Last month, I had the pleasure of speaking at the IHAF Leadership Summit—an assembly of in-house agency execs sharing what they are doing to take their organizations to the next level, turning today’s challenges into tomorrow’s success.
My presentation was a combination of data from IHAF’s most recent benchmarking study and recommendations based on the work I’ve been doing for the past 10 years as an advocate for and agent of the in-house model. I started by acknowledging the extraordinary changes we are all experiencing as marketers and the resulting complexity in organizing corporate advertising teams, migrating existing talent, and predicting what skillsets are most essential to hire next.
More than ever, marketing is a two-way endeavor with inbound engagement as fundamental as outbound. What’s required of all of us at this point is a shift in mindset from transactions to relationships, starting with how we operate. Below are a few of the key takeaways from my session.
First, stop building production teams and start building performance teams that can communicate, ideate, and integrate quickly for real-time responsiveness to marketplace needs. Let the smart people you hired collaborate with increased ease, giving voice and vote to validated learning without overwhelming their process with undue hierarchy.
Shift from adoption to assimilation. In today’s marketing marketplace, it’s easy to be wooed by the latest tools and techniques. We see them, we adopt them, and we assume we’re done. What we fail to recognize is that keeping pace is not about adopting new technologies; it’s about being in-tune with consumers and assimilating their preferences and buying patterns into how we approach our work.
Next, talk to your clients—not just about projects, but about how effectively your teams are working together. We call our clients partners—in fact, some in-house agencies have all but banned “client” in favor of “partner”—yet there’s little going on in the way of true partnership. Open dialog is central to the health of any relationship, enabling us to more effectively overcome challenges that occur.
From conversation to conversion, every project your in-house agency produces should ladder up to something meaningful and (dare I say) measurable within the corporation. Unless you are able to quantify the results of your work, who is to say what is or is not worth your team’s time? Measure the impact of your work so you can focus on work that has impact.
And finally, seize opportunities to extend beyond what your team is doing today. It is vital to the viability of the in-house model and the sustainability of the brands we support that we advance flexible structures and evolve adaptable workforces so we can respond to the rhythms of tomorrow’s marketplace.