Being brand side vs agency
Join Chester Bullock from RentPath looking at the arguments of the ups and downs of life brand side vs agency life. Chester is one of the best placed individuals to provide this insight. Watch the video to hear Chester share his story.
About Chester Bullock
Email Marketing Technologist/ 2020 Salesforce Marketing Champion/ 2016 Salesforce MVP (#emailmarketing), author, photographer, skier. ERAU alum.
Chester has been involved with online and digital media since the mid-90’s as he explains he built a website for Copper Mountain Ski Resort only the third ski resort website in the world, and the first to be built in house.
In the decades since then Chester has worked on both the brand and agency sides of the business, doing everything from web development to email campaign execution and social marketing.
Just coming to the session Hey Chris. Hey Ryan, how you doing, guys? Alright, sounds good. So we’re just gonna dive right in. So this presentation is about brand side versus agency life. It’s a question I get a lot, especially since I changed recently. But before we dive into it, just have to give everybody the obligatory safe harbour statement just plays a lot better live when I can hear people laughing. But if you work with a certain ESP, then you know what that’s all about. Who am I? It’s me and my wife, Michelle. We took that shot last fall up in Aspen outside of Aspen I place called Maroon bells when these beautiful spots in Colorado. Currently, I’m the director of marketing technology at rentpath, which is an apartment finding service based in Atlanta. You might notice from my background that I’m here in Denver today, I actually live in Denver, and have the good fortune of already being a telecommuter. And despite this fire stuff, so this has been a natural thing for me. Here’s some reasons why you might want to listen to me, a lot of people don’t a lot of people like to poke fun, whatever, it’s all good. I’m just here to entertain. I’ve been in the digital space since 1995. I’ve been an email specifically since 2009. So you might recognise me from a book I co wrote, which was Salesforce Marketing Cloud for Dummies. I also was the first Salesforce MVP for email marketing, specifically, that was in 2016. And most recently, I’ve become an admin at a new website called How to sfmc.com where we try to help people with Salesforce marketing, cloud questions and problems. As for this presentation, I’ve got almost six years on the agency side of life, and then 19 on the brand side, and we’ll dive into that in a second. Obviously, this is all geared around why you would want to do one versus the other. And there’s some other info about me there. Quick note all the pictures in this deck I have taken Personally, I’m an amateur photographer, and sometimes get lucky with the camera. So some background, my first real job was in 1995 building website for a copper mountain ski resort. That’s Copper Mountain right there. The reason this is significant is because that was back when the web was just starting to take off, I went to my bosses and said, Hey, this is gonna be a big deal, we should do something about it. They’re like, good, go figure it out. So my background is not really designed. As you can tell from my slide deck. My background isn’t really anything other than kind of self taught hacker in how to build a website. Back in those days, the fame by Well, I know Chris is here and Ryan’s here. So you guys are old enough to remember blink actually used the blink tag in the HTML on the Copper Mountain website. So fast forward several years. And I worked for a nationally known brands involved in roadside assistance. That’s when I got my real big introduction into the email side of life. And it was an eye opening thing. But having the technical background that I did, I was able to turn that into a pretty useful skill, useful skill for the rest of my life. And it’s gotten me to where I’m at today. So really quickly, just go through some slides here and then open it up for any questions people have. But these are the big cons that I feel about being on the brand side of life. There’s easy easily times where you can feel overwhelmed. And a lot of you who are online right now probably are brand side people. And you know what I mean? It seems like there’s this mountain of stuff to do, there’s this little bit of time to do it. And you don’t ever have time to get to everything. The other aspect of this that comes with that is developing what I’m calling tunnel vision and other people have called tunnel vision. And that’s where you’re so focused on one thing, because that’s your core line of business, it becomes really hard to think outside the box for different types of testing, you want to do different, just different ways of looking at your business, especially if you’re lower on the food chain in the hierarchy. And you’ve just got people telling you constantly day in day out, drive more phone calls, do this very specific thing. And that just kind of saps your creativity a bit. Another thing I’ve experienced on the brand side of life is budget constraints. Now there’s a lot of great tools out there. Andrew has a lot of great vendors for this inbox Expo. They all want to sell you really Cool stuff that does really cool things. But at the end of the day, when you want to have a nice little widget in your emails or on your website, then budget constraints