We all know that marketing is important if we hope to sell our products, but actually developing and implementing a marketing strategy isn’t always as easy as we might like to think. Even when we do have the expertise to do it in-house, there’s almost always a need to bring in some form of outside help to augment our expertise.
The good news is that there are freelancers and agencies to help with that, and marketing agencies in particular can be a lot of help to business owners. That’s because they can bring in the expertise and resources you need to get the job done, especially when it’s an area that you don’t have any of your own experience in.
There are niche agencies who used to try to do multiple different things but weren’t very good at marketing, so they niched down as it made it easier for them to carry out sales. That doesn’t change the fact that they still aren’t great at marketing, though.
Then there are the larger agencies with huge amounts of resources. If a client has the cash, they can pay for their time and bring all of the disciplines together.
The agencies who are the best at marketing can typically figure out a niche pretty quickly and then beat out the niche agencies that aren’t that great at what they do. They can also bring in skills from other niches so that their focus isn’t as narrow.
And so with all of that said, let’s take a look at the 16 most common different types of marketing agency that are out there.
1. Public Relations (PR)
Public relations is the art of working with journalists and the media to generate press coverage around your brand. In recent years, many public relations companies have also moved to working with social media influencers, as well as more traditional journalists.
One of the interesting things about public relations is that it’s led by relationships. In contrast to other types of marketing, which are all about knowledge and its practical application, a successful PR campaign depends largely upon establishing relationships with journalists and content creators.
Most PR agencies specialise in a specific industry, such as the beauty or automotive industries, and they’ve spent years working with journalists in those industries to build connections. You could try to carry out your own PR, but you’re going to struggle to be as effective – unless you have those connections yourself.
Branding is one of those more intangible aspects of marketing that can be difficult to directly measure. That doesn’t mean that it’s not important, though. In fact, consistent branding can increase revenue by 33%, which is why Coca-Cola alone spends $4 billion each year on branding.
Branding agencies specialize in helping companies to develop and implement their brand guidelines, which typically include everything from the fonts and colors that should be used to the type of language that the brand uses when talking to people.
Branding can be broken down into two key areas: brand visuals and brand strategy. Some agencies are only good at brand visuals, while others pride themselves on bringing brand strategy and brand visuals together. As you can imagine, this can have a huge impact on pricing. Visual branding can cost $5-15,000, while brand strategy and brand visuals together can cost $30,000+.
The interesting thing about branding is that it underpins everything else that you do. Depending upon how familiar you are with the art of branding, you may be able to work with a branding agency to create your guidelines and to implement them yourself, or you may want to keep them on a retainer to work alongside your other agencies.
3. Marketing strategy
Marketing strategy agencies won’t handle the implementation of your marketing, but they will work with you to come up with the overall strategy. You can then choose which aspects you’re going to handle in-house and which you’re going to outsource.
I’ve worked with a number of amazing marketing strategy agencies that work with companies of all shapes and sizes, from start-ups to Fortune 500 companies. They all have their own unique ways of approaching it, and so it’s important to find an agency with a way of working that gels with your own.
Some of them will take three weeks and build out a customer strategy as a part of their proposal. Others prefer to work with C-level executives to understand the brand that they want to build and to bring that to life in conjunction with the company’s leadership.
4. Social media
Social media is considered by many to be one of the more glamorous types of marketing, in part because it’s so visible. This makes it a double-edged sword, because while that’s all well and good when things are going well, it also makes any failures both public and embarrassing.
I work with a company that’s built purely on social media. They’ll send out their photographers and videographers to capture content from your business and then use that to build authentic content that can help you to promote your products and services.
As if that wasn’t enough, they also augment their organic content creation with paid media to make sure that you’re reaching as many relevant people as possible. As well as being one of the highest-rated social media companies I’ve worked with, they’re also able to deliver a fully-rounded social media marketing strategy.
5. Pay per click
Pay Per Click (or PPC) is a form of digital advertising in which people bid for specific keywords and pay each time their adverts rank and someone clicks on them. It’s notable for being performance driven and for allowing people to target potential customers based on searcher intent.
