Your Guide to Different Types of Marketing Agencies (and how to choose the best fit for your business!)

people working in a conference room

Finding the right fit (whether it’s Tuff, a different agency, or in-house hires) that can step in and help you hit your goals requires due diligence. Ane while no one type of agency is inherently better than another, there are certainly some types of agencies that are better suited to your company’s needs than others. 

If you’ve decided to hire an agency, this guide exists to help you understand which type of marketing agency could be the best fit for your business. We’ll give you a rundown of all the different types of marketing agencies out there today, exploring the services they offer and the value they bring to the table. 

Let’s take a closer look at each of these different types of agencies below: 

  • Advertising Agency
  • Account-Based Marketing Agency
  • Brand Marketing Agency
  • Creative Marketing Agency
  • Digital Marketing Agency
  • Growth Marketing Agency
  • Paid Media Marketing Agency
  • Performance Marketing Agency
  • Specialized Marketing Agencies e.g. SEO Agencies, TikTok Agencies

Advertising Agency

Advertising agencies are the prototypical marketing agency. They create commercials for traditional mediums including print advertising and TV ads and typically work with larger, more mature brands. It’s their job to draft snappy ad copy, create aesthetically-pleasing artwork, and secure premium slots on popular platforms and channels. 

Seen Mad Men? That’s an advertising agency. Today’s ad agencies work a little differently from the old-school world of Don Draper, but their core focus remains the same. But while they bring creative genius to your marketing collateral, advertising agencies often lack the technical capacity to manage complex, multi-channel digital campaigns. 

If you’re looking to boost brand awareness using traditional marketing channels, an advertising agency might be a good fit. But if you need a digital-first approach, you’d likely be better served by a different type of agency. 

Account-Based Marketing Agency

Account-based marketing strategies take a customized approach to each of your customers. The goal is to implement “land and expand” strategies to grow your business with clients over time. You do this by taking a very customized approach to serving each client. 

When you work with an account-based marketing agency, they’ll closely align your sales strategy with your marketing strategy. They’ll give you the tools you need to create meaningful long-term relationships with your customers, helping you maximize revenue per customer. An account-based marketing agency also focuses on identifying decision-makers and investing in strategies that can sway their opinion in your favor. 

If your business has a small number of clients that are responsible for the majority of your revenue, an account-based marketing agency is a good fit for you. They’ll be able to minimize churn and help you grow your existing accounts. However, if you’re more focused on attracting new users to drive revenue, account-based marketing probably isn’t the best fit for you. 

Brand Marketing Agency

Brand marketing agencies specialize in creating and launching brands. There are various elements to the work performed by brand marketing agencies. They’ll help you define the core value proposition of your brand and will develop visual assets and messaging that portray this to consumers. 

If you’re going through a rebrand, you might work with a brand marketing agency to design a new logo and refresh your branded content. Working with a brand marketing agency tends to be a project-based engagement: once the branding and messaging are delivered, the partnership usually ends. 

Branding comes before other types of marketing. Before embarking on large-scale marketing campaigns, it’s worth partnering with a branding agency to ensure your brand is well-positioned for success. Think of brand marketing agencies as stylists – they’ll ensure your brand is looking sharp before you head off to the main event: your growth strategy.  

Creative Marketing Agency

The term “creative marketing agency” is a bit of a catch-all term. Creative agencies can either be full-service: meaning they provide a wide range of marketing services, or more focused on delivering creative assets. 

Full-service creative agencies provide a range of different services: they can support everything from design to ad buying. These agencies tend to have large teams with specialists focused on different service areas. Partly because of this, they can be expensive to work with. 

Smaller creative agencies focus on working with brands to produce creative assets that can be used in marketing campaigns. Depending on the focus of the agency, this could be anything from redesigning the brand’s website to producing new collateral that the brand can use in social media ads. 

Recent years have seen some agencies (including Tuff!) start offering in-house creative services to bridge the gap between campaign management and creative. This approach marries creative with data: delivering better, more efficient creative in a much shorter time frame. 