come in. And it just becomes problematic. I also already kind of spoke to this under the tunnel vision area. But having a singular focus for your business, if you’re not very diverse, let’s say your specialty is, you know, pet care, it’s a really specific thing. Sure, you can talk about cute little dogs, like my French Bulldog who has wandered off, or, you know, cats or other, more exotic things like horses and snakes and that sort of thing. But at the end of the day, it’s all healthcare focused, you don’t really start thinking about the retail side of life, you don’t really start thinking about travel and adventure. And so you kind of start to feel boxed in another aspect I’ve experienced on the brand side that I didn’t really I wasn’t very fond of was competing priorities, I might have a great idea for a campaign or I might want to merge two different concepts within the business. But somebody from the specific bislang business line comes over and says, Look, that’s all nice and cute, but at the end of the day, I just need this thing to happen. And that’s what I want you to focus on. And you’re just kind of go there. So it’s it can be a bit limiting. And then the last one, which is probably one of the bigger ones in my mind is, and I’ve run into this before, and I always felt bad when I was on the agency side, and I came in as this person. But there seems to be a tendency in some organisations a lot. And the longer they’ve been in business, the more traditional their views are. So this holds true. The expert view of what you’re doing has to come from an outside person, it’s not anything that’s relevant to people who have been in the business for a while, are familiar with the material and familiar with what’s going on. Instead, they’re just saying, you know, go find an expert to tell me how to do this. So that’s brand side cons, I’m gonna flip over to the app real quick and see if there’s any questions. Nope. All right, we’re looking good. Let’s carry on over to the agency side, I want to get rid of the bad stuff first, and then we’ll talk about the good sides of both parts of this life. So my first agency experience lasted about nine months. And you can go look me up on LinkedIn later to find out where it was. But it was a, it was a very tumultuous time. For me, it was my first time in the agency world wasn’t really sure about it. And but I thought, you know, money looked good. So I’ll go take a look at it and see what it’s all about. Within a week of getting there, the agency that I worked with, had lost a significant client. And I think between 12 and 14, people got let go, they were laid off. But some of them I never saw again, even when we got new clients. So that made me really nervous about job security. And then three weeks in, my hiring manager got let go. super smart guy, he was the primary reason I went to this place. Just I can’t say enough great things about him. And it was disconcerting, because what I was brought in to do was very specific, and it was part of his vision for where things needed to go. And he was basically replaced by someone with, I would say less experience in the email side and a different vision, and it ultimately became not being ultimately became a untenable fit, if you will. So that experience lasted or drug out for about nine months. Others a couple of things that are kind of bad about being on the agency side of business vendors look at you differently. One of my primary vendor of my life, they definitely looked at me differently when I was on that side of the fence. And especially since we weren’t always a official or certified or gold level partner or what have you. So that’s something to ponder conferences, a lot of conferences that are out there, they don’t want to hear from you. If you are from an agency, they only want to hear the brand side story. Doesn’t matter if I did some great work for a brand side person and the brand side people ready to come and say that he did this for us. And it all worked out great. They don’t really seem to care. They just want to hear from the brand side because they’re so terrified that somebody on the agency side is going to promote themselves. If they end up doing that, then I don’t think they’re very good speaker anyway, but that that’s kind of my own deal. This is a big one to the concept of forgiveness. If you’re on the brand side, and you make a relatively expensive mistake, you kind of get one or two of those. And then you should be Well, I mean, you get one you should be showing some corrective action. I said that as a manager, but on the agency side, it can be a lot more dramatic. Unfortunately, I personally have had to let people go when I was in the agency side because there was just a rampant history of continually increasing mistakes, and they’re not going to get it. But in some cases I feel and I’ve seen in other agencies where that level of forgiveness is even lower, that bar is really low and it can be problematic. For him, that takes us to some other interesting concepts, work life balance. I tell people that the last agency I at I was at, I’ve never worked harder. But at the same time, I was never happier either. I, that’s different. Now, of course, since I’ve moved on, but at the time, that was totally true, but I gave up a lot, there was a lot of work life balance, imbalance going on there. And, you know, it’s all about as the next bullet shows, billable hours, so