting?

Marketing takes a lot of planning and hard work, regardless of whether it’s for an external or an internal audience. Since many businesses only focus on external marketing, if you are to do both, you need to know the advantages and disadvantages of getting in some outside help versus going it alone.


While it can take time for an external marketing company to get to know your business and its objectives, you can save a lot of time if you are responsible for your own marketing. If you or a worker is doing double duty to keep your marketing efforts on track, however, offloading your marketing to a specialized agency will give you a lot of time back, which in turn can save you a significant amount of money.


External marketing agencies tend to be cheaper to work with than in-house marketing professionals, because internal staff require benefits, vacations, and other incentives above their salaries. It’s also worth noting that a business must pay for the training or marketing software required for the individual or team to work. An outside agency, on the other hand, already has fully trained experts and the necessary tools, without additional cost.


An in-house team has an intimate knowledge of its business and its market. However, it can be useful to have input from a relative “outsider” who has performed marketing for many organizations and perhaps across numerous industries. The refreshing perspective may be something that helps set your company apart from others in your space.

Learning Curve

There are two main kinds of learning curve to be aware of here. Many small businesses lack the resources to have specialist marketers on board and so this becomes a role that requires an investment in education and practical experience. Many small businesses do without a marketing team and instead rely on one individual, who may already have a role elsewhere. This can be challenging and lead to less than desirable results. On the other hand, employing an outside marketing team means that you get the benefit of expertise and dedication to the task, but it may take the team a while to get up to speed with the requirements and idiosyncrasies of your organization.


One of the benefits of using an internal marketing team over an external marketing team is that an internal team is only working for you and is more likely to be invested in getting results. While many external marketing agencies talk about their dedication to their clients, it’s worth considering whether a firm with a vast number of clients can really be dedicated to all of them.

Marketing is not something that you can do in January and forget about for the rest of the year. It requires consistent application, determination, strategy, and consistency. This is why many businesses look for help from an external agency that has the resources, knowledge, and staying power to keep the energy up over time.

Our advice is that you don’t take it for granted that an external agency will prioritize your business. Look to testimonials and online reviews to consider the reputation and results of the agency to give you an idea of how hard it will work for you.

While external marketing is attractive and has the most known benefits, businesses should not forget the potential of internal marketing. Without customers, there is no business. Same goes for staff. Your staff is the backbone of your business, whether or not they are customer-facing. Investing in your company culture with the same tools you might use for engaging your customers can help you build your business and your brand.

Having an external marketing agency step in can be a great idea as long as you do not take it for granted that every marketing agency has the attitude, experience, and expertise you need. If you do decide to hire an external marketing team, do your research and ensure the agency understands your needs and delivers.