Have you ever seen a company so mysterious you can’t even tell what they do? They probably have some vague label that sounds like it came straight from an online business name generator. You’ve never heard anyone say they work there. Maybe you try to sneak a peek through the windows, but they’re tinted so dark that all you see is your own reflection, and then a masked guard bursts through the steel doors to chase you off.
That’s precisely what it’s like to try figuring out what a marketing agency does.
Okay, so I may have exaggerated just a little, but the point is that a marketing agency can be a mighty mysterious entity if you don’t have a friend on the inside. Lucky for you, that’s what I’m here for.
Today, I’ll tell you exactly what a marketing agency is, what it does and why you might need one — all without making you peek through tinted windows. Here we go!
Portrait of a Marketing Agency
Let’s be honest: The term “marketing agency” isn’t super specific. It probably gives you a basic idea of the business we’re in, but it’s keeping the rest under tight wraps.
That’s not because we’re trying to be mysterious. It’s because every marketing agency covers a lot of ground. The Grand Council of Marketing, which is totally a real thing, decided long ago that it would be easier to agree on one general title than to try condensing the entire essence of marketers into a few short words.
The result? I get to write blogs like this, painting a portrait of a marketing agency so you know who we are and what we do. The Grand Council hands this task through generations of content writers, and now it has been entrusted to me. (Yep. Totally a real thing.)
Here are the basics:
What is a Marketing Agency?
A marketing agency, also known as a marketing firm, is a company responsible for helping shape your marketing strategy and campaign. We use various tools, content types, best practices and channels to get your message across. In short, we’re storytellers — and your company is our main character.
Traditional vs. Digital Marketing Agency
If you’re looking for modern marketing service including content marketing, email marketing, social media marketing and more, you need a digital marketing agency. Most use technological means of communication to get your company in front of the right people. This differs from the traditional approach, which relied exclusively on things like cold calls and direct mail marketing.
However, that doesn’t mean you have to give up on methods that are working for you just because they don’t count as digital marketing. What you need is a full-service marketing agency — a partner who can help you create a consistent campaign that will support your business goals across all kinds of different channels.
Partnership vs. Contract
Speaking of partnerships — is every marketing agency interested in being your partner?
The short answer is no.
Of course, all creative agencies want your business, but some of us (and I’m not naming names) are only interested in getting you to sign on that dotted line. After that, you become just another number — a faceless, impersonal account that gets passable marketing service and is expected to be grateful for it.
The rest of us want to be your agency partner. We want to have conversations, learn your business goals, create a campaign that complements your existing marketing efforts and truly tell your story. You’re more than a client; you’re a priority. That’s how you tell a good marketing firm apart from a not-so-good one: Are they asking questions to personalize your campaign, or are they hitting you with cookie-cutter marketing efforts?
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5 Key Functions of a Marketing Agency
Congratulations on learning what a marketing agency is — now you get to find out what we do. Here are just a few key functions you should expect from any modern marketing service:
1. Marketing Strategy and Campaign Planning
A real agency partner helps you build a marketing strategy around your business goals, then creates content to empower that strategy. We also use real data to keep an eye on key performance indicators and make improvements where necessary. Perhaps most importantly, we learn the story you want to tell and help spread it to eager listeners everywhere.
2. Content Marketing
Content marketing is one of the most important things a digital marketing agency can offer — and I’m not just saying that because I’m a content writer. In fact, a majority of successful brands spent up to 70% of their marketing budget on content marketing in 2021, and 72% of companies plan to expand their content marketing budget throughout 2022.
That means your campaign needs content — and a marketing firm can provide it.
Of course, content isn’t all about writing catchy headlines and making up things like the Grand Council of Marketing. It’s about answering your audience’s questions and providing valuable material they’ll keep coming back to, which is a big part of inbound marketing. It’s also about creating a brand personality, aligning with other parts of your marketing strategy or campaign, putting your products in a good light and more. With that kind of responsibility on your shoulders, it makes sense to call in the experts at a digital marketing agency.
3. Email Marketing
Email marketing is, of course, a part of content marketing — it’s just a highly specialized one. That’s because it takes a different kind of research to create contact lists, plan an email nurture campaign, come up with subject lines people will actually pay attention to and then communicate your ideas in about 200 words.
