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What does a marketing agency actually do?

When I started working at 2 Fish Co. about a year and a half ago, I found it hard to explain my job to my friends and family.

In addition to wondering what the position of “content developer” entailed, they expressed confusion about what a marketing agency actually does. I did my best to answer them in the moment, but I would find myself vaguely listing services, which often didn’t clear anything up for people completely unfamiliar with marketing. Terms like “digital marketing,” “brand development,” and “marketing automation” just resulted in blank stares or perplexed expressions.

The question “what does a marketing agency do?” is a little complicated, and the answer really depends on the individual agency.

If you have some understanding of marketing or you’ve read our blog “What is marketing, anyway?”, you know that marketing is all about the 4 Ps: Product, Price, Place, and Promotion. (The 4 Ps are also known as the “marketing mix.”) Basically, the 4 Ps are the factors that marketers need to consider and use when communicating with and selling to customers. Marketing involves facilitating exchanges by getting the right product or service, at the right price, in the right place. Promotion comes in because the right messages need to be shared with the right audience to generate awareness of and interest in the product.

Because people often equate marketing solely with the advertisements they see in their daily lives, they may think that marketers and marketing agencies are only responsible for promotion. But marketing agencies—in the truest sense of the term—offer support with all 4 Ps. They help with or advise on everything involved with bringing an offering to market, from market research to pricing to distribution to—yes—advertising.

Adding to, or perhaps at the root of, the confusion about what marketing agencies do is the fact that it is extremely common for organizations called “marketing agencies” to more closely resemble advertising agencies. I’m not suggesting that it’s wrong; it’s just the way it is. Promotion is a critical aspect of marketing, and—by my observation—the most frequently outsourced, which may explain this phenomenon.

For marketing agencies that focus heavily on the promotion side of the marketing mix, their role is to develop and execute strategies for raising awareness of, generating interest in, and creating preference for a product or service among customers. Their service areas may include, but often extend beyond, the following:

• Branding
• Website Design
• Digital Marketing
• Social Media Management
• Email Marketing
• Print Material Design
• Search Engine Optimization
• Content Development

At 2 Fish Co, we come alongside marketing professionals or teams who are barely keeping their heads above water—struggling to find time for everything they need to accomplish, not seeing the intended results of their efforts, or both. Oftentimes, they need a helping hand (or a lot of helping hands) with development and execution of promotional strategy but have a handle on the first three Ps. (If they don’t, we’re equipped to assist them with those too.) We help our clients define their marketing communications strategy, and we develop promotional tools (think websites, magazines, emails, social media posts, advertisements, brochures, and more) that help them achieve their marketing objectives.

As previously mentioned, another marketing agency may take a more broad and consultative role, advising on product development, distribution, overall marketing strategy, and the like. Still another might offer those services as well as promotional services.

If you’re shopping around for a marketing agency, trying to decide if you want to work at a marketing agency, or you’re merely interested in learning more about them, here’s the main takeaway: there’s no set list of the things that every marketing agency does. If you asked ten different marketing professionals what a marketing agency does, they’d give you ten different answers. And rightly so. While all marketing agencies work to facilitate exchanges between their client and that client’s customers, the role they play in doing so can vary widely. The best way to know what a specific agency does? Check out the list of services on their website, or give them a call.

Nowadays, when I’m asked about my job by Uncle Mike/Cousin Tim/a random person I met at the gym, I use a variation of the following explanation:

I work at a marketing agency. At 2 Fish Company, we help our clients plan their marketing communications strategy, and we come up with tactics that help them achieve their marketing goals. Day-to-day, we develop communications tools to get our clients’ messages to their customers. Some of the tools we create include websites, magazines, logos, and email campaigns.

Interested in learning more about our team and what it’s like to work with a marketing agency? Check out our chat with the folks at Plannuh on their The Next CMO podcast.

We hope you have a bit better understanding of what marketing agencies do, but there’s plenty that we didn’t have space to cover in our short blog. Have more questions about marketing that need answering? Send an email to shelly@2fishco.com, and look out for future blogs on the subject of marketing!