Guest Blog – Moving from agency to client-side.

An ex-candidate of ours talks about his transition from agency-life as a PPC specialist to moving in-house…

I had spent almost 5 years working within agencies; 9 months for a small email broker and then 4 years working in PPC for a large full service agency, and during the final months here I was starting to stagnate and felt in need of a new challenge but I was only really looking to move client side.

Why was this? We were very resource light at the time which meant that there were 2 of us doing a job that 4 people had been doing 6 months earlier. This meant that standards had slipped and I was starting to feel out of control of my accounts. I thought that if I moved client side I would have more control, be able to produce better quality work and have the opportunity to make a more of a difference. I was also looking for a role that would enable me to expand my knowledge and experiences beyond pure paid search. And this is what I got. The role I was presented with offered me the chance to manage paid search via a digital agency and on top of that manage SEO, Display, Re targeting, Social and Aggregator activity, basically a much wider breadth of digital acquisition.

So I took the role I am now in for the above reasons plus the company has a great brand and is known as one of the biggest and best publishers not just in the UK but globally. I have been in the job for around 5 months now and so far it has been good but it has taken a lot of adjustment as there are many differences between life agency side and life client side.

I have learned so much from my manager who is an all round digital specialist with around 10 years of experience. I now have a greater understanding of SEO in practice and the very frustrating issue of getting the product development team to implement the changes that have been identified by the agency. I have been exposed to other digital channels and led remarketing and aggregator projects. I now understand more about product development and really how this is the most important part of any digital strategy as without a good product, acquisition efforts are futile. So I now have better knowledge of the digital channel mix and the best use of each channel to drive overall acquisition growth and efficiency.

I work within a small digital team which is part of a wider marketing team and I have sole ownership of the search and acquisition activity which means that to an extent I am in control of everything that happens regarding paid and natural search although I do relinquish a lot of this to the agency who obviously carry out the majority of tasks. My knowledge of search and digital in general is much greater than the rest of the marketing team which means that it is easy to impress and look knowledgeable and the praise given in light of this helps with self confidence. Furthermore I have found the work less stressful than agency life and the work life balance is better. We do have targets but it is rare for anyone to get reprimanded for not hitting them.

There is a downside to being part of a small digital team and being the most knowledgeable search person in the department. There is no knowledge share or market updates so keeping up to date with new Google products and general market updates becomes even more time consuming. Furthermore there is less camaraderie. Within an agency’s paid search department everyone is doing the same work and facing the same issues which brings everyone together very much as a team which is something that I always enjoyed. Here I am on my own as a search person and so the team feeling is something that I miss. This company may be different but compared to the agencies I worked in the social life is not as fast paced with less parties, impromptu pub visits and general gatherings.

Another fact of the digital team being small is that there are less paths for progression within the team although that doesn’t necessarily mean that those opportunities don’t exist in other departments.

Whilst I mentioned that stress levels are lower it doesn’t mean that I am finding everything easy client side. Managing an agency is hard work and there are several things to consider. You have to strike a balance between building a good relationship and being strong enough with them to ensure things get done. Keeping on top of projects and tasks can be difficult as whilst a WIP document can tell you what should be getting done it is the agency that is actually doing the work so this has to be managed thoroughly. I am used to managing people but trying to manage people who sit over the other side of London is a completely different challenge. Managing the budget and channelling new briefs and tasks through to the agency is also a bit of a juggling act.

In summary my move client side has so far been very enriching and I feel I have gained a lot of experience I would have struggled to gain if I had stayed within an agency’s paid search department. But there are a lot of things about agency life that I will continue to miss.