For example, a local pizzeria might target keywords like “order pizza now” and “pizza delivery [location name]. They’d also want to exclude their advertisements from appearing when people search for terms like “pizza recipe”.
Pay per click agencies specialise in this type of advertising and have the experience that’s needed to develop a comprehensive strategy alongside a skilled implementation. Depending upon how much money you’re investing into advertising, a pay-per-click agency can even pay for itself by driving efficiencies and helping you to make the most of your ad budget.
SEO stands for search engine optimisation and is essentially the art of working with search engines to try to ensure that your brand’s content ranks towards the top of the results pages.
Back in the day, this often took the form of “black hat” SEO, which involved stuffing web pages with keywords and trying to trick the search engines. Today, it’s all about working within their guidelines, creating great content, generating high quality inbound links and ensuring that you’re using meta titles, meta descriptions and other best practices.
As you can tell, there’s a lot to it, which is why there are SEO agencies of all shapes and sizes and which focus on all sorts of different disciplines. The key is to find an agency that works well for you and your own approach to SEO. They may also need to work alongside other agencies, such as content creation, social media or PR agencies.
Affiliate marketing is a type of marketing in which a company essentially recruits a network of “affiliates” to sell their products for them. Each affiliate is responsible for marketing the company’s product in whatever way works best for them, and they’re then rewarded financially with a certain amount of cash for each sale.
Affiliate marketing agencies will work with your company to develop a network of affiliates and a remuneration strategy. They’ll typically also handle the creation and deployment of the infrastructure that your company will require to support it.
Done well, affiliate marketing can benefit all parties. Customers are introduced to products and services that can benefit them, affiliates are financially rewarded for their efforts and companies can make a profit even after their affiliates have been paid.
Affiliate marketing can be broken into the following key categories:
- Network and platform: Where you use big affiliate sites like Tech-Talk to post your product. They then make a commission from everyone who clicks the link and goes to your site to make a purchase.
- Affiliate publishers: These are things like editorial sites, employee portals, car platforms, airlines, influencers, bloggers and any other website that publishes content and links through to affiliate deals.
- Agencies: Where the agency uses its relationships to develop affiliate networks, with the networking they do for one client benefiting all of their other clients.
Content marketing is all about creating high quality content that brings people to your website and gives them something to share on social networking sites. In the words of Jay Baer, the goal is to create marketing that’s so good that people would pay for it.
Content feeds into many of the other areas that we’ve talked about. For example, content creation is vital for social media marketing and search engine optimisation, as it provides you with something to share and to talk about.
The best content marketing agencies will work closely with your senior employees to ensure that they’re creating content that reflects the brand. They may also want to use your team’s expertise to create informational and how-to style content.
9. Website developers
Website development agencies will work closely with you to understand your business’s goals and to build a website that will help you to achieve them. They’ll often also continue to work with their clients on a retainer basis to provide ongoing support and maintenance.
Bear in mind that it’s not just about finding people who can build a website. After all, content management systems (CMSs) like WordPress and Magento have made that easier and more approachable than ever before.
Instead, the goal is to find an agency that can design a beautiful site that performs well and converts visitors into customers. This will often require them to code the site from scratch. Others have their own proprietary systems which deliver the perfect blend of speed, security and design.
10. App developers
App developers are a specialist type of developer that focus exclusively on developing applications for smartphones and tablet computers. With the average American checking their phone over 250 times every day, there’s a huge amount of potential for brands to reach them on their smartphones.
An app developer will follow a similar process to a web developer in that they’ll get to understand the goals of your application and then build out a solution that’s specifically designed to achieve those goals. For ecommerce, that may mean encouraging purchases; for FMCG brands, it may be more about entertainment or boosting brand loyalty.
App development requires a very specific set of skills, and so if you’re planning on developing a mobile app, you’re going to need to find a specialist agency that can help you. You may even want to look into an agency that specializes on the particular operating system (e.g. iOS vs. Android) that you’re hoping to target.
Finding great app developers is difficult, and if you pick juniors to build out your code base, you’ll end up with slow, bug-ridden apps that cost a fortune to maintain. Finding great app developers up front saves you time and money down the road, although the upfront cost is here. Fortunately for you, I can put you in touch with some great app developers who work with customers like Meta (Facebook’s parent company) and Discord.
