Branding and Digital and Full-service, OH MY! Agencies, A to Z

Branding and Digital and Full-service, OH MY! Agencies, A to Z

By now, you’re an expert on the differences between marketing, advertising and public relations. But what about the various kinds of marketing agencies? There are branding agencies, SEO agencies, digital and social media marketing agencies, full service agencies and more. It can be confusing and overwhelming to know which one(s) are best suited to meet your needs.

So let us help you! Here’s a run down of what you can expect from each type and why you should be cautious to hire someone to “do it all” if they clearly only specialize in one specific area:

Branding agency. Branding agencies’ primary focus is to help develop and maintain your company’s brand, or identity, in an effort to differentiate your product or service in the marketplace, and convince people to emotionally invest in it. They do this in a number of ways, including brand positioning, naming, visual design and packaging, and strategy.

SEO agency. An SEO (which stands for search engine optimization, or the process of increasing a web page’s search rankings in order to increase online visibility) agency works to improve search engine rankings. Why does this matter? Because most people turn to the internet for answers, and you want your company’s site to be among the first returned search results. Site traffic can translate into sales.

Digital agency. A digital agency uses non-traditional means—like email, social media, innovative web design, mobile apps and more—to reach your audience. In today’s rapidly evolving digital world, these agencies leverage the ubiquitous Internet to help market your brand creatively.

Social media marketing agency. A more specialized branch of digital marketing, social media marketing uses—you guessed it!—social media to promote your company. An agency with this expertise will create and publish content across platforms, engage with your digital community, and aggregate and analyze data to determine your most effective, popular channels of communication.

Market research agency. Market research is often the first step in developing any marketing strategy. Agencies that provide this service use qualitative and quantitative methods—including focus groups, interviews, direct mail surveys, online surveys and telephone surveys—to determine information about your target market audience and its attitudes towards your product or service. This data is then used to inform your market strategy.

Full service agency. AKA, the big kahuna! Full service (or “integrated”) agencies, in theory, deliver all of the above services. But (there’s always a “but,” am I right?), beware those that claim to be full service. While there are certainly legit, professional full service firms out there, many will say they are when, in reality, they’re not. We see it all the time: agencies market themselves to potential clients as full service, only to specialize in one or two areas and attempt to “figure out the rest” later. These situations can spell disaster for your company if you’re not careful.

Want to know more about what services we provide? Drop us a note and let’s chat! Need some guidance on selecting the right agency for your needs? Our coaches can help with that, too!

How Much Should a Marketing Consultant or Agency Cost?

How Much Should a Marketing Consultant or Agency Cost?

Your business is your baby; you pour your soul into growing it. But—much like raising a literal, human baby—you can’t do it alone. It takes a village.

There’s no question that marketing is an essential part of that village; the right partner will nurture your brand and help realize its full potential. But how much is your marketing worth?

In other words, what can you reasonably expect to pay for quality marketing?

Well, quite honestly, that depends. The size of your business, your industry, what type of marketing support you need (i.e., branding, digital, creative content or a combination of services) and your growth stage will dictate your specific budget. At the same time, you may be looking for someone specific to execute a marketing strategy or provide creative work, like website development, content, social media and designing branded collateral. This is when many businesses reach out to marketing consultants or an agency that can provide full-service marketing. Just like your accounting, it’s smart to keep your marketing in one spot.

Generally speaking, according to the U.S. Small Business Administration, many businesses allocate a percentage of actual or projected gross revenues—usually between 2-3 percent for run-rate marketing and up to 3-5 percent for start-up marketing. I know, as a start-up or small business that sounds like a lot, but it’s necessary.

But no matter where your business lies in relation to these factors, one thing is certain: You have a much greater likelihood of demonstrating a return on investment if marketing is integrated with your daily strategic initiatives—and not treated as an “add on” service.

This is why you should always partner with experienced marketers who understand business operations; marketing your brand is no less consequential than financial management or ensuring product quality, and should be an integral part of your business plan from day one. Beware agencies that lack this foundational knowledge; they will waste your hard-earned money.

