How This Learning Course Business Saw a 67% Increase in ROAS By Hiring an Agency to Work With Their In-House Marketing Team

Introduction

If you have an in-house marketing team, you’ll know that piecing one together isn’t easy.

Many companies rely on their in-house teams for obvious benefits:

  • Your own teams are more cost-effective than hiring a proven marketing agency in the long term.
  • They’re more flexible, and work based on your schedule.
  • They understand your brand better than any outsourced marketer can.

And whenever you don’t get the results you need, it’s simple: Blame the team and hire better people to work for you instead.

You may think finding the right people to do the job is the hardest task in all of this. 

It’s the easy part.

The hardest thing to do is making a good business decision when your in-house team is already doing well.

Why?

If your marketing team is already delivering the results or sales you need, it’s super easy to get complacent.

What that means is you think you and your team are already on the right track, working at the best of your ability.

It becomes easier to believe things couldn’t be better than they are.

And it becomes easier to forget how much you wanted for your business when you started it out in the first place.

Sure your in-house team may already be doing a great job, but you’ll never know if it could be even better, because there aren’t any benchmarks.

Of course some “what ifs” may come to mind about your team’s work. But how do you voice your concern without hurting the trust you built with them?

After all, they're already doing well. And if you say something, you run the risk of ruining their morale. Results may drop, and you may even lose your brightest people to another company.

And as a consequence, most businesses let these what ifs stay what ifs and allow themselves to remain at this stage.

This issue is more common than you may think. 

And since we are a marketing agency, we’re sure you may be waiting for us to tell you to scrap your in-house team and hire an agency instead.

In fact it’s the direct opposite.

In-house marketing teams and agencies should actually work together to take your business to the next level. 

It’s no longer an either/or decision.

And today we’re going to show you how a learning course business clocked in a record 67% increase in Facebook marketing returns in just 4 weeks, precisely by challenging this norm and hiring a marketing agency to work WITH their in-house team.

The increase in revenue meant the business’ performance and potential became higher. Our agency service fee more than already paid for itself with the added revenue, while the in-house team could de-stress and focus on planning for the business’ future.

Read on to find out how you can apply these crucial business decisions to your business as well:

I needed specialists to help out with our digital marketing campaigns as we had spent a considerable amount of time trying to figure it out ourselves. An agency would surely save us a lot of time in that department, so we could fully focus on the core business itself.

Veeranan Pipatwongkasem

Director at FTE

Step 1

Why FTE Hired an Agency Even Though They Already Had an In-House Marketing Team

FTE (Fast Track Entrepreneur) offers business learning courses for SME owners, business heirs and other executives to learn entrepreneurial secrets and network with each other.

And since Thai banks claim that over 50% of startups/SMEs in Thailand fail within their first 5 years, there is a clear market for their learning courses: Both because there are hundreds of thousands of entrepreneurs out there, and that most of them are getting things wrong.

As good business owners you always need to challenge the status quo and assure your company is growing on all levels. And FTE’s direct solutions were perfect for this.

FTE’s in-house marketing team was also very skilled, making the company over 16 times as much as they spent on Facebook ads.

To put that into perspective, for every 100,000THB they spent on Facebook ads, they got 1,600,000THB back.

By achieving these awesome results, the team already validated that FTE’s services can be sold on Facebook.

The company had everything they needed to succeed on the online platform, and had a buying audience.

So what was the problem?

Potential. The business was so strong that they had to keep getting even better, fast, or risk being complacent and winding up with the same problems as the businesses they’re coaching.

Sure FTE’s in-house team was doing a great job with their marketing, but in-house teams in general come set with these following disadvantages:

  • By default, the team only sees and looks after your brand, which limits their growth and potential. Talented people are motivated by growth, but in-house teams are normally not the best environment for cutting-edge learnings because there isn’t a large-enough pool of marketing knowledge to share.
  • The team is only as good as the team’s leader. And cutting-edge marketers are hard to come by.
  • And if you don’t have a marketing director, then you are the marketing director.

