WHAT IS A DIGITAL MARKETING AGENCY? A GUIDE FOR SMALL BUSINESSES
If you’re a small business leader and you’re asking yourself: “What is a digital marketing agency?” it’s likely because you’re exploring ways to kick-start your marketing, you need additional expertise to support your in-house team, or you’re unhappy with the performance of your current marketing efforts.
Either way, you’re looking for answers. In this blog, we explore what a digital marketing agency is, how it can support your business, and everything you need to consider when picking a marketing agency to work with. By reading our comprehensive guide on What Is A Digital Marketing Agency you’ll learn:
To truly get a grasp of what a digital marketing agency is and how they can help your business, we need to explore all aspects of what a digital marketing agency does, how they support your business and how you should select them. To do this, let’s start at the very beginning.
WHAT IS A DIGITAL MARKETING AGENCY?
A digital marketing agency is a company employed by another organisation to plan, deliver, and manage their digital marketing strategies. In some cases, the digital marketing agency is the organisation’s only source of marketing, and in others, they support the efforts of an in-house marketing team. The marketing services they offer can cover a variety of different channels including web design, social media, PPC, SEO, email marketing, and more.
Regardless of how the agency supports its clients, they are usually specialists in one or a few areas either within a specific marketing channel such as web design, or a particular industry such as eCommerce or SaaS.
WHAT ARE THE DIFFERENT TYPES OF MARKETING AGENCIES?
Digital marketing agencies come in a variety of different shapes and sizes. You have “one-man band” types who often work solely with local, small businesses, to large, multinational agencies who work with some of the biggest, most recognisable brands in the world, and everything in between.
Generally speaking, you have two different types of marketing agencies:
CHANNEL-SPECIFIC MARKETING AGENCIES:
These are marketing agencies that specialise in a specific marketing channel or tactic. These include:
Social Media Marketing
PR and Influencer Marketing
Channel-specific marketing agencies tend to work with larger organisations that have big marketing budgets. They often support an in-house marketing manager or team to manage campaigns in channels where the in-house team lacks the required expertise.
These are often unsuitable for small businesses because if you need to operate in a few of these channels, your budget may not be sufficient to cover all bases.
SERVICE-SPECIFIC MARKETING AGENCIES:
These are marketing agencies that support businesses within a specific niche and combine services together. These marketing agencies include:
Full-Service Digital Marketing Agencies
Direct Marketing Agencies
B2B Marketing Agencies
Creative Marketing Agencies
Brand Marketing Agencies
Inbound Marketing Agencies
As a small business, it’s likely that one of these agencies would be a better fit for your business.
Their services are generally broader but specific to a particular need. For example, if you are a B2B SaaS company, working with a B2B marketing agency that understands how to market to B2B buyers would be advantageous over working with multiple channel-specific marketing agencies. The B2B agency will have a better grasp on what works and what doesn’t and allows you to deliver a seamless, multichannel marketing strategy, managed under one roof, rather than have to collaborate and manage multiple agency relationships.
WHAT SERVICES ARE OFFERED BY DIGITAL MARKETING AGENCIES?
This will vary from agency to agency based on the type of agency they are. However, the most common marketing services offered by digital marketing agencies are:
Social Media Marketing
This will vary from agency to agency depending on the type of agency they are. For example, an SEO agency is very unlikely to offer PPC services, whereas a Full-Service Digital Marketing Agency like us, can offer services across the marketing mix from SEO and PPC to email and web design.
The key to understanding the marketing services offered by agencies is first to recognise where your organisation needs support. You should be aware of the challenges you are facing and research which marketing solutions are most appropriate to help you solve those challenges.
For a deeper look into the different types of marketing services, read our blog: The SMBs Guide to Services Offered by Digital Marketing Agencies for more insight.
HOW CAN A DIGITAL MARKETING AGENCY HELP MY SMALL BUSINESS?
Why do organisations need marketing? The simple reason is to sell more of what they do. Whether that is a product, a service, or a piece of software, all organisations need to raise awareness of their solutions to their ideal customer. Without marketing, this isn’t possible.
The role of a digital marketing agency is to help put your brand in front of the audience who are most likely to purchase your product, service or solution. By raising your visibility within your target customer base, you increase your chances of selling. And with more sales comes a growing and thriving business.
A marketing agency can help grow your brand by developing a marketing strategy to help attract, obtain, and retain customers. They do this through a variety of marketing channels, all of which fall into one of the four stages of the marketing funnel:
By implementing a marketing strategy that addresses the needs of a customer at all stages of the marketing funnel, a brand will increase its potential for growth.
To learn more about how a marketing agency can help grow your business, read our blog titled: “How a Digital Marketing Agency Can Drive Business Growth” for more info.
DO I NEED A MARKETING AGENCY?
Deciding whether to hire a digital marketing agency is an important step for any small business. In the early days, many small businesses grow through referrals and word-of-mouth. However, at some point in your business journey, this is going to tail off and you’re going to need to invest in sales and marketing to push your brand to the next level.
