Paraphrasing Vocabulary.com, an agency is defined as the following:
An agency usually provides a service. The Latin word “agere” means “to do or manage,” and it’s a fitting ancestor for agency, a word that means an institution that manages or specialises in something.
A recent conversation with a client got me thinking about the value that an agency brings, working alongside an in-house Marketing team.
The lines have definitely become blurred over the past few years, so I thought it might be useful to put pen to paper and get a few thoughts down. When you live and breathe something everyday, it’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking everyone sees it the same way you do. That’s a trap that can lead to missed opportunity.
Our agency is made up of skilled specialists in many different areas.
We have Web Designers who have honed and practiced their craft for 15+ years. The skill of knowing where to put a button on a webpage so it converts better is not one you learn in theory books (well it is actually, but nothing beats trying and seeing what works over years).
We have Web Developers who specialise in front-end and back-end development. These are different skills. Front-end determines the way a page interacts and works, the backend dev makes the databases and content all hook up to the right places. One is not usually the other and vice versa.
We have a Project Manager who specialises in web projects and the nuances of them. A web project is a difficult beast. Many different stakeholders, responsibilities at both ends (content is a big one) and challenges in trying to explain a complex, three dimensional product in writing up front and then also in flat graphics before weeks of silence as a product is brought to life.
We then have a marketing team.
Search Engine Optimisers (SEOs) who live and breathe the world of Google. This is actually one of my favourite areas of the business and I know more than most how, unless you spend your 8 hours a day reading, researching, understanding this world, you get left behind. It’s the job of these skilled specialists to take the changes Google throws at them almost daily and ensure their clients are keeping up to speed with it all for the sake of their rankings. A recent example of this is Core Web Vitals.
Paid Specialists is another area where I have ultimate respect for the craft. A couple of years ago I tried to run some ads into an online course I have. Having spent 18 years in the industry and being able to stand on stages across Europe talking on the subject gave me the false confidence that I could do this alone. I couldn’t. Within a few weeks I’d spent over a thousand pounds of my own money and had nothing to show for it. The world of paid ads is unbelievably nuanced. Getting the right bidding strategies, keywords and negative keywords is just the first step. Layer on top of that demographic, in segment and interest based bidding and, unless you’ve spent years running campaigns for people, you’re going to waste a LOT of money.
Even the world of Email Marketing is one that a casual user of will make something of, but if you really want to deep dive and understand the world of segmentation, CTR rates, a/b split testing, web hooks, best times for sending, automated journeys and everything else this world has to bring then you need to have worked in the space for a while. We also employ these people.
A Content Writer is not just a Content Writer. A Content Writer who understands well respected frameworks like RACE will consider who they are writing for and which part of the funnel that buyer is in. A top of the funnel piece is not going to get someone to buy something, a bottom of funnel piece won’t land for an audience who aren’t sure what they are looking for yet.
Conversion Rate Optimisation, User Experience and User Interface, Video, Audio, Data Analytics experts – they all work at agencies. Look back at the definition that began this post – a group of specialists managing services for clients (ones they don’t have in-house).
Here follows a table created for me by Thomas, my Head of Digital. I asked Thomas to note down the type of roles we employ at Optix. I then asked him to think of the typical personality types for those roles. You’ll see as you look down, that the person running your PPC campaign should be a details person, comfortable with spreadsheets and calculations. That’s not the same person you get to run your Instagram account.
So then we turn our attention to in-house Marketers. Depending on the size of the organisation you may not be able to cover all specialisms within an in-house team. In-house Marketers often have to be across all channels and touchpoints.These are the folks that keep the wheels turning.
They provide such an important job of keeping regular content flowing, managing the agencies specialisms above, ensuring everyone is accountable and looking after budgets, keeping the focus on the brand and understanding exactly who their target audience is. More often than not they’ll be involved in events and possibly tenders, bids and presentation creation too.
The inhouse marketer needs to be flexible, able to turn their hand to many different roles. They often don’t have the time or headspace to become channel specialists, or to keep up to date with the latest tactics and industry news. Or you might find in house marketers with a background or interest in one particular specialism, but they’ll still find themselves strapped for time trying to juggle internal priorities. These marketers need to be great generalists and understand, rather than be able to perform or deliver, all channels. They’ll be responsible for reporting to the business owners or leaders on how the Marketing activity is going and why certain choices have been made.
So agencies and in-house teams go together hand in hand – they need to. They are fundamentally different. When considering working with an agency you should be considering the value they bring you.
- An agency should SAVE you money
- An agency should be an investment in your growth
- An agency should be your partner
If we don’t get these points across we’ve failed ourselves and in many cases I think we often don’t. Hence my time today writing this piece.