What to Look for in a Marketing Communications Agency

The definition of Marketing Communications varies, so let’s start there. Marketing communications is the messages and assets your company develops to engage with its stakeholders. Your company’s marketing mix comprises the channels you use to reach your target audience.

Marketers often say how “noisy” it is out there. This noise is the promotional clutter—emails, texts, social posts, advertisements, push notifications, and more—that we sift through to get to the content that truly engages us. Marketing noise inundates, tires, and distracts your company’s target audience from engaging with your brand.

There are a lot of complexities to balancing the right marketing communications strategies and channel mix to meet your business objectives. Whether you’re a large organization with a robust internal marketing team or a smaller company with staff that wears multiple hats, you don’t need to go to it alone. If you need an extra set of hands—and minds—to get you where you want to go, an outside marketing agency may be a good solution.

If you’re considering outside support and are unsure where to begin, here are a few tips on finding the marketing communications agency that is right for you.

What types of services do you need from a marketing communications agency?

What you look for in a marketing communications agency depends on your immediate and long-term goals, internal marketing infrastructure, budget, contractual preferences, and success factors. Take these steps before you reach out to a prospective marketing partner.

Team gathers for marketing brainstorm meeting

Assess Your Immediate Needs 

First, assess whether you need more strategic consulting and ideation, campaign management and execution, or marketing asset creation. For example, do you need more guidance on building a marketing communications plan that aligns with your business growth goals and optimizes your marketing channel mix? Are you looking for innovative ideas to implement a specific marketing initiative or milestone campaign? Do you want to develop more compelling visual assets to tell your brand story?

Evaluate Your In-House Capacity

Next, determine if your in-house communications professionals can execute a more expanded marketing communications strategy. Do you need an outside agency to be an extra set of hands to support your internal team or perform marketing functions on your behalf? Do you have a strong marketing director or leader who can manage an outside agency? Consider a marketing communications agency with proven project management skills, communications experts who will complement your team, and long-standing vendor relationships. 

Determine Budget & Relationship Preferences

Be realistic. Determine if project-based or retainer-based pricing is right for your company. Project-based pricing is when a client pays an agency for a specific project. Retainer-based pricing is when a client pays an agency for a set number of hours or days each month. What are you willing to commit to? A retainer may be better if you’re looking for an agency partner to immerse themselves in your business and brand for the longer term. If you’re looking for marketing expertise to design, develop, or execute marketing assets or manage a specific campaign or initiative, a project-based pricing model, or hourly rate structure, may be the way to go.

Determine Your Success Metrics

What will constitute success for you? Know this upfront so there are no surprises. Success factors aren’t just about click-throughs and open rates. For example, success might look like your staff becoming more engaged with promoting your marketing efforts. It could also be that your company’s thought leaders are building a deeper presence in your industry, feeling heard, and recognized for their expertise. You’re curating and optimizing more compelling content that boosts your SEO (Search Engine Optimization) and rankings. Or your marketing is a well-oiled machine.

Think and Look Ahead 

Do you like building long-term, mutually rewarding partnerships? When searching for an outside agency partner to support your immediate goals, ask what other communications services they offer. You may need access to these services down the line. A one-stop-shop can help you to build—and streamline—a long-term mutually rewarding agency relationship. For example, beyond marketing communications, Castle offers clients public relations, event management, public affairs, crisis communications, and social media services.

What does a marketing communications agency do? 

Not all marketing communications agencies offer the same services. The agency you choose should provide the internal experts and services that align with your current—and future—goals, support or complement your internal marketing infrastructure, and help tell your brand story in the best possible, most effective ways.

A marketing communications agency can help you build and execute innovative ways to break through the marketing noise with integrated marketing strategies like optimizing your marketing channel mix, crafting more unique and compelling brand stories, building more authentic, mutually rewarding stakeholder relationships (internally and externally), leveraging thought leadership and information sharing, tapping into timely trends and topics, and harnessing the power of good visual content.

Here’s a helpful list of what marketing communications agencies do—from ideation, strategy, and management to creative services.

  • Advertising
  • Branding
  • Campaign management
  • Communications plans
  • Content creation
  • Copywriting/editing
  • Creative (art direction, graphic design, asset development, etc.)
  • Direct marketing
  • Email marketing
  • Events
  • Ideation
  • Marketing audits
  • Messaging
  • Packaging
  • Podcasting
  • Public relations
  • Social media 
  • Sponsorships
  • Strategy
  • Theming
  • Video production
  • Website design & development 

Why hire a marketing communications agency?

You should hire a marketing communications agency if your company needs support with strategizing or implementing marketing strategies that align with your business goals, including:

  • Amplifying your messaging strategy and brand story
  • Breaking through the noise with integrated marketing strategies
  • Curating compelling content and visuals
  • Exploring effective ways to communicate with your internal and external stakeholders
  • Informing, engaging, and influencing your stakeholders
  • Optimizing your marketing channels
  • Promoting your products and services to existing and prospective customers
  • Reinforcing brand awareness

5 factors to consider when choosing a marketing communications agency

Now that you’ve assessed your immediate and long-term goals, internal marketing infrastructure, budget, contractual preferences, and measurement for success, here’s a recap of the factors to consider when choosing an outside agency marketing partner. 

1. Marketing & communications experience

A marketing agency with the right expertise, services, and partners can help you and your internal communications team develop and implement innovative ways to reach your target audiences. Marketing communications agencies offer skilled ideation experts and creatives, integrated marketing strategists, marketing managers, branding experts, channel experts, messaging strategists, content developers, asset builders, storytellers—and more. Finding an agency that complements your internal team and supports your business goals is important.

2. Services offered

Marketing agencies specialize in distinct types of services. Determine what functions your internal team does well and where it may need complementary expertise. Are you looking for ideas or strategies that your in-house team will execute or a full-service agency that can execute marketing functions on your behalf? See the section above for a list of services and expertise offered by marketing agencies.

3. Transparency & communication

Avoid potential conflicts or bad feelings by discussing what a successful relationship means to you. Do you have an internal person who will manage an outside agency, or do you want the agency to manage you and your internal team? Be transparent about what you’re looking for. Discuss the pros and cons of the potential relationship with your team and prospective agency. 

4. Clients & partnerships

Not every agency is a one-size-fits-all—and that’s okay. Even if an agency doesn’t offer every skill you need, they will likely have trusted partners to fill in the gaps. Ask questions and get references from past clients and vendor relationships.

5. Budget & costs

When talking with a communications agency, ask what contractual arrangements they are accustomed to or willing to make with your company. Will the agency only work on retainers, project pricing, or hourly rates? This will affect your budget and commitment level.

Get started with the best marketing and communications agency for your needs

Developing an integrated marketing strategy can be overwhelming. Bringing in a marketing communications agency can provide a fresh perspective on your content, marketing mix, and execution strategy.

The Castle Group, Chief Marketing Officer, Deborah Spencer
Written By: Deborah Spencer


Outdoors of the Castle Group office