Originally published by Adrienne Wilkerson, CEO, Co-Founder. Updated and revised by Jennifer Gracey, Web Content Strategist & Writer on 06/15/23
You may have heard, “Digital marketing can be an expensive endeavor, but the ROI has great payoff.” There’s truth to that statement — especially for digital marketing done well.
However, feeling hesitant about pouring money into marketing or having reservations about the but when considering whether to shift gears by hiring a digital marketing agency is normal. In fact, at some point every business owner grapples with the question, “Is marketing a good investment?”
Trusting someone else to capture the heart and essence of your brand is no small step of faith. Neither is trusting a particular agency will deliver on what it says it can do — get you more customers or increase sales. The daunting reality is: the list of questions and unknowns is real and can profoundly impact your business.
Questions to Ask Before Outsourcing Your Marketing
The benefits of outsourcing your marketing to a digital agency (with a proven track-record) far outweighs the list of unknowns.
Choosing to use a digital marketing agency can (and does) trigger important questions — especially for business owners exploring this route as an option for the first time. A few questions you may find yourself pondering are:
- How much does it really cost to hire a marketing agency?
- Why is digital marketing so expensive?
- Is it really worth it?
- If I pay this much for marketing, will I actually turn a profit?
We know these are significant questions. Particularly when deciding if investing in marketing is the right (and best) choice for your business. That’s why we’ve prepared this how to guide — we want to answer some of those questions by highlighting the benefits of partnering with a digital marketing services company.
This guide is for you if:
- You want to learn more about how much hiring a digital marketing agency costs.
- You’re curious about how agencies structure their fees and service packages.
- You want to discover how that partnership can pave the way for future growth and success for your business.
- You’re researching digital marketing agencies and want to do your due dilligence ahead of your consultation meeting.
Are you interested in how Beacon Media + Marketing can help your business? Learn more about our work and how we can help your business thrive!
Why Do Costs Vary When Hiring a Digital Marketing Agency?
The cost of hiring a marketing agency depends on multiple factors. Some of these variables include:
- company size (yours and theirs)
- reputation (theirs)
- the scope of work (they’ll do for you)
- geographic location (yours and theirs)
Marketing Industry Billing Trends Have Shifted
Previously, digital marketing agencies billed clients on an hourly or per-project basis. As we’ve collectively rolled into the 2020’s, most marketing firms have since changed tack. Along with the internet, the digital marketing industry itself has matured and evolved. So have standard operating practices and procedures. Most commonly seen practice these days? Client billing for ongoing monthly revolving services.
Typically, businesses prefer monthly revolving payment schemes to an hourly charge. This approach makes monthly budgeting predictable and more manageable for both sides. It also gives an agency’s clients peace of mind knowing they’re not being nickel-and-dimed.
An Agency’s Cost Per Hour Is Variable
You may observe rate variations for things like: project management, graphic design, illustration, programming, creative direction, content creation, strategy development, etc.
Our increasingly digitized world means demand runs high for skilled, senior-level staff — their talent comes at a price. Skill and experience of those doing the work as well as current market rates impact total hourly costs. Thus explaining why agencies log different hourly rates for their services.
The Per Project Billing Approach
The per project billing approach takes into consideration the different rates and skill sets for each team member assigned to a specific project.
Those individual rates are then complied and packaged into one flat fee for an entire project. This places the burden on the agency to ensure they’re working efficiently and to deadline. It also helps them make sure they’re meeting their own profit and revenue goals.
How do Marketing Agencies Charge Their Clients?
While there’s no concrete answer to the question, “How much does hiring a marketing agency cost?” Each of these four variables factor into the overall equation:
- hourly billing
- project billing
- revolving charges
- managing budgets
What Should Your Marketing Budget Be?
Company size and overall revenue determine a company’s annual marketing spend. The budget set aside to spend on marketing contributes greatly to finding the right marketing agency for your business.
On average, companies allocate the following percentages of their revenue on marketing:
- Small Business: 7–8%
- Mid-Sized Business: 10%
- Enterprise Business: 15%
Keep in mind: marketing is an investment. And knowing your options is essential for great payoff.
Hourly Billing Means Unpredictable Costs
Similar to accounting or legal firms, digital marketing agencies can bill by the hour for some projects. You’ll find, the ones who do so in this space are typically marketing consultants or freelancers.
