What Does a Digital Marketing Agency Do?

Rosie Allabarton, contributor to the CareerFoundry blog

If you’re a small business looking for some assistance with your digital marketing output, or you’re a digital marketing professional curious about the different career opportunities available to someone of your skills and experience, you may be interested in learning more about what a digital marketing agency does. Digital marketing agencies are companies employed by other businesses to manage their digital marketing activities: from designing social media strategy, to informing and executing on the SEO optimization of web pages and content.

Depending on the size and scope of the needs of the client, the digital marketing agency–typically a team of digital marketing experts–will work on both short term campaigns and long term maintenance of a businesses’ digital marketing output to achieve specific and measurable company goals such as boosting traffic, sales, or engagement. 

Here’s a clickable list of what we’ll be covering so you can jump to the section that interests you the most. 

  1. What is digital marketing?
  2. What is a digital marketing agency, and what does it do? 
  3. Why use a digital marketing agency? 
  4. What kind of services does a digital marketing agency offer? 
  5. Types of digital marketing agency
  6. How do I become a digital marketer? 
  7. Summary

Curious to learn about digital marketing agencies? Then let’s go, go, go! 

1. What is digital marketing?

Digital marketing is an umbrella term for numerous functions, but typically references the planning and execution of the public-facing digital content for a company, brand, individual, or organization. The goal of the digital marketer is to build trust and boost user engagement with, as well as increase awareness of their client through the consistent publication of high quality digital promotional materials and user, industry, and brand-relevant content. Ultimately, digital marketers plan their campaigns to help a company entice new customers and retain existing ones. 

Want to learn more about the field of digital marketing? Check out this comprehensive guide!

2. What is a digital marketing agency, and what does it do?

A digital marketing agency works on behalf of a business or client to perform the functions of a digital marketing team, or to support an existing in-house digital marketing team. These functions will vary depending on the specific needs of the company they’re working for, but typically involve using omnichannel, multichannel, or single-channel marketing to reach customers and potential customers via websites, blogs, social media platforms, email, and other digital marketing channels

A digital marketing agency may be employed to execute on a strategy already created by a business, or they might be brought on to help advise on strategy, or plan it from scratch. The goal of these innovative strategies is to market products and services online to enhance interaction and ultimately increase sales and revenue. A digital marketing agency might manage social media accounts, optimize website pages, create and publish content for blogs or other publications, or implement SEO strategy to ensure a brand appears highly on search engine results pages for relevant search terms.  

A digital marketing agency will typically employ experts from specific areas of digital marketing in order to offer various specializations and expertise. Those areas might include:

  • Search engine optimization (SEO
  • Email marketing 
  • Content marketing
  • Content and copywriting
  • Social media marketing
  • Search engine marketing (SEM)
  • Data analysis
  • Pay-per-click (PPC) advertising 
  • Mobile marketing
  • Affiliate marketing 
  • Brand management
  • Video creation  
  • Digital PR
  • Marketing automation
  • Graphic design 
  • Conversion rate optimization (CRO)
  • Community management 

3. Why use a digital marketing agency?

The choice to use a digital marketing agency over creating an in-house team (or doing it all yourself) has numerous benefits. Let’s take a look at why you might like to outsource your digital marketing needs. 

You stay on top of trends 

Trends in digital marketing are constantly changing: from the most popular search terms, to search algorithm updates, and popular content formats and styles. Staying on top of these changing trends and predicting future trends are tasks that a digital marketing agency’s team of experts will be routinely performing for all their clients.  

It’s an extension of your marketing team 

For smaller companies, startups, or sole traders, a digital marketing agency can provide either an extension to a small in-house marketing team, or provide a complete marketing package, supporting a company with its collective knowledge of all areas of digital marketing, such as SEO, SEM, PPC ads, and social media marketing. 

When a company outsources its marketing needs to a digital agency, a company with limited marketing resources can rest assured that their marketing demands are in expert hands. 

You benefit from the best digital marketing tools

Digital marketing tools are pretty advanced these days. They can provide detailed and highly accurate insights into customer behavior, search visibility, and a brand’s overall performance on social media, web, and mobile. 

However, although these tools offer a great deal of value to a marketing team or professional, they pose two potential issues to businesses: they can become very expensive, and; they require specialist knowledge to operate.

