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From PR Agencies to SEO Specialists and everything in between, marketing is a broad, varied and often confusing discipline. Here is an explanation of who does what, and which marketing supplier you should use for which job.

Advertising Agency

These were the main suppliers back in the 1970’s and 80’s when there were fewer options for spending your budget. Think of Saatchi and Saatchi, probably the best known in the UK, with their big, creative ideas for press, poster and TV ads. They have creative departments doing design and copy, and planning departments negotiating rates with media owners.  Most advertising agencies are now more general and include other services including branding, PR and web design.

Choose an ad agency when you want great, eye catching press adverts or memorable TV and radio ads.

Graphic Designer

This is the visual specialist. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: it is always worth spending money on professional design. Graphic Designers are trained and tend to specialise in brand design and design for printed material such as brochures, posters and exhibition stands. They may also design websites or work for web design agencies.

Choose a graphic designer when you need a professionally designed logo or consistent material for the outside world.

PR Agency

Often thought of as the “fluffy” side of marketing, PR is still important, although it has had to evolve for the internet age. PR is all about getting “column inches” in the press. This can either be through sending press releases to the relevant media or creating events and stunts to generate publicity. Press coverage enhances other marketing activities through the creation of third party, editorial endorsement which always carries more clout that advertising alone. PR agencies often offer other services including social media content publishing.

Choose a PR agency when you want  to raise your profile and increase awareness by being seen in the media.

Market Research Company

Market researchers are used for a number of different types of projects including new product development (chocolate tasting, anyone?), testing different creative approaches, customer service feedback  and customer profiling. It can also be used to find out something interesting to present to the media.

Choose a Market Research company when you need additional insight from users or other groups.

Web Development and Design Agency

The realm of website design can be particularly confusing, because it is technical and constantly evolving. However, you don’t need to know your joomla from your wordpress, you just need to find a company you trust to do what’s right for your business. You will probably need a web designer to make the website look the way you want, as well as being user friendly and effective, and a web developer to make it work properly.

Choose a web designer when you need a new or updated website.

SEO Specialist

SEO is another area which can cause consternation. It is something you can do yourself, but it is time consuming and involves a number of different skills. In addition, it is constantly changing, so if you don’t want to get on the wrong side of Google, make sure your information is up to date or use a reputable supplier to make sure that your site uses best practices to move upwards in the search results.

Choose a SEO Specialist if you want your website to be found easily and frequently online.

Digital Marketing Agency

Online marketing, digital marketing, inbound marketing… basically it’s all about using your online presence – your website, content, social media and paid advertising – to attract prospects and turn them into leads. An agency should be asking you difficult questions about content strategy, regular blog posts, the buying process and audience definition then helping you to produce the content and the process you need to generate leads online.

Choose a Digital Marketing Agency if your audience spends time online and you want your website to earn its keep.


In these days of content marketing, blogging and social media, words are more important than ever. Copywriters can produce tailored content for your website, e-book, blog, brochure, newsletter and so on. While most people can write perfectly good copy when they set their minds to it, the time involved in thinking, planning, getting started, getting finished, editing and proofreading can make it more cost effective to get someone else to do it.

Choose a copywriter if you want regular, well-written content to keep your audience engaged.

Marketing Consultant

A marketing consultant is your trusted advisor when it comes to communication and growing your business. Before you hire any of the other suppliers you need to have a strategic marketing plan, so that you know how you are going to meet your objectives, and a practical, day-to-day marketing action plan so that you know what you are going to do when. From there it is much easier to decide what your priorities are and what additional help you will need. Your marketing consultant should be able help you choose and brief the other agencies you require for your future marketing activity and offer you ongoing support and advice.

Choose a marketing consultant if you need a clear plan to help you focus on the most important areas of your marketing.

Unsurprisingly, I would suggest starting with a marketing consultant, and putting a plan together before even thinking about any of the others. If you’d like to know more, please contact me.

Have I missed any marketing suppliers? Let me know in the comments if you’d like me to add anyone else.

Which Marketing Company should you Choose?
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