We get it... everyone hates talking about money, and marketing agencies are notoriously secretive about their pricing. "Can we really afford this?!" you might think to yourself while mulling over the marketing budget. The truth is, yes you probably can! However, it might not be *exactly* what you expect. Here's the truth about marketing agency costs, why agency pricing is chaotic by nature, and how you can bring on the extra help without breaking the bank.
The Agency Landscape
We're here today to pull back the veil and break down the costs of working with a marketing agency, which is actually a very difficult task. There's a lot of reasons why it's hard to give a specific number. Let's start by reviewing the different types of agencies, and why pricing varies so much.
Why is agency pricing so chaotic?!
There's a few reasons it's never cut and dry with marketing costs, including the following:
If the agency has a niche or a broad marketing focus
If the agency relies more on in-office employees or remote contractors/freelancers
If the agency is large or boutique sized
If the agency accepts shorter projects/consultations or longer term contracts only
Cost of finding, training and retaining top talent is expensive
Media and advertising costs are ever-changing
Inflation, and other general market forces
What are some different types of marketing agencies?
Agencies can help you with a lot of marketing tasks, and are especially relevant since marketing itself is so fragmented. Here's a few specialties you will see agencies focusing on in the upcoming years:
Advertising/Media - Handles the buying and placing of ads and paid media, optimizing ad campaigns, and sometimes creating ad content.
SEO - Focuses on ranking your website and increasing traffic. Modern SEO providers may help with social media traction and PR coverage (backlinks) as well.
Brand - A broad-ish marketing focus, encompassing brand design, consumer touchpoints, messaging, creative visuals, brand identity, packaging, and more.
Creative/Design - Similar to a brand-focused agency, but explicitly focused on content production, logo design, photography or video, signage design, printed materials, digital design like NFT creation, or other creative tasks.
Influencer - An upcoming marketing focus, which in the past was simply celebrity endorsements and placements. May include brand ambassadors, social media content production, event marketing, or PR coverage. This is our specialty at ATSA!
Event - Similar to traditional event planners, event marketing agencies tend to take the lead from beginning to end when it comes to event planning and execution.
Public Relations (PR) - Focus on getting a client media mentions, news coverage, interviews, speaking engagements including conferences, guest blog placements, podcast placements and, in modern PR agencies, focus on backlinks specifically. That's why there is SEO crossover.
Research - These agencies focus on keeping up with the industry trends, including the marketing industry as a whole, or a specific niche area, as well as a client's industry. They can compile data for your marketing team to use when planning campaigns.
Social Media - This can be a very broad niche. There are agencies that focus on social media as a whole, or agencies that focus on specific platforms. Some of them may focus on producing content, while others focus on paid ads. Some may help with livestreaming only. It helps to research a social media agency's capabilities and how they fit in with your overall social media goals. We predict in the future that these types of agencies will become further niched.
Website/App Design - This is an agency with the ability to code, including developing websites and applications for clients. They may provide additional services like branding, creative or logo design, hosting, or content writing.
Podcast - This is an upcoming type of marketing agency that focuses solely on producing podcasts or audio content for clients.
Comparing Marketing Agencies
We know that's a big list to consider! Let's break down a few points so you can understand what to look for in your perfect agency partner:
Agency with a broad marketing focus:
Agency with a niche marketing focus:
Our opinion: A big agency with broad capacities is a good choice for an enterprise level client who wants to unite everything they're doing across marketing channels. They may also choose to bring on niche agencies as contributors to support their main agency, (known in the industry as an agency-of-record, or AOR.) For mid-size to small businesses, a niche agency is perfect. It helps to get clear about what is the most important marketing goal for your business to achieve in the upcoming quarter, and start there.
Where we fall: All The Stars Aligned is a niche-focused agency, specifically working in the world of influencer marketing and brand ambassador promotions. Our work overlaps into paid ads on social media, social media content production, and sometimes even PR.
Agency with in-office employees and locations:
Remote agency with a distributed workforce:
Our opinion: We believe remote agencies are the way of the future. They're more climate friendly, offer clients better talent options at better prices, and are generally a lot more flexible. A traditional agency with office locations and full time employees is a good option for an enterprise client who needs frequent interaction and crossover with the agency.
