8 Tips for Tackling your Internal Agency’s Biggest Problem: Growth
Internal agencies are all the rage, it seems. Whether you’re in corporate marketing, retail, a technology start-up or a sector with specific needs such as higher education — marketing teams are bringing more services in-house.
It often starts with SEO and other forms of digital marketing and progresses from there. Sometimes it focuses on digital media; other times it takes more of a creative production focus – it really depends on what your organisation’s marketing needs are.
In-housing is a global trend, according to the Association of National Advertisers in the US, whose recent study on the topic showed 78% of marketing teams have some form of in-house agency. The trend is accelerating, having risen from 58% five years earlier. In fact it’s now close to double the 42% penetration that in-house agencies had a decade ago.
Problems and benefits of internal agencies?
Services that have grown significantly for in-house agencies over the past five years include content marketing, creative strategy, data/marketing analytics, media strategy, programmatic media, and social media.
The top 5 benefits of in-house agencies are seen to be cost efficiencies, better knowledge of brands, institutional knowledge, dedicated staff and speed/nimbleness.
But what are the biggest problems related to running internal agencies?
It can be hard to attract the right talent, and once you’ve got them, to keep that talent upskilled and fresh.
There’s the problem of managing that resource effectively, ensuring they are properly briefed and working on the right projects so they can provide the desired service to the organisation.
Then there’s the cost issue. Some organisations fail to track the cost of producing marketing content in-house so they can’t say whether they’re any more or less efficient than if they outsourced the same services, putting their in-house resource at risk.
But according to the ANA study, the number-one challenge for in-house agencies is how to efficiently manage resources and scale up to handle a growing workload.
Managing and scaling your internal agency
The number of channels that marketing teams are expected to get across is only going to increase, reflecting the growing level of complexity in marketing plans.
But marketing budgets are not growing at the same rate. That means internal agencies need to work effectively and scale efficiently, particularly in high-volume sectors such as retail and entertainment, if they are to pick up the slack.
With that in mind, here are 8 quick fixes to help you scale and manage the growth of your internal agency.
- Set objectives
Know what you want to achieve from establishing or expanding your internal agency. Are you seeking cost efficiencies? A faster turnaround time? To complete more projects? To retain certain skills in-house so you can test and improve? Set your objectives and benchmarks up-front and ensure everyone knows what they are.
- Document and define
When you start out, make sure you create the guidelines you need to run the agency. This should include things like your brand guidelines, your workflow processes, your briefing requirements, compliance procedures, and your approval process.
- Streamline and templatise
As you work through each project, assess your process as well as the work itself. Eliminate unnecessary steps and processes and work as efficiently as you can as quickly as you can. It will save you bucketloads of time very quickly. And you won’t need to re-invent the wheel every time you do a project. When you have a process that works, make it a template for future projects. You can use technology such as your marketing operations platform to help with this.
- Onboard effectively
We all know there’s high turnover in marketing. Don’t leave all your newbies to figure out everything for themselves or they will simply revert to the way they used to work in their previous job. Have a formal onboarding process and ensure the way your internal agency works is part of that.
- Everything in one place
If you’ve ever tried to obtain approvals over email or messaging systems you’ll know what a time-waster this is. Each time you see or send a new version over email, the person reviewing it needs to find their last email to check that what they requested has been done, then send a new one. It’s OK if the changes are minor. If they’re not, it’s a major headache. And the process breaks down as soon as someone is out of the office for a few days, as no one else can see what’s in their inbox or chat stream. Keeping the brief, and your creative review and approvals in one centrally accessible location – a single source of truth, will save your internal agency truckloads of time.
- Re-use and repurpose
How often does your internal agency create something from scratch, when they could pick up an existing approved asset, update the image and make a few changes, and create a new version 10 times more quickly? To do that, you need to be able to see the assets you have without requesting them from external suppliers or just remembering that they’re there. Retaining your approved assets in a searchable digital asset manager will keep your approved assets centrally available and accessible and cut down on unnecessary work.
- Be transparent
How does anyone know what your internal agency is working on, how many projects it produced, and how long something takes? Having a system of record to manage the work will not only assist in demonstrating value to the organisation, it will help you manage resources as well as scale up to handle increasing volumes. Even better if the person who requests a project from your internal agency can watch their project progress through the review and sign-off process – it will give your stakeholders an idea of how long things really take, enabling you to manage expectations.
- Measure and benchmark
It’s not until you track things like how many people worked on a project, turnaround times, the number of revision rounds, and approver response times that you’ll know how efficiently your internal agency is working, or the level of resourcing required to handle additional work. Measure these and benchmark your progress against your original objectives and not only will you be closer to achieving your stated outcomes but you’ll be well-equipped to show a positive return on your internal agency investment.
Implement these quick fixes and not only will you protect against the revolving door of in-housing and out-sourcing marketing services, you’ll know how many projects your team is capable of handling, you’ll get faster at completing them and you’ll build trust across your organisation.
That’s when you’ll solve the biggest problem most internal agencies have, which is being able to scale successfully and manage growth.