Why are agency marketers leaving to join fintechs?
There are now more than 1,600 FinTech firms in the UK, and many of them are in their infancy. They’ve received some investor funding and are ready to take on the world.
But being experts in finance and technology doesn’t make you an expert in marketing. Usually, after a period of trying to muddle through on their own, the founders will begin to understand that they need a bit of marketing expertise. It’s a massively exciting challenge for any marketer, so it’s not surprising the agency world has seen a bit of an exodus to the promised land of the FinTech.
I can’t find any research on the actual numbers, but it’s something I’ve recently done - and I know others who have too. Agency people can find the life of a FinTech marketer really suits them because the culture tends to be more agency-like, and their agency skills are really transferable.
In return, FinTechs have a lot to offer: growth and development, autonomy, and a flexible working environment.
1. Agency people can get the best from agencies
An obvious one. It’s a huge bonus for any marketer to arrive at a FinTech and know exactly which agencies to use and what to use them for. Things can happen far quicker.
In-house marketers may have been in a larger organisation, using larger networked agencies who wouldn’t necessarily want to work with much smaller budgets. And marketing budgets aren’t likely to be massive.
It’s unfair to ask agencies to pitch, and that’s why it’s important to have a real understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of a broad range of potential agency partners, be able to brief them well, feed back clearly and give sensible deadlines. You'd think this would make ex-agency marketers the ideal clients, but I'm not sure many agencies would agree. My experience of this is that ex-agency people know far too much about how everything works....
2. Strategic ability
If you’ve held a relatively senior position in an agency, even if you weren’t a strategist, you’re likely to have enough strategic skill to put together an overall brand and marketing strategy, turn it into a marketing plan and execute it. This is purely my opinion, but I think this is more an agency strength than a client-side strength.
Client-side marketers will be more reliant on their agency to originate the strategy, even if they’re expert at understanding and commenting on what they’re presented with. And because agency marketers spend so much time talking to strategists, not just in their own agency but others that they work with, they tend to have a much more holistic understanding of a range of aspects such as new trends, things that have worked for other people, and what’s failed.
3. Getting the most from a small budget
'Mates rates' are a wonderful thing! Agency marketers tend to make friends with lots of freelancers over the years, and you’ll know the ones you can rely on. In many cases you won’t need an agency at all when an experienced freelancer will do the job without the added Account Management fees.
And then there’s creative skills. Every agency marketer will have learned SOMETHING from their creative departments (even if it’s just where the nearest pub is). Put all those lunch and learns to good use and remember some of the rules of writing good copy or where to position things on the page, and in many cases you’ll find you can do things yourself.
4. Broad marketing experience
If you’ve worked in small or medium-sized agencies, you’ve probably found that you’ve had to learn about a huge variety of things over the years. Client-side roles tend to be much more specific. So you’ll find experts in e-comms and social, or content, or advertising, but not necessarily all at once.
Given you’re likely to be working in a small team, or even by yourself, knowing roughly what you’re doing across a wide range of disciplines is massively helpful and makes a small budget go a long way.
If you’re thinking about making the move, here are some things it really helps to know:
1. You’ll be connected to every part of the business
You’re probably going to be in a start-up, or at least a small company. You’ll speak to Product, Finance, Sales, Developers, Legal and Compliance... everyone. Be prepared to learn an awful lot about what everyone else does and for them to not really understand what you do.
In an agency, the client acts as the conduit to all these departments and it’s pretty rare to talk to someone in Sales or Product - so be prepared for a lot of questions and a very steep learning curve.
2. KEY PERFORMANCE INDICATORS are a huge deal
Agencies like to make a big deal about KPIs, but they’re usually marketing-specific ones (the agency will tell you that it shouldn’t be measured on things it can’t control), fairly broad, and only give you part of the answer.
KPIs will now become a huge part of your life. You’ll have investors to answer to. You’ll become an expert in conversion rates, lifetime value and cost per acquisition. You’ll look at Google Analytics every day, and you’ll know your website bounce rate off by heart.
3. 80% of your job will be different to the one you had
I’ve just spent a few hundred words telling you why agency people suit this role, and now I’m going to tell you that it’s completely different to the one you currently do. And while all the skills I mentioned will be massively helpful, you should still be prepared for a BIG change.
The main reason is the amount of disciplines your role will probably encapsulate. There is no Head of Content, or Social Media Manager, or in-house Production team, or e-Marketing Manager, or Head of CRM or Corporate Comms or PR or events.
Congratulations, these are all now you.
Many FinTechs are naturally just finding their feet in a sector that’s constantly innovating. They’ve got a good proposition and investors believe they have a shot. But it isn’t proven yet. And the thing you think will work may not be the thing that ends up working. So you have to be prepared to pivot. Whether that’s brand, or marketing strategy, or the entire business. Don’t have a fixed mindset about the approach you’re taking and whatever you do don’t book your media plan a year in advance in case your strategy changes (I DEFINITELY didn't do this, in case you're wondering)
5. Everyone will be younger than you. And more talented.
This is just something you’re going to have to accept. I know you won’t like it, but that’s just how it is. So put on some Air Force Ones, stick Khalid on Spotify, and welcome to the world of FinTech.