In a recent post, Bluetext Creative Director Jason Siegel described the differences between a top digital marketing companies, top marketing companies and top marketing agencies. The answer was in the range of services they provide. In this post, we’ll answer another frequently asked question: What’s the difference between a marketing firm and a marketing agency? This is more than a trivial question, and and it can be confusing. But here’s one reason why it is an important question to address: The term “marketing firms” (as well as “top marketing firms”) is by far the most widely used search term when looking for information on vendors that provide marketing services.
In the traditional use of these terms, there was a real difference. Agencies were typically made up of a collection of “agents,” or independent individuals who operated under one brand for their own marketing and support services. Think about insurance agents who all sell State Farm services but run their own separate businesses. The same is true for real estate agencies and investment services. All sell one brand’s services, but in the traditional sense act as their own companies doing so. Firms, on the other hand, tended to include individuals all working for the same company as employees (or partners). Yet, this hasn’t been the cases in marketing for several generations.
What’s particularly interesting about the use of the term is that most companies that provide these types of services–including Bluetext–don’t refer to themselves as firms, but rather as agencies. There are several reasons why we prefer the term “agency” over “firm”, none of them scientific or based on a common standard of use. First and foremost, a firm implies a smaller group of specialists that provide a limited range of services, in this case in the marketing field. It can be high-level strategy, but often not wide-spread implementation or execution. In other words, it limits the company in terms of perception about what it looks like and what it does. So for example, a research firm will only provide that type of service, while a communications agency might include research in its full scope of services. In the case of Bluetext, we provide a full-range of marketing and communications services–including high-level strategy–that includes implementation and not just consulting.
Second, the term “firm” is more often used to describe a smaller company that specializes in traditional public relations services, so that “PR firm” is an accepted term for those types of service providers. As a provider of a full range of marketing services, including public relations and media outreach, the use of the term “marketing firm” is too limited for what we do. Marketing firms like ours do so much more than that, we cannot take the chance of being confused for a pure-play PR firm.
For clients, it’s important that they recognize this distinction so that when they are looking for the right marketing partner, they know they are getting one with the broadest range of services. We tell our prospects that the advantage of an agency like ours is that once we understand your challenge, the problems you are trying to solve and the successes you are trying to achieve, we can craft an integrated campaign using all of the marketing services that will allow you to reach those goals. That might mean a combination of traditional public relations, content marketing, advertising and paid syndication, and a digital campaign to reach the target audiences. Only a full-service marketing agency can provide that type of solution.
And in today’s communications landscape, there is no one magic bullet to drive customer engagement. It takes a range of options and approaches that require a full-service agency, and not a specialty firm. To learn more about the range of services Bluetext offers and view our Hall of Fame.