What is a Marketing Agency & What does it Do?

  • Last update: 25/10/2023

Benjamin Poirrier

Digital Marketing Expert

Marketing agency office

Businesses of all sizes and industries rely on marketing agencies to help them reach their objectives. But what do these agencies do? From managing advertising campaigns to overseeing marketing strategies and tactics, they provide comprehensive services to save time and money. In this blog post, we will explore what a marketing agency does and how it can help your business succeed.

The 2020 Covid-19 pandemic taught us that it is time for businesses to activate their digital transformation.

All traditional media (TV, radio, newspapers, magazines, out-of-home) experienced a massive decline in ad spending after the coronavirus crisis. On the other hand, digital media (social channels, videos, banners, search engines) maintained positive ad revenue growth. Under a tighter budget, marketing agencies report that companies moved to digital solutions like Search Engine Optimization (SEO) or Pay-per-click (PPC).

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What is a Marketing Agency?

Marketing agencies are companies that work for clients. They help enterprises build marketing strategies to reach their business goals.

There are different kinds of marketing agencies. Here are a few examples:

  • full-service agency
  • creative agency
  • brand agency
  • SEO agency
  • performance agency
  • social media agency
  • website development agency

All marketing agencies take responsibility for the following tasks:

  • analyze the market potential
  • benchmark the competition
  • identify target audiences’ profiles and behavior
  • craft marketing plans suitable for business needs
  • run marketing campaigns for the client
  • monitor marketing efforts and optimize accordingly
  • report to the client
  • consult and advise on marketing strategies

A marketing agency is an extension of a business’s in-house team. To bring value to their clients, marketing agencies must act as strategic partners. Long-term relationships between agencies and clients are excellent indicators of business success.

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Traditional Vs Digital Marketing Agency

Marketing agencies do offer various services. We differentiate between traditional marketing and digital marketing support. Check this infographic comparing digital and traditional marketing to understand more. In most industrialized countries, especially after Covid-19, digital marketing takes the most significant market share.

To sum up, a marketing agency can specialize in traditional channels such as:

  • branding design and management (offline)
  • printing marketing (flyers, billboards, offline screens)
  • public relations (PR)
  • broadcasting marketing (television, radio)
  • content marketing (offline)

While digital marketing agencies focus on channels like:

  • branding design and management (online)
  • search engine optimization (SEO)
  • paid media and pay-per-click (PPC)
  • social media (organic and paid)
  • influencer and KOLs (Key Opinion Leaders)
  • website development (design and coding)
  • content marketing (online)
  • email marketing

All channels work in the right context. The marketing agency’s job is to audit the market and build a suitable plan.

Until the 1990s, traditional marketing was the way to go because people watched TV, read newspapers, and participated in various outdoor events. Since the 2000s, the internet has increased its presence by attracting more and more audiences. Today, traditional marketing’s share remains strong, but there is no question of digital activities’ preponderance.

Marketing Agency Activities

A good marketing plan is essential for any successful business. The goal of a marketing agency is to create an effective strategy that will enable the brand to capture more customers and increase its market share. To do this, a marketing agency will analyze the target market, identify key opportunities and threats, formulate a positioning statement, come up with creative ideas, and develop an action plan. A well-developed strategy helps businesses focus on the right activities to achieve success.

Advertising campaigns are an important part of any successful business’s growth plans. A good advertising campaign can attract new customers, build brand awareness, and encourage existing customers to buy more products or services from the company. Marketing agencies specialize in creating effective advertising campaigns that are tailored specifically to each client’s needs. They have access to powerful tools such as segmentation models, demographic data, and analytics tools that allow them to craft messages that will resonate with their target audience.

Once the overall strategy is in place, it’s time for the marketing agency to implement it. This involves coming up with creative ideas for campaigns, developing content pieces such as blogs or videos, running social media accounts, or managing email campaigns. These activities are all aimed at helping businesses reach their goals by engaging potential customers and building relationships with them over time. Additionally, some agencies may also offer additional services such as search engine optimization (SEO), website design, or digital analytics consulting – all designed to help businesses better understand their online presence and reach their goals faster.

