How In-House Marketing Teams Can Be Successful
The Great Resignation swept across the US starting in 2020 and continued throughout 2021 and beyond. Unprecedented numbers of employees quit, and many industries felt and continue to feel the sting of high turnover. There were many reasons why employees wanted to leave their current positions, but low pay topped the list. And for a lot of them, it paid off—51 percent of workers said they saw a meaningful increase in real earnings from April 2020 to March 2021. Conversely, those who stayed in their jobs saw losses.
In our last blog, we talked about how CMOs are no exception to the Great Resignation; CMO tenure remains at historic lows with those leaders only staying in their roles for 40 months on average. Additionally, we outlined how our attitudinal research study shows that organizations are evaluating marketing leaders on parameters that are difficult to measure and challenging to achieve.
Are marketing leaders falling short in a competitive industry? Or are they fed up with high expectations and no roadmap to succeed?
We’ll explore whether in-house marketing teams have the expertise and resources needed to be successful in their organizations and below.
What we Discovered About In-House Marketing Teams
Three distinct types of marketers emerged from our research, and we found that 77 percent of them say their organizations have an in-house marketing team. However, each group differs in how they feel about their organization’s marketing approach and ability to get results.
#1: Accomplished Marketers
These respondents feel their organizations prioritize marketing, consider novel marketing initiatives, and have the in-house expertise needed to make it all happen.
#2: Anxious Strugglers
This group says they believe their organizations are not pursuing the marketing activities they should to succeed. They also view sales and marketing as one and the same and their organizations face significant challenges maintaining in-house marketing expertise and would benefit from an outside perspective.
#3: Strategy Believers
These respondents have strong opinions about the value of marketing strategy as a guiding force for all marketing initiatives. They believe research is foundational to strategy and that multiple types of content are necessary to reach their marketing goals.
One thing that all segments have in common is that they strongly agree with the statement, “Our organization needs to engage in more marketing activities.”
Gartner’s recent research shows that marketing budgets hover around 9.5 percent, which is on par with recent years. Yet marketing professionals are often asked to do more with the same budgets they’ve always had. As our survey results indicate, marketing leaders believe more marketing activities equal greater success. But there’s tension between what marketing leaders think should happen and the practical realities of leading an in-house marketing team.
While our survey showed internal marketing team sizes vary, 40 percent of those with in-house marketing have a team of five people or fewer. One in three Strategy Believers is on a lean marketing team. In fact, this group is more likely to say their in-house team is 1-2 people. They have conviction in their marketing approach but may lack the resources needed to follow through on their plans.
Segments aside, many marketers we surveyed have small teams and limited skill sets. But this can be like a game of Whac-A-Mole that puts team members into situations where they can’t succeed. Instead, fill the holes with high-level expertise that you can find in agencies across the nation.
Day-to-day project management, communication, product differentiation, and SMEs are typically very well managed by an in-house team. Having an outside partner take on external functions, like PR and media relations, is a great way to bring a brand’s story to life. Another example is creative development. All too often marketers on an internal team get too close to the work. Allowing for an outside perspective to ideate without the constraints of knowledge overload can be very beneficial.
Start by tracking project overloads to get a good picture of what is not getting done due to lack of resources. At the same time you have to understand your in-house marketing team’s gifts and how they can best be augmented to reach revenue goals. Agencies are flexible and can fill in the gaps.
Skills and Experience Matter
Today’s marketers need a breadth of skills—such as strategy, analytics, creative execution, prospect identification, and content development. So the question is, do in-house marketing teams have the expertise to get results? Check out some interesting findings from our research:
- 53 percent of respondents say their in-house marketing team benefits from an experienced marketing leader
- 52 percent say they have employees with strong digital marketing skills and employees with experience in their industry
- Only 25 percent say their in-house marketing team has employees with strong media buying skills
- Only half say they have any marketing-related experience represented on their teams
The key takeaway: There’s a significant experience gap among in-house marketing teams.
Anxious Strugglers are less likely to say their in-house marketing team has any of the above experience. As we discussed in our first blog, if you can relate to Anxious Strugglers, you’re in good company. Representing 40 percent of survey respondents, these marketers have room for growth, and there are viable ways to get where they want to go.
When it comes to why there’s an experience gap within in-house marketing teams, you have to remember that a lot of people end up in marketing through tenure. That’s one reason why it’s vital to have the right training programs in place to help them succeed. One of the best resources you can gain is from engaging with an outside agency. At Avocet, we build our clients up day in, day out through education, consultation, planning, resourcing, execution, and always answering why the work we’re doing is meaningful.
Overcoming Marketing Turnover and Filling Experience Gaps
High turnover further complicates these issues in an industry that has already seen a lot of turnover before the COVID-19 pandemic.
Our research confirms that talent management is a valid concern for all attitudinal segments. In fact, 42 percent of respondents say their organization has lost marketing staff in the last six months. Anxious Strugglers are more likely to say they’re struggling in this area.
If you’re in the same boat, you may wonder how to best overcome marketing turnover and fill those experience gaps that former employees have left.
Besides acknowledging that you do have an experience gap, step two is defining the experience needed. Treat it like a job description. Interview agencies against that job description to determine if they’re a good fit. Strategic development is one area that would especially benefit from an outside agency’s perspective as this area often includes the methodologies in-house marketing departments lack. It’s also a great way for the internal team to further understand their customers on points of parity versus points of differentiation, sales strategies, and go-to marketing programs.
Stay tuned for our next blog where we’ll talk about how organizations work with agency partners to bridge these gaps.
To learn more about each segments’ behaviors and the opportunities they present, check out our entire executive summary and webinar. And to further ignite your own marketing strategy, check out our podcast.