Originally Published in PM360 on December 19th, 2017

The rapid acceleration of digitization has driven consulting firms and data-driven agencies closer together — a convergence that’s made a career transition to the agency world easier than ever.

To the average person, both “consulting” and “analytics” tend to be perceived as floating signifiers, as catch-all terms that the corporate world uses to refer to any number of ambiguous business and data-related activities. As someone with professional experience in both sectors, I can attest that while “consulting” and “analytics” do mean different things to different people, they do in fact, generally speaking, require a similar skillset.

That’s not to say that consulting and analytics are the same — far from it — only that my experience working as a Business Analyst at a consulting firm has proven an excellent foundation for my work as a Senior Analytics Associate at Saatchi & Saatchi Wellness.

A Shared Foundational Skill-Set

Most fundamentally, both consulting and data-driven marketing demand an ability to think analytically, an attentiveness to detail, and a knack for communication. Especially when it comes to fostering productive relationships with clients, the ability to communicate insights derived from data analyses that are often outside of a client’s area of expertise is absolutely essential. In my consulting capacity I worked with a new team of people on every project, which required a flexibility that greatly refined my ability to “translate” various kinds of business insights for clients with a number of different backgrounds and experiences. This ability has been invaluable to my work as an analyst at Saatchi & Saatchi Wellness.

One of the major draws to the agency world was the ability to gain exposure to a broader array of analytics tools and techniques. My consulting experience provided me with an opportunity to build a solid analytics foundation using traditional platforms like Excel. Since joining Saatchi & Saatchi Wellness, I’ve managed to learn SQL, JavaScript, Tag Management Software, and a host of BI & Data Visualization tools. Overall, the learning curve was made much more navigable given my extensive prior experience with traditional platforms from my consulting days.

A Deeper Kind of Collaboration

Beyond new tools and technologies, my transition to data analytics and marketing has certainly increased the number — and kind — of people with whom I collaborate on a daily basis. I not only work with people from within our agency, but with people from a diverse cross-section of partner agencies, all of whom play different roles. Even though we are all part of the same integrated team, some agencies specialize in social media, some in digital media strategy, and others in creative development. I have the opportunity to learn from and work closely with all of them.

At SSW, I’ve also had the opportunity to work with an incredibly diverse group of creative talent that simply doesn’t exist in the consulting world — including art directors, copywriters, brand planners, and others. This diversity in talent and backgrounds enables us to deliver the kind of well-rounded, comprehensive, and ultimately executable solutions that can only emerge from a truly collaborative process. This emphasis on cross-organizational problem-solving far exceeds anything I experienced in a consulting environment, and is one of the more stimulating parts of working in an analytics role within a marketing agency.

Different Approaches to Client-Centric Operations

Taking a step back, I’ve found that while both consulting and marketing are heavily client-centric endeavors, they tend to take slightly different approaches to transforming and/or optimizing a client’s business.

In consulting, I dealt primarily with sales data — how many units was a client selling, how many units were they selling to each distributor, how many units was each distributor selling to end users, and so on — and HR data relating to salespeople’s geographic coverage and performance. In short, my goal was to identify inefficiencies and problem areas in the sales funnel and determine the best way to reduce or eliminate them.

At SSW, while we regularly perform analysis on similar types of sales-oriented data — we ultimately pay much closer attention to the consumer side of the sales equation. I use analytics techniques to figure out how a client’s customers think and behave, what their day-to-day experience with the client’s brand is like, and which business metrics offer the clearest view into the average customer’s mind. This entails answering questions like “How are patients engaging with the content on a client’s website?” and “How effective are we at communicating with a certain segment of consumers?” Notably, this requires leveraging an abundance of real-time data, a practice that stands in stark contrast to my consulting work, where I would regularly use datasets that were — by nature of what we were measuring — a year or two old.

Converging Trajectories

Ultimately, the consulting and marketing sectors are beginning to overlap at the margins. Major consulting firms like Deloitte and Accenture are acquiring digital marketing agencies in order to expand the slate of services they can offer to their clients. Similarly, nimble marketing agencies like Saatchi & Saatchi Wellness are investing heavily in their analytics departments so that they, too, can deliver the kind of transformative business insights that previously fell exclusively within the purview of consulting firms.

In today’s world, optimizing and transforming marketing & business activity takes equal parts business acumen, rigorous analysis, and creative, contextual execution. It’s easy to understand, then, why consulting firms and marketing agencies are taking strides to develop fill gaps in their client offerings and become truly full-service partners. For people like me, this convergence represents a tremendous opportunity insofar as it gives us the freedom to move between sectors without sacrificing opportunities to build upon and learn relevant skills. There will always be differences between consulting and marketing, to be sure, but as things stand, a consultant’s skill-set and experience has never been more transposable into a marketing milieu.

Written by Eun Byol Cho

I specialize in Data Strategy at SSW within the analytics group. I work with clients and partner agencies to analyze data and provide strategic insights that enable businesses to make smart decisions. I have a BS in Economics from Cornell University. My education and work experience have led me to think critically and approach business problems from various angles with a client-centric mindset.

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