What Is Client-Side Marketing?

5 min

A career in the marketing field seems to present professionals with two choices: will you wo...

By Eda Osman

Marketing Manager

A career in the marketing field seems to present professionals with two choices: will you work agency-side, with a number of client accounts, or will you instead choose to work in client-side marketing—where you’ll be responsible for the public perception of your employer’s brand? As data from the Association of National Advertisers has shown, 78% of its members had moved at least some of their marketing functions in-house, an increase of 36% since 2008. It’s clear the field is growing, but where should you focus your efforts?

While many experts have worked in both areas of the field, new marketeers need to decide where they will thrive and which side will best suit their skills and help connect them with more advanced digital marketing jobs in the future.

These two terms—in-house and client-side marketing—are typically used interchangeably to refer to digital marketing jobs embedded within a company as an integral aspect of their wider advertising, public relations, and internal communications teams.

With the growth of AI marketing and content-generation tools helping to make marketing professionals more productive and efficient, many businesses will be looking to bring their branding and marketing in-house to save costs and have greater control of the marketing process, meaning that in-house digital marketing jobs will see growth.

This informative guide will explore client-side marketing and help you to understand how these teams work. We’ll also discuss the positives and negatives of focusing on this area in your career and what you can do to get yourself ready for an in-house marketing role in 2023.

How Does an In-House Marketing Team Work?

An in-house marketing team works directly for their employer, getting to the root of their brand. They’ll often work alongside an agency, producing the briefs to which the company’s designers and marketers will work. This means that a client-side marketing professional must be keenly aware of managing a budget, ensure their brand communication is robust, and monitor any deadlines to ensure nothing holds up the process, whether internally or externally.

Whilst a client-side marketing role is often said to exchange some creativity for greater control over any agency support that’s leveraged to meet a deadline, it’s often the case that bringing in a team of outside experts can help to reinvigorate a company’s perspective on its brand, helping to inspire in-house marketing teams to take risks to cut through the noise. As a result, it’s useful for client-side marketing teams to think of agencies as partners that offer expertise in areas that they may be unfamiliar with.

In-house marketing professionals have several roles and various responsibilities, from content generation to managing social media channels, preparing ad copy, and conducting research such as audience segmentation. Using analytics tools, marketers can understand the impact they're having and produce reports to demonstrate their value. Leveraging and analysing this data is becoming an ever-more valuable skill within the marketing field.

They will also need to work with their colleagues in other internal departments to approve the use of branding and logos and edit copy for adverts, social media channels, and blogs. Luckily, AI marketing and content generation tools are helping organisations to show their staff how to support their internal marketing teams, allowing departments across a business to quickly draft copy and images that can be further refined by a professional in the marketing department before release.

Client-side marketing allows experts in the field to recognise how their efforts fit into the bigger picture, particularly since its impact can be contextualised within the wider business structure.

One area often left unmentioned in discussions of client-side marketing is the significance of developing the ability to negotiate. Whilst in-house marketers will live and breathe marketing like their agency counterparts, they often have to make a business case for an increased budget or senior approval of “riskier” marketing activities, particularly within traditional organisations. All stakeholders must buy into their vision, but navigating internal politics can be tricky.

The Pros and Cons of Working in Client-Side Marketing

Working in marketing presents ambitious professionals with several opportunities. However, the field also presents some drawbacks that must be considered before deciding whether moving in-house is for you.

The Pros of In-House Marketing Jobs

  • In-house marketing professionals often see the impact of their successful marketing strategies and understand how their work contributes to the business and audience demands more clearly than their client-.
  • These marketers understand how all the content they generate will be used. Given their proximity to their audiences, their case studies and testimonials can become part of a more wide-ranging customer relationship strategy.
  • Client-side marketing roles often come with a greater budget than an agency environment for that specific business, allowing these professionals to develop a specific focus that they can hone in on over a quarter.
  • In-house marketing allows experts to explore and test their strategies, building a more resilient internal marketing practice. Within the fast-paced environment of an agency, marketers will need to support several clients, meaning that each day can see their time split across different campaigns, whilst the consistent workloads of in-house marketing allow marketers to become experts in their brand and audiences.
  • Being in control of the briefs which are delivered to external marketing agencies—for content generation, for instance—can give in-house marketing professionals a great deal of control over defining and establishing their brand.
  • The expertise gained in negotiating and pitching is valuable across several marketing-adjacent fields, as is the ability to build robust professional relationships with internal and external stakeholders.

