Changing your own oil: The pros and cons of bringing your marketing in-house

Why hire a mechanic to change your oil when you can do it yourself? The benefits are numerous: You don’t have to make an appointment. You don’t have to leave your house. You don’t have to deal with any outside costs. Simply put, you have more control when you do your own wrenching.

Unfortunately for those who crank the bolts in the agency world, lots of companies are starting to once again “change their own brakes.” As digital-focused marketing efforts become more of the norm (and, therefore, easier to accomplish with fewer resources), we’re seeing more and more companies take at least a portion of their marketing efforts in-house. It’s not out of the ordinary to see a company who traditionally partnered with a full-service agency to employ a graphic designer, social media manager, copywriter or developer. And because those positions are often filled by the same person, the barrier to entry is smaller than it’s ever been. It’s easier than ever for a single employee to deploy a lot of marketing messages, thanks to the rise of digital.

Marketing: democratized?

So. Say a client comes to us and asks whether they should hire Debbie in accounting’s nephew, because he made a video in college that Logan Paul name-dropped and now he has a million followers. What would we recommend? In a results-oriented business, it’s hard to argue with results. We always have our clients’ best interests at heart, so no matter what we would recommend the direction we felt would work best. But even when in-house work makes sense, there are some things to be cautious about.

We are old pros at this. So let’s talk about the cons of bringing it all in-house.

  • Overhead costs like salaries, benefits, software, hardware, subscriptions, memberships, certifications can eventually lead to efficiencies, especially if the business prospers.
  • The “we do what we do” mentality is a very real thing. Without outside opinions, it’s easy to stick the same people in the same role over and over again. And over time, that can lead to a lack of new ideas and a dearth of creativity.
  • Too much focus on one business or product line thanks again to a lack of fresh eyes from the outside.
  • Internal marketing teams who wear a lot of hats can quickly get stretched thin. And they might get too deep into the weeds to even recognize that fact!

The good news for agencies (and our clients!) is that it doesn’t have to be all-or-nothing when working with a marketing agency. In the more than 25 years that we’ve been changing our clients’ oil, Woodruff has been a partner of many different colors. We’ve worked with a number of clients for 10 or more years, managing all aspects of their marketing efforts. With other clients, we’ve handled one or two aspects of their business while their in-house marketing team handled other segments of their promotion efforts. No matter what the arrangement, collaboration is our priority. In the end, we want the best for our clients. Internal or external, we all win if the client succeeds.

We’ve worked with companies to lay a solid brand and marketing foundation, which led to big revenues, which led them to hire a marketing staff in-house. Sure, a successful internal team may lead to a lighter workload for the agency, but chances are that more success for your business means more work for us, one way or another. It’s a chance we’ll always take! Long story short: There are lots of ways to work with an agency. And they all have pros and (shudder) cons, depending on your needs.

The pros of the pros

Agencies live and breathe marketing. Being good at our business is all we do, so it’s easier for us to keep up on marketing trends and efficiencies (for example) that make our clients successful. Meanwhile, our clients are free to focus on the actual business of being in business.

Agencies wield the power of staffing. Even the most specialized agency features people with a variety of backgrounds and talents who have worked clients across industries. This range of experience leads to new perspectives, approaches and, most importantly, insights.

Expertise is cherished at an agency. Ideally you pick an agency that knows your target market or industry because they feature people who know your audience inside and out. Now, this may seem in opposition to our last point, but they really work hand-in-hand. A marketing exec who specializes in pet health, for instance, certainly isn’t hurt by regular exposure to agriculture. He or she just has a broader range of experience to apply to your business. Specialty doesn’t mean exclusive.

Potential cost savings is an important benefit of an agency. Sure, that hourly rate can be terrifying, but is it as terrifying as another full-time employee’s benefits package? Obviously, every case has nuances. But hiring the specialists to handle full-time the things that a full-timer would possibly only work on part-time is a benefits package all by itself.

The possible not-so-good

Onboarding an agency can take time. When partnering with a new agency, you need to have patience as you build a relationship. A thorough agency will take the time to get to know you, your goals, your favorite bands, your wants and your needs. If you need to rush to market or need to hit a revenue goal immediately, a new agency relationship could cause you frustration.

Time is money to an agency. Changes to scope or shifts in focus can sometimes lead to increased costs, so clear expectations on both sides is a must-have conversation. Unexpected changes or shifts in focus can directly impact the bottom line.

The ins and outs of internal vs. external

Can you have internal and external marketing squads? You know it. The long and short of it is that agencies, like any other business, come in all shape and sizes. If you have a small in-house marketing team that is really good at one or two things, but you need help with additional marketing channels or expertise, there’s an agency that can help you. Some agencies focus on one or two specific marketing verticals, while others, like Woodruff, are a full-service marketing agency that can help with whatever needs you may have.

Changing your own oil doesn’t mean you have to build your own engine. Likewise, if you’re into the long-term projects like the scratch-built hot rod but don’t have time for the day-to-day wrench cranking, there’s help out there. Even a full-service agency can often tailor a program for your business.

It all comes down to the right fit for you. If you’d like to kick the tires on some external marketing assistance (or on extended metaphors), give us a call.