As you may anticipate, multiple factors contribute to hourly rates. Geographic location, for example, will make a substantial difference as local competition is taken into consideration.
Case in point — a marketing agency in New York City. They may bill an average of $500+ per hour. In contrast, other regions of the United States, $300+ per hour is considered standard billing (according to the American Associate of Advertising Agencies). In smaller areas or markets, an average cost ranges anywhere from $95-$335 per hour. Naturally, this also depends upon the skill of the individual supplying the service as well as the specific service itself.
Many agencies have pivoted to a blended rate which, is the rate (roughly averaged) across all services and skill levels. This approach to agency billing helps simplify accounting and can work out to your favor. Especially when working with smaller marketing agencies — you’re likely to have senior-level staff involvement in your account.
Project Rates And Budget Creep
When assessing the cost of hiring a marketing agency, getting whole project quotes rather than per hour, can prove tedious. Especially as, the agencies you’re considering need time to create estimates for you. You’ll want to shop around and evaluate your options for price and quality before settling on the most appropriate fit for your budget.
A point to note is that the project rate approach makes space for budget creep. For example: A simple website redesign could be tweaked to include one or more of the following: a blog roll, social media management, or corporate photography. Adding in any of those will bump up the price. Generally speaking, a project will go up in cost when your marketing agency identifies how adding a particular service option will increase your success.
A common project many businesses turn to a marketing agency for help with is website redesign. The average prices for updating your website range between:
- Website Design: $2,500 – $100k / website
- Website Copywriting: $25 – $25,000 / page
Marketing agencies must accurately estimate the time their staff will take to complete the job, and they are betting on little to no issues arising. As such, this model is much less flexible. The agency must ensure its staff is working efficiently and on point if it wants to make a profit. This can both help and hinder the client.
Keep your budget in mind as you’re talking with your marketing agency about the project you want to do. Depending on your financial range and industry, your project limitations will change.
If the scope of work is clear, you’ll only pay one flat fee, making the cost of hiring a marketing agency simple and easy to assess. This arrangement benefits small businesses operating on a tight marketing budget.
Be Specific About Project Scope
If there is any wiggle room or ambiguity about or in your project brief (or the budget,) making adjustments down the line will be harder. Because of this, paying careful attention to the project scope before accepting a bid is critical. A project scope should be explicit and specific — look for the details outlining what the price does and does not cover.
Speaking from experience, vague scopes of work leaving a lot to a agency’s imagination or that are open for interpretation are high on the things to be aware of list. Be intentional and talk with the agency about the specifics of their project brief. Doing this upfront will not only save you both time and money, it will also mitigate any potential misunderstandings and correctly establish your expectations.
If you’re interested in what kind of work they can provide with your budget, it’s important to ask for examples. This is an excellent way to clarify what your expectations should be in addition to understanding better the value of what you’re getting for the price you’re being asked to pay. It’ll also help you visualize what you want the final product to look like and more clearly communicate your vision with the marketing agency.
Revolving Charges Ensure Predictable Costs
Inbound marketing is changing the scope of services and introducing a new paradigm of how billing is done to benefit the client. Revolving billing brings in the best of the project world along with the advantages of a long-term agency relationship. This makes the cost of hiring a marketing agency more straightforward and transparent than ever.
Many agencies have a tiered system of packages that can be adapted to a specific client or project as needed. These packages, as they’re not based on monthly billing, allow marketers to provide consistency in monthly billing. They also make room for you to upscale or customize services as your business needs ebb and flow. This means: you know exactly what services you’re paying for each month! And this is a tremendous asset for annual budgets.
Below is a rough pricing guide for revolving marketing services:
- Search Engine Optimization (SEO): $1,500 – $5,000 / month
- Pay Per Click (PPC) Advertising: $1,500 – $10,000 / month or 5-20% of month ad spend
- Email Marketing: $300 – $5,000 / month or $0.1 – $0.5 / email
- Social Media Marketing: $900 – $20,000 / month
- Content Marketing: $2,000 – $10,000 / month
These revolving services make understanding and estimating how much you’ll spend on marketing each month easier and more simple — especially for those with tight budgets. With the advice and input of your marketing agency, you’ll also more quickly identify which services provide the best ROI for your specific business. As your business grows, adjusting your budget (or services) depending on the new goals you’re trying to reach will be an easier, more straight forward process as well.
