In-house or agency marketing: Pros and cons

Last updated on 4 October 2022

There are many different benefits to having an in-house marketing team, an agency marketing team, or a combination of both. [Source: iStock]

A professional approach to marketing, advertising and communications has become increasingly beneficial for the aged care industry, with many organisations stepping up by hiring additional marketing and media professionals.

If you are looking to create a marketing strategy, or feel as though an existing one is not delivering the right outcomes, you may place a greater focus on your in-house resources.

The ability to deliver successful marketing campaigns does depend on the staff, time and resources put into it. 

Deciding whether you use in-house expertise or agency marketing could prove impactful in the long run.

The importance of marketing in aged care

Regardless of industry, marketing is a beneficial tool for ongoing success and growth. It is how you spread your message and draw attention to your services. 

This is how you ensure you are chosen ahead of the competition. 

Ben Murray, Strategy Director of branding agency Brighter, says the public is taking charge of research and decision-making, particularly in aged care.

“Marketing is critical to any organisation’s chance of being found, standing out, gaining trust and acquiring clients,” explained Mr Murray.

“On the other side, we’re seeing more customers in the aged care and healthcare sectors taking ownership of their care. No longer will patients automatically trust a referral to a specialist, they’ll do their research.”

Gabi Mills, Communications and Publications Manager for health and aged care provider Hall & Prior, says standing out across a number of platforms – like their publication Life & Love – has attracted both staff and residents.

“Marketing has always been important in this sector, but the skill is to stand out among your peers in a unique and respectful way,” said Ms Mills.

“Offering compassionate care (the Hall & Prior tagline) is more than just a collection of buzzwords. It’s a mission statement that all our staff live by. 

“Creating consistent messaging around this key statement then allows us to explore ways of attracting new members of staff and residents.”

Utilising industry expertise

There is no one-size-fits-all solution to marketing. Every organisation differs in terms of budgets, staffing and resources.

Large aged care providers are more likely to be able to hire a marketing team, while smaller organisations may have limited resources for big campaigns. An agency offers convenience and industry experience when you need assistance.

“Marketing agencies will often have a collective of specialists, collaborating around a central strategy, while offering organisations a whole range of expertise and perspective they may not find in their internal teams,” said Mr Murray.

“This provides deeper insights and expertise than can be achieved by a generalist, and having a team in one place, working together, learning from each other is priceless.”

Specialists on hand typically include:

  • Marketing strategists
  • Researchers
  • Communication specialists
  • Web developers
  • Photographers
  • Videographers
  • Content writers

Alternatively, you may have the resources available to recruit a dedicated team. If you are looking to build a team there is no pressure on a timeframe either, as you can build slowly while potentially using external industry experts.

“Having a team in-house means that we are able to react in a timely way to anything which occurs during the working day, and are fully invested in ensuring the messaging we share is accurate and reflects the Board of Directors’ vision,” explained Ms Mills.

“On the other hand, we also engage an excellent digital agency who can take some of the heavy lifting off our hands in terms of lining up content in advance for landmark days throughout the year. 

“Sometimes an external focus on larger campaigns will allow a better allocation of your resources, and the resulting coverage is then re-shareable many times.”

Telling your stories

In fields such as aged care, you are not only selling services, but experiences. Whether the focus is on attracting new residents or staff, you can use existing experiences for storytelling and marketing purposes.

“Our greatest resources are our employees and our residents and families. Each and every one of them has stories to tell and share, essentially free of charge,” said Ms Mills. 

“All we have to do is capture that story in word or photographic form and then share it to the community at large. 

“It’s great to be able to be nimble and reactive when a really good story occurs.”

Sourcing this content may be easier with an internal team as staff and residents are more likely to open up to people they are familiar with. You can also work quickly when time is of the essence.

A fresh perspective

The fast-paced nature of social media and marketing means an agency does thrive when stories are ready to be told – and that could be essential when a fresh perspective is needed.

After all, there is always the potential to stick to the status quo once routines have set in. Sometimes it is easy to become too familiar with the world you live in, and Mr Murray said agencies offer an enthusiastic approach from start to finish.

“In-house teams can get locked in on a strategy and marketing rhythm,” said Mr Murray. 

“What an external agency brings is a new enthusiasm and fresh ideas, often propelled by pressure to perform and retain their account.

“Things move fast, markets are evolving, and seeking external perspectives and fresh ideas is critical to ensure you’re informed. Our agency continually seeks insights from experts who can make our work more effective.”

Maintaining your values

A common concern is that a marketing agency may not hold the same values as you do. In people-centred industries like aged care, the right values can make all the difference.

You want to have clear goals that are aligned with the agency you choose.

Mr Murray says any professional marketing agency should work collaboratively with you to achieve collective goals.

“The best campaigns are true to a long term brand strategy because they build value as people become increasingly familiar with the offering,” said Mr Murray.

“We find it critical to ensure we have a shared agreement on the objectives, from the board through to the marketing manager.”

He added that objectives from clients need to be clear, simple to understand and, ideally, realistic.

“Then when decisions are being made about creative or media planning, it’s done so from the perspective of achieving our objectives and not personal preference,” he said.

“When you have this alignment across the organisation you start to make real progress and see the results that make Chief Executive Officers and Boards continue to invest in their marketing efforts.”

A collaborative approach

Working independently means you will retain full control of any content and messaging, however, that’s not to say it doesn’t work in a partnership.

Hall & Prior has previously worked with a recruitment agency to deliver a recruitment campaign that proved successful for both parties, explained Ms Mills.

“Marketing agencies are useful when there’s a specific project or campaign to promote,” said Ms Mills. 

“Their in-house marketing and communications team worked closely with our in-house Human Relations department to develop a new recruitment campaign called ‘Be Somebody’; it was designed to appeal to aged care workers who wanted a job that was more than just the sum of its parts.”

She found that the campaign was very successful and it struck a chord with many people looking for work.

The final verdict

For a large multi-state aged care provider like Hall & Prior, the ability to manage most tasks in-house has been rewarding for their small team, said Ms Mills.

“Over the years, Hall & Prior has had a rich mix of in-house experts, from those whose strength was more in public relations to somebody like me, who is a publications and communications expert,” explained Ms Mills.

“We also have a couple of brilliant in-house graphic designers who put together all our design output, from in-house menus to newsletters, Life & Love magazine and annual reports. 

“For a small team, I believe we are big hitters in terms of what we produce on a weekly basis and am proud that we are able to project such a strong story about the Hall & Prior journey so far.”

Those day-to-day tasks are certainly where the strengths lie for an in-house marketing and communications team.

For larger campaigns, agencies with more resources could be the best fit. If you do go for external support, make sure you are professionally aligned with the agency you choose. 

“The best results come from partnerships between clients and agencies, where there is mutual respect, trust and a shared commitment to achieving long-term results,” said Mr Murray.

“Our industry is highly competitive, and underperformance is rarely rewarded. We’d recommend not entering retainers so you can maintain flexibility if you need it.

“If you’re concerned you’re not getting the attention you need from your agency, time to have a chat or seek a new partner.”

Ultimately, your marketing approach has to be one that suits your needs, resources and goals. 

Assess what works for you and your organisation now, and look at whether you can fill gaps internally or if external support is needed.

aged care
business growth
brand growth