Why does everyone want to move in-house?

OK, not everyone, but nearly everyone.

I just took a quick look at the candidates that we’ve met over the last few weeks (who are currently sitting agency-side) and discovered a popular theme. My complex analysis suggests that…

Moving in-house

Yep – 78.57% of the agency people we’ve spoken to recently want to move in-house. That’s nearly four out of every five people we talk to. Quite a lot, isn’t it?

So why is this you, ask? I have some great news for you – we always ask people, so I can tell you.

There are a number of different reasons, but it comes down to the perception (rightly or wrongly) that things are just better in-house. Here are the top five most popular beliefs (ranked in the order I felt like putting them in):

#5) Someone else will take care of the grunt work.

For a lot of agency-side people, the bulk of their exposure to in-house marketing teams comes from dealing with their clients – these people are managing agencies, normally in positions where they can dictate or sign-off on strategy, control budgets and call the shots. All this, and they get to have someone else take care of the implementation. So moving in-house is a good way to move away from all those grisly bits – right?

The reality is that there is a large number of companies which outsource nothing, or very little, to agencies. They have entire in-house teams that are a lot like agency teams, grunt work and everything.

Over the last few years, we’ve seen many more companies take steps to bring digital resource in-house, and the theme is to bring operations with it. Moving in-house is not an automatic catalyst to move away from the day-to-day management of activity – it all depends on the set-up and how much is outsourced. Read more about that here.

#4) I’ll have a better work/life balance.

I’ve heard it said on several occasions that you move in-house when you’re ready to hang up your marketing gloves. There’s a perception that it’s easier; less pressured, more relaxed.

There’s a valid school of thought for this. Most in-house divisions don’t have to struggle to spread and dedicate resource like an agency does. There’s no business pitching as there would be in an agency, so less demand to pull all-nighters to get decks and creds put together in time.

The demands are still there from a reporting perspective since you’ll still have targets to hit and people to report to, so this won’t go away. Seasonality can have a big impact on hours and certain businesses can be particularly susceptible, especially if there’s no support from agencies or other suppliers.

#3) I’ll have more empathy with the brand or product I’m marketing.

People’s motivations change as their careers develop. At the start, they tend to focus on acquiring skills – learning and developing as much as possible. They’ll move to where they’re likely to get the greatest exposure. Agencies are great for this, thanks to the variety of clients and work. But once their learning starts to plateau, the desire is often to transfer all that learning and expertise to a brand they feel passionate about. This is a difficult demand for agencies to satisfy – it often means moving in-house.

#2) I’ll have more control and greater influence.

However good your client-agency relationship is, when you’re working agency-side, you’re always at the whim of your client(s). A lot of people are frustrated by the lack of ownership – the ability to push things though and see things through to completion.

Moving in-house isn’t necessarily the antidote to this. A lot of it depends on how the company is structured – how intrinsic digital marketing is to the company, how the channels sit together and who owns them, how budgets are controlled, what sort of senior representation digital has in the business. You’re certainly closer to the action when you’re in-house, but witnessing and changing can be two different things.

If gaining more control and influence is your motivation for moving in-house, advice is to really investigate the above during the interview process.

#1) I’ll be able to broaden my channel exposure and move away from my specialism.

I’ve put this as number one because it’s probably the one we hear most often. Agencies are (typically) built on specialisms and most people focus on a strong suit, whether that be PPC, SEO or content marketing, display, analytics. There’s a perception that a lot of in-house roles sit more holistically across digital and that moving into an in-house role is a way to move away from a channel silo.

This is rarely the case – sorry.

These roles do exist, but they often favour candidates who already sit in-house – purely because they already have more integrated channel experience. There’s a lot of competition for in-house positions, so your best bet is to stick to your specialism initially – you’ve got a greater chance in making the move if you’ve had experience in managing activity across all the specified channels for the role. The more gaps you have, the harder it’s going to be to justify hiring you over someone with more of the boxes ticked. You can worry about broadening out later.

In conclusion (ahem)…

In reality, there’s not much of a conclusion to draw – it’s all completely subjective. As a rule of thumb, I’d say that whilst it’d be fair to expect to satisfy one or two of the perceptions above with a move in-house, you’re likely to be waiting a long, long time if you want to hit all five.

Read more about moving from agency to in-house from the people who have already done it.