The number one thing to understand about outsourcing your marketing is that not all creative agencies are the same. Understanding the different types of agencies and knowing which one your organization is looking for will help you best meet your organization’s goals, saving you money and producing a focused, strategic creative product that will last.

The second thing to realize about outsourcing your marketing is that creative agencies are good at… creative. Not business strategy. If you are unclear about the business problem you need solved, or if you don’t have the fundamentals of your brief organized, such as segments and audience personas, you may need a marketing strategy partner.

But if you know you need a creative partner, it will help you to know that there are four basic areas creative agencies may specialize in.

1. Brand Agencies

Brand agencies help you visually structure your creative to send the right signals to audiences about your organization’s value and place in the market. Brand agencies are kind of like precision carpentry – they’re specific and thoughtful and take the most time of the four types of agencies. Although your organization’s initial brand should be long-lasting, expect to refresh it every couple of years. 

Invest in a brand agency if you’re in a highly competitive industry and want to stand out from your peers. Many organizations will include branding as part of their list of services, but choosing a dedicated, specialized brand agency will help you get the best results.

2. Promotions and Advertising Agencies

Looking to get your audience’s attention? Promotions and advertising agencies specialize in breaking through – they are good at evoking emotions. Their creative work connects to and resonates with audiences quickly with visuals and concise, effective copy. They understand print, digital and out-of-home advertising.

Hire a promotions and advertising agency if you’re looking to attract new customers to your business, drive registrations at an event or deepen product and service uptake (also known as increasing your “share of wallet”). 

3. Web or Digital Agencies

Web and digital agencies marry visual creativity with a technical understanding of how to deploy that creative using the full power of current – and ever-changing – technologies, best practices and customer expectations. The reality is that giants like Amazon and Google set the standard for online experience expectations and your business must fit within those expectations at the right pace and level. If you don’t, you risk falling behind in the perceptions of your audiences. 

Look for a firm that specializes in customer experience design, which includes aspects like web journeys, logins and user flows, to name a few. These are the equivalent of an architectural blueprint, and like any construction project, a “measure twice, cut once” approach to investing in your online customer experience will pay off in the long run, saving time and money and a lot of frustration throughout a project.

4. Direct Marketing Events Agencies

Direct marketing agencies specialize in in-person activation such as company “swag,” or premiums, and creative elements for events (booths, banners, table signs and other collateral). They are good at experiential marketing and use their flair to conjure emotion that is aligned to your organization’s brand in real-world settings. Direct marketing through emails or letter mail can be used to complement experiential marketing efforts. Physical mailings are too often overlooked these days, but they can create valuable engagement of the tactical senses, which are vital in creating a lasting impression.


Some creative agencies will claim to do it all to be supportive and hold onto business. But it is important to find an agency that truly understands your needs in order to obtain the best results for your organization. Sometimes that means working with a generalist, but understanding the different types of agencies will help you be more aware of what to expect. Are you hiring a handyperson who can fix your electrical outlet or an electrician who can rewire your house to bring it up to current code?

Here’s a #ProTip: The best way to assess an agency’s strength is to categorize the work of its three largest clients and read the resumes of the agency’s founding principals. If the principals call themselves “brand marketers” or “digital marketers” it is telling of the whole team’s strengths. 

Use these strategies to find an agency that best suits your organization’s specific goals next time you are outsourcing your creative work. Doing so will save you time and help you stretch your marketing dollar for greatest impact on your results.

About Christine Saunders

Halmyre President Christine Saunders is a marketing consultant to service-based organizations, a strategic advisor to marketing executives and leaders, an entrepreneur and a hobby farmer. Prior to founding Halmyre in 2014, Christine owned a traditional integrated marketing and communications agency specializing in financial services, public services and not-for-profits. Her education is in politics, ethics and philosophy, and she is a proud Maritimer despite living in Upper Canada today.

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