As with many industries, in the world of marketing agencies (especially here in Houston) there are many options, which can be confusing for clients when they are searching for a new agency. Today we hope to shed some light on the different styles and purposes of marketing agencies to help you make a more educated choice.
Purpose of a Marketing Agency
Many businesses will find themselves looking for a marketing agency when they are struggling with having the bandwidth, or knowledge, to accomplish the numerous tasks wrapped into the term “marketing”. A marketing agency should be an extension of your business; a team of professionals focused on accomplishing needs outside your business skill sets, that grow and develop your business. These needs can include anything from graphic design, website development and social media marketing, to videography, strategy development and public relations (PR).
A marketing agency should be focused on growing and developing your business’s goals, brand and identity; they are a part of your team. If at any point you feel as if they are not accomplishing this vital point, it may be time to have a candid conversation with them and evaluate their intentions.
Types of Marketing Agencies and Professionals
Most marketing agencies, or freelance marketing professionals, will specialize in specific niches or segments of the marketing world. Here are the most common types you will come across in your research.
- Advertising Agency: This agency uses all types of media to provide the best possible exposure for their clients.
- Branding Agency: Their focus will be on services surrounding building a business’s unique brand identity.
- Design Agency: This agency’s focus will be on the creation and design of collateral and assets that will be used across any department.
- Digital Marketing Agency: This agency eats, sleeps and breaths all things internet to promote their clients using various types of inbound and outbound campaign methods.
- Direct Marketing Agency: These guys specialize in direct mail and other campaign tactics which utilize massive customer databases.
- Full Service Marketing Agency: This type of agency functions as a complete team, creating the strategy and then fulfilling all the creative and technical work needed to accomplish their objectives through campaigns.
- Media Buying Agency: This agency revolves around strategy, research, planning, buying and execution of all types of cross platform media.
- PR Agency: This agency communicates and manages public image on your behalf with the media and often with investor relations.
- Promotional Agency: These agencies focus on business to consumer, retail and packaged good projects where product promotion is key.
- Social Media Agency: These professionals specialize in content and video creation that focuses specifically on growing brands through social media.
Many times the more niche agencies will be composed of smaller teams or individual professionals who have chosen to step out and start their own freelance business. While freelancers may be skilled in their niche and good to hire for individual projects, an agency will offer you a variety of skill sets and is a better option for comprehensively managing your company’s brand and marketing needs.
Caution Against “Cookie Cutter” Agencies
This digital age which allows so many processes to be automated has also grown a number of agencies which the industry calls “cookie cutter” agencies.
A “cookie cutter” agency is one that operates in a specific niche and has developed automated or templated methods to carry out tasks in mass quantity. They’ll then throw in additional “services” to seem more attractive, but these additional services are often accomplished without the attention to detail that a true professional would provide.
Identifying a “cookie cutter” agency can be tricky at first, but often you’ll find their services and pricing too good to be true. The automated services they offer are less expensive, but everything they do will be less personalized for your brand and less effective for your business.
Choosing The Right Marketing Agency (Or Agencies) For Your Business
As we’ve already discussed, a marketing agency should be your partner in your business journey and help you succeed. Whichever type of agency, or combinations of agencies you choose to assist you in that journey, you should always feel they are working with you towards your goals.
As you are searching for, interviewing and receiving proposals from agencies, here are some recommendations of things to consider.
Do their services line up with your needs?
If you are at a point that you don’t know what those needs are exactly, but you know you need help, then a full service agency may be ideal for you. But, if you know which direction you want your marketing to go (and are willing to coordinate teams), then a more niche agency might be the right choice.
Are their strategies and plans personalized to your business?
Your business and brand are unique. What works for your competition may not be right for your company. It’s important that you feel comfortable with the vision your marketing agency has for your business. If you don’t feel they are giving you personalized service, it’s important to speak with them about this and gauge their answers.
What are the credentials of their team members?
Your marketing projects will most likely be getting handled by several members of the agency team. Do these team members work in-house, are they contract, do they work overseas? Many “cookie cutter” agencies will cut costs by outsourcing work, which can lower the quality. If a company is open about who will be working on your projects, that is a good sign that they have high standards for their employees.
Are they within your budget?
While a larger agency may be more expensive due to the larger team they are supporting, their services will generally be more extensive and they are likely to bring lot of valuable experience and resources to the table. A smaller agency will also bring a diverse skill set and resources, and may be more affordable, and may be a better fit for businesses within their niche. Individual freelancers will likely be less expensive, but their skill set and services will be limited and may require more management work on your part. You need to be comfortable with the price and the services involved. Always remember that ad spend is typically extra, on top of the marketing fees to manage and service your business. For example, if you have a $5K monthly marketing and advertising budget and expect to need to purchase media and ads, then your agency budget should probably be $3K so you have $2K to spend on ads.
With all that being said, we hope you feel more educated and comfortable researching and meeting with potential marketing agencies. These teams of people are designed to be extensions of your business, so the biggest recommendation we have is that you are aligned with the marketing agency you choose to partner with your business.
If you would like to schedule a meeting with Empire Creative Marketing to discuss how our marketing agency services can meet your marketing needs, please give us a call!