After spending what feels like a hundred years working for the world’s leading premium chocolate brand, I made the bittersweet decision to drastically change lanes and challenge myself by joining a boutique marketing agency.
Although I’ve always had a deep interest in building brands and generating business for entrepreneurial organizations and challenger brands, I had never considered a leap onto the agency side for all the stereotypical reasons; lower pay, potentially abusive clients, long hours, and short deadlines to name a few.
Upon leaving the brand side, I wanted nothing more than to get back the passion I once had for my work. I’m happy to report that over the course of the last two years, I’ve had the opportunity to meet a broad range of inspiring individuals and work on a ton of game-changing brands. I’ve regained my inspiration and have developed a whole new perspective on what it takes to make it on the agency side.
Below are just a few things that I’ve learned while working at Tiny Bully — a highly-collaborative, high-octane, full-service marketing agency that does everything for our brand partners.
You wear many hats
Being on the brand side, your brand is everything. Every action was dedicated to the tireless pursuit of goal achievement and the bar was constantly rising. The amount of information that a brand team knows about their business, industry, competition, and brand is remarkably deep. Now, broadening that lens beyond one organization, industry, and brand is liberating, inspiring, and educational. While working at an agency with multiple clients in multiple verticals, I’ve noticed there are striking similarities and deep contrasts across industries and brands’ life cycles. Being in the position to navigate, learn, and collaborate across all of them has been intellectually stimulating and has bred a whole host of strategies and ideas that I believe our clients only benefit from.
Your Previous Brand Experience can be invaluable
The relationships that I previously held with my agency partners were some of the strongest that I’ve experienced in my business life. And now that I’m seated on the other side of the table I strive to emulate that value for my clients. Sitting on the agency side, I’ve often found myself harnessing my brand experience in order to relate with our clients and the situations they are faced with. I believe this experience has allowed me to not only help our brand partners navigate challenges, but has also helped me guide my team.
You have to Own it…always
The level of ownership that you have over a strategy or concept remains the same. On the brand side, you have a whole host of people that you need to effectively sell to; department heads, CEOs, sales teams, and buyers to name a few. On the agency side, there are a few similar touchpoints to sell to, but at the end of the day, it is not my ultimate decision, regardless of how much I feel like I am an extension of my clients’ teams. At the end of the day, you’ve still got to own everything you do or recommend and be the supportive agency partner your clients need most.
Your culture is collaboration
Every organization has a different culture. It’s the culture of the brand. At Tiny Bully, I very much appreciate the stark contrasts that exist with what I experienced previously. There is a highly collaborative atmosphere, limited hierarchy, and virtually no internal politics. There are intelligent people who desire to be present and contribute and a plethora of great ideas that build brands and grow businesses. And their ability to multi-task across a variety of different clients and the pace that work is accomplished is remarkable. The level of collaboration is inspiring.
You have to treat yourself like a client
The one place that continues to puzzle me is the agency work itself. We are collectively responsible for client acquisition, business-building efforts, and even marketing the agency itself. And, as the old saying goes, “the cobbler’s kids have no shoes.” We are constantly refocusing efforts on our clients’ work and leaving ourselves last. This is a tough one and requires buy-in from everyone on your team to put the agency work on the priority list. It’s possible too. We’re doing it right now.
Whether you prefer the brand side or the agency side, both have a lot of unique offerings. Adding both to your resume only makes you a stronger marketer with more to offer your current or next role.