A Guide for Businesses: When to Hire a Marketing Agency

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Consumer behavior and technology evolve faster than most companies can keep up. In fact, according to ReportLinker, the global digital advertising and marketing market is projected to grow to over $780 billion by 2026.

With so many options and strategies across the marketing funnel, it can feel overwhelming for brands to stay on top of it all. Is partnering with specialized professionals the best route, or could leveraging your internal resources offer a more integrated solution?

This article covers:

By the end, you’ll have a better sense of if and when to hire a marketing agency to achieve your business goals.

Your Business Needs and Goals

Before considering hiring a marketing agency, take time to honestly assess your business’s current situation and needs. Identify the pain points you want to solve or opportunities you hope to seize. Do you need help with strategic planning to set your marketing vision? Are you lacking creative ideas or struggling to execute campaigns?

A good agency will want to understand your business inside and out. They’ll ask thoughtful questions to learn where you are now and where you want to be. Having clarity around your business and marketing goals will allow the agency to propose solutions tailored to your unique needs.

For example, at OTM, we take our new clients through The OTM Path to Growth® to ensure we have a clear understanding of your business BEFORE we employ tactics. This helps everyone understand the business’s current state and allows us to create a clear path forward for growth, which creates a stronger partnership between our agency and our clients.

Some key things to think through:

  • What are your short-term business objectives for the next 1-2 years? What are your long-term business objectives for the next 5 years? Consider goals around leads, customers, revenue, market expansion or other KPIs.
  • What marketing initiatives have you tried? What’s worked and what hasn’t?
  • Where are the biggest gaps or opportunities in your marketing and sales process?
  • How does your brand messaging and positioning resonate with your target audience?
  • Do you have the in-house talent and resources to achieve your goals? If not, what capabilities and expertise are you lacking?

Taking stock of your specific business situation first will ensure you and the agency align on the scope of the engagement. Understanding your goals will also help them develop strategies and measure success. This discovery process is essential for establishing a productive working relationship.

The Benefits of Hiring an Agency

Partnering with a marketing agency brings a unique blend of advantages to your business, tailored to complement your existing strengths and fill in gaps where needed:

Diverse Perspectives for Strategic Insight

One of the primary reasons for engaging with a marketing agency is the access to an outside perspective that enriches your strategic approach, whether you have an internal marketing director or not. Agencies that are not confined to specific industries bring invaluable insights from their experiences with a diverse array of businesses. This can be particularly beneficial if they’ve worked with clients who target similar audiences to yours, allowing you to learn from their successes and challenges. The fresh, innovative ideas that come from such a broad perspective can significantly enhance your marketing efforts.

Access to Specialized Expertise

Most businesses do not have the need or resources to employ a full-time specialist for every marketing function, such as PPC management or conversion rate optimization (CRO). An agency model provides access to these specialized skills on an as-needed basis, distributing the cost across their client base and making it more affordable for you without sacrificing expertise. This ensures that you have access to top-tier talent for specific campaigns or projects, optimizing your marketing strategy’s effectiveness.


A significant advantage of working with an agency is their ability to flex with your business needs. This adaptability means you can scale your marketing efforts up or down without the logistical challenges of hiring or laying off staff. This flexibility is invaluable for businesses navigating the ups and downs of market demands, allowing for a more responsive and agile marketing strategy.


When you partner with an agency, you bypass the need to manage employment overheads such as benefits, 401k contributions, and ongoing professional development for a marketing team. Agencies are responsible for cultivating a positive, productive work environment for their staff, ensuring that you benefit from a team that’s not only skilled but also engaged and motivated. This aspect of working with an agency means you gain all the upsides of a dedicated team without the direct responsibility for their employment logistics, allowing you to focus on your core business activities.

When is the Right Time to Hire a Marketing Agency?

Every business goes through different phases and faces unique challenges. Knowing when it’s the right time to bring in help from a marketing agency can set your company up for success.

During Growth Phases

If your business is entering a period of rapid growth, hiring a marketing agency allows you to scale efficiently. An influx of new customers requires robust systems to support sales, service, and retention. Agencies have experience guiding businesses through growth spurts with strategic planning and execution. They can take care of the extra workload so you can focus on the big picture. This flexibility and readiness to adjust to your business’s changing needs represent our greatest value-add.

By partnering with an agency skilled in handling dynamic growth phases, you’re not just managing expansion; you’re strategically positioning your business to capitalize on it, ensuring a seamless transition through various stages of growth.

When Lacking Expertise in a Needed Area

No single person can be an expert in every area of business or marketing. As your company expands into new products, services, or markets, you may find gaps in your team’s knowledge and skill sets. An agency partner can fill those gaps by providing strategic expertise and dedicated resources in disciplines like social media, SEO/SEM, branding, market research, and more.

At OTM, we understand that your business or organization is unique. That’s why we don’t believe in cookie-cutter solutions. Instead, we tailor our services to your specific needs, in-house capabilities, and strategic goals. With a customized approach, we shape our engagements around you, ensuring that our marketing solutions align with your unique objectives.