Do you want to see what services Beacon Media + Marketing can provide? Learn more about the excellent marketing services we can offer your business!
Simple Tips for Keeping the Cost of Hiring a Marketing Agency Manageable
Keeping your budget under control is crucial, especially for small and growing companies. Having worked in the marketing industry for over 20 years, we’ve learned a few essentials. We’ve acquired a lot of experience helping businesses afford the cost of hiring a marketing agency. To get the best value possible for your marketing budget, do this:
- Match your company with a similarly sized agency. Larger firms often charge more than smaller ones, so choose a marketing agency to match your size and business goals. Not only with the cost be within a reasonable range, but the agency should understand where you’re at as a company, your goals, and even your struggles because they’ll be in a relatable position themselves.
- Have open and honest conversations with your marketing agency about your budget constraints. Most often, this will empower your agency to make the most of what you have to make service or strategy adjustments as needed.
- Establish benchmarks for the project based on results and only increase the budget as current marketing efforts increase your company’s bottom line. This ensures the cost of hiring your marketing agency stays within your comfort zone.
- Commit to a long-term relationship with an agency. Often, marketing agencies extend special pricing to companies willing to commit to working with them for longer. Marketing isn’t magic, it’s a process and sticking with an agency allows them to work through different strategies in order to arrive at the most successful and effective plan for your business.
What’s the Value of Investing in a Marketing Agency?
Encapsulating the true value good marketing can make to your business is challenging. It’s a given that marketing a business helps with brand awareness. However, other marketing services such as Google or Facebook ads also help escalate business by bringing client conversions.
Over time, companies have invested more money in marketing than their sales teams. Nowadays, marketing strategies take up a large chunk of business success. And with more investments happening towards marketing, finding an agency that’s well suited to you is even more critical for success.
Benefits to hiring a marketing agency include:
- Having professionalism and expertise in the marketing industry.
- Widening the talent pool of marketing experts who work on your business.
- Gaining new perspectives to brainstorm the best method of marketing your company.
- Staying up to date on all new effective marketing strategies.
- Controlling and interacting with everything to ensure that it reflects who you are.
- Focusing on growing your practice by providing your products or services.
- Saving money by outsourcing your marketing instead of in-house marketing.
- Creating a cohesive marketing strategy for long-term growth and sustainability.
- Obtaining more content with the efficiency of a marketing team.
- Achieving greater results with concrete data and client conversions.
Although you can do some marketing services, the whole scope of marketing is a huge undertaking and can take away from your business if done wrong. Pairing with a marketing agency allows you to benefit from a cohesive and effective marketing strategy guided by experts.
It also lets you understand which marketing aspects are doing well and what could be improved upon. For example, your website is one of the most critical aspects of your marketing. The Hubspot State of Marketing Report (2021) states that your website is the number two channel used in marketing behind social media. Similarly, their 2023 edition points out most website traffic is now flowing inbound via mobile devices and a mobile-optimized web experience can impact your ranking on Google.
In other words, if your website is outdated or not creating a positive user experience, this can significantly hinder your client conversions. Working with a marketing agency lets you have data on how well your website functions and get professional advice on what would be successful. You can then utilize their website design and development services for updates and watch your customer numbers rise through organic website traffic.
How to Choose Your Marketing Agency
Other than the cost of hiring a marketing agency a critical question to keep in mind is, “Is this agency a good fit for my business?” A good fit isn’t only about financials — that’s only one element. Evaluating based on experience, creative approach, company values, business procedures, the agency’s skill set and quality of work is also important.
Discuss the cost of hiring a marketing agency and your budget expectations with potential partners upfront. Here at Beacon, we’re firm believers in transparency and community. Make your needs clear and make decisions based on alignment with your company values. This could be the beginning of something beautiful and it’s important to lean in.
Take Your Business to the Next Level with Beacon Media + Marketing
Are you ready to see how a digital marketing agency can transform your business? Take your business to the next level with Beacon Media + Marketing! We offer several services that improve customer conversions, such as website design and development, content marketing, social media marketing, paid advertising, branding, and more. Our Beacon Media + Marketing team is excited to work with you to appeal to your target audience and encourage them to take the next step.
Are you ready to see how Beacon Media + Marketing can elevate your business? Schedule your free consultation today!