4 Different Types of Agencies — and How To Choose the Right One For Your Business
Finding the right marketing agency for your business can sometimes feel like finding a needle in a haystack. Branding, digital advertising, content creation, graphic design, web development, media production, public relations — the list goes on and on.
Whether you're a startup looking to establish your brand, a growing company seeking to expand your online presence, or an established enterprise aiming to stay competitive, selecting the perfect marketing agency is a critical decision.
Marketing and creative agencies can be your strategic partners, instrumental in driving growth, increasing brand awareness, and achieving your business objectives. But with numerous types of agencies out there, each offering a unique set of services and expertise, it's easy to feel overwhelmed. How do you choose?
Let’s dive into the four main types of marketing agencies most businesses are looking for, plus get tips for selecting the right agency for you, and learn about the type of agency we think you should avoid.
Creative Branding Agency
A creative branding agency (like Quill) specializes in crafting and refining your brand strategy and identity, ensuring it aligns with the core essence of your business and resonates with your target audience.
If you're not sure where you're supposed to start or feel like you're on shaky ground with where to take your marketing, the answer is usually with a creative branding agency, also referred to as a design or creative studio. Your brand is the foundation of every other piece of marketing and content your business will put out to the world, which means you want to feel rock solid about your brand strategy and identity before figuring out what's next.
What to expect from a Creative Branding Agency
Brand Strategy: Any creative branding agency worth its salt will always start here. Brand strategists will dive deep into your business, your audience, and your competition and identify your brand's positioning in the market. Then they will lay out a comprehensive strategy that will guide all decisions for the brand's identity going forward.
Brand Messaging: Crafting a compelling narrative and messaging that communicates your brand's essence and resonates with your audience.
Brand Guidelines: Establishing brand guidelines to ensure consistent and coherent branding across all touchpoints, from your website to marketing materials. At Quill, each client comes away from the branding process with a comprehensive Brand Guide that reiterates the brand strategy and provides all the core messaging and visual elements the brand will need for future marketing.
Brand Support: Creative agencies can provide ongoing strategic brand support and graphic design, as well as targeted help with marketing campaigns, promotional collateral, annual reports, packaging design, and other types of collateral. Brand support is all about maintaining your brand's identity and engaging your audience in a consistent and effective way to ultimately strengthen the competitive advantage.
Benefits of working with a Creative Branding Agency
Expertise: These studios are masters of their craft, possessing a deep understanding of design principles, consumer psychology, and market trends.
Uniqueness: They can help your brand stand out in a crowded marketplace, ensuring it's not lost amidst the noise.
Consistency: A creative branding agency establishes guidelines to maintain brand consistency, which is crucial for building trust and recognition.
Trusted partners: You get the benefit of a wide network of other niche marketing and creative services when you work with a creative branding agency as they likely have vetted resources to pull into future marketing efforts.
Long-term value: A well-executed branding strategy will have a lasting impact on your business, making it a valuable long-term investment.
Digital Marketing Agency
In the digital age, your online presence can make or break your business. Digital marketing agencies are the maestros of the online world, orchestrating various strategies and tactics to ensure your brand not only survives but thrives online.
While there are several niche agencies that overlap with parts of digital marketing (more on that later), a digital marketing agency offers a diverse range of digital services that meet most business's needs.
What to expect from a Digital Marketing Agency
Digital Strategy: Crafting a comprehensive digital strategy is vital for achieving your business goals. Digital marketing agencies can help you define your objectives and KPIs, identify your target audience's online behavior, and develop a roadmap for achieving your online marketing goals.
Email Marketing: Email marketing remains a potent tool for engaging and retaining customers. Digital marketing agencies employ targeted email campaigns to nurture leads and build customer loyalty, share valuable content, promotions, and updates, and drive traffic to your website.
Social media marketing: Social media has transformed the way businesses connect with their audience. Agencies leverage platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn to cultivate brand awareness and engage with their target audience. It’s worth noting that with the growth in social media and multiple platforms over the last decade, there are also a variety of dedicated social media marketing agencies.
Search Engine Optimization (SEO): SEO is the backbone of your online visibility. Agencies optimize your website to rank higher on search engines like Google, which increases organic traffic to your website, enhances your website's credibility, and boosts conversions by targeting users who are actively searching for your products or services.
Website User Experience (UX) Optimization: Your website is often the first interaction customers have with your brand. Digital marketing agencies can audit websites to make sure it's highly functional, which includes updating copy and optimizing integrations with other marketing.
Content Marketing: Content is king in the digital realm. Digital marketing agencies create and distribute valuable content like blogs, white papers, landing pages, and more.
