Transitioning from agency to brand side in digital marketing As a digital marketer, you have multiple options when it comes to your career in digital commerce: Agencies, brands, or going your own way. The go-it-alone crowd is still a small minority. Most marketers will find themselves either working on the agency/services side, or on the client side. In my book, “Careers in Ecommerce and Digital Marketing,” I talk about the advantages of starting your digital marketing career path on the agency side. There are many: It’s the perfect environment for developing your interpersonal skills as you interact with different clients and varied internal teams, you learn to be accountable for your time, agency people learn a variety of problem solving skills, you get good a multi-tasking and handling pressure, and agencies are all about creating and presenting ideas which allows you to hone your communication skills. These qualities will set up you well for your future on the client side where someday you’ll develop strategy, grow a brand, analyze your audience, and use data to make key business decisions.

At the more junior levels, resumes that switch back and forth between agencies and marketers are not uncommon. However, as anyone who’s been on the agency side for many years knows, it’s not always easy to make that jump later in your career. That was especially true in the days before ecommerce became mainstream. Candidates back then with 15 or 20 years of agency experience rarely had a shot. They were stereotyped, pidgenholed. “We live in a different world,” agency clients would exclaim. “We need someone who knows the challenges of growing a business.” But a funny thing happened on the way to the digital revolution: The lines began to blur. Disruption is disruption, regardless of which side of the fence you’re on. Companies are striving to break outside the norm, and agencies are where much of that breakage begins. Company cultures used to be more like, “work sort of hard, play sort of hard.” Now it’s, “work hard, play hard.” That’s the way agencies have always been. You want fast, frenetic and high pressure? Agency candidates have you covered there. Looking to bring a particular digital marketing or ecommerce expertise in-house? I’ve placed some killer agency-side candidates who live and breath this stuff, essentially becoming de facto internal go-to experts for their clients. Want good leaders? Agencies have many of the best I know. Looking for top strategic thinkers, prioritizers and project managers? Agencies have tons of them.

No question about it: The barriers for agency types to join the client-side club have been coming down. My advice for anyone looking to make that transition is pretty straightforward: When interviewing for a brand position, emphasize every aspect of your agency experience and skills that speak to their need, and often, that starts with the industry they’re in. Find a company in an industry that you have some experience with that is NOT on the leading edge of digital commerce, and show them how you can get them there.

There’s your ticket!

Jerry Bernhart, Principal of Bernhart Associates Executive Search, LLC, is one of the nation’s preeminent and veteran executive recruiters in ecommerce, digital and multichannel marketing, and CRM. With more than 90 published LinkedIn articles, Jerry is the “voice” of best practices in the recruitment and hiring of ecommerce and digital marketing professionals. Jerry is also the author of the critically acclaimed book, “Careers in Ecommerce and Digital Marketing,” on Amazon, and participates in many leading digital marketing and ecommerce conferences. Jerry has been recruiting and placing marketing professionals for more than 28 years. Check out Jerry’s other insights on the Thought Leadership section of the Bernhart Associates website.

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