Agency Learnings from the Corporate Side

first published on LinkedIn in May, 2020.

Eight weeks ago I left the agency world to go corporate. I knew that after 20+ years of PR, Digital and Ad Agency life, moving to the client-side would be a challenge. However, I didn’t expect that I would be making the transition from my kitchen table with Microsoft Teams as my only connection to my new colleagues.

After eight weeks, a new perspective starts to emerge. After looking at things from the outside, this is what I’ve learned about agency life and agency success.

  • Agencies don’t know the clients’ business as well as they think they do. Agencies should focus on understanding why buying decisions are made and then get to know the business. Don’t trick yourself into thinking you know the business better than your client.
  • It’s actually easier to know what your colleagues are doing on the agency side than the client side. Agencies have more infrastructure and put more effort into project management, project communications and time tracking than most corporate organizations. This means that an agency may be able to make better connections between people and projects than the clients can within their own organization.
  • Budget planning is done way ahead of campaign planning. Companies are often constrained by budgets that may have been set a year ago, especially of it is a public company. Yes, good ideas get funded, but it may take a significant effort to move new ideas forward out of cycle. As an agency, understand the budget process.
  • Global is not an afterthought. If you’re in a company that serves multiple geos, everything must have an international consideration. It’s really easy to have a US bias, I’ve probably made the mistake of calling our English language assets “U.S.” a dozen times in my first eight weeks.
  • Where an agency may slow down in a down economy — or a pandemic — clients are working twice as hard to find ways to make up for lost revenue and to assist their customers the best they can.
  • As an agency, your work is only as strong as your client champion. If you lose that champion, your relationship with that client is tenuous at best.
  • Good work gets projects. Smart teamwork gets accounts.

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