Top 10 Ways to Build In-House Agencies and Brand Teams

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For more than 15 years, Theorem has supported in-house teams at leading organizations, agencies and technology companies, with expertise and scale. Over that time, we have observed some top notch in-house agencies and design teams. Working along side so many amazing teams has made clear what works when it comes to building your in-house agencies and what does not. 

Below we have compiled some of the best practices observed by these teams. All of which, if utilized, will ensure your ability to create an amazing branding team and/or in-house agency.

Here Are 10 of the Best Practices of the

Top In-House Agencies & Brand Teams:

1. Focus, Focus, Focus

Did I mention Focus?  Every team in your organization needs to know what their key focus area(s) are in order to operate properly. This is especially true of your brand and in-house agency teams.  The best in-house teams we have seen have their goals and core focus/focuses laid out before they are even assembled. 
 
If you are in the process of building your own in-house teams, there are few important questions you need to answer in regards to focus. 
 
  1. What areas of marketing, data and institutional knowledge are the key focus for this core internal team(s)? 
  2. How will this team(s) contribute to support the overarching company goals?
  3. Which elements and goals that are critical to the success of your business should this team be focusing on? 
 
The more focused and well thought out your responses to these questions, the better your in-house teams will shape to your company goals.

2. Expertise is Key

Once you have your core focus, you can start building your in-house team based on needed expertise.  If you are creating or revamping a team from internal resources that means evaluating each potential team members core skill DNA. 
 
This will allow you to build out job roles and goals based upon skill sets. Additionally, taking a look at the expertise you have, will give you a better understand of the skill sets you need to complete the team. In other words, you all be able to see the gaps and fill them with appropriately skilled members of the team. 
 
  1. When conducting this audit, ask yourself the following:
  2. What technology, data, industry skills and attributes are needed within this core team? 
  3. Which skill sets do I already have at my disposal?
  4. What subject matter experts do I need to bring on in order to make this a well rounded team?
  5. How can I efficiently bring these SMEs onto the team?
  6. Do I have the budget to hire all of the SMEs required to complete the team or do I need to find a partner who can fulfill these needs for me?
 
These desired traits form the foundation on which you can make strategic team-building decisions.

3. What is Your Tech Ecosystem?

With the rise in integrated systems, it is important to understand what systems and software(s) will be required to build your tech ecosystem. It is important to evaluate your current tech stack as well as determine what it needs to look like in order to reach all of your goals. 
 
Once you have completed this evaluation, it is time to determine what technical skills are required for your in-house team to utilize this tech stack.  Segment the skills needed on an ongoing basis from the ones that will be required for initial set up or tactical improvements.
 
It must be remembered that it is nearly impossible and defiantly not optimal to have all of the skills required in house. Some skills will be under-used while others are simply to hard to retain. 
 
Take the time to decide which ones are at the core of your everyday operations. Those will be the ones you need to have ingrained in your in-house team.  All of the others can be acquired through a trusted partner with the appropriate SEMs. 

4. Plan for Evolution

Tech platforms and required skills sets are constantly evolving. For this reason, you must have an evolution plan in place for your in-house teams. In other words, it is important to create a standard system of training and education to keep your in-house team members ahead of the game when it comes to technology and the expertise needed to operate it. 
 
Some things to keep in mind when creating this evolution plan:
Does your organization have and education budget?
What resources do we have/need to gain access to a variety of different skill sets?
How can you utilize this evolution plan to create a career path for the best and hardest-to-retain talent?
 
As a result, you will have a thoughtful and complete plan for the evolution of the company. And not only in terms of technology enablement, but also in regards to career growth for your employees.  
 
In-house teams that implement training and education that enable career growth tend to retain more employees for longer periods of time.  This is beneficial for the employee, their team and the organization as a whole. 

5. The Ins & Outs of Campaigns—Big & Small.

There will be a multitude of campaigns across channels: social, search, display, content, video, programmatic, email, etc. Some will be for attracting new customers and others will be for retaining existing audiences. 
 