Digital Marketing Agency

Digital marketing agencies are among the most prevalent types of marketing agencies you’ll see as you explore the agency space. Most digital marketing agencies provide a wide range of services across different marketing channels. Common service areas include Pay Per Click (PPC), social media marketing, content marketing, email marketing, and more. 

While some digital marketing agencies cover every online channel, some are more specialized, only focusing on one or two channels. There are pros and cons to both approaches: a full-service digital marketing agency might lack the channel expertise a specialized agency brings, but equally, having a full-service agency ensures a consistent customer experience across your entire marketing funnel. 

One thing to keep in mind is that digital marketing agencies are more tactical than strategic in their execution. The best digital agencies bring a nuanced, strategic approach that combines multiple digital channels in one marketing funnel, but this isn’t always the case. But if you have a proven growth strategy and want to optimize execution, a digital marketing agency could be a good fit. 

Growth Marketing Agency

Growth marketing agencies build efficient, scalable marketing strategies that use a combination of marketing tools to build a sustainable long-term growth strategy. To do this, growth marketing agencies test a wide variety of acquisition channels, doubling down on the channels that work and cutting the ones that don’t. 

When you work with a growth marketing agency, you can expect your partnership to begin with a short research process. This time helps the agency understand which channels work best for your business, identify low-hanging fruit, and map out your growth marketing funnel. 

After your campaigns have launched, growth marketing agencies rigorously track the performance of every marketing channel and asset, using this data to constantly improve the effectiveness of your strategy. 

Paid Media Marketing Agency

Paid media agencies primarily focus on programmatically buying digital advertising on platforms like Google, Facebook, TikTok, and more. Many paid media marketing agencies focus on a particular type of paid media marketing, such as Search Engine Marketing (SEM), while others offer a wider range of media buying services. 

Paid media marketing agencies are often channel experts in their respective areas. If you have an existing Google Ads strategy that you’re looking to scale, the expertise of a paid media marketing agency can help lead that process. They’ll refine your targeting criteria, optimize your bidding strategies, and rewrite your ads to unlock performance improvements. 

However, if you need a strategic partner with the capacity to quarterback your entire growth strategy, a paid media marketing agency likely isn’t the best fit. These agencies bring tactical expertise when you’ve already determined the best growth levers: not the strategic chops to envision multi-strategy campaigns. 

Performance Marketing Agency

Performance marketing agencies are similar to paid media marketing agencies, with one notable distinction. While many paid media marketing agencies work on a retainer basis, performance marketing agencies typically charge a percentage of ad spend, revenue, or profit. 

If you need a data-driven partner that’s going to dive into the details of your Facebook Ad campaigns, a performance agency might be a good fit. They’ll take ownership of your campaigns and aim to hit certain performance benchmarks, such as Return on Ad Spend (ROAS)

To achieve these metrics, they’ll constantly tweak your campaigns to squeeze out every last ounce of profit. But again, much like with paid media marketing agencies, if you’re looking for a more holistic approach, you’d likely be better served by a different type of marketing agency. 

Specialized Marketing Agencies

As new marketing channels emerge, specialized marketing agencies pop up to cater to the growing community of brands who want to advertise on these platforms. One recent example is TikTok – a platform with huge growth potential for all kinds of brands, from coding boot camps to eCommerce stores. 

These specialized agencies only focus on one marketing channel. This approach often means they offer domain expertise that other marketing agencies are unable to match. While it wouldn’t be wise to have a specialized marketing agency act as your sole marketing agency, working with these agencies makes sense if you’re willing to try out new channels. 

Which type of agency is best for your business?

Now that you’ve read this guide, you might have some initial thoughts about which type of agency is best for your business. It’s an important question: one that will shape the future growth strategy of your business. 

Don’t feel like you have to definitively choose one type of agency before venturing out and starting to speak to potential partners. You should talk to different types of agencies to get a feel for which one is best for your company. A great marketing agency––regardless of what type of agency they are––will be able to clearly communicate the impact they can have on your business.