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In-house or agency? It’s a complicated question with plenty of contributing factors ranging from overhead cost to talent to efficiency and capabilities. Since performance marketing was born, we’ve seen countless brands follow down the path of traditional advertising practices and ship execution out to external partners. If you’ve run a marketing department before, then you’ve heard all the benefits and the pitches as to why using an external partner is better for you and your company, but have you truly considered the benefits of running performance marketing in-house? It’s a new market out there, and historical complexities are not what they used to be, so perhaps it’s time we reexamine running an in-house team.
When working with external partners, who owns the data can often be a sticky situation that can lead to legal and/or contractual endeavors. By not owning your data, you open yourself up to the risk of not being able to access historical learnings and insights that could be applied to future campaigns. Just imagine not having your data at the end of the year, when your team is building that “year in review” report, measuring historical performance…it’s going to be pretty difficult without data.
Yes, you’ll most likely need to staff. That means a bit of salary and risk. What it doesn’t mean is 40 new hires and onboarding countless “systems” that are “must haves” in order to run a successful performance marketing campaign. Take Nanigans for example, in order to run our software in-house, you’d want a day-to-day manager who could work with the tool and report across performance and analytics as well as time from a designer who could help with copy and creative. Of course you’ll need some time to make sure any other “systems” are working properly together like Salesforce, however, this would be handled internally as it is, so don’t let the need for “systems” scare you from in-house. As you prove out via data that your performance marketing is generating positive ROI, then you can continue to staff as necessary, however, the initial risk is actually quite low. The true beauty of running a team in-house though is that you know what your brand needs better than anyone, so the best person to staff that team is…you.
Whether you want to slow down or speed up, having your team in-house makes things easier. For instance, if you need to instantly get a campaign live and your team is in-house, a simple in-person conversation or call can happen instantly. You can agree internally on the approach and green light the execution. With external partners, there’s always a risk of projects moving slower simply due to the fact that there are more people involved across various companies. In addition, if you’re looking to slow things down a bit, spend less budget for a few months while you fix some internal inefficiencies or understand performance for the past few months then you have the freedom to do so, all while knowing that your team will still be 100% as dedicated to the account as they’ve always been. Just because you may be spending less, it doesn’t make the media dollars you are spending any less important, does it?
Who knows your brand better than you? Often times, those “light bulb” concepts or ideas come from something simple that happens in a meeting, a conversation or an experience. While you can retell your brilliant ideas to an external party, it’s unlikely that you’ll be able to harness that same genuine passion that arose internally. It’s your brand. If you head up marketing wouldn’t you rather have the people who know your brand the best all around you?
Who knows your target audience better than you? Hopefully not external partners… Leading brands often cite how wonderful and important their customers are to them, and that they understand their customers better than anyone else. To me, that sounds like an in-house team. A team that is able to work across departments from BD to sales to customer experience and learn from unfiltered interactions.
So as you consider the best way for your team to move forward, just think about the best story for your brand. Who do you want to be the reason for the success of your brand, your team or someone else? When it comes to external relationships only one thing is certain, they inevitably end. Follow the updates from AdAge and every month, you’ll see another divorce. What’s unfortunate about these “divorces” is that all too often the external partner is used as a scape goat for disappointing performance and some brands just keep moving from external partner to partner without taking responsibility for the performance on their own. The relationship isn’t fair for either side, and there are countless factors that impact performance making it near impossible to identify with certainty what THE reason is for poor performance. The reason I love to watch singles tennis is because there’s no blame available for a player when they lose a match. It’s one on one, out in the open, may the best person win with no excuses. While it takes a team to run performance marketing, running that team in-house is a lot like singles tennis, no excuses.