Digital advertising: Paid advertising is a key component of any digital marketing strategy. Agencies expertly manage digital advertising campaigns across various platforms, including pay-per-click (PPC), display, social media, and retargeting.
Benefits of working with a Digital Marketing Agency
Expertise & Specialization: Just like creative branding studios, a digital marketing agency will be staffed with experts in their niche. They'll be able to stay up to date on industry trends, algorithm updates, and emerging technologies and ensure that your digital campaigns are always on track.
Cost-Efficiency: Running an in-house marketing team can be costly, from hiring and training staff to investing in software and tools. On the other hand, partnering with an agency often proves more cost-effective. You pay for services you need when you need them without the overhead expenses associated with a full-time team.
Time Efficiency: Time is a precious resource in business, and online marketing agencies save you a considerable amount of it. They handle the planning, execution, and monitoring of your campaigns, freeing you and your team to focus on core business activities.
Scalability: As your business grows, so do your marketing needs. Digital Marketing Agencies are equipped to scale your campaigns seamlessly. Whether you need to expand your online presence, reach new markets, or launch a major product, they can adapt and execute strategies that align with your evolving goals.
Access to Cutting-Edge Marketing Tools: Marketing in the digital realm often requires specialized tools and software. These tools can be expensive and may have a steep learning curve. Online marketing agencies have access to the best tools available, and their experts know how to use them effectively to maximize results.
Data Driven Decision Making: Digital marketing is driven by data and analytics. Agencies are well-versed in collecting, analyzing, and interpreting data to refine strategies. They use insights from key performance indicators (KPIs) to make informed decisions that continually optimize your campaigns.
Video Production & Multimedia Agency
In a visually driven world, where first impressions matter more than ever, video production and multimedia agencies are the artisans responsible for crafting the captivating media that represent your brand.
These agencies specialize in photography and video production, which is often passed along to graphic designers or marketing partners and incorporated into various strategic campaigns.
What to expect from a Video Production & Multimedia Agency
Video Production: From promotional videos to animations, the video production side of this agency can create engaging and shareable content that resonates with your audience.
Photography: If you need captivating photography that accurately represents your brand identity, then a media agency is who you need. Luckily, if you've already worked with a creative branding agency, you'll be able to bring a comprehensive guide so that any photographer or videographer working with your business can keep styles and visuals consistent.
Benefits of working with a Video Production & Multimedia Agency
Creative Expertise: Are you starting to sense a trend here? Expertise in their specific niche is what you'll get when you work with a video production and multimedia agency. That means professional processes and high-end production, using the best tools and skills necessary to create high-quality photos and videos.
Time Efficiency: In-house production can be time-consuming and equipment intensive, especially if your team lacks the necessary skills or resources. Video production and multimedia agencies work efficiently, meeting deadlines and delivering results promptly so you can stay on track with your marketing initiatives.
Versatility: Video production and multimedia agencies are versatile. They can adapt to different projects and requirements, whether you need a short promotional video, an eye-catching poster, or a comprehensive branding overhaul. Their versatility ensures that they can meet your evolving needs.
Cutting-Edge Technology: Staying current with the latest visual trends and production technology can be a significant challenge for businesses. Agencies invest in state-of-the-art tools and software, ensuring that your projects are created with the most advanced and effective solutions available.
Unlike the digital marketing agency, an advertising agency offers a broad spectrum of advertising in both the digital and physical realms.
What to expect from an Advertising Agency
Digital Advertising: Crafting online ads, including display ads, PPC campaigns, social media ads, and video ads, to reach your target audience on digital platforms
Physical Advertising: Designing and producing traditional marketing materials such as billboards, print ads, brochures, and direct mail campaigns for a diverse range of offline channels.
Commercials: Producing engaging and persuasive video commercials for television, online streaming platforms, and social media.
Benefits of working with an Advertising Agency
Expertise: Once again, working with this kind of agency will give you the expertise of people who are heavily invested in their specific niche, in this case, advertising.
Media Planning and Buying Expertise: An ad agency has in-depth knowledge of media channels, including digital platforms and traditional media. They can efficiently plan and buy media placements, ensuring your ads reach the right audience at the right time.
Measurable Results: With Advertising Agencies, you can track and measure the performance of your campaigns. They provide valuable insights and data-driven reports to assess the effectiveness of your advertising efforts.
Other Types of Marketing Agencies
Marketing is a big world that keeps getting bigger. There can be a lot of overlap between what different agencies offer, and there are many highly specialized agencies that cater to unique marketing needs.
It’s often best practice to work with specialized agencies when your company has dedicated marketing resources to act as project managers as they’ll be able to pull in necessary partners at strategic points and coordinate efforts.
