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Making the Leap from Client-Side to Agency-Side Marketing

By Terry Cole, Director, Communications Strategy and Content

Or maybe the question is, “Is it really a leap?” Is agency-side marketing really that different from being on the client-side? 

Before I came to work at MKP, I had been on the client side of bank marketing for a long time (more years than I care to admit!) I’d had the opportunity to work with a number of different agency partners over the years and get a glimpse of agency life, but now, I’m part of an agency team that specializes in financial services marketing communications and I have an insider’s perspective on agency-side bank marketing, too.

The Marketing Juggling Act

Bank marketing teams are ultimately responsible for developing and implementing marketing strategies and programs that are aligned with brand and business objectives, and, in so doing, they play a central role in a bank’s success. Whether it’s ensuring a successful launch of new or enhanced products and services, supporting entry into a new market or line of business or driving revenue growth through new customer acquisition or expansion and retention of existing customer relationships, marketing departments often juggle many projects and priorities. The challenges of driving results for multiple lines of business while building and enhancing a strong, cohesive brand that supports the entire bank are often complicated by tight budgets, limited resources and, inevitably, timelines that can only be politely described as less-than-desirable. (Why does everyone want something yesterday?) That’s why having agency partners to complement the internal team—providing more resources and additional expertise—was a must-have for me in my former client-side marketing leadership role.

I looked to agency partners as just that: partners. Successful agency relationships were those where the agency operated as an extension of our team. They invested time in understanding our business and our brand, brought fresh perspectives and shared insights from their work with other clients, pushed us (nicely!) to explore options and “out-of-the-box” thinking for addressing our business challenges and enhancing our results and delivered compelling creative and marketing communications that were aligned with our brand and strategy. Perhaps most importantly, they cared about our success. And yes, from time to time, they jumped through hoops for us to meet tight timeframes and demands. 

A View from the Agency Side

What does all this look like from the agency perspective? While clearly not all agencies (or clients) are the same, I am now part of an agency team that does indeed view itself as a partner to its clients. In my first few months, I’ve experienced the perspective that our bank clients’ customers become our customers, the bank’s objectives and challenges become our objectives and challenges and their success translates into our success, too.  So, we immerse ourselves in the client's brand. We ask lots of questions to gain a complete understanding of the communications needs and requirements. We work hard to create and deliver strategies and programs that inspire the desired response and deliver strong results. And we do everything we can to meet even the most challenging requests and deadlines. 

So, is agency-side marketing really that different from client-side marketing? For me, the answer is no, it’s not a leap at all. While there are differences, like making recommendations and influencing outcomes as the agency versus making decisions and having accountability for program results as a client, those who love the many rewarding and challenging aspects of marketing can love it from either side.

The fundamental work we do as marketers—no matter what “side” you’re on—is to create positive perceptions and influence behaviors among a clearly defined target audience. To do it well requires passion, commitment and teamwork. The reality is, whether you are a bank marketer or agency marketer, you are working toward the same goals and there really are no “sides.” Success comes down to a fundamental understanding that we are all on the same team.

MKP communications inc. is a New-York based marketing communications agency specializing in merger/change communications for the financial services industry.