whatever you can do to get as many dollars as you can out of your client, that’s kind of where your focus needs to be. And if a project is on deadline, and for whatever reason it’s dragging behind, you’ve got to stay and get it done. It’s a little bit different than than the brand side where I wouldn’t say that my mentality on the brand side is I’m a nine to five clock puncher because I’m definitely not, it’s just not in my nature. But there’s not as much urgency I don’t think all the time as there is an agency side because they’re always chasing the next piece of business. billable hours, or just it could be a just a personal thing for me. But trying to track billable hours is a pain. timekeeping systems are all over the place. Project Management Systems turned into timekeeping systems, they’re just kind of a pain and I get it, I know why it has to be done. But it was just something that that was always a challenge for me on an ongoing basis. That’s, that’s my personality. budget constraints can also hit you on the agency side, you might want to do some really cool things. But hey, look, the client’s budget got cut. And so we’re not going to see them again next year, because now they have to do everything in house. So that’s something else be pondering. And then lastly, you never really see the final result, depending on the size of the agency that you’re in, you might be a small piece, a much larger wheel that’s spinning around, and you’ll never actually see, hey, that campaign we sent out did these awesome and amazing things. That can be frustrating. You’ve got to make sure that you have good relationships with your account team and with the client, so that you can find out, hey, this thing did really some cool stuff. I got some amazing feedback when I was when I was leaving the last place I was at actually one of the senior managers for over one of the programmes at one of my clients, called me directly and said, I really hate to see that you’re leaving, I just wanted to thank you personally, for moving the needle on this programme, we see a lot of success. And it’s got a lot to do with the ideas that you brought to the table and the technologies you’re able to implement. And that was a really cool feeling. But it’s not the norm, you don’t see that very often. So just want to make people aware of that. Alright, hopping over, see if there’s any questions. Okay, so you know what, let’s just address these all at the end, I’ve actually got a slide that says questions. So we’ll take those at the end, hop back over here. And go on to the good things. All right. So it’s good stuff about being on the brand side. When I was at the nationally known roadside assistance organisation, also called AAA, let’s just call it what they are. I have a great deal of responsibilities, since that was my first venture into email. And they’re a very old, very traditional organisation. I was one person who is responsible for email for me at the time, I had six or eight different AAA clubs, I was sent an email for, by the time I left there, I was sending 65 campaigns a week or something crazy like that. But in having all the responsibility, I got to see all parts of the business. And more importantly, I got to see all ports parts of the platform I was working on. At that time, it was exact target. And I because I was one person solely focused on this thing. I had responsibility from making sure the content teams had their content and getting it into the platform, doing all my list segmentation and work there. Getting reporting back out of the platform is just a huge breath of stuff that I had to learn and do. Which goes to the next point, it was a huge learning opportunity for me. And I totally credit my success today, with that early kind of trial by fire and having a really broad area of responsibility that I was able to learn in and carried forward into the career that I forgot. Another great thing about being on the brand side, vendors and conferences treat you differently. There’s another conference that’s out there that is specifically geared towards brand side people and you’re treated like royalty. But when you’re on the agency side, it’s very expensive. still treat like royalty because you’re paying a lot. But it’s it’s just a different dynamic. vendors are more willing to do trial runs with you, when you are on the brand side. They really really want your business and they’re all just trying to prove themselves out and keep their businesses going. So it’s a it’s an interesting dynamic. Whereas on the vendor side, you know, if you don’t show them some love pretty quick then then it just kind of all goes away. The other cool thing that I’ve experienced Being on the brand side, especially as my titles have increased, or my areas of responsibility have increased, you see some really immediate impacts to what you do. So the current role that I’m in I started last July, they were a client of my last agency that I was working for. And I felt like it was a time to move, they were looking for a unique skill set that, frankly, I just want a few people in the world that had what they were looking for. And so we were able to work something out. And it was still a good thing, we still work with that agency today, I love them to death. And they’re always going to be some form of home for me. But coming over from that, already knowing the lay of the land and what was going on here at rentpath, I’ve