"We are not agency bashers," declares Jeremy Leonard, CEO of LEAD, the digital consultancy that has run a variety of in-housing projects for clients including HSBC, Holland & Barrett and Oanda. Here, he shares wisdom on building the foundations of a successful in-housing project.
In-housing digital marketing: the Leonard lowdown on how to get it right in six steps…
1 Go on a charm offensive
"In-housing can be a contentious point, not just between you and your agencies or marketing partners, but internally too. Just because you want to in-house something doesn’t mean that everyone else in the organisation is going to want to do it too. And make sure you get stakeholder buy in from the whole organisation. If someone in your data or digital team doesn’t want to, and they’re not bought in, they could make the whole project fall over. Everyone has to be on the same page."
2 Get a little help
"You’re going to need some help. You won’t be able to run an in-housing project successfully unless you bring in experts that know what they’re doing. It’s more than just hiring people – there are new processes, there are new ways of working, there are a thousand things that can trip you up along the way, and you need to select that partner carefully. And in these days when agencies are now consultancies and consultancies are also agencies, make sure you select a partner that’s going to give you a solution that’s right for you. You need a partner that is truly impartial."
3 Set your goals
"Be very clear about your goals. We in-housed the ad-serving operations for one of our clients – that was the project – the goal was to control the data flow into their analytics and measurement system so they could see in real time what was going on with their digital marketing. Be very clear on the goals before you start, because they will dictate everything."
4 Make a plan
"It’s an obvious one but plan, and plan for everything, because there are things you won’t even have thought about. Hiring a new team: where are you going to find those people? What are the job descriptions? How are you going to keep them motivated and trained and upskilled? Can you even get that team to come and work out of your office location?"
5 How long is that piece of string?
"Measure first and measure well. Make sure you know exactly what it is that you’re trying to improve. If you’re not exactly clear on what’s going on now, how are you going to analyse how well you’ve done when you’ve finished the project?"
6 And wait for it…
"Give it some time because in-housing and setting up new tech ownership or a new team is not going to give you an overnight win. You’re going to have to learn it and you’re going to need to give it time to actually drive benefits through your business. It’s not a one-size-fits-all operation – out of the dozens of in-housing operations that we’ve done, we’ve never boiler-plated one solution onto another buyer. However long you think your in-housing project is going to take, double it."
Why in-housing doesn’t mean the death of the agency: Holland & Barrett
When high street health brand Holland & Barrett identified gaps in its digital marketing strategy, it enlisted consultancy LEAD and created a goal to achieve a single customer view.
"This is a brand with a wealth of customer data, but their biggest problem was the lack of viewability of the customer journey and that data," says Leonard.
While the customer data for Holland & Barrett was captured on lots of different agency platforms, none of these were readily accessible to the brand itself, he explains.
"We enabled them to take ownership of their customer data, technology and trafficking," says Leonard.
It was a move that made significant savings for the retailer. According to Leonard, the move to take control of digital trafficking and operations has saved the company a massive 350% compared with previous agency costs. The technology itself is only around 5% less expensive.
But more than cost-saving, Leonard says this is about autonomy for the brand and viewability of data.
Holland & Barrett now have a cloud-based marketing platform and a real-time digital marketing performance dashboard. This is visible to their agencies and those agencies can use the data for Holland & Barrett campaigns. But, as Leonard points out, the power is in the hands of the brand, which can evaluate the results of campaigns and react accordingly.
Jeremy Leonard, CEO at LEAD was talking at Media360 in Brighton in May during a session called Advertisers taking control: why brands are bringing marketing services in-house. For more information on LEAD, see here.