11. Web app developers
Web app development is similar to mobile app development, except that instead of creating downloadable applications for people’s smartphones, they create applications that run on laptop and desktop computers.
Because of this, they require a different set of skills to mobile app developers, and in fact a lot of their job comes down to educating their clients about exactly what it is that they do. The good news is that this will also give you a decent indication of whether they know what they’re talking about.
Web app development doesn’t necessarily come cheap, but it can be a wise investment, as long as your web app is developed with your business’s goals in mind. Like any agency, a web app development agency needs to be able to take your business from where it is now to where it needs to be.
CRO is an acronym for conversion rate optimization, which is essentially the scientific process of testing different elements of a landing page or the user journey to improve the conversion rate as much as possible.
A higher conversion rate means you can make more money from the same amount of traffic, effectively allowing you to boost the return on investment for all of your marketing activities, from email marketing to pay per click.
The downside is that you need a reasonable amount of traffic to begin with if you hope to make the most of CRO. I’d suggest looking into it once you have at least 15,000 unique visitors per month to your ecommerce store. I can put you in touch with a fantastic CRO company that guarantees to increase your conversions within three months or give you your money back.
13. Email marketing
Email marketing is one of the more reliable approaches to marketing because pretty much everyone has an email address and it’s highly data-driven and easy to automate. You can also use it to set up automated campaigns that run in the background once you’ve set them up.
Email marketing is one of those disciplines where there’s so much to know and put into practice that it can take a lot of expertise to get it right. Luckily, if you don’t have that expertise available in-house, you’ll be able to find an agency or a freelancer that can do the job for you.
I work with one of the best ecommerce email marketing agencies on the planet, and I’d be happy to provide you a referral. As well as designing incredible-looking emails for their ecommerce clients, they also dig into the data to segment your email list and to use that data to hyper-target your customers.
14. Amazon marketing
As with many of the other specialisms on this list, Amazon marketing is difficult to get right and can require a large amount of expertise. Part of the reason for that is that so much goes into it. It’s not just a case of writing a decent product description.
In fact, Amazon marketing brings together many of the other skills that we’ve talked about, but the difference is that they each need to be tailored to Amazon’s own algorithm. An SEO specialist knows how to work with the Google algorithm, but it takes an Amazon marketing agency to understand how Amazon’s algorithm works.
The same is true for pay per click advertising, which can be carried out on Amazon’s AMS system. Of course, the important thing to remember is that Amazon marketing will only make sense if you have a product that’s listed there.
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15. Diversity and inclusion marketing
Diversity and inclusivity is a hot topic in today’s day and age, and with good reason. People want to feel as though they’re represented in everything from the movies they watch to the marketing that they consume.
But inclusivity isn’t just something that magically happens, and you need to actively work at it if you want it to become an important part of your business as usual. That’s why it can be a good idea to hire an agency to help you out.
The good news is that I have an agency that focuses on the messaging both internally and externally around a company’s goal to drive more diversity and inclusion in their marketing messages. You can learn more about them here.
16. Hybrid marketing
Hybrid marketing agencies bring together one or more of the different types of marketing together to offer multiple different types of marketing from a single provider. For example, some agencies excel at marketing strategy and then once the strategy has been built, they can then handle the implementation.
Many of these hybrid marketing agencies also have a number of partners that they work with so that they can bring in any additional skills that are needed, whether that’s website development, app development, paid ads or SEO.
There are both advantages and disadvantages to this approach. It means that you’ll spend less time vetting agencies and sending out RFPs, but you might not get the same high level of service that you can expect from going with a specialist agency.
Now that you know a little more about the different types of agency that are out there, you’re ready to make a decision about whether to hire one and, if so, which kind of agency to hire.
Hiring an agency can make a lot of sense because they can help you out by providing additional resources and bringing in external expertise that you don’t have available in your company. They’re more expensive than hiring a dedicated employee, but you don’t have to worry about additional costs like recruitment, paid sick leave and personal development.
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