How you approach this can take one of three ways:
Hiring an in-house team
Working with an external marketing agency
Or a combination of the two
The biggest advantage of working with a marketing agency is that you get the opportunity to work with a group of specialists who can support your business across the marketing mix. To get the same level of expertise in-house, a business often has to hire multiple heads which can eat into the limited budget they have.
However, before you decide whether you go in-house or external, you need to understand whether you have the need. Here are some signs that indicate you may need to hire a marketing agency:
Lack of expertise
Inability to generate sales or leads
Low website traffic
If you recognise even a couple of these, it might be worth exploring the potential of working with a digital marketing agency. Give our blog “Do I Need To Hire a Marketing Agency” a read as it covers the 9 tell-tale signs that you probably do.
WHAT TYPE OF MARKETING AGENCY SHOULD I WORK WITH?
Once you’ve determined if you need to hire a marketing agency, the next challenge is deciding what type of agency is the best fit.
This will all come down to what growth stage your business is at and what your goals are. Your marketing strategy should be centred around what your business is trying to achieve and aligning your marketing efforts with achieving that goal.
Our recommendation is to engage with a marketing consultant or coach. They will evaluate your current marketing efforts, the challenges you’re facing, and the targets you’re looking to hit. From this, they will be able to recommend the most appropriate marketing strategy to help you alleviate these challenges and achieve your goals.
It might be that they recommend working with either one or a variety of specialised marketing agencies depending on what is going to deliver the best results. That could be to work with a channel-specific agency such as an SEO agency, or perhaps a service-specific agency that is more tailored to your industry.
If you’re struggling to assess your current marketing performance or don’t know where to turn next, a Marketing Audit could be the best place to start.
HOW DO I PICK A DIGITAL MARKETING AGENCY?
After deciding that engaging with a marketing agency is the right step for you, you now have to decide which one(s) you’re going to work with. This is a critical decision that can significantly impact your organisation's success, so isn’t one that you should take lightly.
When selecting what marketing agency to work with, you should take into consideration the following:
What are your goals and objectives?
What is their experience in your niche?
Are the services they offer suitable?
How will they work with you?
Do they have the appropriate industry knowledge?
There are nine factors we think are important for brands to consider when selecting a marketing agency. So, to learn more about all nine, why not read our blog “9 Factors to Consider When You Choose a Digital Marketing Agency” to help you pick an agency that’s perfect for you?
HOW TO EVALUATE A MARKETING AGENCY
Like with any purchasing decision, it’s important to weigh up your options and compare what is on offer. Picking a marketing agency shouldn’t be any different.
By this stage, you should have identified your unique marketing needs and created a shortlist of agencies who can help. It’s likely that the agencies you’ve shortlisted are very similar in terms of the services they offer, so it’s unlikely this will be a factor in your decision-making process.
Therefore, you need to take an objective and holistic view of what entering into a business relationship with each might be like. So, you need to evaluate your options and go into detail about what value each agency can bring. You can do this by asking yourself – and the agency – the following questions:
How much do they understand your business?
Are their solutions bespoke to you?
What is their credibility?
Do they have the right experience?
Do your organisations match culturally?
How will they report on performance?
Is their pricing competitive?
Are they focused on a long-term relationship?
Asking these questions during the sales process will help you determine which of your shortlisted agencies is going to be the best long-term fit for you. Marketing is a long-term strategy and therefore, any relationship you enter with a marketing agency should be treated as such.
For more information on how to evaluate each of the above questions, check out our blog “How to Evaluate a Marketing Agency” where we cover how to assess an agency against all eight questions.
WHAT SHOULD I LOOK OUT FOR BEFORE SELECTING A MARKETING AGENCY?
As part of your evaluation process, it’s important to keep an eye out for any potential warning signs before you make that final selection. These could include:
A lack of transparency
Lack of personalised services
Limited evidence of success
Marketing is an extremely competitive industry and with more than 17,000 digital advertising agencies in the UK alone, agencies can employ various tactics to try and win new business. Therefore, it’s important for anyone looking to employ an external marketing agency to assess and review their credibility appropriately before hiring.
Get educated on the red flags you need to look out for by reading our blog “Red Flags to Look Out for When Selecting a Marketing Agency” before you make that final decision.
ANSWERED: WHAT IS A DIGITAL MARKETING?
You should now have a better understanding of what a digital marketing agency is, the services they offer, and how they can help your business.
By exploring the different types of agencies, evaluating their credibility, and considering the advantages of specialised agencies, you can make an informed decision that aligns with your business goals. Remember to be cautious of the red flags during the selection process, and always seek tailored marketing strategies that can help drive your business growth.
It’s important to assess your options carefully before selecting the marketing agency you plan to work with. If you’d like to explore the possibility of working with an agency that is dedicated to working solely with start-ups and small businesses in the UK, we’d love to hear from you.
Learn more about us to get a better feel for who we are, our experience, and how we can help your business achieve its goals. And if you’d like to take that conversation even further, we offer free, no-obligation marketing consultations aimed at providing you with a clear picture of how you can take your marketing to the next level. Click the link below to book yours at a date and time that’s convenient for you