Opinion piece from Simon Dale, Strategic Account Director at digital agency Organic
If you’re an in-house marketer, you’ll be used to juggling a number of different priorities. We all have those big goals, things that we have on the one, three- and five-year plan, but how often are you actually working on them? Would you say that you have the time, energy and resources to actually affect change?
Sometimes it can feel like other teams’ activities get in the way of your plans and processes. If you manage a team, ask yourself whether your colleagues are all working on the things which make the most sense, not just the day-today firefighting. As team leaders and marketers, it’s important to walk that fine line between getting the everyday stuff done and making sure you’ve got a plan in place that’s being adhered to in order to help you achieve your longer-term aspirations.
This balancing act is endemic across the vast majority of our clients as the time needed to “fix” issues can often take away from the actual important work needed
to drive change.
Relying on your partners, both in-house and externally is key to working smarter. By energising and training wider departments within your team, you can reap huge rewards. But that depends on ensuring the right people are doing the right things.
It’s more than just a simple course, what I’m referring to is a seismic shift in how your internal and external teams collaborate.
People might question the benefit of spending money on an agency to post on social or provide keyword research when you can easily appoint these tasks to people in-house. However, the answer isn’t to scrap the agency model.
My agency background might make my thoughts on training and developing talent within an organisation seem counter intuitive. And as the trend for in-housing is the latest in the long list of things which will apparently bring the end to the agency model, I just don’t think it’s the case.
This is why. Creating one single team, allowing in-house departments and agencies to work together as one is the way forward. Being upfront on where the expertise is, and where it should be kept, and ultimately removing any ego from the equation is paramount to success. This may mean that current ways of working need to be altered, but you should be getting an output from your agency that your team can’t deliver, something that adds true value.
This may sound pretty straightforward, but there’s no quick fix. It takes time, effort and the ability for your team and agency to let go of some things they have previously owned. At Organic, a lot of our clients bring us on board to support the natural search (SEO) team in-house. This is where developing an effective working relationship is key.
There can be times where lack of focus, repetitive questions and the desire to fix immediate issues, as opposed to gaining real insight and developing strategic thinking can distract from the bigger picture. And as an agency it’s important to be used to your potential.
When it comes to the support you choose, it’s healthy and common to review what you’re receiving on a regular basis. Although the agency you appoint likely know their stuff, can (and have) delivered amazing work, any other similar agency should be able to do this – or at least pitch that they can do this. It’s all well and good having support in the trenches with the team, but unless they’re delivering additional value, agencies can be indispensable.
Our flavour of empowerment
Sometimes a change in direction is needed. This can be a change in team, process or because of a new requirement or project. At Organic, we see this as an opportunity where we can introduce touchpoints across the organisation.
During a recent website project with one of our clients, we found the frequency of queries and the lack of knowledge across the other teams meant the in-house SEO team were being overwhelmed. To fix this we needed to find a way to gain bandwidth with the agency and in-house teams. To turn the wheel, we basically needed to make all teams a little bit SEO.
This meant internal and external training sessions included an introduction to SEO, and in-turn this changed the way we worked with in-house teams. Content teams were able to do their own keyword research, planning teams could develop their own wireframes and time was able to be spent on other things. Migration aside, specialist teams were able to tackle certain areas of the site for optimisation; dormant projects could be picked up – change was possible. By giving away a little control, the team was given the gift of time.
How can you evolve empowerment?
It’s hard to give a specific roadmap to start your own journey forward as all organisations will have their own quirks, different team structures and expertise, but here are a few pointers to help start developing your own plan.
- Start at the beginning
You need to have a review of the current situation. What are the strengths and weaknesses in all teams? This doesn’t mean starting a witch hunt, but more of a holistic review of who is best placed to field different queries.
- Review the current workload
This means auditing the types of queries that come into the team. It is also important to record where these queries come in from as this will help resource effectively.
- Get the plan together
Once all your ducks are in a row, you can set up agency support via email and face to face clinics for wider team queries, as well as specific team training covering the types of queries that come in.
- Get the most out of your team
If you’ve done the above right, you
should be in a great position to review how you work with your team both
in-house and agency-side and get the right support.
Your agency should be providing you with something that you can’t get anywhere else and ultimately be an extension of your internal team. All agencies should be able to demonstrate expertise, but it’s about providing that little bit more.
I’ve seen first-hand the invisible walls between teams come tumbling down. The in-house team and agency have much more time to affect on site changes, which means things are planned correctly and if things do go wrong, there’s usually a quick fix.
Change doesn’t mean that things have failed in the past, instead look at it as an exciting upgrade to your resource. Time can be spent on developing the plan and strategy that may have been put on the backburner in the past.
This may require some re-education of clients, as they may have a more traditional approach, but it’s an amazing way forward for truly enhancing a business and strengthening the marketing team’s credibility across the company.