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By now, you know just how powerful online marketing is and how important it is to take full advantage of the internet in building your business. What you may not know is exactly how to do that, what strategies to use, trends to employ and the plethora of mediums to use to get people buying. There’s a direct link between great digital marketing and successfully selling online, this also means that if you get it wrong your business’s online presence is as good as dead. If you want awesome digital marketing for your business, you’re usually faced with 2 choice
- Take numerous courses and spend thousands of hours (not an exaggeration) trying to DIY the whole process, while balancing running your business as well.
- Hire someone else to do this and save yourself from the special brand of misery that is digital marketing.
Seeing as you’re here, you’re considering the second option, smart choice. Only problem now is, who do you hire? During your search for a partner in this, you’ve probably come across many online marketing agencies referring to themselves as either a creative or a digital agency. This gets confusing when you check out one website and they proudly proclaim they’re the top creative agency in your city, but then the next agency, offering exactly the same services as the first are calling themselves a digital agency.
Are There Differences Between the Two?
As it turns out, there’s quite a lot separating a digital agency from their creative counterpart and both of them play vastly different roles depending on the type of business you have and the growth stage that business is in. By the end of this blog, you’ll know exactly what these two agencies do, their differences, who to avoid and who you need to be talking to for your online marketing needs.
Defining The 2 Agency Types
A digital agency is an online marketing agency that is mostly concerned with lead generation and sales for their clients. They perform tasks like Website SEO, Paid Ads, Content creation (blogs, webinars etc.), Social media management, and Copywriting. They help businesses take advantage of growth opportunities online, leveraging social media, paid advertising and email marketing to tap into the massive amounts of potential customers and create leads and most importantly, sales for their clients. You’ll see digital agencies going beyond advertising quite regularly. They can offer other services like logo design and website creation but it won’t be top shelf, most of the time it will be simple template designs and quick mock ups. These services are usually done to facilitate their lead generating efforts, after all, you can’t do online advertising for a brand with no online presence. Digital agencies tend to work with small to medium sized businesses. Their services can be seen like those of traditional Ad agencies, they play a supporting role to your advertising efforts.
Creative agencies play a role in everything concerning a brand’s online presence. From websites, emails, PR, lead generation, UI/UX, brand identity etc. Creative agencies provide your business with everything you need to exist online. They usually work with larger clients who are looking for the best quality for their brand. Everything they do is of a deeper quality than the digital agencies’, from their website design which usually is custom coded, to their deeply researched logos that can cost upwards of $10,000. Working with a creative agency is a big step for most businesses but its greatly rewarded by the sheer level of attention and quality they deliver for your business.
The Differences Between Them
To help you understand the different roles both agencies play, it’s best if I give you a simple analogy. Imagine your business’s online presence is a house. Digital Agencies are like interior designers. Their efforts can single handedly transform your building into the envy of everyone that visits it and boost its value massively. However, like real world interior designers, they won’t handle the more structural aspects of the building, they can do the plumbing to connect your sink and shower but won’t run the plumbing of the whole house to the city sewage system nor put the insulation in the walls. Digital agencies will create awesome email campaigns for your business and design them but it’s usually up to you to get your own email provider and keep your emails running, similarly they will create beautiful Ads for your website but it’s up to you to keep your site running properly. They assist you in building your online advertising but beyond marketing, tend to play minimal to no part in keeping things going. Creative Agencies on the other hand will build the entire house for you, from the foundation all the way to the landscaping on the front lawn. If you’re looking to build your business’s online presence, you can hand over the stress of building, launching and running your site to them and focus on delivering to customers. Some creative agencies will even help you run customer support for your site as well. Their expertise makes them great partners in building your business online as they have connections to other businesses and experts that can really make the difference in your success or failure.
Which Is Right for You:
Which agency you choose should depend on the unique conditions of your business. However, to help you make that choice, here are a few key criteria you should be considering.
If you’ve got a healthy business and a very nice offline client presence but are looking to take advantage of more opportunities online then you should definitely consider working with a digital agency. If, however, you are an ecommerce, tech business or even a more traditional store and believe that your online presence is critical with the vast majority of your customers interacting with you through online mediums then you definitely need the services of a creative agency. Be honest with yourself over how your customers interact with your business and how deep you really need to go with your online commitments, a local mechanic garage trying to get more clients within their city through paid ads does not need the same online presence as a global clothing ecommerce store trying to reach and sell to an entire continent.
Scope Of Work to Be Done:
There are times when a large multinational only needs the help of a digital agency while complete startups would be better served hiring a creative agency instead, it’s all about how much work you need done. If you’re the marketing manager of a large company with a new product to launch, you may find your team bogged down with so much work that you’re falling behind on your email newsletters, you can easily bring in a digital email agency to handle this for you while you focus on your work. They substitute for hiring new team members that won’t be needed in a few months’ time when things get back to normal. You could also be a solopreneur starting a golf equipment drop shipping business, there’s so much to get done that you’d be a bit nuts not to hire a creative agency if you can afford one. No sense using half a year setting up and launching your business when they could come in and do a better job in weeks, plus the connections they have from prior clients and experts will be a huge boost to your business.
Your Experience Level:
Do you have previous experience in digital marketing? If you’re comfortable with it or even worked in roles before then you’re more likely to choose a digital agency as you can have them pick up the slack where you aren’t proficient. If you’re great at social media or writing articles and want to do that for your business but don’t know about SEO or optimum posting strategies, a digital agency can come in and fill those roles for you. Creative agencies are less likely to allow you to pick apart their services like this so you either trust them to handle everything on social media or you go with a digital agency if you want to do it yourself but need support.
A Quick Warning:
You already knew this but neither of these agencies run off friendship and good vibes. You’re going to have to pay for the work you need done, the more work, the more you pay. That being said, you really need to be careful when working with certain digital agencies. There’s been an explosion in the popularity of SMMAs (social media marketing agencies) and there are a lot of young people who see it as a get rich quick opportunity. A quick search on YouTube will spawn numerous fake guru videos focused on how much you could be making and the ‘Lambo lifestyle’ vs how to actually do the job and deliver for clients. These kids will charge you well over $1000 for simple Facebook ad strategies they picked up online just last week. They’re banking on you not knowing enough or being too busy to do it yourself, either way, there are a lot of people losing tons of money due to their mediocre work. Good agencies are never cheap and cheap agencies are never good but a few manage to be neither good nor cheap. You can’t use price alone to judge the skills of any agency. Do proper research, ask for case studies and when you see a company they worked for, please give them a quick call, it’s just one question to confirm that the case study isn’t a fake. It takes a minute of your time but could save you thousands. Its really astonishing how little vetting happens online even though it’s never been easier to do it. This issue is less common with creative agencies but you still need to do due diligence and make sure they can deliver right now. Many companies have been around for over a decade and rely on wins from the previous 5 years to boost their profile. The internet is nowhere the same now as it was 5 years ago so you need to make sure they have recent case studies and proof that they can deliver. Which they should, when you consider all the responsibilities (and cash) you’ll be giving them.
Creative and digital agencies can be separated on so many levels but at the same time they’re both trying to do the same job, make sure your business succeeds online. One plays a niche/supportive role while the other is much more encompassing but regardless of why you need their services, the fact you understand that the digital marketing space is a massively complex beast and you’re seeking professional help taming it rather than stumbling around is a huge win in itself.