In-house vs agency marketing: Which is best for you?

No comments

To compete in today’s markets, businesses need to be more adaptable than ever. Becoming a fast-growing business is the result of a range of factors, of which marketing plays a significant part.

(Check out our Marketing as an Accelerator eBook to find out exactly how significant marketing is for growth.)

But, is it better to have an in-house marketing team or outsource to a marketing agency?

1. Marketing Experts Vs Subject Matter Experts

In this instance, we would consider those in an agency to be holistic marketing experts, with internal employees more likely to be subject-matter experts, specific to their businesses.

Working on a variety of projects and executing marketing plans for a whole host of clients is what marketing agencies do best. The experience gained from working in such an environment is invaluable.

Agencies will naturally have a broader understanding of the market from exposure to other industry partners. This visibility can help shape and build strategies that make a client stand out from their competitors.

Having access to a wide network also provides agencies with flexible skills and a fresh perspective, whereas in-house teams often have funneled knowledge.

Arguably, internal employees are subject matter experts, establishing a deep-rooted understanding of the business as a whole. This in-depth knowledge can make for better business understanding and learning, but it has its limitations.

2. More Creativity, Better Results

In-house, a team will be focused on complying to core business strategies and delivering results. However, this internal focus can often cause teams to become shielded from external macro factors.

Through hiring an outsourced marketing team, it is possible to gain fresh perspectives, which can lead to invaluable insights into the latest trends within your industry. Agencies can provide a level of creativity that you simply may not be able to achieve internally – they can be your ‘creative thinking hat’.

Results drive business growth. It is important to ensure that your agency understands your business strategy in order to align marketing plans. When this is done well, an agency can become an extended part of your team – agencies drive results!

3. Time is Money

In most cases, having an internal marketing team means your approval process will be better streamlined. Fewer emails and more face to face conversations allows for greater visibility and reduced lead times.

On the other hand, by outsourcing to a marketing agency, a business is able to free up internal resources to focus on other business tasks. An agency allows you to sit back and focus on other business-critical activity, enabling your existing staff to become more efficient.

Some may argue it is more cost efficient to have an internal marketing team as there aren’t any rush or overtime charges. But, it has been found that agencies provide an average 9% monetary saving and a 15% average time saving precisely for those reasons. When there is a financial penalty for delays, you’re much more likely to move the project along rush faster than when you have all the time in the world.

4. Give Your Business Space to Grow

Growth, specifically fast growth, is a key strategic approach for many businesses to maintain competitive advantage in their industry. Why do some businesses grow quicker than others? Marketing.

Marketing is important for getting to those clients you don’t know.

The focus should also be on developing networks and building relationships with external stakeholders. Agencies have a large network extending to functions that may not be available in an in-house marketing team. They can provide stronger relationships with fewer suppliers.

The real result and key importance of using a marketing agency is freeing up your time to grow internally and externally.

So, what’s better, an in-house or agency set up?

The merits of in house are employees are subject matter experts, fully aligned to their business strategy. Not only this, but activity can be turned around quickly because teams will be working closely and managed by one senior management team. On the flip side, if you’re looking for an agile team, experts within marketing with a full resource behind them including content, studio, strategy and more, then agency is the way to go.

In reality, the sweet spot is somewhere between the two, and that’s what the Bright Virtual Marketing offering tries to achieve.

Bright’s hybrid model – bringing together the benefits of both internal and outsourced teams.

The Bright team acts as a virtual marketing department for high growth and dynamic businesses. This provides clients with their own specialised marketing manager and supporting team, backed up by other Bright resources – such as design, web design and build, branding, event support, etc. – as and when required.

We shape and execute marketing strategies designed to plug any in-house gaps and support business goals. We also focus on driving as much as value as possible for our clients. We find the best way to do this is to regularly spend time on our client’s site each week – so that we truly become a part of your team.

Using our Minimum Viable Marketing (MVM) methodology, we fine tune each and every go-to-market message and campaign to get the best results possible.