OK, now let’s talk specifics.

Marketing consultants typically structure billing in one of two ways: hourly rates or a set project fee. Project fees are calculated by multiplying the anticipated number of hours for a project by the consultant’s hourly rate. Typical hourly rates can range anywhere from $100-250 per hour, depending on the consultant’s expertise, the geographical market and state of the economy.

That might sound like a lot of money, but keep in mind you’re only paying your marketer when you need them and not to just sit and do nothing.

Besides, paying a marketing consultant by the hour—even if they spend 20 hours on one project—is much less expensive than hiring an in-house employee, who will require a salary and benefits.

If you’re balking at the idea of paying $100+ per hour and think you can find a cheaper alternative for, say, $30 per hour on a freelance website, ask yourself this: What is the quality of work you’re getting for that price? How much guidance will they need? How much project management will you have to provide? Where is the ROI?

Full disclosure, we are a branding and consulting agency, so of course, we think that you should pay top dollar.

OK, small joke (comedy is our backup plan) – but this is where we like to really drive home that you truly do get what you pay for.  And at the end of the day, you are paying for experience.

You want a marketing agency staffed with seasoned professionals who approach your business like it’s their baby, too. Agencies that tout experience over flashy bells and whistles are your best bet; skillful marketers work more efficiently (which, when dealing with hourly billing, can save you money in the long run), and are more apt to understand the “big picture.”

Trust us, we know what we’re talking about! Everyone on our team is senior level with over 15 years of experience; we’ve seen it all and can assure you experience matters more than anything.

So when you’re contemplating where you’ll get the most bang for your marketing buck, go with the pros who have a comprehensive, integrated view of marketing and business operations. You won’t regret it.

No… Seriously! What is Marketing?

No… Seriously! What is Marketing?

Since you’re reading this, you are obviously interested in learning more about marketing and/or engaging an agency for your company’s marketing needs.

But—serious question—could you explain to your colleagues or friends what, exactly, marketing is?

If your answer is “ummmm” or “not exactly,” don’t worry. You’re not alone! The truth is, marketing is widely interpreted. Let us break it down for you.

At its core, marketing is the strategic promotion and selling of products or services, and can include branding, creative and content development, external communications and digital support. Think of it as a form of storytelling: marketing employs (some or all of) these services to create stories that grow your business or brand.

Even with a topline understanding of what marketing means, the term is often used loosely and interchangeably to describe public relations (PR), advertising and even sales. Yes, these all share one common goal—to get a product or service to consumers and/or customers—but there are important distinctions between them.

Marketing prepares a product or service for the marketplace. Through targeted market research, branding, content (think editorial support like blogging and copywriting) and collateral (like brochures and packaging), marketing sets the narrative of why a particular business or product is the best in its field. It’s a story tailored to a specific target audience, and it lays the foundation for advertising and public relations efforts.

Advertising, on the other hand, literally communicates the existence of a product or service, and aims to influence buying behavior. It largely relies on paid media placements—on television, online and in magazines—to drive awareness of and interest in a brand, with the end goal of driving sales. (If you’re still unclear, just watch a few episodes of Mad Men).

Like advertising, PR aims to get the word out about a business, product or idea. But it does so in very different ways. For starters, good PR does not involve paid media placements. Rather, it’s all about managing the communication channels between a company or brand and its stakeholders, and driving a positive reputation (versus driving sales). This is achieved through executive visibility campaigns (i.e. getting your client in front of the right people at the right time via speaking opportunities, bylined article placements and more), working with the press to secure media interviews and coverage, as well as crisis management.

This is all to say: Marketing tells a story, advertising sells the story to the public, and PR makes sure everyone is familiar with your story and agrees it’s the best one out there. Got it?!

Hopefully we cleared this up for you, but if not, feel free to drop us a line

PS – stay tuned:  In the next few weeks our leadership team will dive a little deeper on the podcast about this topic!