As a recruiter who exclusively works with Digital Marketing professionals one question that my candidates most often ask me is whether they should pursue careers on the agency side of the industry, or find corporate ‘in-house’ roles. There is no easy answer to this question.
With that said there are definitely some interesting pros and cons to look at.
1. Client Variety
Some large companies with enterprise customers might have an agency employee dedicated to a single account. But it is more likely that the employee will be working across a portfolio of different customers, often in different verticals. This provides great learning opportunities.
With this type of work the employee can see how marketing strategies and tactics can vary across different types of businesses. On the corporate side representing the same company and brand within its target market is the norm. The chance to flex strategic marketing muscles can be more limited.
There are exceptions to this of course.
There could be corporate roles representing a business with a diverse service or product offering, each with its own marketing needs. Or the company might be operating a portfolio of subsidiary groups or businesses.
Regardless it is clear that marketing on the agency side has the upper hand in this category.
2. Task Variety
Working on the corporate side in a smaller marketing team, digital marketers get to ‘wear more hats’. They cover many aspects of online marketing needs and so round out their skills base. On the agency side the task variety can be more limited as the agency fulfillment teams are structure with tightly defined roles.
Agency size is a big factor here – despite not offering the prominence or prestige of working at a larger company, sometimes being in a smaller service company creates the chance to work with more versatility because the resources aren’t available to chop up tasks into so many small portions across teams.
3. Career Development
Often the belief is that agency-side experience can springboard a career ‘over the fence’ onto the corporate side.
While this is a common path, it’s important not to overlook the potential in the agency world.
Digital Marketing agencies exist to generate revenue and grow as businesses, and high-performing employees are the key to that growth. Top performers within an agency environment should be able to advance their career steadily and rapidly, proving their worth to their management team. On the corporate side, great results may generate praise and recognition, but there may not be a hierarchy to climb – as such, promotion and career-building is not guaranteed. One common career misstep I often encounter is leaping from agency to corporate side too early on in a marketer’s career.
My advice to candidates is always to build their profiles on the agency side – add to their skills and value in an environment where promotion and expansion of role duties is standard with tenure and strong performance.
Taking this over to the corporate side at the right time can maximize earning potential and job satisfaction. Switching too soon can delay the speed at which a marketer can develop their corporate-side career. On the in-house side, candidates with repeat success in corporate roles who can prove their ability to directly impact top-line results can forge superb careers, ascending in rank and responsibility either within the same corporation or through transition.
Summing It Up
The key factor in this equation is assessing whether your corporate-side employer approaches marketing as a cost or an investment. In a cost-focused environment – where marketing is viewed as a fixed-budget expense – career progression may be challenging.
On the agency side, great people are investments from the employer perspective – the lifeblood of the agencies. Great attitude and performance can be far more likely to open new career doors.
On top of this, not all agencies are alike, nor are all corporate marketing teams.
Size, goals and long-term ambitions are key aspects for any prospective candidate to assess when joining any marketing team, whichever side of the house and at whatever level of seniority.
Feel free to reach out to him on LinkedIn and start a conversation!
Article originally published here.
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