Not only that, but new digital marketing tools are coming out all the time. It can be a lengthy process determining which ones are worth investing in and, once a tool has been chosen, it then takes more time to learn how to operate it effectively and align its functions with other tools being used by the team. 

A digital marketing agency can help alleviate these issues. An agency will always have a budget set aside for accessing the latest and most impactful digital marketing tools and have its team of marketing specialists trained up in their use to ensure they provide the maximum benefits to your brand or company. The client will pay a flat agency fee, therefore negating the need for further investment in digital tools on top. 

Gain new perspectives and objectivity 

It can be difficult taking a step back from your business, brand, and customers—especially if it’s a company which you’ve built from scratch. Employing a digital marketing agency gives you an opportunity to get some fresh perspectives on your ideas from those who are learning about your business for the first time. An agency is also best placed to identify challenges and suggest or implement effective marketing strategies to overcome them.  

Benefit from years of experience

When you work with an agency, you’re not limited to the knowledge of one or two individuals’ marketing knowledge, you benefit from the collective experience of many experts. Considering the typically wide range of clients that an agency might work with–from large corporations, to startups, to freelancers–it’s likely the agency team will have had experience with a company like yours before and can provide useful pointers and advice specifically for your issues. 

This collective experience also has the benefit of hindsight: they have seen what’s worked before and what hasn’t. Using an agency ensures you can avoid pitfalls typical to your size or industry.

4. What kind of services does a digital marketing agency offer?

We’ve already outlined some of the key services a digital marketing agency might provide its clients. Let’s now take a look in a bit more detail at the specific actions a digital marketing agency might take in order to boost its clients’ traffic, engagement, sales, and revenue.

Search engine optimization (SEO)

SEO is the process of enhancing a website’s content in order for it to be more easily found by users via search engines such as Google and Bing. The more relevant a search engine algorithm deems a website to be in relation to a certain theme or word, the higher up that page gets ranked on a search engine’s results pages (also known as SERPs). When this happens, users searching that search term (or ‘keyword’) see that website first, and are therefore more likely to visit it. 

Within a digital marketing agency, marketing specialists will use the following tactics to improve a client’s SEO, and therefore boost website traffic with interested users:

  • Keyword research
  • On-page optimization
  • Information architecture 
  • Answering common industry search queries with high quality, relevant content
  • Link building
  • Competitor research and analysis 
  • Page navigation
  • Focus on the user experience 

Pay-per-click advertising (PPC)

PPC is a form of search engine marketing (SEM) which brings users to a company website through paid search advertising campaigns, with the long term goal of making the website as visible and easy to find as possible. PPC works by charging the person who has placed an advertisement (in this case, a digital marketing agency or the client) every time a user clicks on one of their ads.

PPC advertising can be a cost-effective digital marketing technique as the advertiser is only charged when a user actually lands on their website, but is not charged for simply running the ad. PPC is also targeted, enabling advertisers to select demographics such as location, language, and type of device. 

Social media marketing

Social media marketing is the process of planning, creating, and publishing eye-catching, engaging, high-value, and relevant content on a company’s social media platforms. These social media channels typically include Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram but, depending on where a company’s target audience is spending most of its time, could also include sites such as LinkedIn, YouTube, Pinterest, Reddit, TikTok, and many others. 

The aim of posting content on social media is to grow an audience, following, or community; build brand awareness and authority, convert and retain customers, and boost company sales. In a practical sense, it’s an opportunity to promote products and services, educate users on what a company both does day-to-day and what it stands for, and engage directly with target users. 

Marketing automation

Marketing automation is what happens when tools and services are used which can automate different marketing activities to streamline activities and goals, enhance efficiency and productivity, and enable the tracking and analysis of large amounts of data. A digital marketing agency can set up marketing automation tools on behalf of a company or client for a range activities related to: 

  • Social media planning, scheduling, and posting
  • Analytics and ROI tracking
  • Conversation monitoring
  • Campaign segmentation
  • Content curation and management
  • Email marketing (email outreach, customer journey emails, and newsletters)
  • Lead generation, analysis, and management
  • Testing
  • Website visitor tracking

Email marketing

Email marketing is the creation of sequences of emails to promote a product, offer, or service to a company’s client-base or users. Creating sequences which align with the customer journey–from the “Welcome” email sequence through to “Sales” emails–the goal of email marketing is to address the user’s needs, solve their problems, and answer their questions at every stage of the journey in order to convert a lead or nurture a sale. 

