Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Should you move your Digital Marketing in-house?

An article in today's Mint caught my eye. Titled 'Why marketing is moving in-house' the article has been written by Mark W. Schaefer for the Harvard Business Review, and talks about how companies are moving their marketing in-house from agencies. He also explains why. While he has written it more from the perspective of overall marketing, I think the reasons are more to do with Digital.

As a Digital Strategy Consultant, depending on the client's target audience as well as their short term and long term goals, I many a times recommend them to handle digital marketing on their own. I have nothing against agencies and in fact some of the agencies out there do a really great job, and I recommend them too. They can really help companies who are just getting started in Digital as they have the expertise, tools and experience that companies don't.

Then why handle digital marketing in-house? Here's why:

1) Digital marketing almost always, is not a one time or periodic marketing activity. It is continuous and ever evolving, and needs live monitoring and changes on the fly. For something that's always on, alive and can always be continuously bettered on to improve ROI, would you leave that to an external party to handle? or manage it yourself?

2) Digital marketing is directly measurable and results have to be tested continuously, and campaigns tweaked or altered accordingly on an ongoing basis. Creatives, landing pages, content, choice of media all have to be tried, tested and changed all the time to get the desired results. Would you be willing to lose time and money going back & forth with an external party for the same?

3) Digital marketing is almost always a mix of - onsite marketing, content marketing, blogs, SEO, SEM, Social, Videos etc, and there needs to be a coordinated effort across these for best results. Do you think external resources in different teams, sitting under different silos with their own targets to achieve, would be able to do that?

4) Digital marketing is less about broadcast and more about engagement. Frankly a lot of marketing heads and agencies are still living in the broadcast age and hence their campaigns are all about push. Being an interactive medium, digital enables customers to share their experience with your service or brand to one and all and you need to be able to respond to that in real time and in fact, encourage and also channel the same for your benefit. Can an external agency handle customer engagement as efficiently and effectively as you can?

5) Data & Analytics is a big part of digital marketing. And a lot of it is in real time too. It needs to be implemented & used effectively, and not only helps in better marketing but can also be useful for future product development. Would you rather have this in-house or handled by an external party that itself may change tomorrow?

6) Last but not the least, in digital, your product team, technology team, HR team, CRM team, delivery team, all have to work together along with your marketing team for best results. And that can only be done if your marketing strategy as well as execution is in-house.

Can't agencies provide that? Yes and No. Depending on the stage of your business, your budgets, current expertise & your business focus, you may decide to go with an agency or multiple agencies, and at that time that may be the best solution for you. If your business is digital, or your target audience is on digital, or if you seriously want to use digital for long term, then in-house may be a better way to do it. You may still use an agency for a part or some parts of your digital marketing, however the strategy and the core activities may be better handled in-house. 

Yes you would need tools and people with expertise, and good people are hard to get. However if you consider the long term benefits of building a team and expertise, it would be worth it.

Like I said above, I am not in any way trying to discourage companies from using Digital Agencies. All am saying is, at every stage of your business evolution, think about your current and long term needs and then take a decision that is most suited for your business.

For those of you who would want to consider an agency here is a blog I had written sometime back on 'Selecting the right digital agency for your business'. Also read this very pertinent article by Mark Traphagen, from Stone Temple Consulting on 6 signs of a valuable digital marketing agency.

Agree? Disagree? Please feel free to comment below with your views & suggestions. 

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