“I want to move client side”. This is by far and away one of the most common phrases to hear from our candidates in the digital market. It all seems so much greener on the other (client) side. But is the move from agency land to client side all that it is worked up to be?
There are a lot of interesting and enticing factors for moving client side. The opportunity to work solely across one recognised brand, integrated marketing approaches with online and offline teams, broadening of marketing skills and a better work-life balance.
This post will endeavour to address some of the myths and reveal the truths on what it is really like to work client side.
One recognised brand
In an agency environment you are normally in a position where you will simultaneously work across multiple brands in multiple industries. It can be difficult to give your all for a client when you have to meet other clients’ demands and have many conflicting priorities and little time per client. A defined scope of work in theory helps to break down how much time is given to each client, but doesn’t always work in a practical sense. Speaking to a client of mine recently, she mentioned that her time is meant to be spent equally between her two clients. In reality one of her clients was taking up 80% of her time. She might as well be working on the client’s side looking after just the one brand right? Working for one client actually appears to be becoming common practice now for agencies. As more and more investment comes in across digital and traditional, agencies are reacting by developing designated teams to work across one particular client. You are then faced with the opportunity to work across one recognised brand and still get the agency environment so many candidates enjoy.
Integrated marketing approach
No doubt about it, when you join an in-house marketing team as a digital or traditional specialist, you are brought in to a big and integrated marketing team. Campaigns are run in a holistic manner all to achieve one common purpose. Often you are in the same building or have a direct relationship with employees from other departments such as finance or sales and can see how the direct effect of how marketing impacts sales. One of our clients who heads up the digital marketing team of a financial provider (he’s also worked agency side), says one of the real thrills of his role is having his team sit on the same floor as the sales team and seeing the direct correlation between digital campaigns and new acquisitions.
When you work in an agency your role tends to be quite specialised and as a result it can be difficult to pick up new skills outside of your speciality. When you join an in-house marketing department, you’re often given the opportunity to expand your skill set. For example you might be a paid search specialist working for a fantastic agency but can only further develop your paid search skills due to limitations of your role. By joining the client side, you may potentially go from being a specialist to a Digital Marketing Manager incorporating all aspects of digital. Agencies are beginning to counter act this and more and more are developing roles that are multi-channelled. Paid search specialists are becoming performance marketing specialists adding display advertising to their repertoire. Digital Strategy teams have begun forming and are giving people the opportunity to bring their specialist backgrounds into a new role with the chance to look at other channels.
This is perhaps the biggest reason we often hear from candidates as to why they would like to move client side, “to get a better work-life balance”. This perception that working in an in-house team guarantees better work-life balance needs to be looked at as this is not always the case. Like in any profession, there are times throughout the year when you’re busier than others and times when you are quieter. A candidate of ours who recently moved from the UK told us that his time working client side actually involved working longer hours than when he worked in an agency. He explained that he worked internally in a large department store which was always seasonal depending on the products and as a result always had to work late. He has worked in agencies before and said that he didn’t have a particularly good work-life balance but that was more due to the clients he was working on and a poor work-life balance of their respective marketing teams. On a similar note, we are often told that while people love the scope of work they have working in a marketing team; they do miss the fast-paced, dynamic and fun environment that an agency possesses as well as the lack of corporate structure. While others exhaust “agency life” and embrace the chance to work in a less fast-paced environment.
Like with anything in life, there are pros and cons. Agency side vs client side is no different. It really comes down to the individual and what they are looking for in their career. When you have made the decision that you would like to test yourself client side, be aware that you aren’t only competing with fellow agency people but also those who have developed their career in in-house roles. It is also worth noting that if you move from one side to the other irrespective on which side that may be, and decide to move back, it can be difficult to justify to hiring managers.
Before making the most in search of greener pastures, please do your research and know what you want, life may not always be greener on the other side.