A digital marketing agency might be asked to produce the copy of emails on behalf of the client, or they might take the client’s emails and build them into a sequence, which is then monitored, tweaked and analyzed using tools such as MailJet, MailChimp, RapidMail, or GetResponse. This technology can help the agency assess the success of each email campaign and continually improve on the results. 

You can learn more about email marketing in this article.

Surveys

Marketing surveys help a digital marketing agency collect data from a client’s target market audience in relation to a specific subject such as pricing, customer expectations, or competitors. It’s a simple and effective way of getting direct feedback from users and providing clients with a better understanding of their users’ needs, wants, and goals. There are numerous types of marketing surveys, but some of the most common ones include: 

  • Buyer persona
  • Competitor analysis
  • Price assessment
  • Sales activities
  • Testimonials
  • Lead generation 

Advertising campaigns

An advertising campaign is a specifically designed strategy or plan that sees the publication or broadcast of a series of advertisement messages that promote a single theme, product, or service and communicate a clear brand narrative. 

Although this is a service that is increasingly offered by digital marketing agencies, it is perhaps more typically associated with advertising agencies. An agency can advise a company on the best approach to reaching its target audience through different media (such as online, television, in newspapers, and on billboards), build a strategy, and execute on each element. 

Content marketing

Content marketing is the production and publication of high-quality text or visual materials which seek to build interest in a company’s products or services while avoiding explicit promotion of those products. This popular digital marketing technique offers users insights and information, builds trust and brand authority, provides a platform for sharing company values or its vision, provides an opportunity to answer common industry or product queries, and enables a brand to become a thought leader and trusted resource in its industry.

A digital marketing agency may advise its clients on content marketing strategy, create a strategy from scratch after extensive consultations with a client, or work with an existing strategy to provide the text or visual materials that company needs to launch, run, and monitor an effective campaign. 

5. Types of digital marketing agencies

Digital marketing agencies come in different shapes and sizes. While some focus on providing extensive SEO services, others specialize in web design, social media, or inbound marketing. Here’s a quick rundown of the different specializations you might find. 

Full-service digital marketing agency

A full-service digital marketing agency aims to meet all of a client’s online marketing and advertising needs in one place. They’ll typically provide a whole suite of digital marketing services from social media strategy, to SEO and much more. In addition to providing these specialist services, a full-service digital marketing agency will build targeted and goal-oriented strategies on behalf of the client which incorporate these individual services.   

Inbound marketing agency

Inbound marketing is when a brand creates content that is inherently valuable to its target audience and inspires long-term brand loyalty, even before a purchase has been made. Frequently, this content helps the brand’s target user overcome common challenges or meet specific goals. An inbound marketing agency specializes in this kind of marketing, commonly creating strategies which rely heavily on content marketing and SEO to attract customers on behalf of their clients. 

SEO agency

An SEO agency specializes in using search engine optimization techniques and methodology to help its clients rank as highly as possible on its SERPs. Techniques an SEO agency is likely to adopt include: keyword research, on-page optimization, information architecture, link building, and by improving the user’s overall experience when interacting with a company’s website. 

PPC agency

A PPC agency specializes in planning, creating, launching, monitoring, and analyzing PPC campaigns on behalf of its clients. As we have seen, PPC advertising is a form of SEM, which brings users to a company website through paid search advertising campaigns with the goal of making the website as visible as possible. PPC advertising works by charging advertisers a fee every time someone clicks on their ad. 

Social media marketing agency

A social media marketing agency is a company that specializes in assisting businesses in the creation and execution of digital marketing campaigns on social media. Some of the activities a social media marketing agency might perform on behalf of its clients include: 

  • Branding
  • Telling the client’s story
  • Defining the target audience
  • Copywriting
  • Graphic design
  • Videography
  • Measuring outcomes
  • Remarketing
  • Customer interaction
  • Planning campaigns
  • Management of all social media channels 

Web design agency

A web design agency is typically composed of a team of design and usability experts who ensure a client’s site both looks beautiful and provides a great user experience. They might work with a client’s existing site or help them build a site from scratch. In addition to art directors and creative directors, a web design agency will usually employ graphic designers, web developers, UX and UI designers, photographers, videographers, illustrators, copywriters, and brand strategists to ensure every aspect of a client’s website attracts their target user and intuitively meets their needs. 

