COVID-19 keeps roiling customer behavior in every industry, and marketers are moving at lightning speed to keep up. Along with constantly revising plans, we see an important path to ensure brand relevance: Make key hires, building the organization’s in-house media and creative team to better manage the current situation, prepare for the new normal and accelerate marketing transformation.

And yes, we know adding staff now seems wrong, especially in companies that are laying off and furloughing thousands of employees, and lopping the salaries of those lucky enough to still have jobs. But organizations with the most in-house digital expertise are poised to prosper. A greater ability to pivot means they can shift strategy and execution fast. And in the months of recovery ahead, days–and sometimes even hours–will matter as never before. With layoffs from agencies, there is an excellent pool of talend ready.

The Current Shift in Everyone’s Content Marketing Strategy Framework

First, let’s be clear that we’re not advocating a shift away from working with key partners, or that now is the time to move all operations in-house. But at this point, quickly redirecting marketing spend to digital channels or updating key messages is essential, coupled with navigating toward smaller groups of partners, including Google and Facebook. Having skilled in-house expertise will also maximize the impact with external partners.

The Association of National Advertisers reports that in recent weeks, 90% have made substantial changes to existing marketing programs. And 55% did so entirely with their in-house agencies; 42% also tapped other internal teams.

What’s especially impressive is that despite the unprecedented nature of the pandemic, the majority of marketers are taking this in stride. Only 39% say these marketing adjustments posed a challenge, even with shelter-in-place orders limiting production.

“Over the past few years, we’ve built our own in-house advertising team, which allows us to react quickly to changing dynamics in the market and consumer behavior during these times,” said Felix Carbullido, the San Francisco, California-based CMO of William-Sonoma, in a recent call with investors. The company, which also owns the Pottery Barn and West Elm furniture chains, says its data-driven performance marketing is leading to outsized returns on digital media investments.

Hershey’s in-house agency, which has grown from four people to 10 in two years, also acted fast. It retooled and rethought its content framework, updating social and digital assets for a dozen of its biggest candy brands.

Five Reasons to Hire In-House Digital-Centric Media and Creative Experts now as an Option to Prepare for the New Normal

This need for nimbleness–already a long-building trend–isn’t going away, with 89% of respondents in the ANA survey say they plan to update messaging continually. A stronger in-house team is a lever to sharpen digital marketing strategy steps in five high-impact areas:

Shifting budgets

Pivoting spending to digital marketing channels, for example–is essential during this crisis. In-house teams can help moving money to different channels faster, better capitalizing on efficiencies and take advantage of more money going to large digital platforms – Google and Facebook.

Speed to market

Because they are closer to each brief and the business itself, these teams can move faster to get in-market sooner and start driving impact.

Real-time optimization

Data-driven test-and-learn strategies are essential during this crisis. Because marketers haven’t faced this level of customer disruption before, no one can accurately predict what will be most effective. Quick pilots, combining in-house media and creative teams, can provide reassurance that efforts are on the right track.

Customer data ownership

Pre-pandemic, marketers were already well aware that customer data was the key ingredient for marketing transformation. But the pandemic vaulted the world far more deeply into the digital realm, making active ownership of that customer data even more imperative, especially as we head to a cookie-less world.

Stronger strategic media partnerships

Working with major partners like Facebook, in-house teams can find more direct and meaningful routes to customers. And those relationships can inform a sharper content marketing strategy.

The Bottom Line

Finally, we know no one wants to seem opportunistic amid all this economic upheaval. But now is the right time to hire precisely because there are so many good people available. Layoffs and furloughs are already rattling the industry. With forecasts predicting massive spending declines in every channel–as much as 20% in the first half of 2020–more cuts are coming. And now that organizations realize that almost every job can be done remotely, there are fewer geographic barriers to recruiting.

Talent is out there. The advantages of a deeper marketing bench are undeniable. Smart companies will take advantage of this opportunity to recruit the best people for key in-house hires, better helping them rise to meet these modern marketing challenges.

What is the right move for your company? Drop your questions, or ideas, into the comments or reach out directly here to reflect on the best way forward.

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