Is Your In-House Marketing Falling Short?

December 9, 2016

How do you assess the success of your in-house marketing team? Is their performance directly linked on a one-to-one basis to the success of your business’s bottom line? How do you frame the success of your marketing department in terms of the investment of time and money you have poured into building and supporting the team? How do you establish expectations for them? What should your marketing team even be capable of?

Assessing the performance of your in-house marketing team is complicated, and at times overwhelming calculous. And it becomes even more complicated when you start considering the possibility of partnering with a full-scale ad agency.

Today, we are going to give you the tools you need to answer these difficult questions so that you can assess the performance of your in-house marketing team. Once you know where you stand, you can begin taking actionable steps to improve! (Or maybe you don’t need to improve at all…good for you! Want to let us know your secret?)

To get there, we are going to move backward through all of the questions we posed throughout this rather gripping introduction.

What should your marketing team be capable of?  

Okay, we set ourselves up to start with a bit of a toughie, but we have never backed down from hard questions before. When answering this question, it is best to start from the ground up. The capabilities of your marketing team are going to depend on three major factors.

First, how many people are on your marketing team? You can’t expect full-scale agency results if your marketing department only has two people in it. After all, there are only so many hours in the day. These two, hypothetical individuals could be the most brilliant marketers in the world. They could be working themselves to exhaustion putting in long 70-hour weeks. But in the end, there is only so much two people can do.

Next, are you supplying them with the budgets they need? Media buying is expensive. Creating engaging content requires resources. Your team isn’t going to be capable of much if they are not given the tools they need to succeed. To give them these tools, you need to supply them with a real budget. You cannot expect to grow a garden without watering the plants. In this case, water = $$$.

Finally, how experienced is your in-house marketing team? Marketing and advertising are fields in which experience really matters. You can staff-up with all the wunderkinds in the world, but unless they have been there and done that before, they are going to make mistakes. In the long run, there is nothing wrong with making mistakes. They help us learn and grow as individuals and professionals. But in the short term, they will impact the immediate success of your marketing team.

So, when determining what your in-house marketing team should be capable of, consider these three major factors: team size, budget, and experience.

How do you establish expectations? 

Before you can assess the success of your in-house marketing team, you need to establish a clear baseline for expectation. Usually, the best way to establish expectations is to look at past success. However, if you are putting together a new team, or if you have just been hired to manage a new team, you are not going to have old baselines to look at. Even if you had old baseline numbers, the fact that a new team is being built or that the company brought you in to take over means that the expectations will probably be to exceed previous baselines. (And that’s a lot of pressure!) 

When you are setting expectations in terms of timeline and return you should look at the overall marketing strategy and break it down into its component parts. We will give you a few quick examples:

  • Pay-Per Click Campaigns (PPC): If your team is managing pay-per click campaigns, you should see an almost immediate return. There is a near one-to-one correlation between financial investment and payoff with PPC, so it isn’t the best long-term marketing solution, but it is one of the best ways to boost clicks, calls, and leads. If your team is running PPC and you are NOT seeing results, it’s time to take a closer look at what is going on.
  • Email Marketing: For email marketing to be effective, you need a good list. If you have access to such a list, you can expect to see a rapid return. If you need to devote time to building a list, email marketing becomes more of a long-term strategy so your expectations need to be adjusted. Mailchimp has an amazing page that details email marketing benchmarks across a range of industries which you can use to assess the performance of your email marketing.
  • SEO/Organic: SEO/Organic will not have an immediate impact on your business bottom line. It’s never going to instantly boost your leads, calls, or clicks. However, given enough time, SEO/Organic work can have a lasting and resounding positive impact on your business. If your marketing strategy is focused on SEO/Organic work, calibrate your expectations accordingly.
  • Social Media Marketing (SMM): SMM is an avenue in which you can find quite a bit of balance. To leverage the full power of SMM you need a following. Followings take time, effort, and sustained engagement to build. But hope is not lost if you would like to use SMM to fuel a more immediate boost to business. Most social media platforms offer paid advertising which you can utilize in order to see more rapid (and expensive) returns. 

When you are establishing the expectations for your in-house marketing team consider the capabilities we discussed before then factor in what you now know about individual marketing strategy elements.

By now you should have a clear idea regarding the impact your marketing team should have on your business and the timeline on which you should be expecting said impact.

How Do I Assess My Marketing Team in Terms of Investment?

One of the toughest (and simplest!) things about owning or managing a business is that there is always a bottom line. You cannot keep pouring money into projects, individuals, products, or services unless they are making you money in return (unless you are Amazon, of course).

Now, isolating the return on investment (ROI) of an in-house marketing team can be a little tricky because of a number of issues which we will cover in the next section. Just remind yourself, unless a department is essential for everyday operations, it needs to be profitable in order to justify its existence.

If your business has been stagnant for a sustained period of time while you have continued to invest significantly into marketing, you may need to take a closer look at the situation. However, there is a chance that your marketing efforts are the only thing keeping you afloat.

This ambiguity is why we marketers invented metrics! Metrics give us quantifiable information regarding every aspect of our marketing endeavors. This article by Forbes is a solid introduction to the world of metrics. It details 10 of the most common metrics, which is really just the tip of the metrics iceberg.

Is the Performance of My In-House Marketing Team Directly Linked to the Success of my Business?  

Simply put? No. No it’s not.

Marketing is one piece in an ever-shifting dynamic equation which dictates the success of your business. Lots and lots of things impact the end result (or product as we say in mathematics), many of which can weaken or even cripple your marketing efforts. There really is no one-size-fits-all formula for success in business, but if there was it would probably look something like this:


And marketing/advertising would be like… this area


It is a large part of the equation. But only a part.

There are other significant variables such as customer service, branding, company culture, and most importantly, your actual products and services. Each of these variables influences the impact other variables can have on the equation. This interplay is why, in the above section, we mentioned the difficulty of calculating the ROI of your in-house marketing department. There is a situation in which this formula can become radically simplified – when you work with a full-scale agency. In such cases, you have a dedicated budget you pay the agency, and they in turn have a host of trackable metrics to define your return.

Simply put, the performance of your marketing/advertising efforts are directly linked to the success of your business but not in a one-to-one manner.

Alrighty Then…

Before the length of this article can get any more out of control, let’s start wrapping things up. Our original question was, “Is your in-house marketing falling short?”

As you can probably tell, answering that question is complicated. Hopefully, this piece helped shed light on this rather murky problem. When assessing the performance of your in-house marketing remember these factors:

  • The size and experience of the team, as well as the budget placed behind them;
  • The components and focus of your marketing strategy;
  • Your commitment to marketing;
  • The overall performance of your business.

Finally, it would be ridiculous for us to spend so much time talking about in-house marketing without mentioning the possibility of working with a full-scale agency.

Full-scale agencies can be brought in to fix specific issues, run individual campaigns/projects, supplement your in-house efforts, or to manage all of your marketing/advertising.

In our next piece, we will go into more detail regarding in-house marketing vs working with an agency.


Nathan Rea       
Lead Copywriter 

Nathan Rea, the lead copywriter at Helix House, is an Arizona native and a graduate from the University of Arizona in Tucson. With a B.A. in English Literature, he is wildly passionate about reading, writing, and boring his friends by talking Cormac McCarthy. He loves writing about the intersection between marketing, culture, technology, and business development. In his free time, he hikes, rock climbs, eats (a lot), and goes to just about every live music event in town.

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