Finding your perfect role fit isn’t always straight-forward, after all, marketing is such a diverse discipline, where we frequently wear multiple ‘hats’, juggling responsibilities and skill-sets. Styles of working for marketers fall into two broad categories: ‘Agency’ and ‘In-house’.
The simplest distinction is that with in-house roles, you are an employee, whereas working for an agency you are client-facing, implementing solutions and strategies for other businesses (you could say that knowledge is the agency’s product that is sold as time). Salesforce is well-known for having a large, and growing, partner ecosystem, which makes agency roles more appealing than perhaps other industries; but can it beat the benefits of working in-house?
This post was inspired by a poll Sara McNamara put out on social media. If you follow Sara, you know how popular her MarTech commentary/questions are – if you don’t follow her yet, connect with her here. The question was: “do you prefer consulting in an agency or in-house roles?”
The question received a flood of comments. After looking through the results, it’s clear that there’s no consensus on the topic:
- In-house: 46%
- Agency: 11%
- Depends/Both: 42%
Although In-house clearly wins against agency, we can’t overlook the many that answered with a balanced opinion; this is what prompted me to write this post, to dissect the ‘ifs’, ‘maybes’, and ‘depends’.
Agency vs. In-house: Pros and Cons
|In-house: Pros||In-house: Cons|
|● Experience will lay a strong foundation for operational, and niche expertise.||● Lack of ownership/executive buy-in (mostly with large brands).|
|● Satisfaction of seeing projects all the way through with clearer impact/accomplish things that require long-term commitment.||● Frustrating to Martech pros if expensive platforms are used in a very basic way (and isn’t likely to change).|
|● Better connected to the team and its success.||● Friction and less belief in the benefit and activities of a Martech professional.|
|● Larger organisations can send you out to the other divisions to help provides some variety.|
|● Job security|
|Agency: Pros||Agency: Cons|
|● Experience will lay a strong foundation for analysis and solution implementation.||● More ‘volatile’|
|● Exposure to multiple industries, workflows - ‘teaches you so much, so fast’||● Draining as there are constant demands (often overtaking strategic thinking/non-billable work).|
|● Tactical work||● Knowledge is only superficial, scratches the ‘proverbial surface’.|
|● Sharpen skills with like-minded experts.||● Doesn't take client company culture and operations into account.|
|● Hired because people trust you (which helps to break down some of the walls you can run into in-house).||● Difficult to facilitate change, without it seeming reactionary and being actively rejected.|
|● “See patterns across clients and new ways of working / cross-pollinating approaches”.|
|● Autonomy (for freelancers)|
The next section will highlight a few comments that highlighted factors that result in these nuances.
Pace of Work
Fast-paced work environments, with more pressure to deliver on time (and to budget), may be what some people prefer, but others may want a more measured and predictable way of working. This may be down to your individual personality, or what lifestyle you require (work-life balance):
- In-house generally has a slower work pace, more predictable workload.
- Agency will involve accountability to deliver work on time and to budget (often expected that you pull out all the stops to do so!)
Stage In Your Career
Your answer will depend at what stage of your career you’re at, but also which mentor you take advice from in the early stages of your career. As a young professional, or at the start of your Martech career path, there’s a strong case for both as starting blocks:
- Consultancy experience will lay a strong foundation for analysis and solution implementation. Also ‘cross-pollinate’ approaches that have been seen elsewhere.
- In-house experience will lay a strong foundation for analysis and solution implementation (before opening up those talents to others as a consultant). Having progressed their career this way around, they ‘truly understand the day-to-day reality of the client’.
Not The Whole Story…
Agency vs. in-house is one question to consider when seeking your next role; however, agency vs. contractor, or agency vs. freelance are questions that both have an entirely different set of considerations.
Computer Futures, a popular Salesforce recruitment consultancy, have seen this question crop up again when candidates weigh up decisions. See their well-written article for the pros and cons list: Contract vs. Permanent Roles: Which Is a Good Fit for Your Salesforce Career?
Check out the Admin2Consultant series Ben and Matt, a couple of Salesforce Consultants, wrote after they made the transition from in-house to agency. Finally, Ben wrote a similar overview more recently on the topic: ‘Becoming a Salesforce Consultant – The Next Step in Your Career Path’.
I hope this post has delivered on its promise to “dissect the ‘ifs’, ‘maybes’, and ‘depends’” following many comments to the poll posted online. Although In-house clearly won against agency, we can’t overlook the two factors of individual preferences: the pace of work and stage in your career.
To finish up, I thought this definition of in-house work is worthy of being emphasised: “[you are] fully immersed in one brand, one product, one customer base, one team, one culture, one database, one tech stack, one gameplan and one set of problems #focus”. Now, it’s up to you whether that’s what you are looking for in your work-life.
Special thanks to Sara and all who commented on the thread. I found your commentary invaluable, myself.