been able to have a more immediate impact on things and just start changing how we do stuff, you see numbers, our KPIs are going up. And then every time we make another change, we see we see it happen. And I feel more in control and more able to affect immediate change because I have direct contact with people on the product side of our business with the IT side of our business and all these other things. Whereas when I was on the agency side, I had to go all through our liaison who she happens to work for me now. I had to go through that and then figure out who the other resources were or hope that the message was getting to those people. And then lastly, the most important thing to me on the brand side, I’m able to see results. Now I can look at a chart every morning. And I thank God for this too. We have an amazing analytics team at rentpath. I can look at a chart right now that shows in the last hour my primary KPI and how it’s been behaving with the Coronavirus stuff and the timing or EMA sounds and everything else, I have real time feedback into the performance that I’m bringing to the company, as well as my team. And it’s just truly truly awesome and remarkable. All right, quick time check at 1217. We’re good. Yes, Dennis, it might host at a ski resort or at an island in Florida, which I was hoping to be on a couple weeks. Okay, let’s go on to agency. Depending on the agency that you go to, you might have an opportunity to be exposed to a lot of different platforms. And I realised there’s a lot of different skill levels that are of people who are attending this conference. A lot of different areas responsibility. For me, it’s mostly been the technical side, my last title was VP of solutions consulting. So our kind of motto was we did the hard stuff. But in that role, we were able to be exposed to a lot of different platforms. So we’ve seen all the stuff from exacttarget, slash Salesforce, we’ve seen all the stuff from IBM, from other companies, the new ones, like iterable, invited us out to take a look their platform, we did an engagement with the folks at Oh god, I can’t believe I’m drawing a blank now. based in San Diego, where David Baker was, anyway, the point is, you can be exposed to a lot of diversity clients come in there on a certain platform, they may or may not want to migrate to another platform, you just get exposed to a lot of stuff. There’s also a lot of opportunity for mentorship and learning. You know, one thing I was really proud of, and I think everybody trendlines still is proud of I was just proud to be a part it wasn’t my idea. But we promoted from within. And so kind of the entry level point, at the last place I was at was starting as a QA specialist, your job was to look at emails, make sure links went there, where they were supposed to go, everything’s spelled correctly, it rendered correctly in actual live things, not just what Litmus or email on acid show you. And from there, people could kind of choose their path, they could move into account management, they could move into creative, they could move into what ultimately became the solutions consulting group. And I’m very, very proud of a couple people that I know personally, who took that tech path. And they moved up into doing campaign work out of QA. And then from there, they moved into the solutions consulting team, and I just have the utmost respect for people. were willing to take on those challenges, and learn, learn, learn. And I was always happy to teach too. That’s why I’m here today, I just love to help. Another cool thing is that you can get some respect in the industry from working in certain places. I’m not gonna lie, the last place I was at, everybody kind of says they’re the rock stars of the email world. And it’s true. I mean, I felt very honoured to be considered to be among all those people that I worked with the amount of talent that was there, the amount of intelligence and the amount of selflessness that was there, it was just remarkable. And there’s a reason that they’re respected in the industry. That’s not true for every agency. You need to go to places like last door and see what the reviews look like talk to people who may have worked there in the past and ask them would you go work there again. So just something to keep in mind. The client campaign diversity is pretty amazing. I use pet healthcare is one option or one example earlier in the presentation. That was my primary client when I was at the last place was a was a basically a pet care company. And but from there, I also had rentpath, who was totally different industry. So it did create a lot of diversity for me. And I was able to take things that we learned in one and apply them in another never had to show metrics or why this worked or whatever. But we can take the same concepts when something’s working, and you have a bigger ecosystem to draw from, it’s really easy to figure out what’s gonna work for everybody, and what’s gonna win. So that was a pretty neat thing. Definitely creates job opportunities, like I said, we promoted from within it the last place, and it was just a very vibrant community. And if if you got along with the vibe, and you were kind of subscribed to the mantra, they’re not being a jerk and not leave anybody hanging, then good things happen for you. And the last thing, I can’t speak to this one enough, either, the biggest thing that I miss, I think from my agency days