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Making the move clientside

Written by: Lara Fisher-Jones
Published on: 20 Feb 2019


Less (perceived) pressure, more scope to effect real changes to a business, the chance to truly live and breathe a brand and more flexibility with working patterns all act as a powerful lure to those on the agencyside.  However, one must remember the positives of agency life - the sheer variety of clients and categories and research questions you'll work on, the relatively quick career progression and career opportunities + the wonderful sense of camaraderie and fun you get when you're working in a good agency culture. It's also worth bearing in mind that life isn't going to be a bed of roses clientside - some get frustrated by the level of bureaucracy and politics that can be present. Others find it difficult to secure progression - insight teams are generally relatively small, although some people move out of research into a broader marketing role (or indeed elsewhere) within the business to secure that next level of seniority. 

Having said all of the above I've shared some pointers below for those amongst you considering this move:-

  • it ain't easy but it's not impossible.  If you take a look at the job boards you will see the number of agency roles significantly outweighs the number of clientside.  Not only are there far fewer of them but they will also generally attract a high number of competitive applicants.  But if it's something you really really want.... 
  • this is not a place for wallflowers.  You need to confident and speak up - you are in effect the voice of the customer.  In some cases you will be delivering bad news to internal colleagues,  others may not be 'on board' with the role of research & insights in an organisation so you find yourself having to 'sell in' research as a first port of call.  You need to be a passionate advocate of the customer.
  • making a move earlier in your career vs later is usually more successful. I would suggest the optimum time is somewhere between 4-8 years.  By that stage you should have built up a good range of methodological experience (ideally both quant + qual) and confidence.
  • tailor your CV - yes you need to demonstrate the wide range of methodological experience you have but of particular relevance and interest now is your commercial acumen and stakeholder management skills.  Talk about the end impact of the research you've worked on - has it ultimately led to an increase in sales, or customer satisfaction levels? 
  • go wide in your search - we handle clientside roles but some clientside organisations will just advertise direct so make sure you're active on LinkedIn and company websites of interest.
  • think sector relevance - for the most part fmcg and pharma roles will go to those already in the sector.  Otherwise some clients can appreciate that a researchers skillset is transferable and moving sector can actually bring learnings and benefits to the next employer. But at the same time if you already have sector experience that will be of real benefit to the client and be a real advantage for you.
  • practise practise practise when it comes to interviews - you'll most likely be asked competency questions around stakeholder management, insight generation, commercial impact etc so get some examples ready to share.
  • consider contract roles - I'm not suggesting anyone leave a permanent role to do this but if you are available immediately then initially securing a contract role on the clientside can really help you in your longer term aim of a permanent role clientside

If you're considering a move - either agency to client or agency to agency - please get in touch.