If you’ve even dabbled in the marketing world, odds are you know someone who either works for a marketing agency (or used to) or is starting their own.
Agencies are a huge segment of the marketing industry, and they can offer a wide variety of services. But without understanding what a marketing agency is, it can feel like you are staring into a digital maze.
But don’t worry, I’m here to clear some things up.
So, what the heck is a marketing agency?!
What is a Marketing Agency?
A marketing agency is a fairly generic term for a company that serves other businesses in one or more areas of marketing.
Remember Mad Men? (who am I kidding, every marketer does…)
Well, Don Draper worked for an agency—albeit a made-up ad agency that was representative of the real agencies thriving in the 1950’s.
While the agencies of today are a lot less misogynistic (at least we hope), they do share some similarities to the agency world explored in the show.
Often times, you’ll hear different terms thrown around to describe different types of agencies, such as marketing firm, or internet marketing service.
Historically, marketing firms tended to stick to 1 or 2 specific niches in marketing (e.g. just SEO or content), while agencies employed a variety of experts in different marketing fields so they could offer a more comprehensive service.
Over the years, though, the lines have blurred a little and titles have changed (I’m looking at you, “marketing gurus”), so those naming conventions don’t always hold true. But, it’s safe to say they all generally refer to a company that provides marketing services to other businesses.
So, What Do Marketing Agencies Do?
The ad agencies à la Mad Men typically had a pretty specific set of services—ad creative and media buying primarily, but that’s not really the case anymore.
Most marketing agencies nowadays provide a variety of different services, and will often work with one client to fulfill a handful of needs—these can include:
Digital Advertising—managing your online advertising through Google, Facebook, etc.
Creative Design—creating different design elements such as graphics for your website, layouts for your lead magnets, logos, and even ad creative like videos and images
Web Development—building and managing custom websites
SEO Management—helping to improve page rankings for your website, blog, or other online presence
Social Media Management—managing your social presence on important platforms like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, and more
Strategic Planning and Data Analysis—analyzing your company’s data to help you decide what your next marketing move should be
Media Planning and Buying—purchasing and managing your ad space in TV, radio, billboards, and other print or media spaces.
Funnel Building/Management—helping you build out, clean up, or just manage the different funnels your customers will go through as they interact with your brand.
Copywriting—creating copy for emails, websites, advertisements, social media, and anywhere else people see your written word
Email Management—creating and tracking all your email campaigns
As you can see, agency work spans a wide variety of marketing specializations, and each agency is unique in the services they provide, and the philosophies and strategies they employ.
While specializations and approaches differ, every agency has the same goal: drive results. Agency owners know that the only way they stay employed is by getting their clients the results they need to run a successful business. That typically means providing more leads, more traffic, and/or more sales for their clients.
With such a large number of agencies popping up over the years, the field has become way more competitive, forcing companies to find new ways to differentiate.
When Would Someone Need a Marketing Agency?
There are a few different reasons why someone would hire a marketing agency…
1) You don’t have the manpower to get the job done, and you can’t afford to hire an internal expert.
Finding and hiring someone full time to, let’s say, run the Facebook and Google ad campaigns for your business, can be timely and expensive. If you don’t have the financial capabilities to support putting someone new on the payroll, an agency might be a good place to start.
Pricing for agencies typically works on an hourly rate. You’ll either pay an hourly rate for a collective group of people, or an individual hourly rate for a specialist to solve your problem. Typically, the specialists charge a higher hourly rate.
Regardless of which avenue you go for, the agency will usually give you an estimate for the amount of time it will take them to address the problem, and spell out the pricing, time, and expected results in a contract.
2) You’re consistently seeing poor results, and you don’t know why.
Sometimes you, or your employees just aren’t able to figure out why your ads, blog posts, or offers aren’t performing as expected. Let’s face it, when you are working in the trenches, it can be hard to step back and look at the problem from an outside perspective. Seeking a second opinion is almost always helpful when it comes to troubleshooting marketing issues.
In that case, an agency might be a great option to help get your marketing back on track. This is especially true if you are a solopreneur or entrepreneur and are doing most of the marketing work yourself.
3) Your new business is taking off, and you’re ready to up your marketing game.
One of the biggest reasons you might seek out the help of an agency is if you are a new and emerging business. Things move fast in the digital age, and businesses grow even faster (sometimes overnight!).
When businesses go from no traffic to an overflow of traffic, there are growing pains. Agencies can be great at helping businesses scale their marketing to meet demand and help keep the sales predictable and consistent.
Whether you are considering hiring an agency, working for one, or starting one yourself, hopefully I shed some light on what you are getting into.
In the case of marketing agencies, you are diving into a world with the best marketing minds and strategies around.