[AGENCY LIFE] Why marketers should take an agency stint

Estimated read time: 3 minutes

You might care about this article if you are:

  • A recent marketing college grad
  • A marketing or communications (executive) recruiter
  • A CEO who needs to bring in a CMO change agent
  • A new agency employee
  • A leader who hires agencies

The first time I ran a marketing and communications team as a vice president I often had strong negative reactions to digital or traditional agencies and their often lame pitches, mostly because:

  • They were doing things cookie cutter
  • Their creatives didn’t even look that much better
  • They didn’t take workload off my plate

  • They didn’t listen

I’m pretty transparent and people can get a good idea of my pain points and current projects simply by reading my blog. That’s been the case for many years.

So when people call and address something I mentioned on a blog, I’ll listen a little longer. It was top of mind, you know! I just blogged about it. It also showed that they might listen when we work together. I say might because many times the sales people aren’t the people you’ll work with when you hire the agency.

These were the main reasons  I would weigh when I decide to hire an agency:

  • Could I even see myself working with them? Meet the worker bees ?! Nobody wants to work with jerks – and that’s a two-way street, by the eay.
  • Could they do the work? Some people just talk! More on that here. 
  • Highly important: Will they make things easier for me?

All three pieces are important but the last one especially and working with high-maintenance agencies is just too much work. I’ll hire people instead.

But all three combined are magical and often worth the money.

  • Here’s what I need.
  • Agency plays back request.
  • Agency offers feedback and expert tips based on things they know that I cannot know.
  • Agency goes and creates and reports back in a mutually agreed on timeframe.

And what do these agencies do well (in addition to their agency expertise?) They listen. And they adjust based on your perceived and actual needs.

Having worked in an agency capacity for  some years, I see it often that people do not listen.

Heck, I like to talk too. Do you hear me? ?? Expert or not, we cannot solve people’s problems if we don’t listen to them.

I’m actually surprised how often potential clients tell me that all these consultants (another word for agency)  just want to sell what they offer.

It’s easy to do. I love storytelling, so it’s easy to jump to that. It’s my thing after all:

Prospect: <presents problem>

Agency guy: “Oh yes, storytelling is the answer.”

Prospect: “How does that exactly apply to THIS problem?”

Agency guy: “What problem?”


That’s obviously not how anyone will get or keep business. Listen, offer expert input and then go implement.

It’s not necessarily something learned while working on an in-house team, but it can be applied and used by people who learned it during threir agency life and then moved to an in-house team.

Agency life can help us:

  • Be better listeners
  • Be better implementers
  • Be more customer centric.

One thing it rarely does is let us own a project. The client does. It’s their baby – even when it’s ours. But that’s just another reason to do and learn the three items of great agency work above. You can set up a successful program and add a happy customer!