Yes, actually; a marketing firm is completely different from a marketing agency. A bit confusing, we know, as the two are often used synonymously. But there is a distinct difference between the two, and understanding what that difference is ensures you select the best choice for your marketing needs.
The short of it is that a marketing firm is more specialized than a marketing agency, and a marketing agency is more diverse than a marketing firm.
The long of it?
Firm or Agency: The Definitions
A Marketing Firm is pretty similar to a law firm. You have a number of professionals who all specialize in the same range of services all categorized under one niche (ex. public relations, media, marketing, etc.). They work dependently — together — as one company or organization.
A Marketing Agency, on the other hand, is made up of a group of professionals who—despite being under one company name—often act independently. Much like a real estate agency, the people in a marketing agency have their own clients and services despite representing the same brand.
Firm or Agency: Specializations
Marketing firms specialize in strictly in one or two areas marketing. They provide quality—but often limited—services that fall under those specific areas. More often than not, these services are top-tier marketing strategies i.e., marketing campaigns, marketing approaches, marketing schedules, and so on.
However, they are not extensive—meaning the firm will neither implement nor execute the strategies they come up with; they just create them.
Marketing agencies, on the other hand, offer a wider range of marketing services. They have in-house agents (hence the name) capable of performing different tasks to achieve one cohesive goal. For example, they can create a marketing strategy and then use a combination of SEO, social media marketing, and email marketing to implement it. They may not be as specialized as a marketing firm, but they certainly do have a more extensive repertoire.
Firm or Agency: The Approach
A marketing firm has a focused, very dedicated approach to their goal. Just as a PR firm would have employees capable of implementing PR campaigns for clients, a marketing firm’s employees implement strictly marketing campaigns of one type of marketing. So if the firm specializes in social media marketing, they can help you create a social media marketing campaign and they can probably handle your social media accounts, but that’s it. They won’t optimize your social media page for search engines, as that’s already touching the area of SEO.
Meanwhile, a marketing agency has a more comprehensive approach. They have in-house talent capable of conducting different marketing-related services that ultimately contribute to achieving your marketing goal. So say you want a social media marketing campaign. They have experts who can create a campaign for you, experts who can handle your social media accounts, and experts who can optimize your social media page for search engines.
In the end, there is no “right” company. There are benefits to working with a marketing firm just as there are benefits to working with a marketing agency. The right choice is whichever best suits your specific marketing and/or business needs.
If you have the in-house staff capable of implementing a marketing strategy, then a professional marketing firm would be a solid, straightforward option. However, if you need something a bit more holistic and comprehensive, a marketing agency is your best bet.