• Jo Wassell

Agency vs in-house? What’s best for you?

Updated: Oct 21, 2020

Whether you’re part of an in-house marketing team, or work for a marketing agency, great marketing is great marketing.

Both sides are working toward the same goal. Both understand the power of a great campaign. And both are passionate about marketing and lead generation.

But all marketing environments are not equal. The team, environment and performance metrics differ depending which side of the fence you’re on. Of course, working on both sides is very valuable and adds real depth to your experience, but the roles vary quite dramatically, and so do the people who inhabit them…

The in-house marketer:

This job requires in-depth knowledge and understanding of your business and its products and services. In particular, you need to be strong enough to get the information you need out of people who often don’t understand or care about marketing.

It helps that in-house marketers have direct contact with senior internal stakeholders and decision makers, and the sales and product teams are only ever a few steps away. But it’s maintaining strong relationships with these (sometimes prickly) stakeholders that’s the real challenge. You certainly need to be able to win friends and influence people if you are to succeed in-house.

The in-house marketing team is responsible for working out which markets to go after and how best to position the business and its offerings within those markets.  You are the gatekeepers of the brand. You’ll need to work closely with the sales team all the time, to ensure that what you produce is what they need – and then you need to make sure that they use it properly.

It’s your job to translate technical features, into hard business benefits – an important job if your role is in a technology company. The ability to demystify the “tech speak” and look at everything from the point of view of your customer and how your solutions will help grow their business, is paramount.

On top of all that, you need to prove your worth. Have you delivered on your commitments?  Are your campaigns generating sufficient leads and return on investment? Can the sales team feel the impact of your work? Are they seeing the value that marketing brings?

The sad truth is that marketing is often an overlooked and undervalued part of the business. Do you have the strength and strategic capabilities to turn it around?

The agency-side marketer:

The marketing agency is often seen as the fresh, creative, fast-paced alternative for people who are passionate about pure marketing. You can learn a lot quickly, meet lots of people and win awards.

To be effective, you need to function as an outsourced marketing team for your client. You need to understand their proposition as well as they do.

Sticking to tight budgets and getting the rest of the team to deliver high quality work to a tight deadline is what agency work is all about. And when it goes wrong (which it will every now and then), it’s your job to explain overruns and missed deadlines to the client – which makes relationship-building key. You need to be able to have honest conversations with your clients around budgets, timeframes and what’s doable vs what’s not.

And if you think everyone works in harmony within an agency, think again! Things can get sticky very quickly when managing copywriters, designers, web developers and junior account managers, especially when they disagree with each other or the client. Getting the client to create a clear, well-thought-out brief for these teams to work to is vital if you want to avoid pain further down the line.

It’s also worth remembering that agencies charge by the hour, so if a particular job has five hours allocated to it, you need to get it done in five hours. This can be a challenge if you consider yourself a perfectionist or if you prefer to work slowly or discussing things in great detail before starting the work. You need to be able to make decisions quickly, using the information you have, and then execute flawlessly.

Agency-side marketers are measured on client satisfaction scores, campaign quality, team leadership ability and campaign success.

It’s a tricky role that requires a strong backbone and good plate-juggling skills. Are you a curious multitasker with a knack for teamwork and tight deadlines?

What’s your calling?

I could write another 50 pages comparing these two roles, but perhaps as you were reading, you found yourself identifying with one role in particular.  If you are thinking about making the move from one side of the divide to the other, please get in touch, we’d love to help you find the perfect marketing role – in-house or agency-side.

If you’re still unsure, we’d be happy to meet with you and help you work out where you might be best placed.