In-House Marketing vs Agency: What Comes First?

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When it comes to digital marketing and digital advertising, businesses have a choice to make: should they insource or outsource their campaigns and activity?

Increasingly, Australian businesses are choosing a hybrid model, using both in-house and agency resources to make their digital marketing dreams come to life. But if you’re going to use both, what should come first? 

If you’re wondering whether you should first build in-house capabilities, or seek the expertise of an agency partner, in this case, it’s not really a ‘chicken or the egg’ situation. There’s a clear order things should follow to ensure your digital marketing activity is a raging success. 

Using agencies to lead your digital marketing

Despite what our name, Insourced, might suggest, we are big supporters of businesses using agencies to execute their digital strategies. Both Aimee and I have worked in digital and content marketing agencies, and we continue to partner with some great agencies to get s*** done (ask us for our recommendations!). 

But, we caution against using their help before up-skilling your in-house marketing team.

While seeking digital expertise upfront will open your eyes to tactics, channels and platforms you may not have considered, you may not receive the holistic assessment of your business you’re looking for. 

The umbrella of digital marketing is broad with many topics underneath it, so because of this some digital marketing agencies have their ‘niche’ areas of expertise, and develop blind spots to the rest.

Going to a digital marketing agency before building digital marketing skills in your team could mean you end up with a one-trick-pony digital marketing strategy. An SEO agency might sell you into a SEO strategy, a content marketing agency might push a content marketing strategy, a social media agency likely will push a social media strategy. You get the picture.

Alternatively, you might strike gold with a well-rounded digital marketing agency who writes an awesome strategy and action plan for you. Yet if you don’t have the in-house knowledge to appreciate its brilliance, how will it be appropriately championed, resourced and implemented?

If a digital marketing strategy falls in the woods into an untrained team, does it even make a sound?

The case for your in-house marketing team

No agency is going to know your business better than the people who work day in, day out on your business. If your marketing team is worth their salt, they know your customers inside and out, and can easily tell you how you stack up against your competitors.

While this knowledge alone isn’t enough to execute a digital marketing strategy, it is in many ways just as important as having digital marketing skills. Your digital marketing campaigns won’t exist in a vacuum, they must have alignment with your other marketing and communications activity to ensure you deliver a consistent brand and customer experience. 

Of course, it is difficult for an in-house team to lead an integrated digital marketing strategy if they haven’t had extensive experience in digital and content marketing. With limited experience, it will also be difficult for them to identify the areas they need training in, and even harder for a business owner to make that assessment on their behalf.

Yet the truth remains the same, when it comes to in-house marketing vs agency: fundamental in-house knowledge must come before agency consultation.

Navigating the in-house marketing vs agency challenge

So we’ve uncovered a challenge: Sure, not every member of your team needs to be a digital super-specialist, but your team must have the knowledge to be able to understand, evaluate and support agency recommendations before you engage with an agency.

What’s more, with a whole world of digital marketing tactics out there, your business needs a  team trained in what matters, so they don’t spend unnecessary time developing an unnecessary skillset, like B2C tactics for a B2B business. 

The skillset developed in your team needs to be specific to your business and your challenges, not just delivering a solution that an agency happens to favour.

If you’re scratching your head wondering the way out of this conundrum, we get it. Aimee and I have both worked in agencies, and in-house, so we’ve been there, done that, lived it. This paradox is exactly why we formed Insourced Digital Marketing.

Here’s how we tackle it:

When we work with clients, we start by conducting an audit of your business, which includes evaluating your existing team skills, competitor activity, previous marketing activity and more. 

With that big-picture view, we then create a bespoke digital marketing strategy for your business, with an action plan that spells out exactly what you need to do to achieve the strategy, and what KPIs you can expect to achieve after implementing the plan. 

The best bit? We then train your team in the areas identified in the strategy and plan, so they can fully take the reins and own the vision in-house. Our goal is not to implement the strategy for you, we want to enable you to lead it yourself.

If, after the training, your now super-skilled and knowledgeable team decides to up the ante with some great agency partners, then that’s fantastic. We’ll be delighted knowing your team has the fundamental knowledge to use those agencies in a smart and savvy way, getting the most bang out of your buck. They’ll now be ready to move into that second phase of maturity  and set their sights on bigger goal posts. 

If you’re looking to invest in your in-house team and take your digital marketing to the next level, get in touch with us. We’d love to help you get the most out of your awesome people.


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