Do I Need a Marketing Agency?

Outsourcing marketing activities should never be an automatic decision. Companies must be clear about what they want to achieve. From experience, we know it is not a trivial question.

What if you hire a web development agency while a website is not the solution to reach your business objectives? What if your clients are mostly available on TikTok and do not crawl much of the web? Shouldn’t we focus on crafting a digital strategy on TikTok instead? Shouldn’t you contact a social media agency?

Once this essential requirement is exact, the company shall contact the right marketing agency. Based on the brief, this outsourcing partner could propose suitable solutions.

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The primary reasons to hire a marketing agency are when the business:

  • has poor results and no clue about how to improve
  • lacks expertise in the required field
  • lacks time to implement marketing campaigns
  • needs to run seasonal campaigns that do not require a full-time in-house team
  • has never launched any promotional activity

If the company has a business objective and faces any of the situations listed above, partnering with a marketing agency is a great decision.

Marketing Agency Benefits

There are multiple advantages for businesses to hire a marketing agency. Professional and strategic partners bring lots of value. They are more affordable than in-house teams because they cut down on human resources and fixed costs. The company does not have to worry about recruitment, training, staff retention, or idle costs when outsourcing marketing activities.

The second benefit of working with a marketing agency concerns expertise. While companies may not be confident with traditional or digital media, it is the core business of marketing agencies. They also follow up trends better to guarantee campaign success.

The next reason is more technical. Marketing agencies make fair use of their tools. For most of the brands, the software cost or learning phase is too high in comparison with their benefits. Marketing agencies solve this problem by using them for numerous clients at scale.

They also bring an external point of view that is valuable to the business. The brand familiarity of in-house marketing teams is of course an advantage. But sometimes, it is good to have a marketing agency that can “think outside of the box” to share expert advice.

The next strong point has made sense with the coronavirus pandemic: remote work. Companies are not forced to partner with a marketing agency based in the neighborhood. This is especially true for digital agencies that can provide their service from anywhere in the world. No location boundaries allow more freedom and convenience in choosing the right partner (read the section below).

In a nutshell, the benefits of working with a marketing agency are:

  • cost-effectiveness
  • expert consulting
  • scalable
  • fresh and external point of view
  • not location sensitive

Marketing Agency Costs

A marketing agency charges its services based on campaign requirements, timeline, work scope, and the market environment. They use four main ways to bill their clients:

  • hourly basis
  • monthly fee or a flat retainer
  • percentage of budget spending
  • commission or performance basis

Fees based on the number of hours are suitable for client-facing, web development, or design. They are easy to calculate and more understandable for the client. However, it is not the best incentive to work fast.

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The monthly fee or flat retainer works best when the marketing agency runs a long-term campaign. Companies usually prefer to start with a short project-based price and then move to a retainer model once the partnership becomes strong.

Getting paid on a percentage of budget spending suits when paid ad campaigns are activated (like search engine marketing SEM or pay-per-click PPC in general). It goes between 5% to 20%.

Marketing agencies work on a commission basis when the business is sales-oriented and does not focus much on brand awareness. This is one of the best pricing models to ensure the partner will deliver results.

Of course, each marketing agency follows its pricing policy. Be careful of low prices. There is no such thing as an efficient marketing strategy at a low cost.

Also, beware of agencies setting a price before having a campaign brief. A marketing service pricing depends on too many variables to give a quick “generic” figure coming out from nowhere.

Check the section below to choose the right strategic partner.

How to Select a Suitable Marketing Agency?

There are many marketing agencies out there –  too many. To be honest: most of them are pure scams.

It is easy to launch a marketing agency start-up because the establishment costs are affordable. Besides, anyone watching a marketing tutorial on YouTube can claim to be an expert.

Professional marketing agencies are not hard to find. If they know what they are doing, they should be able to stand out from the crowd. A marketing agency must generate good results for itself: it is a positive sign that it will do the same for your business.

