Launching a Start-up - In-house or Agency?Mar 02, 2021
By Rob Stross
Firstly, there is no right or wrong on this one. There are many dependencies and certainly no one size fits all approach. That said, some marketing channels work perfectly for start-up agency support and others just don’t hit the spot in my opinion. More than likely over time your start-up will evolve to have elements of both.
We started with agency support. We required initially a wide range of skills across multiple channels to allow us to launch quickly to market. In that scenario with a small marketing team (me plus one), agency support across all key acquisition channels was vital – mobile, SEO, Paid Search, paid social and PR.
With any agency you will need a clear pitch process which you lead clearly and decisively. Once the brief is finalised with clear KPI’s, here’s a few tips to ensure you end up with the right agency.
1 Create a shortlist of three to five agencies and never settle for the first partner that you find. Use your network, look for relevant awards and of course like any employee ask for a reference check. It’s amazing how many people don’t
2 Always make sure that the people you’re basing your decisions on are the ones who will be doing the work. Agencies will often roll out senior staff who are great presenters for pitches. If those people aren’t going to be on the account, that’s worth taking into account.
3 Be very strict on the timings – try and meet the shortlisted agencies at the same time if you can and move quickly to make a timely decision.
This can be an issue as you grow – different agencies for paid social, one for SEO, one above the line, one PR etc. Whilst there are positives for this in terms of different agencies bringing something different to the table, this can be time consuming and challenging to ensure a streamlined approach. Key here is management and communication – ensure they are all aware of the bigger plan and ensure that you are all spending the time to meet up and get your goals aligned
In-house employees are paid to live and breathe your brand, and to have a keen understanding of your given industry. They are also personally vetted and chosen by your business, rather than an outside source.
The key benefit internally is the flexibility this allows you which is vital in any start-up. Chances are your marketing tactics and strategy will evolve as you grow and you build your customer base and having in-house expertise that can evolve with you as agendas change is absolutely key.
Inhouse all the time. With so many moving parts – having flexibility is key. We were quoted silly amounts to pay for agency SEO support and with tangible results only visible after 12 months. Not for us! The extra flexibility afforded by in-house SEO expertise – either in a solus role or as part of a wider marketing remit, is crucial as you scale.
For us – a smaller start up focussed agency with a scrappy, flexible, roll your sleeves up approach worked amazingly well for our needs. We looked at inhouse hires but felt the media access tools offered by an agency with the right team driving this and some very clear KPI’s was a better solution for our needs and it most definitely worked
Having an in-house team solely devoted to you can possibly stagnate creativity, given that they are focused on one project, rather than multiple.
Any agency marketer has several unique client accounts that they work with daily. Their minds are fresh and always moving, given that they are exposed to a wide variety of businesses and industries.
We found it useful at the early stages of our growth to get creative support to help us think outside of the box and complement our own creativity.
WeSwap moved from outside agency support to build over time an experienced in-house marketing team to focus on acquisition, retention and brand supported by PR agency. Building in-house expertise proved to be a game changer for our business to help drive down acquisition costs but this certainly won’t work for everyone. Be very clear on your goals, your needs, and know that you can have a combination of both in-house and agency support.