Marketing plays a vital role in the process of setting up and growing a business and developing a successful brand, product or service wouldn’t be possible if they’re not marketed properly. With this in mind, it can be difficult to know where to start, especially if you have limited knowledge and experience within the industry. Another decision that will probably crop up if you need some guidance and expertise is whether to employ in-house or agency staff.
Both definitely come with their own benefits, but coming from someone who has worked both agency-side and client-side over the years, I hope to bring a balanced perspective on the situation and advice on which approach may be the best for your business.
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Agency marketing is an approach where a business hires a third party to set up, plan, execute and report on their marketing strategies, campaigns and activities using their industry expertise, tools and resources. Hiring an agency comes with lots of advantages for businesses of all shapes and sizes:
With digital marketing agencies offering clients a wide range of digital marketing services, such as SEO, PPC, social media, digital PR and web design and development, you already know that you’re going to get the best skills in the industry for your business.
According to Campaign Live, a study that was carried out by Target Internet, in partnership with The Chartered Institute of Marketing (CIM), found that agency staff outperformed their in-house counterparts in 12 areas of digital marketing.
Gemma Butler, CIM’s Director of Marketing, said: “The complex nature of digital means that marketers need to be continually upskilling themselves just to stay in the same place. The agency sector is taking seriously its role in providing counsel and consultation to organisations and brands, proving that it is keeping pace with technology and can deliver marketing advantage.”
The digital marketing industry is becoming increasingly sophisticated and shows no sign of slowing down. Agency staff are built to keep up with the digital landscape on a daily basis to ensure their clients’ strategies and campaigns are performing to the best of their ability.
In addition to having a more profound depth in knowledge, working with agencies also gives you access to a broad range of expertise that can sometimes be difficult to hire in-house, such as Conversion Rate Optimisation (CRO) and technical SEO. The agency team has already gained experience from working on hundreds of accounts, meaning your business will receive tested and proven marketing activities.
For the same retainer, businesses are able to gain a team of experts that specialise in more than one marketing channel rather than hiring one person in-house. For example, an agency account manager could have experience in three different digital marketing areas or your retainer could include three consultants who are placed in their respective specialism. This means that you can get all hands on deck, a pool of creativity, run a number of campaigns and execute an omnichannel strategy all at the same time.
Many agencies will also often have established work processes, frameworks and project management methodologies in place for marketing workflows that some in-house marketing teams may not use. According to the Project Management Institute (PMI), 89% of project professionals said that their organisation implemented hybrid project management practices.
Examples of these project management methodologies include agile, which is when agencies work collaboratively and iteratively to deliver whatever works and scrum, which enables small, cross-functional and self-managing teams to deliver work fast.
Creating an adaptive and flexible working environment (whether in the office or remotely) can reap untold advantages. Agency staff have the freedom to find the most productive way of working, the exposure to tools needed to get the job done and the ability to adapt to constant change, which we all know the digital marketing industry loves to do. With this in addition to having a team of collective brains, a business owner should see their agency staff run more effective campaigns, driving quicker and better results, helping them to scale faster over time.
The majority of marketing agencies are already equipped with resources and tools to use that in-house teams may otherwise need to invest in, which may not be a priority for business decision-makers as marketing would only be one department of many.
In-house marketing teams may also have to rely on free versions of tools or depend on one person to understand a particular marketing channel. Marketing agencies already have this infrastructure in place with the knowledge and experience on how to use everything, enabling agency staff to carry out their services to the best of their ability whilst saving your business time and money.
Having access to a large team of experts in an ever-evolving digital landscape, who all specialise in a wide range of channels and skills as well as access to all the tools and resources needed to carry out a successful marketing strategy, it is safe to say that a business would be getting good value for their money.
Whilst it’s easy to argue that some marketing agencies can be expensive and sometimes known to have a competitive hourly rate or pricey packages, what you actually receive in terms of Return On Investment (ROI) can far exceed what you would get from hiring one or two people for an in-house marketing role.
Hiring in-house simply means that your marketing will be done by people who are hired and trained within your organisation and that you don’t currently use an agency to manage your marketing efforts. As with agency staff, in-house teams also come with many advantages:
Whoever is in your in-house marketing team lives and breathes your brand and understands your business from the inside out, identifying themselves with you first-hand and building the brand from the ground up. As a result, an in-house marketing team can work cohesively together, remain fully aligned with the company’s vision, mission and goals, streamline communication, adapt easily and make faster business decisions.
A concern that a business sometimes has with agencies is that some may lack the familiarity of the brand and it takes time for them to get to know the company, their values and what they offer before handing the reins over to run marketing campaigns effectively and efficiently.
Due to an in-house marketing team only focusing on one business and not a multitude of clients, communication can be as regular as it needs to be and more streamlined.
Whilst we’re not currently working in a shared office space, back and forth can still happen remotely and on-demand. Should anything crop up urgently, most things can be dropped easily and dealt with quickly.
In-house teams naturally spend more time with other members of the company, making it easier to embed them into the business culture and values, positively affecting motivation and commitment. If agencies don’t receive the best onboarding experience with their clients, it can be difficult for them to get to know the business values, mission, goals and culture, which can sometimes hinder marketing activities.
Furthermore, managing a full team of in-house staff means that your entire workforce is dedicated and focused towards the same goal, leading to increased productivity, team cohesiveness and full control over advertising spend.
A business doesn’t have to choose between hiring in-house teams or agency staff. A marketing team can be a lot more fluid than that and with the current climate of the digital world and the never-ending battle of COVID-19, client-side teams need agencies now more than ever.
Especially now that we’re able to work remotely, businesses are bringing in agencies to act as an extension of their marketing team to help with the workload and drive creativity and results in order to stand out from the competition and remain successful.
There are a few areas that require shared ownership such as:
Are you a small startup? It might be wise to first establish a small in-house marketing team before hiring an agency. This means that you can focus on generating ideas, coming up with an initial strategy based on your business objectives and creating a brand to drive forwards. There are also plenty of free tools and resources, such as SEMrush and Ahrefs for SEO, Google Ads for PPC and Creator Studio for Facebook and Instagram, that are readily available to use to get you started.
Once you feel that you need to take your company’s marketing to the next level, that might be when you should start thinking about hiring a digital marketing agency to collaborate with your in-house marketing team. This means that both types of teams bring their strengths and expertise together in order to boost performance, execute data-driven and strategic campaigns and yield more and better results for the business.
Digital Ethos is one of the UK’s fastest-growing digital marketing agencies who partner with brands to help grow their revenue and scale their business through strategic, data-driven and creative digital marketing campaigns. We are made up of 25 passionate and dedicated digital marketing specialists and for each and every one of our clients, we act as an extension of your marketing team, bringing you and your business digital strategy, expertise and results to areas you need most.
If your brand needs to drive business growth, increase conversion rates, generate leads or boost sales, visibility and engagement, Digital Ethos have the perfect solution for you. If you would like to find out more about our services or would like some further advice on agency staff, please don’t hesitate to contact us by calling 0333 772 0189 or emailing us at email@example.com. We hope to hear from you soon!