An age-old debate: keep it in-house or go with an agency?
Every couple of years, the debate between hiring an agency and bringing the work in-house resurfaces. In reality, there isn’t a simple answer. Deciding how to support your marketing and advertising needs depends on many factors, ranging from your company’s needs, goals and budget. While there’s no one size fits all solution, there are some key factors to keep in mind when making this critical decision.
In-house ins and outs
Bringing your marketing in-house means that the work will be done by a team you develop yourself, which can be very helpful if you need dedicated employees to focus solely on your brand. The under-one-roof approach also ensures that your marketing is always interconnected and fully aligned with both your company and goals.
Communication is also more streamlined because team members are together in one place and can collaborate at a moment’s notice. This ease of communication makes decision-making more seamless for organizations where there is the potential for things to get slowed down by bureaucracy. Best of all, when the whole group is invested in the entire process, they will be more likely to take ownership of all outcomes. In other words: everyone’s rooting for the home team (Go Colts!).
If you want control and speed, then the in-house option will be your best fit. Being able to oversee all content every step of the way may also be the most cost-efficient scenario at times when you need to move quickly. You can go from brainstorming to approval all in the same meeting – if you’re lucky.
On the other hand, developing your own team often means compromising on the talent and tools required to accommodate today’s diverse and ongoing marketing challenges. Not only will you have to decide which skills are needed to support the kinds of work you produce the most, but also be ready to outsource projects to the right talent at a moment’s notice. When you’re on a tight timeline and need fast solutions, finding freelancers or new hires often proves challenging.
I’ve met my fair share of clients who have had a bad experience with agency partners. In those cases, it meant having to start from zero to earn their trust. Whether it was a backlash over kickbacks or “black-boxing” programmatic, I’ve seen how some agencies make profits over partnership a common practice. My team and I work hard to become true partners so that our clients always feel like we’re an extension of their team. I’ve always believed that when our clients win, so do we as an agency.
Onboarding the right agency
By default, agencies have a great deal of available expertise under one roof. Whether you choose a full service or niche operation, they will have not only the talent but also the tools. There may be an RFP or vetting process to get started, but that only happens once, in comparison to building a department in-house from the ground up, piece by piece.
Hopefully, your agency will prove to be a long-term partner and a reliable resource for years to come. I’ve enjoyed client relationships of up to 12 years, which is very uncommon in our industry. Those strong bonds have always led to a short-hand and level of trust that allowed my people to do outstanding work. Remember, it isn’t just about hiring an agency or an in-house team; it’s about creating a solution that sets you up for long-term success.
Another value of hiring an agency is what comes from having a collective of experts. On their own, talented people are great; they know a lot about their area of expertise and can help you create unique and creative solutions. Together, however, is where they truly shine, as a group of experts who know your business and have the collective experience to develop innovative ideas and uncover opportunities you never knew were there. This kind of work takes time, but an agency has mastered the art of producing quality in an efficient time frame.
Sometimes the key to success is an outside point of view, another set of eyes to home in on a problem and see it clearly. Agencies have developed perspectives and best practices from working with other clients, allowing them to stay on top of trends and industry developments. By continually growing their knowledge through education and experience, they are often the first to know about new technologies and innovative solutions.
If you ever need services an agency doesn’t offer like social media, video production, or traditional PR, leveraging them could still be your best resource. In most cases, they will have a network of relationships to help you find the right vendor and facilitate your project more seamlessly with a partner they know and trust.
Customizing a hybrid model
Do your needs lie somewhere in the middle? Then you may be looking for a hybrid solution. Some agencies will take on single service contracts or project work. If you have a team that handles brand marketing, for example, but want help with auditing your website’s SEO or developing a campaign around a new offer, then finding an agency that compliments your team is your best bet.
The key here is to be honest with yourself about what needs to be done in both the short term and long term. There are many areas where more control from the brand side is helpful, like community management or consumer data gathering. In addition to cost analysis of the work, assessing the actual price tag of tools, talent and experience, is critical also in understanding the value that these partners bring to the table. The right agency can provide much-needed relief for your internal team and resources, especially when you’re on a tight timeline.
All in all, it comes down to weighing your needs and finding the right solution for your current situation. It also doesn’t hurt to have some partners in mind when those needs do arise–you don’t want to find yourself scrambling at the last moment. And while agencies may be a dime a dozen, finding the right one could be the best business decision you’ve ever made–But that’s a blog post for another day.