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Insights from both sides of the client-agency relationship

BY Sheila Smiley IN Agency Life

Please join us in welcoming Sheila Smiley as SVP, Media & Digital.

Having experience on both the agency and client side has provided me with a unique perspective on the focus and opportunities of each. They are equally rewarding but have varying challenges. While agency staff are concentrated on generating growth for clients with a heavy dose of customer service, clients themselves are immersed in project management, continuously working to gain internal consensus while managing their external partners to maximize efficiency and effectiveness. Seeing this process from both sides equals a more empathetic approach to driving toward success.

I sought my first agency position in 2000 and fell in love with media. As an extrovert and a bit of a numbers guru, I enjoyed both the data analysis as well as honing my planning, buying and negotiating skills.

I worked on a variety of clients over the first several years of my career on local, regional and national scales. I worked on business-to-business and business-to-consumer clients with exposure in retail, government, entertainment and non-profit industries. I had the pleasure of working with national brands like Coca-Cola and Papa John’s to local clients like the Indianapolis Indians.

Around 2007, new marketing channels spurred a turning point in my career. More and more attention moved to digital, and it was time for me to make a move, as well. I was invited to join a growing digital agency to expand their capabilities, and my role gave me daily exposure to the rapidly changing digital landscape. I dove in head first. I developed SEO plans, lead email marketing efforts and implemented various other digital tactics.

After nearly a decade on the agency side, I sought a deeper view of the client’s return on investment. What were the internal pain points? How could they be solved from a channel-agnostic approach? It was time to switch seats.

Sitting on the client side of the table, I led internal digital projects and was the liaison for our external advertising agency partner and our IT department. Being at a global company, I communicated within various sub-cultures and overcame language barriers while managing resources for on-time and on-budget initiatives.

I also enjoyed working for a franchise system with over 60 franchise ownership groups as I developed their digital strategy, policies and processes. I led the planning, development and management of the company’s new website project with over 150 locations represented, mobile-first responsive functionality and new core features such as online inventory and chat functionality. This position included numerous tasks, from identifying and vetting agencies for the franchise system to being the IT liaison for the marketing team to managing corporate agency partners for cost-per-sale profitability.

In my most recent client-side position, I merged my digital and traditional experience in a highly regulated industry – higher education. I developed and managed the marketing and enrollment budget for the organization, working closely with the chief financial officer and campus presidents to ensure cost-effective student acquisition. I also restructured internal and external marketing resources to ensure expertise was leveraged efficiently and effectively.

I’ve enjoyed my journey on both sides of the table and find it extremely beneficial to have the perspective of each. I have a deeper understanding of the day-to-day, as well as the long-term vision of both types of entities. As I rejoin Hirons, I look forward to continuing to drive marketing strategies, fostering relationships and helping our clients succeed.

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