To take their Facebook marketing efforts to the next level, FTE needed a way to explore the true potential of their brand without hurting what they already had.

And that’s where the marketing agency came in. 

As the agency, we brought our specialized expertise with Facebook marketing and experience from working with 100s of clients’ marketing campaigns.

This collective intelligence in the field is what in-house teams don’t have, and it’s precisely the key to helping FTE’s whole team achieve more and better results.

No items found.

Step 2

What FTE Needed to Measure Success

To ensure our partnership with FTE’s in-house marketing team was working, the goal was to fully book their next key learning course.

We took over FTE’s Facebook marketing campaigns, and if we could fully book the event, it meant the setup was working.

This meant the risks were low. If we succeeded, we would be paying for our own service fees, plus we would be accountable for all the Facebook ad revenue while the in-house team could finally focus on internal work and planning for the business’ next step.

If we didn’t reach the goal, FTE could give us the boot immediately (we have monthly contracts instead of 6-12-month contracts), FTE’s in-house team would still be there, AND have the learnings from our campaigns. 

But a 67% increase in Facebook returns in the first month + a full house for their event later, it’s safe to say all the hard work paid off.

And after reflecting on the success, we defined 3 crucial pillars to getting these amazing results. Here they are:

No items found.

Love Northstar's personalized strategic planning, daily results monitoring and results-based approach. Other agencies we have worked with in the past have not been able to provide such personalized services every single day.

Veeranan Pipatwongkasem

Director at FTE

Step 3

How FTE is Breaking New Sales Records Now

3.1 Mindset Change - How to Find the Right Agency for Your Business’ Needs

Before letting a marketing agency set foot into your company’s setup, you first need to know how to find the right agency based on what you truly need.

An agency can pitch you the best strategy, best creatives with the best account managers, but there is one main quality you constantly have to look out for:

Honesty.

It may sound like cheesy BS. But what do you think would happen if you hired someone who tells you things are going well just to please you?

FTE’s case was special as their in-house team were already doing a great job. 

They didn’t need somebody to come in and save the company. They just needed someone to improve results and take things to the next level.

And results can only improve when the agency is honest with you, even when the truth hurts.

Most business owners already know how to spot honesty by principle, but end up falling victim to account managers who want to keep them happy for just one month longer.

Let’s put it this way: Which kind of doctor do you keep going back to visit whenever you’re sick or need a health checkup?

Do you return to the doctor who asks you routine questions and prescribes the same medicine without batting an eye?

Or do you come back to the doctor who straight-up tells you you’re going to die in 20 years if you keep working 14-hour days with no rest, and coaches you on how to stay healthy?

Naturally you’d like to talk to the first doctor more. But in your heart you know the honest doctor is who you need. And that’s who you keep coming back to in the end, for your own sake.

It’s the same idea when you’re looking for a marketing agency.

Many business owners think agencies are just an outsourced service. And most agencies don’t let them think otherwise, because it’s just easier not to go the extra mile.

That’s why the relationship between a business owner and an agency should be a partnership, not a one-sided job. 

That’s the best way to ensure you are both accountable for the business’ growth, and that the business owner is never kept in the dark about the strategy.

This brings us to the second point:


3.2 Understanding that Your Business Owns all the Data, Not the Agency

Honesty is easy to talk about, but next to impossible to practice. Most of the time this is because agencies lack transparency in their processes.

Agencies normally protect their intellectual property, and that means their strategy, their campaign setup and all valuable market insights belong to them.

That basically means everything they’ve done to help your business grow gets taken back the moment you leave them.

And that’s precisely why most agencies protect data: Because it brings them success, and they think the data is theirs.

While that’s how business mostly goes down in the agency game, it means you’re generally held at knifepoint whenever you want to leave. 