The Cons of In-House Marketing Jobs

  • The slower, more consistent nature of work within an in-house marketing role can be frustrating to those professionals who prefer a busier pace.
  • Whilst working on the client side may involve a number of tasks supporting different business areas, some roles can be restrictive for the marketer’s creativity since a brand will likely have established guidelines and strategies that must be adhered to.
  • Marketing professionals must sometimes fight to have their voices heard since many more internal stakeholders want to ensure their departments are also recognised, impacting otherwise ambitious marketing proposals.
  • If marketing teams struggle to attract talent—due to the hiring budget being spread across the business, for instance— it can cause a lack of new and diverse perspectives, meaning that organisations may miss opportunities for business growth.

No matter which sector they choose to specialise in, client-side marketing professionals will need to focus on their continuous professional development.

Upskilling and a commitment to lifelong learning will set any candidate apart, particularly given the speed at which new technologies, platforms, and channels emerge. Strong brand communication work can be done in-house, but professionals must understand how to leverage their ability to gain new skills to make an impact.

How Experts Can Prepare for In-House Digital Marketing Jobs

So, now that we’re aware of the pros and cons of these in-house digital marketing jobs, how can a professional with experience in the agency sphere ensure they have the right outlook to move towards a role where they’ll be embedded within an organisation?

If you’re interested in shifting into a client-side marketing role, there are a handful of things you can do to prepare.

  1. Have an idea of which industry it is that you want to work in. Understanding the needs of their customers—as well as any regulations around marketing and brand communication for these sectors, especially in the case of pharmaceuticals, for instance—is crucial to tailoring a portfolio which evidences the expertise to work in that field.
  2. Recognise how you can help to grow the business. Research recent campaigns and product launches from not only the business you’re looking to work with but from their competitors too. This will help you to anticipate what markets the organisation will want to grow into in the future and help you to suggest marketing strategies for any scale-up activities.
  3. If you want to work for a large corporation, understand the different brands within that organisation’s portfolio. Which channels do they primarily communicate with their audiences through?
  4. Learning how to craft a compelling and relatable story through brand messaging. How will you communicate the unique value proposition of that brand?
  5. Understanding internal marketing needs. Knowing how to motivate and speak to colleagues and peers in other departments and reframe their wins as driving the broader business strategy can boost morale and encourage employees to invest in your employer’s long-term vision. How will you leverage their skills to produce insightful and impactful content?
  6. In-house marketing roles require a different kind of CV and portfolio than the CV that a marketer will produce for an agency position. Those looking to apply and interview for these marketing jobs need to focus on results rather than the specific deliverables which were produced—and this needs to be communicated using the statistics that the sector you’re looking to move into would expect.
  7. Attending industry events and building a professional network can help to ease the move. Leveraging tools like LinkedIn is ideal for letting your contacts know you’re on the hunt for a role whilst joining communities and gaining knowledge on cutting-edge AI marketing tools that will give you an advantage in the interview environment.

Brand communication is always improved by a dedicated marketer focused on acing outreach with that organisation’s key customer demographics, whether they have a direct-to-consumer (B2C) or business-to-business (B2B) focus.

While shifting from agency to client-side marketing can take time, these key points can help you transition your career, help build a strong culture within the organisation you’re looking to work with and command a higher salary.

Looking to learn more about the landscape of digital marketing jobs in 2023? See our recent Job Market Report for insights into the latest hiring patterns and salary trends across all digital sectors, including detailed information on media planning and buying, product, creative, and sales functions.

Wrapping Up

A career in marketing can be a lucrative and exciting way to creatively work with data analytics, image, text, and other forms of communication—but marketers will eventually need to make the choice between agency-side and client-side or in-house marketing, each of which brings its own unique challenges and rewards. As digital marketing jobs evolve, professionals will need to specialise and develop an indispensable skillset to illustrate how crucial they are to their organisation’s outreach and overall reputation.

Client-side marketing allows experts to gain a deeper understanding of their employer’s brand, wield greater control over overarching marketing strategies, and see the direct impact of their efforts on the business and its audience. Whilst in-house marketing roles may require more negotiation and can sometimes be creatively constrained by budgetary concerns, they offer opportunities for building advanced and robust marketing practices and the ability to learn how to foster strong internal and external professional relationships.

As the landscape evolves with the widespread adoption of AI marketing tools, businesses may increasingly opt for client-side options to save costs and maintain control over their brand’s image and reputation. Aspiring client-side marketers must prepare for this by focusing on their continuous professional development and understanding the needs and regulations specific to the industry or sector they’re targeting for employment.

In the fast-paced world of marketing, a successful transition to client-side roles requires a professional to demonstrate their adaptability, ability to network and demands a finger on the pulse of industry-specific trends. Whether they’re focused on product marketing or brand communication, by embracing these qualities and harnessing the power of cutting-edge AI marketing tools, marketers can thrive in in-house roles, contribute to their employer’s long-term vision, and ultimately advance and command a higher salary.

Dedication and strategic planning paves the way for an impactful career in client-side marketing, allowing professionals to make valuable contributions to their organisations and the broader business landscape.

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