More companies are bringing their marketing back home and rebuilding in-house marketing departments.
It's a trend that's been underway for years: Instead of outsourcing critical marketing activities to agencies (such as audience analysis, segmentation, content creation, or design, to name a few), businesses of all shapes and sizes are trying to rely on themselves—and resort to agencies only when they need coverage above and beyond what the in-house team can provide (generally during busy seasons or during product launches).
Bringing marketing in-house isn't for everyone, and the approach your firm takes is going to be dependent heavily on your preferences, Management's goals and strategy, your team's strengths and weaknesses, and the technology available to help shore up gaps in your strategy.
Start With Soul Searching
To build an effective in-house team that breaks your reliance on outside agencies (except in strategic instances or dire circumstances), your team will need to do some serious soul searching.
Honestly consider your team's true capabilities—not what your team claims they can do well or poorly, not what they think they excel at or struggle in, but their actual abilities.
That can be tough to achieve, and it can feel a lot more like a team-building retreat than something that affects the bottom line. But the reality is that many teams just don't have a true understanding of what they can and can't do—or, worse, they're covering up for inadequacies.
But ask yourself what's worse: seeing a few feelings get a little hurt, only to come together as a team with a solid understanding of what you need and what you don't, or pretending that your situation is better than it is, only to watch the in-house experiment fail?
Results-oriented teams will understand the importance of beginning with evaluation.
Depending on the size of your business (and hence marketing team) and the scope of the endeavors you're considering, here are the main skills and capabilities you should map:
- Strategic thinking—typically someone who'll drive strategy (including, for example, quarterly and monthly planning), and can do so with an analytical mindset
- Branding, positioning, and storytelling—possibly housed under content or copywriting
- Content marketing—writing, publishing, and promoting your longform content
- Conversion rate optimization, including A/B-testing, budget planning for advertising, etc.
- Ad copywriting
- Email marketing (can also overlap with copywriting)
- Ad creative and graphic design
- Social media strategy, creation, and execution
- Search engine optimization
- Additional skills, depending on your business and marketing (e.g., event marketing, video production)
Once you have a clear idea of what your team can and can't do, you need to think strategically about how to fill the gaps.
Talent or Technology? (Hint: Both)
One of the underlying trends pushing the movement toward rebuilding in-house marketing teams is the emergence of powerful technologies that allow a single marketer or a small team to do what was once possible only for larger, well-funded specialty agencies.
A critical component of building your in-house team is choosing the right pieces of technology (and any training that goes with them) to enhance the strengths of your team, mitigating any weaknesses and opening the doors to previously unreachable capabilities.
Obviously, your team is already using a marketing technology stack, which, depending on the size of your business, may include an analytics platform, CRM, an email marketing execution platform, a website CMS, etc. Your stack needs to be enhanced depending on what you're already using, and the capabilities you're planning to in-house.
Certainly, you'll need data analytics tools, but which ones are best suited to your firm? You might find that an advertising platform is necessary, but for some industries advertising is a waste of time and money... Those are all decisions that your team will need to make before you think about hiring.
A good idea may be to take some free platforms for a test drive, and see how they fly. Here are some of our favorite basic ones, all with free versions:
- Website CMS: WordPress
- Analytics: Google Analytics
- Marketing automation: HubSpot Marketing Free
- Email marketing: Mailchimp
- CRM: HubSpot CRM
Fortunately or unfortunately, it's unlikely that your existing team can cover every base imaginable. Before returning to the idea of outsourcing to access the talent you need, you'll want to consider new hires. Nothing breathes new life into an in-house team like expert talent that shores up crucial weaknesses and helps the team as a whole feel more prepared to implement new strategy.
Evaluate and Restructure
Once you've got a firm grasp about what your team needs to get started, you'll need to leave the training wheels on for a while. You're going to encounter rough patches as teams take time to acclimate to new technology and new employees.
At first, your in-house team may be even less efficient than before, but those are just growing pains. You'll need to watch how all the pieces are working together and evaluate progress regularly before making restructuring decisions.
Once you've had time to see how your team is developing, restructuring may in fact be in order: Teams may need to be reorganized, and team leads or managers may need to be shifted around (or even sent packing if they're resisting change); in rare cases, complete restructuring might be the only method of fixing what's broken.
Consultancies that specialize in "in-housing" can help overcoming such challenges by helping your firm take back control of your media capabilities—building programmatic strategies, in-sourcing technology, changing operational models, and creating internal capabilities. Consider that a short-term investment to break the long-term addiction to outside agencies.
Bringing all of your marketing and advertising programs in-house might be painful initially, but over the long haul it will ultimately leave you with more control of your brand and greater agility to respond to the rising market demand for speed and responsiveness.
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