Are you in, or out? Exploring in-housing in 2020 and beyond

To mark the launch of our new research report – Walking the tightrope: Balancing in-housing and economic uncertainty – we hosted a virtual panel discussion to unpack the key trends and themes from the report.

Chaired by Propeller’s Director of Content, Branwell Johnson, the panel was made up of our very own Ben Knight, alongside Croud’s non-executive chairman Jerry Buhlmann, and Oystercatchers’ Jude Bridge. Here we recap on some of the key advice they shared to help brands on their in-housing journey.

44% of CMOs plans to in-house more

According to our research, 44% of CMOs in the UK and US plan to in-house more of their digital marketing as a result of COVID-19. For Jerry Buhlmann, this statistic wasn’t surprising at all, given the potentially very significant benefits of in-housing. He attributed this to a shortening value chain, brands’ growing need to protect and control both their data and commerce, and the fact that there are more options out there for companies looking for support with in-housing.

For Jude Bridge, in-housing represents an opportunity for CMOs to get closer to the customer, whilst for Ben Knight, the 44% finding reinforces the ever-growing importance of digital marketing for brands, as well as the importance of having a robust first-party data strategy.

The impact of coronavirus on in-housing ambitions

So, is it easier for CMOs to justify in-housing in the current climate? For Jerry, recessions always force people to take a step back and evaluate things, and in-housing digital marketing operations will likely be high on many marketers’ lists of areas to review. But this year’s recession is unlike any other. In Jerry’s words, “it’s a bricks-and-mortar recession, not a digital recession.” So there is a fundamental risk to brands that don’t invest in digital marketing. With TV audiences dissipating and moving into streaming, the model has fundamentally changed and become more demand-led, meaning digital is now critical in brand building, as well as direct response.

For Ben, every business has a different start and end goal. We’re currently in a period where reevaluation and transformation is critically important, so brands have some important decisions to make about the future, including which, if any, areas of their digital marketing operations they look to in-house.

Ecommerce and social are the most popular areas to in-house

According to the report findings, ecommerce and social are top of marketers’ lists when it comes to bringing capabilities in house. As Jerry put it so well, with ecommerce equating to revenue, and social representing reputation, it’s unsurprising that brands want to control their revenue and reputation more closely in the current climate.

Ben added that areas of ecommerce, such as Amazon, are often more discrete, with their own ecosystem, so may be viewed as ‘easier’ to do in-house. And, in the current environment, in particular, social media is getting a lot of consumer attention, so brands are increasingly looking to own that conversation directly. For Ben, the key to both is reviewing your internal set-up and structures and ensuring that data is managed effectively across channels.

Tips for marketers on their in-housing journey

Our panelists next turned to the process of in-housing, and how marketers should look to approach it. For Jude, the process has to be rooted in your business and marketing strategy. “Don’t put the cart before the horse,” she urged marketers. Jude advised being very clear about what you want to achieve, and then looking at how you get there – what are the core capabilities you want to in-house? What role can agencies play – augmenting in-house teams and bringing fresh thinking. What appetite is there internally for investing in the required technology? In all of this, Jude stressed the importance of keeping the customer at the heart of what you’re doing, and having a clear strategy for where you want to get to in terms of your interaction with the customer.

Jerry added that, even if you don’t intend to in-house digital media operations, it’s important to evaluate things internally. Consider which areas you’re already doing well, which need improvement or support, and consider how external partners might fit into the equation. Proper planning is critical, as is ensuring a culture fit with any external parties or resource.

And finally, Ben advised marketers to spend time on fully understanding business aspirations and thinking carefully about how you’re going to get there. Having internal buy-in from every department and team is key, and don’t be scared about getting external support to guide you through the process.

If you’d like to access detailed insights into in-housing your digital media, take our online assessment today. And if you’d like to find out more about how we could help you on your in-housing journey, get in touch.

by Croud
27 October 2020



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