6. How do I become a digital marketer?

We’ve written an extensive guide with all the information you need on how to become a digital marketer, in this article. Let’s take a look at the main tips and takeaways you’ll need to onboard if you’re keen to launch a career in this rewarding, challenging, and diverse field. 

Learn the skills

Learning the skills needed to launch or advance your career in digital marketing will be absolutely key to your future success. Whether you take a digital marketing course, study for a degree in the field, or learn alone with the help of books, podcasts, blogs, and videos, you’ll need to be able to demonstrate to future employers that you know the field, have experience using the tools of the trade, and have on boarded the tangible skills necessary to be an asset to their digital marketing team.

The advantage of completing a digital marketing course, bootcamp, or degree is that, with a certificate of completion to hand, you have tangible evidence of your commitment to and investment in this career choice that will look great to recruiters and further boost your chances of landing a job. 

Build an online presence and portfolio

A solid online presence is worth its weight in gold when it comes to launching a career in digital marketing. You can do this by targeting the platforms you know and enjoy the best and using them to curate creative, original campaigns about topics you really care about. With this as your starting point, you’ll soon find you grow a genuine and loyal following who are actively engaged in what you do. If the area that you’re interested in posting about is already oversaturated, consider targeting a niche of that industry, or focusing on a less well-known aspect in order to stand out from the rest.

It’s also a good idea to blog about your digital marketing journey, what you’ve learned, and what you hope to achieve: this evidence of your commitment to the field and your learning will make another great addition to your job application or interview package. 

Grow your professional network

Some of us might cringe at the idea of networking. However, not only is networking a sure-fire way to ensure you’ll be one of the first to hear about new positions opening up in digital marketing, it’s also a great way to share with and learn from others in the field. Thankfully, the internet has made professional networking a lot easier. You can use social media to follow or connect with others on the same career path, and sign up to professional networking sites like LinkedIn and Xing for both job searches and connecting with both companies and fellow marketing professionals.

Attending in-person industry events such as panel discussions and lectures are still extremely valuable ways to advance your career. You’re much more likely to be remembered by recruiters if they meet you in person than if you send an email, and it’s also a chance to learn about industry trends and changes, too. 

Find a mentor

Finding a mentor can be a great way to speed up the process of both learning about digital marketing and landing your first position. 

Here are some of our top tips for finding a mentor: 

  • Look for someone with experience in your field but who is a few years ahead of where you are right now
  • Reach out to old colleagues whose advice you found valuable in the past
  • Find a course that offers one-to-one mentoring
  • Consider writing directly to professionals you admire on LinkedIn or Xing 
  • Always be polite and demonstrate your appreciation of their time in considering your request
  • If an individual doesn’t have time to mentor you, politely ask if they can recommend any other digital marketing resources that they found helpful in their career
  • Attend industry networking events, conferences, or meetups where you are likely to meet professionals who you could build a mentor-mentee relationship with

7. Summary

In this article, we’ve been exploring and answering the question: what does a digital marketing agency do? We’ve provided definitions of digital marketing and the role of the agency itself as well as how clients might benefit from working with a digital marketing agency over using solely an in-house marketing team. 

In addition, we’ve provided a rundown of the kind of services you might expect from a digital marketing agency, and outlined the different types of digital marketing agency that exist to provide specialist assistance in specific areas. Finally, we’ve offered some tips and advice for those looking to launch careers in digital marketing, from finding a mentor and learning new skills, to growing a professional network.  

As we’ve seen, the role of the digital marketing agency is varied and compelling and both companies and individuals can benefit from working with them. The advantages an agency can provide include streamlining activities, boosting efficiency and productivity, providing extensive experience and expertise, and implementing and supporting in-house processes. 

To learn more about launching a career in digital marketing, sign up for this free, 5-day Intro to Digital Marketing short course

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