By adopting a hybrid model, you are tapping into a dedicated team who work and learn from your own team to become advocates of your brand. This additional team takes on time-consuming tasks, so your business has the space to grow, whilst also providing a creative soundboard so you can take your business to places you may not have thought possible.

It’s like a match and a firecracker. You need to bring the two together to see the fireworks.

Visit our Virtual Marketing page to discover more about the services we offer.

Read more about how marketing is key to high growth and exit strategies in Bright’s new eBook: “Marketing as an Accelerator” – including commentary from business leaders and investors.

Chris PetherbridgeIn-house vs agency marketing: Which is best for you?
read more

The Social Intern

No comments

I’ve been interning at Bright Innovation for the past 8 weeks. Having turned up on my first day half expecting to unpack boxes from the office move, I’ve found myself playing a much more important role with an ever-changing and expanding task list, including helping with the social media accounts of three Bright Innovation clients.

If you haven’t heard, there’s a school of thought that interns can’t (or shouldn’t) be trusted with social media. Many arguments exist as over-generalised attacks towards graduates that are young and therefore also immature, irresponsible and self-centred (I’m looking at you Inc.com).

However, a number of arguments are, of course, grounded in wisdom. As 83% of marketers believe that social media is important to their business, and nearly 60% of them spend six hours or more using social media each week, it is understandable to have reservations about allowing a fresh-faced intern to act as the face of the company.

Argument 1: Interns lack professional marketing experience

Although interns may be able to honestly say “I’m always using [insert favourite social media platform]!”, using social media in a business context requires more than aimlessly scrolling and ‘liking’ to cure boredom on packed morning tubes and posting your most attractive holiday photos. It requires a more thought–through approach. Social media strategy needs to occur in line with overall marketing strategy and retain a consistent tone – in line with your company’s message.

I wasn’t completely uncomfortable in the world of professional social media before joining Bright Innovation. However, the brief for managing the social accounts of my previous employer consisted of following the latest in celebrity, fashion and beauty trends – any deeper insight was anything that I picked up on myself.

Creating social content within Bright Innovation has been more of a mentoring experience. Where I’ve been allowed to discover what does and doesn’t work for myself, I’ve also been guided and taught some of the most important practices about posting on social media – such as the importance of directing readers back to your website, building audience, creating a balance between own and third-party content on a range of platforms and, importantly, peak times for maximum views.

Argument 2: Interns don’t understand your business (or businesses)

When trying to create and maintain a social voice, it is important that any person behind the account understands not only the audience, but the impression and tone that the business wishes to make. The introduction of a new face to the mix, intern or otherwise, may present challenges.

Whilst the majority of interns are new to the working world and still uncomfortable wearing grown-up clothes, we haven’t (at least in my case) managed to escape the interview process. The knowledge an intern holds about your company may not be particularly in depth, but is easily broadened, if they are keen to learn. And what is an internship, if not learning role.

Working for a consultancy such as Bright Innovation, this learning process is made more difficult: I have to understand multiple client companies. To begin, I was given client websites, a number of focus words, and challenged to find engaging content.

Although a steep and not necessarily fast-paced learning curve, I feel I’m really starting to understand the fundamental differences between the clients that I work with – to the extent that I’ll be scrolling through my phone at home and have to email myself an article that could work for so-and-so. This may not have been as easily learnt or keenly remembered without being given the opportunity to work on social media accounts; perhaps because like 50% of young people nowadays, I learn by doing.

Argument 3: Interns aren’t fully invested in your business

The supporters of this argument warn about the risks of interns – young people working jobs they’re not sure they want, to make their expensive degrees feel worthwhile. An intern may not join with a ready-developed passion for marketing, and they may be transient, but that’s not to say they don’t care about your company. At Bright Innovation, I’ve been made to feel like a valuable part of the team, whether helping with social or otherwise.

Learn more about why social media – specifically LinkedIn – which should be a key part of every B2B marketing strategy.

