Campaign production considerations
Building a reliable team and process is a big part of a marketing leader’s role. One of the areas repeatedly coming up in my 10+ years in the Marketing Automation space that can make or break a marketing organisation is its campaign production – the engine that needs to take in great ideas and turn them into tangible journeys and eye-catching content. Building the right team to tackle this challenge is not an easy feat though – there are many ways to approach it, each with its benefits and risks. Some of the key considerations would be budget, scalability and sustainability to guarantee an uninterrupted, efficient flow of work. Having worked with numerous enterprises throughout my marketing career, I wanted to share my view on what those are – and which one worked best:
- In-house production team
- External agency (fully outsourced)
- Hybrid approach
In-house production team
This approach is best suited to companies that have a predictable amount of work and the budget to maintain the team even if demand fluctuates. As team building is a long-term effort, ensure that there are opportunities for growth to retain the talent you acquire. If the above is no issue, having an in-house production team is the most cost-efficient long-term solution.
Below we have summed up the advantages and disadvantages of this approach.
- Dedicated resources within company structures, utilising IT-approved equipment, meaning no hassles with systems access and communications
- Direct control over personnel choices (who to hire, etc.)
- Internal “Chain of command”
- Usually, lower cost per resource when comparing FTEs to similar capacity provided by an external agency
- No dependencies on third parties
- As the team gets entrenched in a single, highly repetitive process, there’s a risk of becoming reluctant to doing things another way – even if the method is objectively better – and losing sight of whether the current approach makes sense in the bigger picture
- Campaign production is a repetitive, high-pressure job with little influence on decision making within the enterprise environment, leading to burnout and attrition. After 18 – 24 months, each employee should be given an opportunity to transition to a different role to reduce early attrition. Does your organisation have suitable career paths to offer to retain talent beyond the production role (e.g. in Marketing Automation, Operations or broader team)? Additional headcount is also needed to account for these training and documentation responsibilities. If your HR department has data about the early attrition cost, you may want to take that number into account while making the decision
- The responsibility to manage the team, career progression, burnout rate, onboarding and training up resources requires extensive involvement to keep the stability of the production “engine”. This effort is one of the hidden costs of this approach
- When experienced employees leave, the cost of replacing them is a third of their annual earnings (per The Society for Human Resource Management) and it still doesn’t prevent knowledge loss
- No flexibility in adding short-term team members when the workload exceeds the capacity of the team
External agency (Fully Outsourced)
Using an external agency can be hugely beneficial in situations where the workload is variable or unpredictable, as they can provide a larger team of resources with a wide skillset to ensure the work is delivered on time. This is particularly useful when the work may require multiple resources with different skills, and if your company doesn’t need said resources full-time.
- No headaches over personnel management – burnout, career and resource planning become agency responsibilities
- Getting additional budget approvals is usually easier than headcount extension
- The end-to-end production process is handled by the agency, freeing up in-house marketing personnel to focus on strategic initiatives
- Access to broader perspective as agencies support multiple clients – and have the knowledge “on tap”
- Agency can prepare processes for new businesses and those in transition, which can later be useful while transferring to a hybrid or fully in-house approach
- Usually more expensive than internal headcount (when comparing only an employee’s salary vs the agency cost; however, bear in mind that an employee cost is more than just their salary)
- Dependency on an external agency – requires a trustworthy partner, as when the external team owns the expertise and process knowledge, switching becomes a long-lasting, heavy effort – and expensive – exercise, without a guarantee that knowledge will be transferred efficiently
This is the most flexible approach, allowing scaling workload as and when needed, providing access to a varied, highly specialised skillset on demand, whilst also retaining the knowledge and core personnel in house. If the workload in your company is unpredictable, using an agency in addition to your own team provides the best cost-efficiency balance.
- All the benefits of both in-house and external agency approaches combined
- In-house team is aware and in control of the processes, while having access to additional resources on demand
- Easier to plan career paths for FTEs
- Lower burn-out rate due to less workload (and pressure) on the internal team, especially at the busiest times of the year
- An employee leaving doesn’t affect the overall team performance as the agency can cover the work during the onboarding of new resources, reducing the strain on the in-house team
- More balanced cost of resources
- Knowledge sharing between the agency and in-house team as they work together on projects, reducing loss of knowledge in the process of transition
- Managing agency access and accounts is an additional responsibility for the internal team
- Slightly more expensive than an in-house team alone (but still cheaper than fully outsourcing to an agency)
The bottom line
Considering the benefits and risks of the approaches on both ends of the spectrum (agency and in-house approaches), as well as the experiences I had supporting our customers, I believe a balanced hybrid approach offers the best of both worlds. Build a lean in-house team that owns processes and utilise an external agency to provide a scalable workforce to drive the production efforts efficiently.
Regardless of the approach you choose to move forward with, ensure that your team:
1. Documents and maintains the campaign production process up to date:
- Brief requirements
- Delivery stages and steps
- Actions ownership – a team RACI matrix for the process
2. Agrees on KPIs – and how they are going to be tracked/reported against overall marketing targets.
Would you like some advice in choosing the right approach for your company or discuss any other marketing operations challenges? Book a free consultation with us and see how we can help!