For Short-Term Projects

Occasionally, your marketing needs may revolve around specific, short-term initiatives that demand specialized attention and expertise. Whether it’s launching a new product, navigating through significant business changes, undertaking branding or rebranding initiatives, or executing large-scale promotions, these projects benefit from a targeted approach. Examples of some of these types of projects include:

  • Product/Service Launches: Crafting go-to-market strategies that effectively introduce your new offerings to the market, ensuring they capture the attention and interest of your target audience.
  • Business Changes: Supporting through transitions such as moving to a new location or expanding your business by adding more locations. These changes often require a strategic communication plan to keep your customers informed and engaged.
  • Branding or Rebranding Initiatives: Developing a new brand identity or refreshing an existing one to better align with your business goals and market positioning. This can include visual elements, messaging, and overall brand strategy.
  • Promotions: Planning and executing sweepstakes, giveaways, large sales, anniversaries, and more. These activities aim to boost engagement, drive sales, and increase brand awareness over a specific period.

Engaging an agency on a project basis for these kinds of endeavors allows you to leverage a breadth of skills and knowledge tailored to your unique needs, without the long-term commitment of expanding your internal team. This flexible approach means you can dynamically adjust your marketing efforts and investments according to your business’s evolving requirements, ensuring that each project is not only strategic but also impactful.

What to Look for in an Agency Partner

When evaluating potential marketing agencies to work with, there are a few key factors you’ll want to consider:

Relevant Experience and Expertise

  • You can look for an agency that has specific experience in your industry, but it’s important to note thatLook for an agency that an agency does not have to be industry-specific to deliver exceptional results.
    • While familiarity can be beneficial, a diverse agency brings a wealth of knowledge from various sectors, offering innovative solutions and fresh perspectives that can transcend traditional industry boundaries. At OTM, our approach, not being industry-specific, allows us to leverage wide-ranging experiences to craft unique, effective strategies tailored to your specific needs.
  • Review case studies and client results to confirm the agency has a successful track record with relevant projects. Make sure their areas of expertise align with your goals.
  • Ensure the agency is up to date on the latest marketing best practices, technologies, and trends that could impact your business. You want a true expert partner.

Cultural Fit

  • Make sure your values, work styles, and personalities align well. You’ll be working closely together, so it needs to feel like a good fit.
  • Look for similarities in communication styles, responsiveness, transparency, and professionalism. You want to enjoy working with them.
  • Consider their team dynamics and company culture. It should complement yours.

Transparency and Reporting

  • The agency should clearly explain their processes, provide status updates, share metrics, and communicate results.
  • Look for detailed, regular reporting on key performance indicators relevant to your goals and ROI.
  • Make sure you’ll have access to view analytics and track performance in real time. Transparency is key.

Following these guidelines will help you find an agency equipped to meet your unique needs and provide maximum value. Taking the time upfront leads to a more successful partnership.

Being a Good Client

A successful partnership between a marketing agency and a client requires effort from both sides. When hiring an agency, you’ll want to ensure you’re being a good client to set the engagement up for success. Here are some tips:

  • Have clear goals and expectations. Be as clear as possible about what you want to achieve from the very beginning.
  • Provide details on your target audience, brand messaging, campaign objectives, and metrics for success. A good agency can help you make the elements of your brand stronger, but the more details you give, the better work the agency can do.
  • Be responsive and communicative. Agencies need timely feedback and decisions from clients to keep projects moving forward. Respond to questions and requests promptly, and have regular check-ins to align on priorities and next steps. Good communication prevents delays.
  • Provide access and assets. Give your agency everything they need to do their job well. This includes access to your analytics, ad accounts, and product samples or information. Provide brand guidelines (if you have them), imagery, and any other helpful assets. The more you equip the agency, the more effective they can be.

Working collaboratively with open communication and a shared understanding of goals is key. Treat your agency like a true partner, and they’ll deliver great work.

When You Shouldn’t Hire an Agency

After 17 years of working with clients in all different kinds of relationships and growth stages, we can confidently tell you that there are a few scenarios where it may not make sense to hire a marketing agency. Here are some of the main ones to consider:

If Your Goals Are Unclear

Before partnering with an agency, you need to have a solid understanding of your business goals and what you want to achieve. If your goals are vague or undefined, it will be very challenging for an agency to develop an effective strategy or meet your expectations. Take the time to clearly outline the vision for your business. An agency can’t steer you in the right direction if you don’t know where you want to go (and we can’t tell you where you want to go, either).

“Your business’s vision serves as the North Star that guides your internal teams and your external partnerships. When everyone understands the destination we’re working towards, it fosters alignment, collaboration, and a shared sense of purpose. It empowers individuals to make informed decisions, prioritize tasks effectively, and work together towards our collective goals.” – Kerrie Luginbill, Chief Growth Officer, OTM

For Extremely Simple Projects

If all you need is a basic website refresh or social media account setup, it may not warrant hiring a whole agency. Many freelancers can handle simple, well-scoped projects for a much lower investment. However, if you want an integrated strategy across multiple channels and platforms, an agency is best equipped to handle the complexity and integration.

