Insight June 7, 2017

Why In-House Teams Need Outside Marketing Partners


It’s Not Outsourcing. It’s Partnership.

In-house team versus outside agency is not an either-or question. The combination of your inside knowledge and their outside perspective can provide the synergy you need to confront hard truths, identify real opportunities, and plan a strategy that will make marketing directly serve your business goals.

Contrary to a common misconception, agency partnership is highly cost-effective. For the price of hiring one new junior employee (who is not likely to solve your problems), you can hire the entire talent pool of an agency to do a huge amount of work for you. This added value is even more important if you have people moving in and out of your marketing and sales organizations frequently. The right agency can become your consistent “brain trust,” remembering and applying institutional knowledge, regardless of how your in-house staff changes.

Why In-House Teams Need Help

As enterprises grow and diversify, adding divisions, products, and markets – or attempting to adjust to a changing competitive landscape – in-house marketing departments are often overwhelmed.

Staffing usually doesn’t keep pace with added responsibilities (new employees are expensive), so the marketing team members are increasingly wearing too many hats at the same time, or they are broken up into smaller teams, none of whom can see the big picture anymore. Whether in-house staff is consumed with tasks they must perform daily or weekly, or buried in a single major project for weeks, the bigger vision connecting business goals to marketing and sales activities can get foggy. In this hectic environment, everything can become tactical, with no strategy to justify or connect it.

The isolation of the in-house team can also cause it to fall behind the trends and new opportunities that are continuously reshaping marketing – and which competitors might be using quite effectively. When the creative thinking begins to wane, and the answer to each marketing challenge starts to look like the previous ones, it doesn’t mean that your team is incompetent or unmotivated; it means they need collaborators on the outside.

Where Agency Partners Add Value

When you can’t see the forest for the trees, and your marketing and sales support efforts have become ad hoc – rather than holistically strategic – an agency will help you re-establish the big picture, audit your current activities, and explore the possibilities for new and integrated approaches to your initiatives. If you seek a holistic, strategic, integrated approach to your marketing and sales support efforts, seek a partner capable of understanding your challenges and your business, with a track record of solving the big puzzles for other clients.

In a full-service agency, every discipline of marketing is represented by dedicated team members: project managers, strategists, web developers, digital marketing experts, researchers, media planners, social media specialists, videographers, designers, and writers. The agency will bring all appropriate team members together to design and execute solutions for you, backed by the capabilities to make it exactly right – beautiful, functional, brand-compliant, and perfectly targeted at the hearts and minds of your audience – whether through the marketing or the sales channel, or both.

Working with many different clients in many different business sectors gives agencies an ability to give every client the benefit of broad experience, often finding surprising ways to address what seem like old, tired challenges. They’ve puzzled through many scenarios similar to your own, and they’re always evolving their best practices and approaches, based on their most recent experience and the latest changes in the marketing channel landscape.

Your in-house team works on one client – you – and that makes it hard to come up with fresh approaches to repetitive, similar challenges. However, with an engaged, strategically-minded agency, with a well-staffed creative team, you’ll never run out of ambitious thinking and surprising creativity. They will try to wow you every time, because they can, and because they know that their relationship with you depends on it.

It’s one thing to ask your internal team to add something extra to their plate. It’s another to sign a contract with an agency to solve your problems. Once you do that, someone else is on the hook for doing the right thing, exactly as they said they would, on an agreed-upon schedule. The agency will provide a process, with clear steps, and a timetable for completion. They will work their butts off to get it right, and they will be prepared to measure the success of their work, so that they can prove their value to you and enable you to prove your own value to upper management. An agency is never simply checking off an item on their to-do list; they’re trying to keep your business by becoming an indispensable part of it.

The most urgent and important problems you must solve are typically the most difficult for an internal team, simply because that team is living on the inside of the enterprise:

You haven’t figured out what your brand or value proposition is in 15 years. You’ve acquired a competitor, and you don’t know how to integrate them into your brand without losing legacy customers. The market has changed underneath you, and you don’t know how to talk to it. You don’t know how to allocate your marketing budget to evolving audience segments that you’re only beginning to understand. Your marketing and sales strategies haven’t shaken hands in forever. All your competitors are working social media successfully, but you only have a junior employee to try to figure that stuff out.

This is what external agency partners are for. They will engineer discovery processes to learn who you really are, where you stand among the competition, and who you can really appeal to. They’ll provide unvarnished assessments, however troubling they may be, and propose solutions to them, however ambitious they may be. They’ll look at your budget and determine which steps will be the most valuable to take, in what order. They’ll put marketing and sales together into one unified approach. And they’ll think beyond the next quarterly report to the big goal, knowing that they are building a foundation intended to win the next round of work from you.

You can’t grow and shrink your marketing and sales departments with the ebbs and flows of the business cycle, or corporate directives, without earning a reputation as an unappealing employer. And no single employee, new and cautious, is going to supercharge your marketing and sales efforts. However, with an agency partner, you can leverage the resources you need, when you need them, and leave them alone when you don’t. Hiring an extra employee, with ongoing salary and benefits, can’t compete with hiring a full agency to do what you need done, exactly right, right now, for much less.