Here is a quick checklist to evaluate a marketing agency’s professionalism:

  • check the agency’s website
  • check its published content
  • check the marketing agency’s social media
  • check the marketing offer and pricing
  • check how the agency reports
  • check how the agency communicates with its partners

This preliminary investigation will help you label your partners’ candidates. If you are looking for a marketing agency, beware of the no-go below:

  • poorly designed website
  • thin content
  • no consistent social activity
  • offer too good to be true
  • low price
  • poor reporting
  • not available for their partners
  • share vanity metrics not correlated with business results
  • one-person business

All items from this list are red alerts. Do not go for any marketing agency like this and choose another one if you want a serious partner.

A marketing agency with a shoddy website is an absolute “no.” Both traditional and digital agencies must care about their brand image and online presence. If they do not, expect the same for your business.

If a website hosts service pages with fewer than 300 words each, it means the agency provides no effort on content. A blog article should never be shorter than 1,000 words, at least. We are not saying that the longer the better, however, decades of data prove that thin content rarely performs well.

Low social presence is another lousy signal. It is worth more to have solid online visibility on one or two channels than managing dozens of social accounts to publish nothing.

Marketing agencies must sell their services. When the offer seems perfect, there is probably some hidden bad thing somewhere. It is easy to promise the moon, but it is harder to respect a contract.

Red flag on low prices! Clients are price-sensitive, and agencies often discount their services to close deals. In marketing, you get what you pay for. If the price is low, so will the service, because a good campaign is never cheap. If it was, everybody would be a millionaire.

Marketing agencies that are proud to report on poorly designed have no excuse. It proves their lack of professionalism. Any agency should use software tools to track, measure, and report campaign data.

Companies do not expect slow answers from their strategic partners. Marketing agencies must prioritize their clients’ requests. Otherwise, it shows they lack internal organization and commitment.

Be careful with vanity metrics: if your agency tells you “the most likes you get, the more you sell,” then run away. You do not want to pay to get more likes while praying for more sales.

Finally, turn away from charismatic one-person-gurus who certainly learned marketing two months ago and will delegate your campaigns to freelancers while cashing in your money.

Bottom line: the ability to show real results to the client is one of the top reasons for selecting a marketing agency. Without metrics tracking and transparency, business relationships never last more than one year.

How to Work with a Marketing Agency?

Companies need some preparation before approaching marketing agencies.

If the business looks for a strategic partner with no apparent purpose in mind, the cooperation will fail. For example, it makes more sense to ask the marketing agency “I want more sales” than “I want a Facebook.” The first request is not precise, but at least the marketing agency knows what to achieve. With the second request, we should ask what the purpose of having Facebook is. Online presence? Brand recognition? E-commerce sales? Social user engagement?

All businesses should take time to document a brief before cooperating with a marketing agency. It can be a 1-page document listing the business goals, the brand information and history, the products and services, the competitors, the target audience, and the market environment. With this data, the marketing agency could get started in building a plan.

After doing some preliminary research, the marketing agency may ask additional questions. This is the beginning of a strategic relationship. The essential items to consider when working with a marketing agency are:

  • define a clear business goal
  • share all needed information or software tools access
  • communicate in due time with total transparency

It means that, when working with a marketing agency, there is homework on both sides. A long-term cooperation cannot happen if it only goes one way.

Go Ahead with Your Marketing Agency

Today, traditional marketing agencies’ share remains strong, but the digital shift started a few years ago and accelerated with the Covid-19 pandemic.

Marketing agencies will continue to support all kinds of businesses under new rules. Companies must make sure they have a clear business purpose in mind, choose the right strategic partner, and come prepared when approaching them.

In today’s competitive landscape, having an experienced team of professionals handling your marketing efforts can be invaluable for any business looking for success in the long run. Whether you need help developing a comprehensive strategy or need assistance on specific projects like SEO or website design, working with a qualified team of marketers can make all the difference when it comes to achieving your business goals quickly and effectively. Furthermore, you will benefit from having experienced professionals who understand best practices in digital marketing – ensuring your efforts are always successful while avoiding common pitfalls along the way!

If you need strategic advice to run your marketing campaigns, contact us. The Prodima team is glad to share its expertise and support your business going through digital transformation.