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Why Brands Hire Agencies Vs. Build Influencer Marketing In-House
Recently, influencer marketing has expanded from a supplementary promotional expense to a major line item for many digital marketing teams. Brands spend more money on influencer marketing every year, and global ad spend is projected to hit $5-10 billion by 2020.
As influencer marketing becomes an essential part of the marketing mix, brands must decide the best approach to manage this powerful channel within their organization.
Influencer Marketing In-House Or With An Agency?
The Dual Approach
Digiday predicts that as influencer marketing becomes a more integral part of the marketing org, it will likely be approached in one of two ways:
- Brands will hire a team of influencer strategists and campaign managers to identify influencers, manage partnerships, and execute campaigns and measurement in-house.
- Brands will hire a senior influencer manager to set goals and manage performance, but still leverage influencer marketing agencies or platforms to build and launch successful campaigns.
While many companies currently delegate influencer marketing to branding, partnerships, or acquisitions teams, more influencer-specific roles are cropping up to handle influencer efforts exclusively.
In Los Angeles, we see companies large and small hiring influencer-specific titles, from Murad beauty, to startups like Ritual, Plenty and FabFitFun, a beauty box subscription service that credits influencer marketing as a key channel for driving their 3X annual growth.
Related Post: What Does An Influencer Marketing Agency Do?
Bringing Influencer Marketing In-House
With global companies like Nike and Mars leading the charge, more consumer brands are considering whether or not to bring influencer marketing in-house. This includes identifying and maintaining relationships with influencers, creating and executing all campaigns, and owning the optimization internally.
What are the benefits and drawbacks of moving influencer marketing internally?
- Nobody knows your customer better than you do. In some cases, your target audience might be very complex, and you will know the subtleties of what resonates with them better than anyone else. Birchbox, for example, targets a unique set of women who are not proactively interested in beauty, but would be open to purchasing a monthly subscription service. Director of Public Relations, Jenna Hilzenrath, comments, “Managing influencer marketing in-house allows us to be nimble and take a really hands-on, nuanced approach. That said, we do occasionally work with agencies or other platforms on a project basis.”
- Influencers prefer long-term partnerships. Companies like Nike foster individual relationships with long-term brand ambassadors over time. Many influencers prefer this long-term model, as it provides them with more financial stability and in some cases, this ongoing relationship appears more consistent to their followers.
- Curate a customized roster of ambassadors. Owning relationships with all of your influencers enables your brand to strategically test and refine an internal list down to the best influencers for your brand. This careful selection process no doubt contributed to Nike’s Grand Prix win in the Social Influencer category for their “Nothing Beats a Londoner” video.
- Hiring in-house personnel is expensive. Because it’s a relatively new industry, finding experts in influencer marketing can be tricky. Successful influencer campaigns need high-touch personnel to scale up and will require in-depth onboarding and training. If your strategy shifts, it can be difficult to reduce your influencer marketing investment for a quarter or two if you’ve already staffed up a large in-house team.
- Building influencer relationships take resources. Finding the perfect influencer, reaching out to them successfully, dealing with their managers, negotiating contracts, setting up a CRM to track influencer relationships, and managing all campaign reporting requires a ton of resources and time.
- It’s challenging to stay on top of industry changes, especially in such a fast-growing space. As influencer platforms evolve, streaming services emerge, new hashtags begin to trend, or different influencers lose touch with their fans, it’s on you to keep up with it all. Agencies are immersed in this world, and will keep track of these fast-paced changes so you don’t have to.
- There’s no way to compare your success. If you manage all influencer marketing in-house, you will be working with a limited internal data set. Agencies bring the benefit of external campaign performance data and can incorporate learnings from working with other brands in your space, ensuring optimal success.
Leveraging An Influencer Agency Or Vendor
Despite more brands hiring influencer marketing roles in-house, many still rely on third parties for at least some of their influencer strategy. The reality is, although you know your customers best, agencies know the influencer industry better.
What are the pros and cons of seeking outside help for influencer marketing?
- Easily scalable investment. Agencies reduce the need to hire and train in-house personnel. You will be able to scale up spend on high-performing strategies more rapidly, or reduce influencer marketing efforts without having to let people go.
- Convenience of built-in influencer relationships. Influencer marketing agencies will have established relationships with influencers and their managers, and know how to handle contracts. This will save you the effort of identifying the perfect influencers to meet your KPI goals and establishing relationships over time.
- Knowledge of what’s worked for other clients. Agencies can provide richer advice based on their diverse set of experience. They bring first-hand knowledge of how specific influencers perform within a given category, how different campaigns resonate with various audiences, and will help you set the right engagement goals.
- A close eye on emerging trends and platforms. First-hand knowledge of the industry helps agencies stay ahead of the curve. They will identify opportunities around social technology changes, like the launch of IGTV, and will keep afloat of the latest “hot” influencers and trending topics in your industry.
- For companies with limited budget, cost may represent a barrier of entry. Many of the most established agencies require a monthly minimum spend of thousands or tens of thousands of dollars, meaning agencies might be inaccessible for companies with a smaller budget.
- If you plan to self-manage your campaigns using platforms and little to no external strategy assistance, this comes with some major risks, including fake influencers, limited influencer selection, and failure to meet FTC compliance.
- If you’re not working with the right agency, there may be communication challenges. An agency that’s not on top of their game could cause delays or dilution of communication between your brand, the agency, and the influencer. However, a reputable agency will spend time getting to know your brand, your customer, and your target KPIs. This should be a highly collaborative process in tandem with the influencer.
Even as brands bring their influencer marketing in-house, chances are that most companies will take a hybrid approach. As the influencer industry continues to skyrocket, many companies will likely increase their in-house support staff while continuing to lean on agencies to help scale up their efforts.
Also Read Our Posts On:
Different Types Of Influencer Marketing Campaigns
A Guide To Crafting A Winning Influencer Marketing Strategy
How To Overcome The Biggest Influencer Marketing Challenges
A Marketer’s Guide To Influencer Marketing Pricing