The words “ad agency” might bring to mind the martini lunches, boardroom pitches and massive budgets of the Mad Men era, but that’s not a true picture of today’s agencies.
Agencies can provide broader perspectives, diverse skill sets and efficient solutions for their partner organizations.
Is working with an agency the right next step for you? Or should you expand your internal team? As you begin to debate in-house marketing vs. agency, it helps to start understanding the potential roles of a marketing agency.
What are the essential roles of a marketing agency?
89% of businesses consider access to contractors important to their success, with almost a quarter of them believing it’s critical, according to a State of the Services Economy research report by Mavenlink and Gigaom.
Marketing agencies play several essential roles that contribute to that success.
- Trend analysts: agencies have their pulse on digital and marketing trends and can determine how they align with clients’ goals
- Creative thinkers: agencies can draw inspiration from multiple clients, industries and disciplines to bring the creativity needed to engage audiences
- Strategic minds: agencies bring an understanding of marketing strategy and the tools and tactics needed to achieve goals
- Timekeepers: agencies help clients see projects through from ideation to execution, keeping them on track and navigating roadblocks along the way
- Workhorses: agencies bring ideas to life — from advertising and websites to social media and email campaigns
- Sounding board: agencies serve as an extension of internal teams with the ability to assess opportunities and advise on best practices
- Data reporters: agencies monitor, measure and interpret data to track performance and better inform next steps
Many companies choose to partner with an agency when they have a need that isn’t fulfilled by their internal team. The need could be specific, like launching a new product or revitalizing a brand, or they could need a comprehensive marketing strategy that goes beyond their current capabilities.
Areas of consideration for hiring an agency
Ultimately, we’re not going to directly answer the question of in-house marketing vs. agency. First of all, we don’t know your specific needs and situation, and secondly, we’re probably a bit biased… but we can provide some considerations to help guide you in your decision.
Both adding to your team or hiring an agency requires an investment. The cost of an agency may seem higher upfront, but it is important to account for the full cost of adding an employee. Additionally, consider the costs of equipping an employee to successfully do their job — technology, subscriptions, training, etc.
Working with an agency may also allow you to scale based on needs — which is harder to do with an in-house team with fixed salaries.
By default, partnering with an agency requires relinquishing some control. Not only do you have to trust an outside partner with intellectual property (which is why NDAs exist), you also aren’t as involved in every single step of the creation process. This change can be an adjustment if you’re used to having full control.
A good agency workflow will enable you to provide key insights and approval throughout the process but allow you to take a step back from the day-to-day management. This change lets you prioritize specific initiatives and the agency partner focus on others.
Onboarding a new employee takes a good amount of time. It is often months before the individual learns company processes and systems and can truly begin to contribute effectively. Of course, there is an onboarding period for a new agency partner as well — but it is usually more of a need to learn your industry and business goals. Once the agency has this knowledge, you can typically go to market faster and begin seeing results.
Additionally, agency partners may be able to react faster to needs, because they’re able to operate outside the confines of a corporate setting. This agility can make a difference in adjusting tactics to achieve your goals.
An in-house team will have easier access to subject matter experts, as well as data and sales information. Often times with an agency, you will serve as the gate keeper to this information and have to facilitate the agency’s use of it.
Looking at access from a different angle, agencies may provide access to tools or other technologies that partner companies can take advantage of — without having to handle the research, upfront costs or training on these services.
Your marketing strategy might require several different tactics across a variety of disciplines. Depending on the scope, it may take a single individual or a large team of specialists to meet your needs. Specialists can range from content specialists and media planners to website developers, graphic designers and digital strategists.
Consider the investment of resources it would take to find, hire and train that team. It may be more efficient to partner with an agency that has those diverse skill sets already. Agencies may also collaborate with other service providers to meet one-off needs, such as videographers or voice-over talents — saving you the hassle of sourcing and vetting these partners.
Agency team members typically work with multiple clients, so it is unlikely that all of their time will be dedicated to your account. On the other hand, they do not have to deal with internal politics, company meetings and other initiatives that fall outside of your marketing strategy like you probably do.
Working with an agency will take up some of your time, but it may be less than managing a larger internal team. Experienced agencies have developed processes that allow them to work efficiently with their clients.
Make the choice — or choose both
In-house marketing vs. agency doesn’t have to be a battle; it could be a blend.
Many companies choose a hybrid approach and have found it to be highly effective. This solution allows your marketing team to focus on the roles and tasks that they do best, as well as prioritize the initiatives that can be achieved more efficiently by an internal contact.
Determining the specific personnel your team needs to be successful can free you up to work with an agency to accomplish bigger goals and take your marketing to the next level.
If you’re interested in learning more about VantagePoint’s capabilities and our partnership with great in-house marketing teams, let us know!