Some other types of agencies a business might seek out are:
Growth Marketing Agency
Growth marketing agencies focus on using sales technologies to supercharge your business's growth. They employ a data-driven approach, leveraging tools like customer relationship management (CRM) software, marketing automation, and data analytics to identify and target high-value prospects.
Communication & Public Relations Agency
A public relations (PR) agency specializes in managing and promoting the public image and reputation of your business. PR agencies work to build and maintain positive relationships between their clients and the public — including media, employees, investors, and other stakeholders. They specialize in crisis communication strategies and media relations, including coordinating interviews, speaking engagements, and press coverage.
Personal Reputation Marketing Agency
Personal Reputation Marketing revolves around individuals, not just businesses. It focuses on building and managing the online reputation of professionals, executives, and influencers. This includes strategies to enhance their personal brand and credibility.
Account-Based Marketing Agency
Account-based Marketing (ABM) flips the traditional marketing funnel on its head by targeting specific high-value accounts or companies rather than a broader audience. ABM agencies create highly personalized campaigns tailored to the needs and characteristics of individual accounts and are most widely used by B2B businesses.
Event Marketing Agency
Event marketing remains a powerful tool for building brand awareness and engagement. In the digital age, it extends beyond physical events to include webinars, virtual conferences, and live streaming.
Web Development & Design Agency
Web development and design is integral to modern marketing. A well-designed website is often the first point of contact between a brand and its audience. A Web Design Agency is a team of professionals with specific skills in building and maintaining websites.
The Full-Service Marketing Agency
While full-service marketing agencies offer a wide range of services under one roof, they may not always be the best fit for every business. It may seem convenient to have so many services readily available, however the lack of specialization can lead to specific elements that may not be as well-executed as having them accomplished by agencies that focus exclusively on one area.
If you find that you’re unhappy with one of the multiple services they offer, you may find yourself committed to a year-long retainer without the ability to find a better resource. There can also be layers of communication that cause issues similar to playing a game of telephone between account managers, project managers, and those responsible for executing the work.
Full-service marketing agencies also tend to come with a higher price tag. If your business only requires specific services, you might end up paying for services you don't need, essentially subsidizing departments of the agency you aren't utilizing.
When might a Full Service Agency be appropriate?
If your business requires a broad spectrum of marketing services, a full-service agency can provide convenience and cohesion in managing all of these aspects. Smaller businesses or startups with limited internal marketing resources may benefit from the extensive services offered, however the investment will reflect it.
Tips for Selecting the Right Kind of Agency
Now that we’ve looked at some common types of agencies, let’s figure out how to choose the right one for your business.
Identify Your Specific Marketing Needs and Goals
Before you start your search, clearly define your marketing needs and objectives. Are you looking for branding and creative services, digital marketing expertise, web design, or a combination of these? Knowing your goals will help you find an agency with the right specialization.
Consider Your Budget and Resources
Determine your marketing budget and the resources you can allocate to agency services. Be realistic about your financial constraints and ensure the agency you choose can work within your budget while delivering value and ROI.
Research and Interview Multiple Agencies
Don't settle for the first agency that pops up in a Google search. Research and shortlist several agencies that align with your needs, values and personality. Schedule interviews or consultations to discuss your requirements and gauge their capabilities and processes.
Check Agency References and Portfolio
Review testimonials, reviews, and references from past or current clients to get insights into the agency's performance and reliability. Review their portfolio or case studies to assess the quality of their work and whether it aligns with your brand's style and goals.
Establish a Clear Contract and Pricing Structure
A well-drafted contract is essential to protect both parties' interests. Ensure the contract includes details such as the scope of work, project timelines, payment terms, and any termination clauses.
Pro-tip: Look for an agency that offers a month-to-month or quarterly payment arrangement, like our digital marketing partner, E/Power Marketing. If the agency is as good as they say, you shouldn't need to sign up for a year-long contract. Pay should be results-based, project-based, or determined by specific services rendered. A performance-based fee structure, if the agency allows, ensures that you're paying for the actual results and effort put into your account.
Still not sure what agency is right for you? We can help.
If you're just getting started or need to realign your business's goals and strategy, a Creative Branding Agency like Quill is the ideal starting point, as it shapes your brand's identity and sets the tone for all subsequent marketing endeavors.
Moreover, a Creative Branding Agency doesn't stop at creating a static brand identity. It offers ongoing support to ensure your brand evolves and remains relevant in a dynamic market. They understand that a brand is not a one-time project but an ongoing journey that demands adaptation and growth.
At Quill, we specialize in creative branding and understand the profound impact a strong brand foundation can have on your business. However, we also recognize that marketing needs are multifaceted, and we're here to connect you with agencies in our trusted network that can provide the specialized services you require.