25 questions to ask yourself before taking digital marketing in-house

From time to time, our clients will decide to take their entire digital marketing strategy, or perhaps certain activities, in-house. As an agency we have no problem with this. We accept that relationships built on transparency and trust will inevitably see some clients learn enough from our team, and develop the confidence, to eventually feel they can take things forward without the use of an agency.

Where this is the case, we like to help clients on their way by ensuring they fully understand the range of required skills, technology and resource to manage their online strategy to maximum effect. We do this by working with them to assess their capability and capacity through a series of questions, often with a workshop tagged on for good measure.

The agency vs in-house conundrum is one that you may well face at some stage. To help you decide whether in-house, outsourced or a combination of the two solutions is best for you, I thought I’d share a number of the questions we pose to our clients when they’re considering their options.

You’ll notice the questions tend to be more general than highly specific as responses will inevitably lead to further discussion. What we try and highlight to clients during this process is that search engine marketing has become increasingly complex over the years. This means a greater amount of expertise, experience and resource is needed than ever before if they are to maximise the effectiveness of their in-house efforts.

So with that in mind, here are 25 questions to help you assess whether you have the skills and resource to manage an integrated search, social media and content strategy in-house:

Search engine optimisation

1) What is your knowledge and understanding of search engine algorithms?

2) Are you aware of ‘blended search’, ‘personalised search’, ‘social search’ and ‘real-time search’, and what they mean for your search engine marketing efforts?

3) Do you know how to research and categorise search terms? What is your experience of incorporating these terms naturally into highly engaging web copy?

4) How will you be continuously building links to your website? What is your experience / knowledge of good practice in this area?

5) What knowledge do you have of user-experience and the impact this has on both search engine rankings and conversion rates?

6) Do you understand what needs to be considered when the time comes to redevelop your website, such as the choice of technology / content management system (CMS) and how to migrate from the old site to the new without negative impact?

7) What is your experience of using freely available tools, such as those in the Google Webmaster console and their role in analysing search engine performance?

Paid Search

8 What experience do you have in setting up and managing Paid Search campaigns?

9) Do you know how to analyse campaign data on an ongoing basis and optimise campaigns with a view to maximising ROI?

10) Do you have experience in landing page testing with the aim of improving conversion rates?

11) How much time can you dedicate each day to managing your Paid Search campaign?

Content

12) What provisions/plans/schedules do you have in place for creating content, on a regular basis, in formats, such as articles, press releases, blogs and video?

13) Do you know how to properly optimise all of the above formats?

14) Do you know how to most effectively distribute the above formats to maximise reach?

15) Do you know how to measure the impact of your content strategy?

Social Media

16) What research tools do you have to identify the websites, blogs, forums and communities where your target audience is most active?

17) Have you got a social media strategy in place based on this research?

18) Do you understand the ‘rules of engagement’ when it comes to using social media tools, such as Twitter?

19) How will you be monitoring where your brand is being talked about online?

20) Have you had experience in dealing with negative comments about your brand or service online?

21) Do you monitor buzz on your industry so you can proactively respond?

22) How will you monitor / measure the success of your social media efforts?

23) What efforts do you make to retain customers and develop advocates of your brand?

Measurement

24) How will you set and measure goals and objectives? Do you have the appropriate experience, tools and processes in place to measure the variables that really matter, such as conversions, cost per conversion, lifetime value of customer and ROI?

25) Do you have experience in studying web analytics to make informed decisions about your website aimed at improving conversion rates?

As well as the above questions we also recommend people consider how they are going to keep pace with latest trends and developments  i.e. how much time can they dedicate to reading, attending conferences and so on? This is an important, but often overlooked, aspect of managing things in-house.

One point I would like to highlight is that even though I operate agency side I do not automatically assume outsourced is the best solution. It is entirely dependent on the organisation in question. It is rare amongst SME’s in particular, that one solution is more effective than the other. Usually, companies will have certain in-house skills and a certain amount of capacity to look after aspects of their strategy. But an agency will usually have invested in technology and a team of people possessing a wide range of skills that can be brought to the table to complement those possessed in-house.

Another equally important point to consider is that even when outsourcing to an agency, your involvement in the project is integral to its success. Digital marketing is never 100% outsourced because to a certain degree the success of a project is dictated by you, the client. I’ll be exploring this in more detail next time around.

Until then…

2 Responses to 25 questions to ask yourself before taking digital marketing in-house

  1. Hi Aaron,

    Thank you for your comments.

    I absolutely agree that a well defined strategy is integral to success and we work very closely with each client to establish an over-arching strategy. However, it is the proper management of the tactics you refer to that will determine the success of that strategy. On the rare occasion that a client decides it is time to ‘go it alone’, the strategy has already been established during the time we have worked with said client. Granted, that strategy may change, and it is important that the client also has the necessary skills in developing and updating their strategy. However, this was not really the purpose of my post. Instead, I wanted to highlight the level of skill and resource required to manage activity in-house, albeit more tactical than strategic.

    I’d like to add that we are very much on the same page when it comes to looking at the customer journey. In fact I have written previous posts around this issue.

    Thanks very much for the link – I’ll be sure to take a look.

  2. Hi Ben

    I like your idea of helping clients on their way if they decide to take things in house but it strikes me that you talk of strategy and then follow that with a series of questions that are all tactical in nature.

    The argument about whether digital agencies are capable of delivering strategic services is one that is hotting up right now, which is why I have a lot of interest in your thoughts.

    My feeling is that a strategic agency is better placed to be at the heart of a client’s thinking and able to operate as a trusted partner rather than a tactical supplier.

    I talk about strategy in terms of the customer and the journey that the customer takes from pre sales, first contact, through to regular customer and a source of referral for the client.

    If you are interested, we have bundled this up as an overall Digital Marketing Strategy. None of it talks about technology or individual disciplines like Search or social media. I think of these as the tools you use to deliver the strategy.

    I am wondering whether you might get a better retention rate if you added in some strategic questions as well. If you try it and you do, I would love to know so please feel free to drop me a line.

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