How Agencies Can Safeguard Against Client In-Housing

Industry trends are pointing to a shift in the dynamic between client and agency. As more businesses begin to embrace the idea of bringing their digital marketing work in-house, agencies are feeling the squeeze. The pressure to retain clients is mounting, and with it comes a new set of challenges for agencies looking to stay in the thick of things in an increasingly high pressure, high turnover environment.

As a way to proactively combat the idea of client turnover in favor of cutting costs and bringing work in-house, agencies must get creative and be willing to find new ways to make their work more attractive to a client.

One common complaint about agency work, particularly in the marketing space, is a lack of ownership. In many agencies, account managers are often tasked with handling the work of several clients. This can often involve taking on social media calendars, blog writing, graphic design, and other asset creation for an entire roster of clients. Naturally, this makes it difficult for the account manager to have the time to fully understand every client and product they’re marketing. So what happens is a loss of quality and authenticity in the resulting deliverables. This can put a bad taste in the client’s mouth — “I could have done this myself,” for example — and makes the idea of bringing work in house more attractive.

Sound familiar? Try this: education and appropriate staffing. In the name of profits and/or just sustainability, many agencies have hesitated to hire robust teams, instead choosing to pile work on a handful of employees and expecting high rates of production. 

Consider this idea. An agency that supports a smaller client roster but that ensures that each account manager fully understands each client may be able to offer much higher quality work (and command a higher price) than an agency that’s simply going after quantity over quality. This concept may be off-putting to some, but the rewards may be worth the change in ideation. Allowing staff members to “own” their client work may make an impact in generating higher quality work that may cause a company to reconsider bringing work in-house.

Another way to stay in the game is simply to ensure that the content that the agency is putting out is of undeniable quality. This, again, plays into the idea of empowering account managers to truly own their client’s portfolio and turn out high quality work. This requires time, which means that account managers won’t have the bandwidth to support massive rosters. This means hiring more people, which can be costly. But what if it means retaining the entire client roster, rather than losing a large percentage to in-house efforts?

As more businesses attempt to recoup costs, in-housing will become a bigger threat to agencies that have to this point subsisted on massive accounts and little recourse. But now is a different time, and agencies wanting to stay in the game must adapt accordingly. This may mean taking a different approach to handling client accounts, but taking the time to invest in quality will keep the doors open much longer than continuing down a one-way path.

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