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Building Digital Capabilities For Your Business

The following is adapted from Crawl, Walk, Run by Michael Loban and Alex Yastrebenetsky.

When we refer to in-house, we’re not talking about bringing video production, content marketing, creative strategy, or social media into corporate brand teams, though some have done that. Rather, we’re saying it has become more common for brands to take direct ownership of all customer and campaign-related data in-house, bypassing their agency for collection, management, storage, and analysis.

The main benefits of this include greater transparency, real-time access to data, a gain of institutional knowledge, marketing agility, and end-to-end control, which help ensure compliance with the new regulations.

The Challenges with Bringing Data In-House

On paper, bringing data in-house might look simple. After all, you already know which data you’ve asked your digital marketing agency to collect on your behalf, and you most likely know who the numerous vendors who touch that data are. Now, however, comes the more difficult part of data migration.

Do you have the right team? Do you have the right know-how? How do you plan to get your team up to speed, ready to take on the full responsibility of in-house data? Let’s answer these questions.

Challenge #1: Acquiring the Right Team

It’s a lot harder to acquire the right team than it might seem. Even if you make the business case and get budget approval to hire ten people to take on this effort, you’re bound to encounter a few major hurdles. First, you will find that large companies like Google and Facebook are paying top dollar for the kinds of people you want to hire. Despite the research you did to figure out the compensation needs for each role on the team, your costs of acquisition are going to be higher than you expect.

The financial challenge is just the beginning. Once you interview interested candidates, you’re bound to experience a bit of culture shock. Specifically, certain team members you want to add won’t fit the culture of your company. Maybe they don’t want to wear button-up dress shirts and slacks to work, or maybe they would rather work downtown than in the suburbs where rent is cheaper. Maybe they are chiefly interested in how fast they can get promoted, so they want assurance that they will get promoted within the next eighteen months.

Challenge #2: Having the Right Know-How for Getting Your Team Up to Speed

Even if you have a solid onboarding plan in place, you still need the right business know-how, and your team needs direction and guidance. Often, when an organization lacks specific skills, they will either hire new people or upskill existing team members, but if the team lacks a centralized focus, team members end up doing their own thing. The person responsible for marketing looks only at acquisition data, while the person responsible for CRM looks only at CRM data, and a third person focuses primarily on data visualization. Although each person might be a technical subject matter expert, the team ends up moving slower than ever because they lack unity about what they should be doing with their digital analytics.

When building an in-house team, you can bring a bunch of experienced people into your organization, a lot of high-quality talent, but you also have to provide clear direction to each of these individuals, so the whole team is unified and working together.

Challenge #3: Deeper Data Governance and Legal Ramifications

Perhaps the most difficult challenge to overcome when bringing data in-house is the need to create and enforce your own customer data governance policies. It’s now your responsibility to avoid data breaches and prepare for all legal ramifications.

Prior to Europe’s General Data Protection Regulation and the California Consumer Privacy Act, the biggest threat companies had to watch out for was data hacks. That threat has only gotten bigger as hackers have gotten more sophisticated, but there are now regulators seeking to ensure compliance with newly passed data laws. No one wants those regulators to make an example of their company.

The Hybrid Model

Should you stay with your digital marketing agency, or should you go in-house with your data? There are big advantages and disadvantages either way. Fortunately, there’s also a third option: the hybrid model. In the hybrid model, you hire a transition team to oversee your migration from agency to in-house, tasking them with ensuring a successful pass of the baton. Agencies and vendors can then play an ongoing role as you see fit. Just be wise in determining what you want to do in-house and where you prefer a partner’s help.

At the same time, you partner with experts who help you map out precisely what you need based on your strategy framework. With the right partners and the right knowledge, you can ensure a smooth transition while getting your new team established and ready to assume control of your systems and processes.

No matter which way you decide to go, you need to take a good, hard look at how you’re going to handle your data with increased competition and changing legislation. The strategy that got you where you are today is unlikely to support your long-term growth ambitions.

To learn more about Google Marketing Platforms you can find Crawl, Walk, Run on Amazon.

Alex Yastrebenetsky is CEO and Co-founder of InfoTrust, a global analytics consulting and consumer data governance company. Under his leadership, InfoTrust has received numerous honors and awards, with inclusions on the Fortune Best Small Workplaces, Ad Age Best Places to Work, Inc. 5000, and Inc. Best Workplaces lists. Alex currently serves as a board member for the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Foundation and the University of Cincinnati Blue Ash Dean’s Advisory Board.

Michael Loban is the Chief Growth Officer at InfoTrust. He’s an adjunct professor at the University of Cincinnati and Xavier University, and is also a presenter and author, with work published in Forbes, AdWeek, and CIO.

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