right now is the collaboration with my team, I had the team that I was part of and had the privilege of leading was just absolutely remarkable. Some of the smartest people I know, love them to death co wrote the book with one of them. And I think they’re pretty much like friends for life. They’re just amazing people. And I missed that level of collaboration. We’re, we’re developing it at rentpath. And, you know, the team’s getting used to me. And we’re still adding members to the team and all that. So the dynamics are a little bit different. And you have to figure out what the last place for five years. So you know, over five years time you build relationships with people and all that sort of stuff, just kind of naturally gels. With collaboration opportunities are tremendous. You know, I look at people, I’m involved in this how to sfmc website with a bunch of people who work at Ge Ge, and they get to talk to Adam sprigs every day, for example, just another brilliant mind that’s out there. Just some really, really cool opportunities to different agencies. So in conclusion, that was one of my favourite pictures, I put in a lot of presentations I do. Anything you do in life is going to take risk. I have made that hike actually made it a few weeks ago before they close the ski area for the seasons upper Breckenridge. But they, the risks are worth it. And whether you choose to stay in one side or the other for your whole life, or you choose to step out on a limb and go to something you don’t know, I think the opportunity there is to be richly rewarded. The only cautions I would say are the same things, or similar things to what you see here, you know, you’re gonna have limited visibility, you might not know what you’re getting into, when you go over to whichever side you’re not on now. So if your agency side, you might not know fully what you’re getting into, and you go to the brand side. So do your homework, first, figure out what the area is about, figure out what the what the company is about what the culture is like, and if it’s going to be a fit or not. I’ve been around long enough and met enough people from enough different places. I can tell you, I could tell you right now, once agencies I just flat would not work at. I’m not going to because that’s not kind anybody else. And cultures can change over time too. So just do your own due diligence there. That’s my biggest statement from all this is just Just do your due diligence, ask questions, and definitely reach out to your network. So that and if I haven’t put your sleep yet, like little Bexley was yesterday, I’ll be happy to field some questions right now, before I jump into that, though, I want to give everybody a chance to the right to standard take a screenshot. One of the biggest things to me is that the reason I am where I’m at in my career is because of the just absolute grace and kindness of people like Joel book, Alex Williams, and others who have always been there to answer questions for me, whenever I’m wondering about something. So to that end, feel free to reach out to me on Twitter, that’s also my Instagram handle. You can connect with me on LinkedIn. And always feel free to ask questions. I started out my career asking questions, I still ask people questions to this day. And it’s the primary driver for where I’ve gotten to where I’m at. So with that, let me go back over to here. I’m going to stop the screen share. And I’ll take some questions now. All right, so let’s take it from the top up here. All right, everybody said my dog was cute. Love My office. Thank you if this is our house, we got a cool spiral staircase. Let’s see. All right, so Dennis has college students at home. Here’s some questions schmell, you asked, What’s your experience with aiming for a set retainer as opposed to billing like a lawyer. That was the model that we went for at the last agency I was at, I think it was mostly successful. It’s really uncom income and on being able to show a track record of success though. Sometimes clients just want to do time and materials. But you know, the more successful clients that we had really kind of bought into our philosophy of wanting to be more of a partner. Our goal was always to partner with them for their success. And the notion being the more success we had, then the more success they were going to have and it was just a mutually beneficial thing. You know, rising tide raises boat’s kind of situation. So that works. That works pretty well. So I don’t know if that helps or not. And then yes, Chris, I was cordial. I was strapped blank on. Sorry about that. Let’s see. Evie did training for Tripoli and constant contact. That’s cool. I don’t know how long ago that was, we were an exact target shop. But AAA, as you know, is a whole bunch of different places. So there’s that. Elliot, good to see you, man. What do I think is less stressful brand or agency in which makes me feel more alive? That is an excellent question. And that’s a common one. So I feel like going from where I was, with my leadership position at the last agency. And the client day to day client responsibilities I had, I feel like my stress level had reached a point that I needed to make a lifestyle change. And that was part of what drove me to start looking and ultimately go brand side, once people became aware that I was looking, I had some, I’m not trying to be vain. So sorry, it’s gonna sound that way, at some incredible