For some, there's no option but to outsource marketing for their organisation wholesale, leaving every aspect of brand management or outbound campaigns in the hands of a dedicated group of experts. For others, it suits to hand over specific, niche elements like PPC or email to help save time, money and potential headaches.
For those that don't fit into either category - that don't know how to best employ the use of an agency or get the most out of an available budget - it may all seem like a stab in the dark.
Thankfully for many, there are still many advantages to keeping marketing activity in-house, which in turn may well be enhanced by agency involvement. On the other hand, there are a number of drawbacks to the same scenario. To create this article we lined up the best aspects of an in-house strategy along with the main points of risk - and where an agency can add value to both.
Internal marketing teams have the advantage of being able to count on first-hand experience of the business, from products and services to internal process and culture. This allows them to embellish their output with an extra degree of sensibility and command of the defining characteristics of the organisation. In theory this makes delivering marketing activities that carry real relevance to the most important audiences a straightforward task.
However, proximity to source matter can sometimes lead to a narrowed field of vision. Knowing what areas of a business possess the greatest potential for compelling communications, along with being able to pick out what truly matters to your customers isn’t always straightforward when you’re immersed in the material on a day-to-day basis.
As a result, an agency can add value by:
When working on marketing within a business, chances are the right person you need is within close reach. Whether you need to access some customer stats, determine precise technical specifications of a product range or summarise the key benefits of a new service, knowledgable staff that work in specific fields are likely to be just across the office floor.
That said, the small gap between taking in-house know-how and converting it into marketing that does it justice can sometimes present itself as more of a gaping chasm. It may be that colleagues blessed with with dynamite information that will take your marketing up several notches don’t have the confidence to relay it, actively hold onto it out of some protective instinct, or simply don’t see any value in speaking up.
At best, this can result in a failure to genuinely set the business apart as a leading expert and trusted advisor and, at worst, lead to marketing that comes across as little more than a muddled mess of dense information.
On the other hand, agencies are well-versed in:
It’s easy to come to a clear understanding of a business’ commercial aims and objectives simply by working there. Whether it’s increase sales, grow the market share or improve customer retention, the daily chatter present in whatever the organisation is will naturally become part of your mindset.
From this point, though, things can sometimes become a little haphazard. The vast array of options available to in-house marketers - from email platforms to content management systems and printed collateral to the raft of social media channels around - often leads to either throwing caution to the wind and indulging in some decidedly un-strategic activity or, worse still, paralysis by analysis.
The involvement of an agency in this scenario will:
In-house marketers the world over can be forgiven for considering themselves as the ‘forgotten child’ of the company. After all the money has been divvied up across other, more ‘essential' areas of operation, the cash made available for marketing activity often leaves room for improvement.
It would be a much happier existence for marketers if it were it easy to access the keys to the vaults and fully realise all of their bold, bright ideas. To truly project the image you want, in the way you want, is a utopia for professionals tasked with improving a brand image or increasing revenue, but the reality is frequently much more sobering.
When purse strings are tight, an agency will:
If there’s one thing that you can count on, it’s having your carefully planned out schedule of projects and tasks shattered into tiny pieces by whatever spontaneous idea happens to land on your desk from higher management. These ‘urgent’ ad-hoc internal requests will have a highly disruptive effect, weakening the overall impact of your regular output.
On a more basic level, the workload can simply be too much full stop. As our previous point states, limited marketing budgets may also extend to staffing levels which makes delegation an imaginary luxury rather than a sensible way of working.
Choosing to outsource at least some element of your marketing to an agency can:
Such is the strength of feeling over an organisation’s external voice that an in-house marketer’s role can occasionally descend into merely acting as a referee for everyone else’s opinions. Not only does this often mean that the most qualified minds in the business are completely overlooked, but can easily result in compromised projects fatefully pleasing nobody at all by way of trying to please absolutely everyone.
The overall effect of either trying to temper colleagues' wants and needs or run round in circles in search of across-the-board approval for your plans is marketing output that ends up heavily delayed, unfocussed or, in the worst case scenario, dead in the water.
If collaborated with in the right way, an agency will:
No in-house marketing output is bulletproof and no agency can pretend to know what to do with your brand and communications without truly immersing itself in the subject matter. Perhaps the sum of the two combined is always going to be greater than its constituent parts.
Succeeding in marketing if often more about what you don't know that what you do, so it's important to find out and blind spots you never knew about.
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