The Differences Between Marketing Agencies and What They Mean for You

Blog Post By: Ian J. Jennings, Director of Strategic Partnerships at Baer Performance Marketing

Marketing is any action a business takes to sell or promote a product or service. This seems simple. It’s not. There are an infinite number of ways to sell a hammer, much less a product or service with several features. The trick is choosing the best approach for the business’s desired outcome. Is more revenue the goal? Going after a new type of customer? Maybe an old product received a fresh facelift and needs to be rebranded. Within this problem set exists optimal solutions.

Optimal is the key word in the previous sentence. Any agency can propose the same tired solutions to the same old growth problems. Most, in fact, will do just that. But tired solutions produce tired results. A business must seek out the right problem solvers.
That’s where a marketing agency comes in. Not only are there an infinite number of solutions to any marketing problem, there are also an infinite number of marketing agencies claiming they have those solutions and the means to implement them. This isn’t always true. There are several distinct differences between most marketing agencies, even those that claim to do the same thing.  Let me enlighten you to some of those differences by explaining what each type of agency does.

Niche Marketing Agencies:
Billboard vendors, direct mailers, graphic designers and so on. These types of “agencies” have been traditionally considered vendors to full-service marketing agencies but recently have been rebranding as full-service agencies themselves. Don’t be fooled. Most small agencies have a skill that pays the bills. The rest is fluff they know you need and will pay for. Instead, rely on a full-service marketing agency to purchase advertising for you with these vendors. They’ll ensure you get your money’s worth and coordinate the campaign for you.

Digital Marketing Agencies:
These agencies exclusively design and implement marketing initiatives on digital platforms. These platforms include search engines, social media, mobile advertising, email marketing (newsletters and eBlasts for short) and a whole host of other niche options. A nice rule of thumb to use – if it uses the internet, it’s digital marketing.

Full-Service Marketing Agencies
A full-service agency does everything listed above and more. To truly be a full-service agency, the full spectrum of marketing solutions must be offered. These include all niche and digital marketing solutions previously mentioned as well as television and radio advertising, sales collateral to include flyers and brochures, logo design, and tradeshows, amongst other less conventional services. Full-service agencies will also typically have certifications and formal training in many types of marketing and advertising channels, ensuring a baseline level of knowledge needed to get the job done effectively. With this knowledge and skill comes a track record of accomplishment. A record of accomplishment with a full-service marketing agency ensures they have a reputation to uphold. They have done good work and will want to continue to do so. This is important. Agencies like this bend over backwards for the client, and can typically eliminate friction points in the process where other smaller agencies fail to.

DIY Agencies
This type of agency is typically one or two people working out of a home office. They’ll have a website and maybe even a storefront, but their offerings will be limited. They may have been a business owner in a previous career or simply someone who read a few marketing books at the local library. A do-it-yourself agency is not a good choice for most businesses. Their capacity to do great and detailed work is limited, and accountability can be spotty. Very small, obscure agencies can promise the world and deliver…less. If your business is on a shoe string budget and must hire an agency like this, ensure they have the capability and track record to fulfill their end of any deal.

Ultimately, budget and scope of the marketing solution will determine what type of agency you choose. Niche agencies are outstanding for the niche they provide, but you’ll likely need to hire multiple agencies with varied skill sets to implement a comprehensive marketing plan. Digital agencies are a strong option for businesses sticking to digital technology platforms but will fall short when a more nuanced and traditional approach is warranted. They’ll also have less understanding of how the full spectrum of marketing options interplay with each other.

A full-service agency will usually be your best option for several reasons. They can do everything any other agency can do, and more. Their pricing is typically on par, or even cheaper than niche and digital agencies because they better understand the value of each marketing channel and can leverage that knowledge economically for the client. Finally, a full-service agency is a one-stop shop. When you find the right one, you’ll know it, and you’ll have a long-term partner that should provide far more value than they consume.

If you have any questions about the differences between marketing agencies, please leave them in the comment section below or privately reach out to the Baer Performance Marketing team here.