The truth about email marketing is that it can be a great way to stay in contact with a current or prospective client. However, it can also come across as spammy and overly sales-focused — which means you need a solid campaign and a great marketing team to make email marketing work for you.
4. Social Media Marketing
Social media has a key role to play in every modern marketing strategy. Why? Well, aside from being a creative way to leverage content marketing, social media is also used by just over half of the global population — all of whom spend more than a third of their internet time on one of these platforms. (That’s according to Neal Schaffer, who, in all his digital marketing mastery, was recently a guest on our podcast.)
Luckily, you don’t have to be an expert in every platform to use social media to your advantage. A marketing agency partner can help tailor your marketing strategy to fit different social channels, from the unique language of Instagram to the short-form majesty of a good Tweet. We can also help you keep up with whatever comes next (looking at you, TikTok).
5. Search Engine Optimization
Search engine optimization, or SEO, is something your company should never have to live without. It helps provide every client with the answers they need and even improves your overall marketing strategy. For example, a well-optimized landing page can help bring traffic to an eBook or infographic, which can feed data to your email marketing campaign and so on.
But a lot goes into SEO. You need an SEO strategist to do the background research, compare competitor approaches and empower content writers to include the right keywords. You need content writers who can appeal to search engines and readers at the same time (that means no keyword-stuffing). You need graphic designers, project managers, creative leaders — the list goes on.
Simply put, you need a marketing agency partner.
Totally Unbiased Benefits of a Marketing Agency Partnership
I know what you’re thinking: “How can we trust you, a content writer at digital marketing agency Brafton, to explain the benefits of working with an agency partner?”
That’s a valid concern. Or at least it would be, if I hadn’t made a solemn vow to the Grand Council of Marketing to speak only the truth about my craft.
In all seriousness, here are just a few totally unbiased benefits of having a full-service marketing agency on your side:
When it comes to your brand story, you can’t trust just anyone. Luckily, you can always count on a marketing agency to provide consistently high-quality content, campaign strategies and marketing efforts. That’s because creative agencies have internal review processes and dedicated account managers to make sure everything is just right before an asset or campaign plan is sent to you. Good companies treat every client like our only client.
You shouldn’t have to choose between quality and speed. When you partner with the right marketing agency, you’ll be able to rely on your creative and strategy teams to deliver assets on time without cutting corners. We can even help you navigate tight turnaround times and unexpected content needs, creating a marketing strategy that’s as reliable as it is flexible.
Have you ever gotten an incredible idea for your brand but felt like you couldn’t put it into words? A full-service marketing agency can work with that. By having in-depth conversations, exploring your ideas from multiple angles and bringing our creative experts into the conversation early on, we can help you turn the vaguest thought into a tangible asset with real-world benefits. We’re all dedicated to bringing your visions to life (even if you don’t know what those visions are just yet).
We’re not here to think inside the box. Truly creative agencies want to help you take careful but rewarding risks, leveraging color combinations, word choices, formats and even social media approaches that have never been seen before. With an agency partner, innovation is just an email away.
If you take away all the deadlines, algorithms, costs and expectations, digital marketing is actually pretty fun. Of course, those things are part of the deal, which means you usually can’t shrug them off — but a marketing agency partner makes it possible. That’s because we shoulder all those responsibilities and leave the fun stuff to you (whatever that may look like). Whether you’re providing the full script of an animation you want us to create, walking us through a service you’d like to cover in your next email marketing campaign or just telling us you want something “informal but not too casual,” a marketing firm can make it happen.
Marketing Secrets Revealed
A marketing agency may not be the most mysterious business in the world, but we all know we’re working under a mighty vague title. That’s why any marketing firm worth their salt should be happy to pull back the curtain and show you how the magic happens.
And what will you see behind that curtain? Content marketing, email marketing, social media marketing, inbound marketing — a full-service marketing agency does a little bit of everything. It’s all in service of one thing: helping you tell your brand story.
At Brafton, we don’t have any tinted windows or masked guards to help keep our secrets. Actually, we deliver our secrets on a silver platter right to your inbox. Subscribe to our newsletter today for more chances to peek behind the curtain (and to brush up on some incredible marketing tips, too).