Sian HeaphyThe Social Intern
read more

The SMART Guide to Building Successful Alliances

No comments

Organisations of all sizes often find it difficult to get the most out of their alliance relationships. A productive relationship is one where your marketing strategy aligns well with your alliance objectives, and you can work together towards a common goal. Where you are clear on your target audience, and your marketing activities are integrated into a strategic plan that supports both your organisational objectives and those of your alliance partners.

Strategy

Share a common objective for your marketing activity that satisfies the alliance goals – and your own.

When you bring up the topic of alliance marketing it is always met with a whole range of reactions, but a common thread that seems to be present in many of the conversations I have had, is the difficulty in aligning an alliance marketing plan with that of your organisation’s. Frequently, co-marketing is seen as a parallel activity to your strategic marketing plan, with the two streams very rarely integrated into a cohesive plan of action.

This doesn’t have to be the case. Marketing teams should work closely with their alliance partners, share their business plans and jointly identify ways in which they can collaborate to achieve a common goal. This may be a simplistic view, and I can already hear the nay-sayers heckling at the back …

“You try selling product to a business audience”; “All they want is licensing, they’re not interested in services”; “They don’t understand my business” … But it can be done, and working together to identify your common objectives is a key step towards building stronger alliances.

When Mavenwire wanted to strengthen their relationship with Oracle, they engaged with Bright Innovation to manage and execute a range of marketing activities to generate revenue and build brand awareness. A joint campaign approach combined Oracle products with Mavenwire’s delivery expertise to offer prospects a complete solution, enabling them to identify new sales opportunities and win new business jointly with the Oracle sales team.

Messaging

When working with most alliance marketing teams, they will be able to provide you with a wealth of material to use in your marketing activity, such as collateral, competitive information, product features and benefits. Every other partner will also have access to the same information.

It is important that you go to market with messaging that clearly differentiates you.

If you are reselling product, what value is your organisation adding to the process? If you are a systems integrator, what experience, frameworks, methodologies can you offer that others may not be able to. It is your key differentiators that your messaging needs to communicate in order to stand out from the hundreds of other partners.

Audience

On occasion, your alliance partner may work with you to develop a plan and even provide you with a database of contacts ready to market to.

At this point, you must assess whether this fits in with your target audience, and carefully evaluate whether you proceed with the newly gifted database you have just acquired, or invest in building your own data set that matches your target profile perfectly.

Often, a little time and investment here can save a lot of pain further down the line when the results are not as expected. It is important to have clarity in who your target audience is, and why.

Reporting

Communicating effectively with your alliance partners is always a difficult balance between over-communicating irrelevant details and not sharing the results of your marketing activity at all.

If you are churning out a raft of activity each quarter, your alliance partner may not necessarily need to know every single detail about the tactics you’ve deployed, what articles have been published, client engagements, down to each technical detail.

However, a regular flow of concise and relevant communications can be a hugely effectively way to market to your alliance partner. A one page summary of who you’ve targeted, using the same terminology (and acronyms), who you’ve engaged with, revenue generated, and key messages is often sufficient enough to keep your key alliance contacts up to date, without inundating them with detail.

Tactics

Another theme that’s often arises is marketing teams being driven to adopt tactics that may not necessarily prove effective for their business. For example, webinars can be a great way of engaging with your audience, raising your brand and profile within certain communities and building a wealth of content that can be distributed across multiple channels. However, they are not appropriate for all messaging and audiences.

If your organisation is trying to position itself as a market leader, perhaps some value-driven thought leadership would be more effective? Maybe consider a highly-targeted digital campaign?

When planning which tactics to use in your co-marketing plan, you need to make sure these support your brand and positioning in the market and are consistent with your marketing activities.

Our Minimum Viable Marketing™ approach allows you to quickly identify which tactics will be most valuable by experimenting and then removing, and/or improving, elements of your marketing plan that do not work as well as expected.

Marketing can be highly effective when structured as an integrated campaign, incorporating many different routes to market. The key point here is that each element of the plan must work together to increase momentum. A poorly executed tactical campaign will only serve as a distraction from core activities and yield below average results.

