Client vs agency side researcher

Migration in the market research industry is from agency to client side, right? Like me, many of my agency side friends have switched and stayed on the client side for good. But why?

I tried to list the advantages of working on both sides and came up with four advantages for each.

Advantages of the client side

  1. Being closer to the business impact is one of the main advantages of the client side. It is definitely the most important one for me. Being a client side researcher enables you to track the results of marketing activities and validate and improve your recommendations and estimations frequently. An agency side researcher, on the other hand, rarely gets in-market data or a detailed campaign evaluation.
  2. You become a specialist in your chosen industry and get a strong sense of awareness in your own expertise area. This enables you to become a thought leader and be sought after when there is a problem to solve. Due to your specialization, you may also start to earn more.
  3. You become skilled at influencing without authority. As an expert in the industry and carrying the voice of the consumer, it is easier to establish yourself as an expert and impact your organization. An agency side researcher cannot establish herself as quickly. 
  4. Client may not be always right but it is a customer centric world out there. How many agencies have you heard slamming the door their client’s face? (I personally heard it only once.) 

Advantages of the agency side

  1. The most important employee to a company is the one who directly impacts the income. In a research agency, they are the researchers. Client side researchers, on the other hand, are a cost item and are referred to as a support function (a sub category) and usually report to the marketing function.
  2. Agency side researchers will broaden their knowledge across many topics. This will enable them to see the bigger picture, ask the right questions, challenge ideas and assumptions and frame the problems easily. They can also draw solutions from other sectors and provide innovative ideas for their clients. Such a broad view is especially valuable at the early stages of your career. You can sample different industries in a short time and pick the one you want to settle in.
  3. They are not bound tightly by one client. They have more flexibility to change their clients if the chemistry is not there. The projects are usually short lived and provides an outlet in between. Client side researchers, on the other hand, cannot change their marketing teams as easily. Moreover, their year end review will include ratings coming from their internal clients. We all know how hard it is to satisfy a customer right?
  4. A research agencies contact list is gold. Research buyers are usually big, multinational firms and they will run a research or two with your agency within a year. An agency side researcher who can use this network effectively can create business opportunities for her company and career opportunities for herself.

If you can think of other advantages, please add to the comments and we can grow this list together for young researchers who are still undecided which way to go.

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