offers from some other agencies that were trying to establish their own sfmc practices. And basically, one said, what’s it going to take? Like, you can’t, you can’t pay me enough. Because you want 75% travel, I’ve got a daughter who’s a freshman High School. And it’s important to me to be here for her life right now. So you know, at the end of the day, when she’s gone, then I can explore opportunities like that, but it just wasn’t the right fit for me. So, to your question, Elliot, this is less stressful for me, it’s a little bit more stressful right now, because of what rentpath is going through. Some of you are familiar with our ongoing challenges up against apartments calm, and the bankruptcy that we filed for and all that sort of thing. But it’s also a challenge that I’m embracing and enjoying the more, the more impact I can have on the bottom line, the better we’re going to do and work, this is going to affect your outcome. So I kind of enjoy that, actually. Which brings me to your second question, Elliot, I feel more alive right now. I mean, it’s always a great feeling when you get a call, like I did from one of my clients, when I left the last place, about how thankful they were that I moved the needle for him. But now I’m seeing it firsthand every day and I can make a little change and see a big impact or vice versa. I’ve seen the downside too. So it’s pretty cool. Matthew, any advice for vendors on how to connect with brands, put me on an email drip cycle, I hate those, I delete them immediately. And don’t reach out to me blindly on LinkedIn trying to sell me something, I put it in my profile. I’m here to connect with people I’m here to learn. But I’m not here to be sold to. If you have something going on, that is of interest to me, then I’ll find out about it. Participating in events like this and other conferences that are out there, having any technology that’s going to do things and has proven case studies of how it moves the needle. That helps. And then for me, don’t just show retail case studies, that is the most overwhelming thing that I remember from my last 10 years, every case study people have is geared towards retail, I’ve never been in retail. When I was on the agency side, I’ve never supported retail clients. On the brand side, I’ve never truly been a retail person. So those things are meaningless to me, take some time find out about my business, and tailor your stuff to my type of business where demand Gen really where we’re at right now. So okay. Taylor, currently, on the brand side, wondering if I’ve had any advice and getting around those job descriptions. There are definitely some agencies out there that are willing to take on a quick learner. And this is where I pride myself, in wanting to help people I connect, for whatever reason, not just at my last agency, but I have a weird ability to connect people with with other people. And sometimes great things happen. And so if you’re trying to learn and you’ve got demonstrated proficiency in a platform, then reach out to somebody knowing your network might know somebody at the agency that you’re trying to get in with. Having an inside person this is true for any job, having an inside person somewhere is always going to be make it easier to get through that that filtering process everybody goes through. HR doesn’t know that even though you’ve only got one year in, in IBM campaign automation, whatever they call it now. I’m not gonna worry about sorry, learn. But whatever they call that platform now, they don’t know that even though you’ve only got one year experience there. It has been incredibly deep. And the successes and the the complications that you understand to that platform are going to be more valuable than saying I’ve done it for three years, I’ve met people who’ve said I’ve got five years of exacttarget experience, like, okay, but tell me what data extension is. And I can’t tell me that I rule them out immediately. I would much rather take an internal referral of somebody, or from someone I trust, take a referral from them and say this person actually knows their stuff. I think that just going through going through normal HR channels seems to be a bit challenging for me. Yeah. Elliot acoustic That’s right. Thanks, Taylor. I hope that helps. And again, feel free to reach out to me. Okay, we got time for Oh, it’s time, but I’m going to take one more anyway. Thoughts on email messaging that we’re socially distancing? not going anywhere. I mean, how many how many COVID-19 emails did you get? In the last week? I think every brand I’ve ever reached out to my my main inbox is pretty old now, probably 10 years. So every brand I’ve ever done business with, including a lot that I forgot about. I’m all of a sudden hearing about what they’re doing for me regards to COVID-19. I don’t care if simplisafe how’s it COVID-19 policy? They don’t affect me at all. It’s a totally remote service. So that stuff is it’s way too much. So just don’t go overkill. Absolutely. Don’t go overkill. And thanks for the update. Outro I want to go look at it for sure. We actually got some stuff from Salesforce yesterday saying this is what we’re saying about it. This might be applicable to you guys. So there you go. Well, that’s it everyone. Thank you so much for your time. Thank you for attending. I don’t want to cut anybody else off. So I’m going to jump but please reach out to me and hope you have a great day.