All of these campaigns will require new campaign set up, QA, optimization and post campaign analysis that will inevitably fuel new campaigns.  What does this mean for you?   
 
Generally speaking you will need to evaluate which of your in-house teams will be managing these campaigns. Explicitly which elements of these campaigns should your in-house teams be charges with. 
 
In this circle of campaign deployment, do you have a the in-house teams needed to manage all campaign elements? A robust sales and ad operations team?  If after analysis, you determine that there are areas of campaign management that your in-house teams cannot accommodate, it is time to find a partner who can. 

6. Review Your Resources. Know Your Bandwidth.

When building an in-house team it is important to be realistic about your goals. The best way to understand the capabilities of your team is to audit your resources and know your bandwidth. 
 
Many times, the goals that are created for a team are too lofty.  Typical due to lack of resources and/or bandwidth. An issue that is often not realized until work has begun. This can be a stressful situation for your team and your company.
 
To avoid this situation all together, you must take stock of the resources at your disposal. These include man power, capabilities, softwares, systems, access to training, etc.  Whatever gaps you discover can be remedied before projects have begun. 
 
Some important questions to ask when reviewing your resources are:
 
  1. Will your in-house teams be responsible for the support of a single brand or multiple brands, business units and teams? 
  2. Do you have a global footprint or is it fairly localized? 
  3. Are your campaigns multi-lingual across time zones? 
  4. Have you established internal best practices to manage across various privacy regulations?

7. Data is the Golden Solution

Data has become one of the most, if the not the most important foundational factor for any in-house agency and/or brand team. And we are not just talking about data collection any more. 
 
Every single AdTech and MarTech platform can collect and output copious amounts of data. But raw data will not unveil the information that your teams will require to run campaigns. To garner the most from your data, you must cleanse, aggregate, analyze, visualize roll up/roll down,  and decipher useful insights. 
 
This is no easy feat. It requires a combination of data analysis and data storytelling skills that can be difficult to find. It is important that you have an in-house team dedicated to data solutions/business intelligence.  This team will be tasked with managing, organizing, reporting on and sharing your data findings in a time sensitive way in order to make impacts on your company goals. 

8. Game Plan for Change of Seasons

If there’s seasonality in your business, your plans have another level of complexity. Ramping up for the busy seasons and scaling down after them can create a host of issues if not executed properly. 
 
Especially if these involve in-demand skills with temp workers who are not part of your ongoing operations. Specifically there’s a risk of quality deterioration. Temp employees, outside of your organization may not have the institutional knowledge needed to become part of your team quickly.
 
For this reason, you need to have a game plan in place for you in-house and external resources during season changes. Most organizations will find it beneficial to have a team, or partnership that can recur for every change of season.  
 
Long term partnerships that engage annually, will allow for your outsourced teams to learn your business and work cohesively with your in-house teams. 

9. Media Management is Essential

Media management is often a core focus of in-house brand and agency teams.  Depending on the size of your company and number of campaigns, managing all of the media can be an extensive task. Not to mention, different media strategies require different skill-sets. 
 
Which is why it is so important to have a well rounded methodology in place for managing your media when formulating your in-house team. In most cases there are aspects of media management your team(s) should handle and other pieces that require some additional, outside assistance. 
 
When creating a media management strategy, it is important to ask the following questions:
 
  1. Do you procure media via private marketplaces, open exchanges or partner trading desks? 
  2. Who manages these relationships?
  3. Does your organization have the skills and bandwidth to manage media while deploying campaigns to attract new eyeballs?
  4. Who is managing existing customers and who is managing new leads? 
  5. Do you have your own trading seat?

10. Good Partners are Priceless

The one thing that all of the greatest in-house agencies and brand teams have in common is knowing when to bring in help.  It is impossible for even the biggest and brightest in-house team have mastery of every skill required to reach their goals. 
 
Once you have crafted a plan to identify your in-house must-haves, you will need a stable of flexible partners to tap into.  Ideal partners will be able to support the elements of your strategies that fall outside of your team’s wheel house.  These partners need domain expertise, scalability and best practices that you can depend on now and into the future.
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