And no one likes feeling trapped.

This is why many companies choose to have their own in-house teams, because they want to own data that should have been theirs in the first place.

We never keep anything from our clients. We want them to be successful in the long-run, not “only for as long as they’re working with us.”

This is especially true for FTE’s case. A setup where we worked with their in-house team could ONLY be possible if all data was transparent and shared.

That means leveraging previous sales data for the business’ sake.

Every booking, every baht spent and every lesson learned.

We took everything FTE’s in-house team did well and not-so-well into the making of our marketing strategy. And we gave them access to every bit of work done, to ensure everybody was learning and improving.

If the data is generated for your business, then it should be used to improve your business, not used as a ransom.

When you pay premium fees for agency work, you shouldn’t only be paying for the services.

While the agency owns the strategy, remember that you should own your business’ data no matter what, even if the data was generated by an agency.

Being data-driven from the start was definitely the core pillar in FTE’s success.

And now that we’ve established the concepts and mindset behind success, here’s the nitty gritty of how we applied the strategy to fulfil FTE’s goal:


3.3 Streamlining All Marketing Work into Driving 1 Single KPI: Messages

Most marketing strategies don’t work because they’re way too complicated to begin with.

Many plans will bombard you with tons of metrics for you to constantly keep an eye on. 

How many purchases are you getting? How much website traffic? Clicks? Comments? Shares?

This is terrible, and even worse if you need to involve many people at once. 

It’s so easy to lose focus with this setup, and you’ll end up getting subpar results when you could be doing so much more.

FTE needed a way to fully book their next key event. And here’s where the collaboration between in-house marketing team and agency shone the most:

We tuned all of our ads to get as many potential customers to send messages to FTE’s Facebook page inbox, and the marketing team was responsible for turning them into buying customers.

But why messages? Why not direct bookings?

We’ve learned through the years of serving clients globally that tuning your social media ads for direct purchases doesn’t always result in more sales.

In our experience we have found that for Thailand, messages via Facebook’s Inbox are currently the highest-converting form of communication.

The likelihood of why this is is probably that Thai audiences prefer to talk to a representative before making a purchase.

We can’t say why scientifically, but we work based on results from data. Here are 3 more case studies where we optimized ads for messages to help take these businesses to the next level in case you want to learn more later on: 1, 2 and 3.

FTE’s primary audience—SME owners, business heirs and executives in Thailand—have probably seen hundreds of self-improvement courses try to get them to buy.

The audience needed to know how FTE’s courses were different from the rest. And that’s where the exchange of information between admin and customer starts.

All sorts of discussions can happen within messages between you and the customer, from inquiries about product quality to new promotions. Like this:


Thus, we as the agency only had to worry about driving more messages to the page based on quality and cost.

Here’s a summary: The cheaper it costs to get someone to send FTE a message, and the higher the lead quality is, the less money would have to be spent to get more bookings.

It sounds simple, and that’s because it is. It worked because it was easy to understand.

We delivered more messages, and the in-house team turned the messages into bookings.

Now that we’ve cleared the air with the messages part of the strategy, here’s the next crucial part:

3.3.1 We split the marketing strategy to target audiences at different stages of the buyer’s journey.

One of the most powerful tools in Facebook marketing is the platform’s ability to separate those who already know who you are from those who have never heard of you before.

Logically you would focus aggressive promotions on people who already know who you are, because they’re more likely to buy.

Someone who has never seen your products before, on the other hand, would not understand what problem your product can solve for them. So that means lower intent to buy.

This thought process was directly reflected in FTE’s Facebook ads. We split audience targeting in the ads based on 2 types of audiences: 

  • Cold Audiences, or people who do not know about FTE, and
  • Re-targeting or Remarketing Audiences, which are people who already do know about FTE.

Here’s the gist of the strategy: We showed Facebook ads with Cold approaches to people who didn’t know about FTE. 

