Niche vs Full-Service Marketing Agencies: Compare and Contrast

People working in an agency

A common quandary for businesses that outsource their marketing needs is whether to choose from full-service marketing agencies or niche agencies. And make no mistake, there’s a lot to choose from. In 2018, in the U.S. alone, close to 40,000 marketing agencies were in operation. Depending on an organization’s goals, they may choose to internalize all their marketing functions or to outsource some or all of them. SEO, PPC marketing, and web development are some of the most common functions to be outsourced, primarily because they’re either too time-consuming and costly to be done in-house, or because, in certain industries, exposure to the wider market is crucial to stay abreast of the latest trends

What Is a Full-Service Marketing Agency?

If you’re unfamiliar with the term, a full-service agency is a one-stop-shop, which provides expertise across all or most marketing channels and functions, including branding, content and creative development, social media, PR, and more.

Niche agencies, on the other hand, tend to specialize in one or two services, whether it be web design, SEO, social media, or any other. They tend to focus on their niche and build a reputation around it. 

Compare and Contrast

It can be confusing to decide whether to outsource wholesale or piecemeal. Here are some areas to compare and contrast full-service marketing agencies and niche agencies.

  1. Specialization

The biggest differentiator between the two options is the degree of specialization of their services. The value proposition for full-service agencies is that they provide access to everything you need, all under one roof. However, this can mean lower quality of each service. The focus is on giving the client access to a little bit of everything, and the broader focus makes it harder to specialize in every department. A niche agency, on the other hand, specializing in web design, for instance, dedicates more time and energy to honing its skills in that area. That can result in a higher quality of service. 

  1. Coordination

With outsourced work, communication is key. One of the biggest hassles involved in working only with niche agencies is that to outsource the full complement of your marketing needs, you have to engage with multiple agencies. This means that as a business, you have to brief, manage, and coordinate with multiple separate companies. A full-service marketing agency comes with a dedicated account manager who manages each aspect of the project within their agency to align all the deliverables for you. As the client, this means you only have to deal with one or two people at the agency. When you have multiple agencies on your payroll, your internal marketing manager will likely have to take on the project manager role.

  1. Costing

If you work with a full-service marketing agency, break down the retainer you pay them and attribute a cost to each service you pay them for. Then, compare the cost of each service to the cost of outsourcing it to a niche agency. You’ll likely find your current costs are lower. With greater specialization comes a higher cost. This is one of the biggest reasons why it’s rare for a company to outsource all their requirements to different agencies; it’s just too expensive.

  1. The Big Picture

A significant, and often underrated, advantage of working with full-service marketing agencies is that it’s easier to maintain a focus on your organizational objectives. You only have to brief the account managers and brand managers at the agency once. It’s their job to then ensure that everyone from the content strategists to the paid advertising marketers is aligned with the project goals. Conversely, if you have to coordinate with multiple niche agencies, every time you alter something in the company strategy, you have to go on a briefing spree to ensure all your vendors are aligned.   

  1. Confidentiality

Something else to consider when making this decision is the security of proprietary company data. If you’re in an industry or situation where you have to deal with a lot of sensitive information, you may want to limit the number of people who could have access to it. When you work with a full-service marketing agency, you only have to share your information with one organization. However, if you contract multiple niche agencies, that’s potentially many more teams and people who have access to your data, and therefore, a greater chance of a security breach. 

  1. Dedicated Resources

A hidden advantage of working with just one agency is that they tend to assign certain resources to service your account, and, over time, they develop a familiarity with your brand. This means not just account managers, but also copywriters, designers, SEO and PPC marketers, web developers, and everyone else you have access to in a full-service marketing agency. A better understanding of your brand and your audience allows them to coordinate better amongst themselves, essentially functioning as an extension of your own team. With niche agencies, you end up having to spend time coordinating between your various vendors yourself. 

  1. Messaging Consistency

If you’re a brand aiming for omnichannel presence to establish greater awareness, you have much more communication going out into the market, whether it be via social media, PPC advertising, print, outdoor, events, and everything else. Inevitably, consistency is a massive priority for you. Consistent brands are worth 20% more than those with dissonance in their messaging. A natural benefit of working with a full-service marketing agency is that they tend to automatically maintain uniformity of brand language across your communication because it’s all being done under one roof. On the other hand, if you’ve contracted a niche agency to handle your social media and another to handle your business’ website and content, you may have to work harder to ensure that a consistent message is being put out to your audience.

  1. Strategic Partnership

Something else you get with a full-service marketing agency, especially if you’re working with a long-established one, is strategic input. If they have deep experience in the industry, they can use that to provide advice and perhaps even help you forge useful connections. These agencies will often eschew a higher retainer for a percentage of your profits or media spend, giving them a stake in your success, and you a long-term partner for your growth. With niche agencies, you get what you pay for in the scope of work you’ve outlined. 

Ultimately, your decision of whether to go with a full-service marketing agency or one with a more niche offering will have a lot to do with your own organizational structure and what you want to outsource. If your performance marketing needs are met and you only need the occasional assistance for web development projects, it makes a lot of sense to go with a niche agency that specializes in just that. Inevitably though, you will find the need to outsource some of your functions. In this day and age, it’s become increasingly unusual for a business to handle all its marketing requirements in-house. According to Statista, the global outsourcing market generated $92.5 billion dollars in 2019. It’s a popular option because it delivers results. If you’re keen on managing your payroll costs and you want informed expertise, an agency is your best bet.