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How to find an agency: the ultimate guide

A good agency is hard to find – especially with everyone calling themselves an agency these days. This guide was created to help you understand the difference between agencies, which one(s) are right for you, how to vet them, and all the other stuff you've got questions about.

Why do you need an agency?

The first step is getting clear on why you're looking for an agency partner in the first place. A good agency serves as an extension of your team. Perhaps your internal team doesn't have the skill set, depth of knowledge, or capacity that an agency does. That would be a great reason to form an external partnership.

  • Watch out: Are you sure you don't need a freelancer? Companies that have small or limited budgets are better suited to work with an individual or two, versus a team.

Once you know why you need an agency, then it's up to you to put together an RFP or project brief. From there, you'll be in a good spot to reach out to a few different agencies to get a bid.

What are the different types of agencies?

Full Service vs. Specialized Agencies

Full-service agencies offer a range of integrated services. They're experts at seeing the big picture, connecting dots, and are generally great consultants at making sure the thing you ask for is actually the thing you need. They typically have a mix of generalists and specialists who work together in a connected way to help achieve the bigger outcome.

  • Watch out: If an agency leans "too generalist" and does not have a team of specialists, you may need to find other partner agencies who can support more technical needs.

Specialized agencies are more niche, and drill down into a deeper level of expertise. These can be very helpful if you’re looking to get really specific with things like technical SEO or Web3 development. Because full-service agencies tend to be more horizontal and specialized agencies tend to be more vertical, specialization can be particularly helpful if your marketing team or agency has reached their limit of expertise.

  • Watch out: If an agency leans "too specialist" you may be missing out on new, innovative or creative opportunities to grow your business or build your brand. Getting in the weeds is great for highly specialized needs, but not generally for anything highly creative.

Types of Agencies

Ad Agency

These focus on the “big idea” or creative concept that will then be activated across a variety of digital and in-person channels. These are the agencies that tend to lead the Superbowl commercials or large scale campaigns.

Branding Agency

Your brand is more than your logo. It’s how people perceive you at every single touch point. A good brand has a strong story, key messages, and an integrated, cohesive approach to delivering on your brand promise at every moment of the funnel. Branding agencies help you develop a clear distinction from your competitors and give your customers a reason to care.

Creative Agency

These tend to be your full-service agencies, who specialize in infusing creativity into every aspect of your business. From brand-building to ideating large-scale campaigns to making sure your website creates an engaging experience, creative agencies tend to be the through line across all of the disciplines. If you do choose to work with a creative agency like Jumpsuit, make sure they are honest about their limitations and when they’d recommend pulling in a more specialized agency partner.

Digital Marketing Agency

These help you build out your online presence across different touch points. They can build out your entire digital ecosystem from your website, social media, paid ads, and more. There tends to be a wide range in levels of creativity and expertise here, so due diligence is highly recommended.

Traditional Marketing Agency

These are the “old school” marketers as we call them, but still offer a range of services companies still need today. They tend to prioritize print and OOH or physical activations. Think billboards, newspapers, magazines, subways, etc. Over the years, they’ve developed easy ways to reach mass audiences (either by segment or location).

ABM Marketing Agency

These are “Account Based Marketing” agencies who work with high-value services (think real estate, car sales, or other high ticket items). They are also experts at going after a limited, high-value audience (such as Fortune 50 CEOs). These agencies can provide specific skill sets around strategies and tactics that other agencies are unfamiliar with.

PR Agency

A specialized agency that works with the media to make announcements, manage your business’s reputation, hold press conferences, etc. PR agencies are typically leveraged for larger brands but can also be helpful for smaller businesses that are trying to make important announcements or build online credibility.

Production Agency

These agencies can range from a single content format (such as video production) to a full fledged design agency that can handle a range of content from graphic design, website design, app design, and other types of media. These agencies can oftentimes be the hardest to understand the range of prices and approaches. These become extra important to vet as you move into video production with SAG (the union) or web and app design that must adhere to things like HIPPA compliance.

Social Media Agency

These range from generalists to specialists and typically cover a range of Paid and Organic, Community Management, Strategy, Creative Execution, Management, Insights and Reporting. These agencies are established to target specific audiences and make sure your posts are connecting to them, engaging them, and moving them into action. A good social agency should understand the digital landscape surrounding it.

Web, Mobile, and/or Software Design Agency

These, too, can range from generalist to specialist. Some agencies focus on a niche (such as e-comm or Wordpress) while others focus on consulting you on the best approach and building custom solutions based upon what you need. They generally all share some semblance of UX/UI and development, although some design agencies will outsource the development to a more specialized team or agency partner.

Content Agency

These help you develop your content strategy, content plan, content calendar, and content itself. They tend to be content-format agnostic, meaning they’ll create a range of types that range from infographics to video to SEO optimized blog posts to white papers and so on. Be sure to do your due diligence on their level of expertise surrounding channel best practices. 

Media Agency

These help you secure ad placements to reach your audience and tend to span a variety of channels from search to social to television, radio, podcasts, and streaming. They range from being able to build your media strategy, your media plan, create your content, manage your ad spend, and provide insights and analytics on performance. It is rare for a media agency to also be good at creative, though not impossible. Especially the more specialized they are, such as having a deep understanding of TikTok.

Event Agency

These provide in-person activations and experiences with your brand. You often see these at events like festivals, product launches, conferences and tradeshows. They help you design the overall experience of your event from the overall concept itself to the details – such as, how to capture an email and how you’ll follow up. These typically engage specialists and generalist to collaborate on the overall vibe and the granular details, such as projection mapping or speech writing.

Where do you go to find an agency?

Most people prefer to work with agencies that come from a referral. This makes the odds more likely that you'll enjoy working with them if someone else you trust can vouch for them.

Unfortunately, we don't always have that luxury.

Agency Brokers

There are online "agency brokers" like breef who will matchmake brands to agency partners. This is a good option if you're wanting to try someone new.

  • Watch out: Most agencies on breef aren't actually vetted (or well vetted), so breef really does operate as a middle man. The owness will be on you to make sure you feel comfortable with the proposals and agency partner during the interview process.

Independent Networks

By 2027, over 50% of the workforce will be independent. With high agency turnover, tech layoffs, and the introduction of AI into our workflows, the top talent across the world has now been decentralized (good for you!) and, many of which, prefer to collaborate together as a network instead of working entirely solo as a freelancer.

Jumpsuit is one of the most well-known, well-trusted agency networks having worked with nearly 50% of Fortune 50s.

  • Watch out: An independent network should feel like an agency because it is one. Don't be confused by other freelancer broker business models such as Upwork or Fiverr. Freelancers are great when you need a person. Independent networks or agencies are great when you need a team.

How to set your agency up for success

Assuming you've found an agency partner who seems like a good fit, it's up to both of you to make sure expectations are clear, onboarding is exciting and seamless, so that your agency partner can hit the ground running. This will empower them to deliver value as fast as possible, which is critical to building momentum – and trust.

To help, we've put together an interactive Jauntboard, which is a step by step process designed to help you find, vet, activate, and eventually terminate your agency partner. This guide is completely free and we'll continue to optimize it with new content over time!

Best of luck in your search!

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