Where we fall: We're a remote agency and have been since before the pandemic! We know frequent digital communication and engagement is key, frequently work with content creators located around the world, and have the tools in place to support our team of distributed, global contributors.
Let's Talk Money Baby!
So now you likely have an idea of what type of marketing agency you might be looking into hiring. Let's break down some common fees associated with agencies. These are some general figures:
Discovery/Onboarding Fees: $4k - 20k
Execution Fees: $10k - $100k+
Technology Fees: $300 - $10k+
Media/Paid Ads Fees: 5-18% of overall ad budget
Outsourced Services Markup: 10-20%
Travel Costs: Varies
Project Change Costs: Varies
1. Discovery/Onboarding Fees
$4k - 20k, sometimes hourly fee
This is the fee required to setup your account with the agency and get up-to-speed with your business. It can include researching your business and industry, campaign strategy and planning, posting job ads to hire talent, reaching out to influencers, conducting an SEO or brand audit, conducting consumer research or feedback groups, pulling media ad rates, and any other activity needed to begin the Execution phase next.
This phase is critical in order to get the most out of working with your agency partner. It's important that they take the time to understand your business, the marketing opportunity, and how to execute their best work for you.
2. Execution Fees
$10k - 100k+, typically broken down into payments
Depending on what type of agency you're working with, you may come across the following:
Fixed fee: a total fee for the project execution, such as $100k in total over 8 months
Retainer: a fixed monthly payment fee with dedicated hours for the client
Hourly: an hourly billing rate for a project's execution, such as 150 hours at $199/hour rate
Value pricing: based on the value the project will bring to the company, ex: $250k total value
3. Technology Fees
$300 - 10k+
The agency needs to utilize technology to execute your project. These fees vary greatly because there is a lot of different options out there! Some are a lot more expensive than others. At any rate, expect to be billed for technology the agency uses to service your account.
4. Media/Paid Ads Fees
5 - 18% of overall ad budget
If you're working with an agency who is going to buy and place ads on your behalf, typically they take a percentage of the overall ad budget. The higher the budget, the lower the percentage the agency takes. An average cost is 15%.
5. Outsourced Services Markup
10 - 20%
If the agency needs to work with an external partner to finish your project, such as a printer or event planner, the agency will add on a 10 - 20% fee to the price invoiced from the outsourced service provider, passed on to you, the client.
6. Travel Costs
Depending on the project contributors, meetings, in-person events, or more, some travel may be required. Typically the agency will invoice the client for these travel costs including flights, rental cars, hotels, meals or more.
7. Project Change Costs
If the scope of work needs updated, or the project changes in some other way, (which happens often!) there typically is additional costs or changes to the pricing structure involved.
Overall Cost Expectations
Depending on what you need, how big your company is, and what sort of budget you have, there's a lot of variables when it comes to bringing a marketing agency into the fold. Here's some general expectations:
Small Business, New Business
$20k - 100k+ total cost, 6 - 12 month period
$50k - 250k+ total cost, 6 - 12 month period
Enterprise or Large Business
$100k+, 6 - 12 month period
Consultation Only/Strategic Planning
$2k - 10k
How Do I Prepare For Agency Budget Discussions?
You're off to a great start by reading this blog and informing yourself of the variables! It's a good idea to nail down a ballpark budget based on what you want to do. This will give the conversation realistic structure, and allow for negotiations to unfold naturally.
Some other preparations include understanding your total marketing budget, your brand's sales goals for the upcoming year, the value of the work you're looking to hire for, the priority of the work you want to hire for versus your overall business goals, and the value of the ideal outcome.
About All The Stars Aligned
Welcome to our Universe! We're an agency focused on influencer marketing, brand ambassador content creators, and community growth & engagement. We can help propel your brand forward into better content, improved engagement, larger communities, and greater marketing outcomes for your brand. Other than influencer marketing, we also support social media and traditional PR initiatives. We utilize leading market research, current influencer marketing technologies, and top tier creators to get the job done.
All The Stars Aligned is a remote, distributed agency with physical touch points in Miami and New York City. We work with consumer-facing (B2C) brands, and our core leadership team of seasoned strategists is complemented by a global, remote network of exacting experts. Ready for takeoff? Let’s go!