If Budgets Don’t Align

Quality marketing work isn’t cheap, so you want to look for an agency within your budget range. If you only have $500 per month to spend, a top-tier agency charging $5000+ per month is not realistic. Be upfront about your budget constraints so you only speak with agencies that fit your range. If you can’t afford their services, it’s not a good partnership match.

The key is being honest with yourself about your expectations, capabilities, and limitations. If those don’t align with what an agency can provide, it will lead to frustration on both sides. However, when your needs and their services are a good fit, the benefits for your business can be tremendous.

If Your Business is Failing

If your business is struggling significantly and you’re considering a marketing agency as your last resort to save it, it’s important to pause and reconsider. While marketing can significantly boost your visibility and engagement, it’s not a miracle cure for deeper operational or financial issues. Addressing the root causes of your business challenges should come first. A marketing agency works best when amplifying a solid, stable business, not trying to rescue one from the brink of failure.

Doing Your Due Diligence

Before partnering with an agency, it’s important to vet them thoroughly. Rushing into the decision without doing your homework can lead to disappointment down the road. Here are a few key steps:

  • Check reviews and references. Look at review sites and ask for references from past clients. Get an unfiltered view of what it’s like to work with each agency you’re scoping out. Were past clients satisfied? Did projects come in on budget and on strategy? Strong reviews and references are a good indicator the agency delivers results.
  • Review portfolio and past work. Carefully evaluate case studies and examples of past projects. Make sure the agency has experience relevant to your business and goals. Look for evidence of strategic thinking and creativity in their work. The portfolio should showcase their talents and abilities.
  • Interview multiple agencies. At OTM, we recommend taking the time to have in-depth discussions with 3-5 agencies before deciding who you want to partner with. Ask them challenging questions to assess if they’re a good fit for you and your business. Here’s a list to get you started:
    • What is your experience working with businesses similar to mine?
    • Can you provide examples or case studies of successful campaigns you’ve executed for clients in my industry?
    • How do you approach developing a marketing strategy for a new client?
    • How do you stay up-to-date with the latest marketing trends and technologies?
    • How do you measure the success of your marketing campaigns?
    • What tools and software do you use for campaign tracking and analytics?
    • Can you provide references from past clients?
    • How do you manage communication and collaboration with your clients?
    • What is your process for identifying and targeting a specific audience?
    • How do you ensure that our brand messaging and values are effectively conveyed in your marketing efforts?
    • Do you have in-house expertise in all areas of digital marketing, such as SEO, social media, content marketing, etc.?
    • How do you ensure that our marketing campaigns are aligned with our overall business goals?
    • What is your pricing structure and what services are included?
    • Are there any long-term contracts or commitments required?
    • How often do you provide progress reports and updates on campaign performance?

The time invested in properly vetting agencies will pay dividends through a stronger partnership. Don’t leave it to chance – be diligent upfront when searching for the right agency.

Creating a True Partnership

A successful agency-client relationship requires both parties to align on vision, maintain open communication, and provide regular feedback. The agency needs to understand the client’s business objectives and brand voice in order to produce effective work. The client should provide clear expectations, timelines, and success metrics upfront so the agency can plan accordingly.

Throughout the engagement, clear and frequent communication helps both sides stay focused. The agency benefits from getting regular feedback from the client on how well their work is achieving goals. The client gains assurance that the agency understands their needs and can quickly course correct if necessary. Giving and receiving constructive criticism openly and positively leads to better collaboration.

By building trust and rapport through transparent discussions, aligning on goals, and offering candid perspectives, the client and agency evolve into true partners. This maximizes the value gained on both sides. Rather than just providing a service, the agency becomes an extension of the client’s team. And the client becomes a cooperative participant in creating standout work. A strong partnership enables innovative thinking and better results.

Is Hiring a Marketing Agency Right For You?

Hiring a marketing agency can provide huge benefits for your business, but the decision requires careful consideration about your needs, goals, and resources. By understanding when it makes sense to bring on an agency partner, finding the right fit, and building a collaborative relationship, you can make the most of working with outside experts.

The key points to remember are:

  • Know your business objectives and where you need support before beginning the agency search. This will help you find an agency suited to your goals.
  • Agencies can provide strategy, execution and expanded capabilities, but you should have realistic expectations about what they can and can’t deliver. Focus on core competencies.
  • Take time to research and thoroughly vet potential agency partners. Look for relevant expertise, cultural fit and transparency.
  • Be a good client by clearly communicating needs and expectations, providing necessary resources and feedback, and trusting your agency’s recommendations. The relationship should be a mutually beneficial partnership.
  • Bring an agency on board when there are clear objectives they can help achieve, not just because you want a vague boost in marketing. And know when to rely on in-house skills instead.
  • Make the investment in an agency worthwhile by fully leveraging their knowledge, being responsive and keeping an open dialogue. The more you put in, the more results you will see.

If you think your business could benefit from partnering with a marketing agency like OTM, don’t hesitate to contact our CEO, Miles, for a brief consultation. Our team of experts is ready to collaborate with you to achieve your biggest goals and take your marketing to the next level.