With over 20 years experience working with alliance partners, the Bright Innovation team understands the challenges involved when working with alliances, and some of the most common pitfalls made by organisations.

We have taken this experience and knowledge, and developed a set of services that enable our clients to overcome these challenges and build successful alliance relationships.

Chris PetherbridgeThe SMART Guide to Building Successful Alliances
read more

Talent Marketing – A New Approach for Modern Tech Businesses

No comments

As the economy pick-ups and tech companies all over the country are starting to become busier, their ability to hire top tech talent is having a huge impact on their success. This is because the core strength of a services company lies in the skill set of its team.

The fact is that candidates simply have more choice and hold the upper hand in the “war on talent”. With 58% of UK hiring managers directly experiencing a skills shortage this year, candidates know they are a valuable commodity and are able to be more demanding from potential employers.

Candidates aren’t just looking for a good remuneration package; they are looking for a company that shares their same philosophies and culture, and one that can enrich all aspects of their life.

There are companies who have woken up to this issue and have developed strategies focused on nurturing and harvesting an active talent pool. It’s these innovators that other firms should learn from. Red Badger – a Bright Innovation client – is a company that has set the bar high in this respect. Red Badger is a software development company specialising in open source technology. The skills they need are in high demand so they have adopted a community building approach to help them, not only find good people, but to create brand ambassadors who can promote the brand within the community.

Recruiters have long been talking about active and passive candidates, and developing strategies for attracting the latter, who are ever-elusive and hard to reach.

However, traditional recruitment, by its nature, is reactive and recruitment companies see little benefit in spending the time establishing and nurturing active networks of passive candidates. Instead they use tools like LinkedIn to proactively search for them.

Following the traditional approach means companies must start from scratch every time they need to hire. For modern tech companies this means a lot of needless waste. This is why companies must adopt an alternative, long-term strategy for talent acquisition and retention.

Now for the controversial part… For a long-term and successful talent acquisition and retention plan, companies should forget about measuring short term results. They should instead concentrate on adding value to their community by doing a great job of marketing their brand.

Ironically, not focusing on results can deliver the great results. 

Great marketing, which covers the entire marketing mix, will naturally expand your engaged audience, whilst having the obvious benefit of winning new clients.

Your passive talent audience will see your marketing activities, and, if these activities are compelling and make you stand out from your competitors, candidates will be impressed!

Candidates care about brand. Does your brand resonate with the type of people who you want to work for you? Your brand is crucial, so invest in it.

You only need to look down the list of the Sunday Times Best Companies to work for to see how investing in your brand can translate into a successful talent strategy.

One way to stand out from your competitors, and build a brand that people will get behind, is to give back to your community. In the open source world, for example, there is a rich and exciting culture of giving back and sharing knowledge.

Why not host a regular event where members of the community come into your office to hear the cool stuff you’ve been working on? Are you blogging and using social media effectively to show off your thought leadership and give your valuable insights away for free? This is a chance to showcase your culture and give people a chance to experience your brand – and gain from it.

Develop young talent. Work with local universities, schools and engage with apprenticeship schemes. Not only will you be able to nurture and train young talent in the methodologies and technologies that are important to you, but you will also be helping young people to learn new skills that will benefit you, them and the wider economy.

Bringing young talent into a business can have a great effect on your existing and more experienced staff: they get the chance to pass on skills and knowledge, while the newbies bring in fresh ideas.

There are also great PR and marketing opportunities for companies who have innovative junior hiring programmes.

By creating compelling marketing campaigns, engaging with your community, and nurturing young talent, you are building a brand which will resonate with tech talent.

It’s not easy, but this is a long-term approach which isn’t just going to benefit your business in terms of the talent you can hire.  You will win new customers, help build and shape your community, and help the next generation of talent get their foot in door. There might even be an award up for grabs.

A marketing and community-focused approach to talent attraction can sound daunting, but, with effective planning and delivery, this approach could build a long-term talent pipeline whilst reducing your recruitment costs.

Chris PetherbridgeTalent Marketing – A New Approach for Modern Tech Businesses
read more