And if they still didn’t buy, we hit them with ads that used Remarketing approaches to ensure these people would buy. 

The cold ads focused more on an educational angle to inform and persuade the audience why FTE’s business courses mattered to them.

Here’s what a cold ad looked like:

The ad clearly focuses on providing the audience with everything they need to know before making a booking. 

And since course prices are quite high (from 89,000THB per person), the audience needed to be sold on who they’re going to meet. So this ad focused on getting a 1-on-1 consultation with one of the most successful businesspeople in Thailand.

In general, cold ads are designed and worded as if you’re meeting the audience for the first time.

Remarketing ads, on the other hand, are designed to convince people who have already seen your product, but aren’t entirely convinced yet.

So discounts, testimonials, or the number of satisfied customers could all be good approaches to try out.

Here’s a remarketing ad for FTE, a testimonial, shown to people who already knew who they were:

You can see a couple of key differences in this ad compared to the cold ad.

First, the primary focus is the testimonial from the same person from the cold ad itself. And in the ad’s headline, you can see that the text tells the audience that this is the last chance of the year to make a booking.

Again, some of the ads we used were actually made by their in-house team, and we added our targeting methods to them.

RECAP: Split your audience targeting into cold and remarketing stages and make ads that reflect those stages, to ensure you get the most sales as possible within a given time. 

From everything done above, here’s the final step to ensure everything we did with the in-house team was working:

3.3.2 Recording Everything in KPI Sheets

You can’t measure progress without a reference point. 

That’s why we agreed with FTE’s team to fill in KPI sheets on a daily basis.

We as the agency would fill out the total ad budget spent per day and the amount of messages received. FTE’s in-house team would then fill out the number of overall confirmed orders and revenue for the day.

That way, we always knew whether what we did was working or not. If sales were increasing from our efforts, we were on the right track.

If not, we tested with other approaches based on the data gathered from what we did before.

And the best part was the founders had full transparency on whether we were doing a good job or dropping the ball at any given point.

So now that we’ve played down all of the info above, here are the results of all that work from steps 1-3:

No items found.

Step 4

The Results

Here is a comparison of FTE’s marketing results from their event bookings, based on their in-house team’s results from the previous year and our efforts for the same event: 


As you can see, our marketing campaigns drove more returns for FTE, and under a smaller budget. Although the overall sales revenue was lower—last year’s sales revenue was 3 million while our campaigns’ revenue was 2.7 million—the key was the investment into advertising this year drove them more return on investment than the last.

But while the numbers and better returns are a great achievement and an important milestone for FTE, the biggest achievement by far is that we gave them something that is more important than money: time.

Our marketing campaigns helped free up the in-house team and the founders’ time to focus on other tasks that have more business value in the long-run.

They don’t have to settle for what ifs anymore, and they can now finally focus on what’s next.

No items found.

We now have a strategic partner to help with our ad campaigns, content creation and ad budget management in such a professional way. Our productivity as a company has definitely increased.

Veeranan Pipatwongkasem

Director at FTE

Step 5

What Can You Take Away from All This?

1. The agency vs. in-house team debate is no longer an either/or decision.

Don't underestimate your business potential by believing it is one or the other. 

An agency might be able to help streamline your work process and take the results to the next level, and to work together to reach places you may have never thought possible.

2. Complacency will be the death of your business.

If you want your business to achieve more than other businesses, you'll have to do more. 

Just as when you had to do more than other office employees to start out your business, the more you do, the closer you’ll be to your full potential.

And you have to do more of what is right. Most business owners end up wasting years of their business' life span thinking everything’s 'ok' or that results are good enough for this stage.

It's easy to react to a sales dip during a recession. 

It's harder to continuously be driven to turn great work into outstanding work.

No items found.

Step 6

No items found.

Step 7

No items found.

Step 8

No items found.

Curious how much more revenue your business could be generating from better optimized digital marketing efforts?