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Improving chances of success when in-housing

Whilst brands are increasingly in-housing services, research shows that for many in-housing is not living up to marketers’ expectations.

In late 2019, the Data and Marketing Association (DMA) and Mailjet released a study which found that many in-housing endeavours were falling short of expectations. Whilst 47% sought to improve productivity, only two thirds cited they were meeting that expectation. Similarly, 3 in 10 marketers that sought to improve creative outcomes felt that they have not been able to achieve that objective.

In-housing whether it be a partial shift to in-house certain capabilities or more holistic, is no small feat and when the allure of the idea wears off, many can be left with a new set of challenges and problems that weren’t foreseen.

Part two of our in-housing series looks at some of the critical factors that enable success when in-housing capabilities or building an in-house agency.

(If you haven't read part one, you can find it here)

keys to improving chances of success when in-housing

Identify and nurture talent

People! The lifeblood of everything that we do and the makers (and breakers) of change. As leaders, we need to make an honest assessment regarding the level of creative, strategic and specialist expertise needed to make in-housing a success. Is it available within the current workforce or will new talent be required and if so, how will an organisation attract retain and most importantly nurture this talent? In some instances, brands have bought across talent from the agency in order to maintain continuity and also minimise redundancies on the agency side. When managed effectively this can be a win-win for both sides.

Structure and ownership is also extremely important to consider in an in-housing scenario. Which leader is the right one to own and drive the in-housing process and which leaders have the experience to lead the specialist resources or in-house agency?

Enable fresh and uninhibited thinking

The beauty of agencies is that they bring a fresh perspective to an organisation, they are exposed to a variety of clients solving problems in new and different ways and aren’t constrained by internal barriers or thinking. Research from the DMA found that one of the key trap’s marketers cited when in-housing was creating an echo-chamber with no outside perspective to innovate (37%). However, now that these capabilities reside in-house, it is important that the in-house team (even if they are technically employees) feel they can present bold ideas without fear of reprimand from management. This is particularly important when in-housing services like creative as creative minds need to be kept exactly that – creative.

Empower with technologies & tools

An often overlooked part of in-housing, team members need to be enabled and equipped with the right tools and technologies that enable them to do their best work. Workflow management, resource management and collaboration tools are some of the many tools that may be required to underpin effective project management or agile delivery – but specialist tools will also be required on the basis of the specialist capabilities being in-housed.

Several questions that need to be considered here include:

1. Which tools or programs does your incumbent agency have?

2. What training does the team need in order to effectively leverage key tools & technologies?

3. IT support – how much or how little support will you need when it comes to implementation and ongoing maintenance?

Process improvement over perfection

Having clear processes are fundamental when it comes to departmental success. As in-housing represents a fundamental shift in ways of working, it will inevitably require a need to re-think and re-engineer current ways of working. In fact, according to the DMA research – process was one of the key issues cited impacting success with 37% of marketers pointing to the issue of having too many people being involved with no clear process. Encourage both new and old team members to be actively involved in new process development and own and drive solutions to process problems.

Drive buy in

For some parts of the organisation, the decision to in-house won’t change anything. For others, it will be an enormous change followed by substantial disruption. It is important to consider who the key stakeholders are that will be affected and to what degree and engage them appropriately. Keep all key stakeholders abreast of change and progress in order to support the transition. Something to also keep in mind is that these types of changes may be met with a host of challenges around perceptions, attitudes and resistance – some of which include whether or not an in-house approach will deliver the same or better outcomes than outsourcing. Change often requires a cultural shift to occur to embrace the change and direction and this isn’t something that occurs overnight – it will require you to take the organisation and team members on a journey.

Give it time

Of course, we would all like to hit the ground running, but we must be realistic when it comes to any change of magnitude. Embedding a new function is a significant task and many organisations underestimate the complexity and time it will take to assemble the right team, embed technologies and build processes needed to achieve a mature state.

As with any new department, there will need to be a transition phase where outputs will be lower or reduced. Ensure this transitional phase is taken into account and exactly how low and for how long can lower output be afforded.

A transition phase will also be required from the rest of the marketing team and wider organisation. Teams need time to adjust to the new ways of working, understand new responsibilities and reporting lines, new processes and in general adjust to the new arrangement and what this all means.

The decision to in-house isn’t an easy one, but with the right people, the right attitudes and the time needed, many are proving that is the right one.

Arktic Fox is helping many organisations re-shape their marketing structure or agency model. Find more how we can help or contact us at

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