Best Marketing Agencies

Chicago’s Best Marketing Agencies

If you landed on this page, chances are you’re a CEO or director of marketing on a quest to find a marketing firm in Chicago that caters to your company’s needs.

You don’t need any more convincing. You already know that to reach new heights, you need to outsource your marketing functions to a third-party agency. According to a recent Content Marketing Institute Report, well over half of companies in America are doing the same.

A marketing agency is a business whose experts help organizations stand out and generate growth using a variety of digital channels and advertising tools. Marketing experts are usually well-versed in digital strategy, branding, website design, social media marketing, public relations, video production, and pay-per-click. Their mission can be deceptively complex: get businesses in front of targeted audiences, on the right channels, at the perfect time.

There are hundreds of marketing agencies in Chicago; finding the right company for the job can take weeks, if not months. This guide is designed to help you navigate the myriad agencies populating the city’s marketing scene. Instead of frantically scouring the internet and meeting with less-than-stellar candidates, spend a couple of minutes reading our list of top local marketing agencies.

These are award-winning companies that have yielded astonishing results. And they will do it for you too. Whether you’re looking to increase your website traffic, gain national media coverage, sell out your Amazon products, or build a powerful social media presence, any agency on this list will help you get there.

What Does a Marketing Agency Do?

A marketing agency is a firm that helps companies create, manage, execute, and sustain their marketing strategies in order to achieve certain business goals. These specialized agencies are external firms that organizations of all sizes and in any industry can work with to enhance their marketing efforts.

If your company or business needs assistance with crafting and implementing an actionable marketing strategy or plan, these agencies can help you get it done. They usually help you with branding, strategizing, researching, and promoting your brand, products, or services.

At the core of what Chicago marketing agencies do is market research. It’s typically the first step in understanding what works and what doesn’t work in the client’s existing marketing strategy. The need to know where the company is right now is essential; it helps marketing agencies understand what is needed to get the company where it wants to be.

With a deeper understanding of your market, they conduct thorough customer or demographic research. The latter helps the agency know the ins and outs of your company’s typical customer (the ideal target audience).

Once they have a clear picture of your target market and what you’ve already put in place, marketing agencies in Chicago help your company craft an overall marketing strategy. This is followed by developing and creating an effective marketing plan for specific campaigns.

Of course, you can partner with a marketing agency on specific services like market research, strategy creation, telemarketing, email marketing, or anything else. While companies hire Chicago marketing agencies on a retainer basis, others choose to contract them for a specific project. In either case, they can be extremely helpful in creating and executing your marketing campaigns.

At the very core, the aim of hiring a marketing agency boils down to promoting your products or services. In helping you increase your market, they craft strategies and outreach to attract, delight, and convert your target audience into new customers. At the same time, they help you with retaining existing customers, building loyalty, improving sales, increasing brand awareness, and eventually boosting the company’s bottom line.

To sum it up, here’s what marketing agencies generally do:

  • Determine profitable marketing strategies: They partner with businesses to identify marketing strategies that will fuel business growth and deliver optimum return on investment (ROI).
  • Implement marketing strategies: They not only illuminate marketing strategies but also manage and implement marketing campaigns for businesses
  • Monitor progress: They monitor marketing results and use data analytics to refine client’s marketing strategies and campaigns, thereby optimizing marketing results. 

Hence, marketing agencies can play an integral role at every touchpoint on the sales funnel.

Are Marketing Agencies Worth It?

Marketing is a fundamental part of operating any successful business, as it plays a vital role in engineering and sustaining a company’s growth. You’ll be hard-pressed to acquire new customers, retain the current customer base, and increase brand awareness without marketing. And this is where Chicago’s marketing agencies truly excel.

But are they really worth it? To help you understand the value of marketing agencies to your company’s goals, it’s important to consider the alternatives and what they bring to the table.

The most ludicrous alternative to marketing agencies is to not run marketing campaigns altogether. Needless to say, this will be an uphill task, particularly if you haven’t established yourself in the community and gained a strong foothold in the market. You’ll have a near-zero competitive edge.

The other option is to skip the intermediaries and run your own marketing campaigns. The upside is that it won’t cost much, but you have to put in the long hours and creativity needed to promote your products or services. Admittedly, this isn’t feasible if you plan to scale your business.

The sobering downside of self-run marketing is that you will be jumping into the deep end of the pool. If you don’t have the expertise, knowledge, and tools to get your marketing campaigns off the ground, you may end up doing more harm than good to your brand and business image. This will likely result in a tainted reputation, time wastage, and a potential exodus of existing customers.

Another consideration is to put together an in-house team to handle all of your marketing efforts. It’s a viable alternative that has worked for many companies, but the costs of assembling an entire internal marketing department can rack up fast. You will need to find, hire, and onboard a whole crew of people with different specializations and areas of expertise. The bill your company will foot to cater to their salaries, benefits, and other remunerations alone can be eye-watering.

As a business, you can also opt for independent contractors and freelance marketers. You could potentially realize some cost savings by bringing in a team of freelancers and contractors to work on your marketing campaigns. The real trouble is that freelancers don’t always have well-structured workflows, this doesn’t seem like a worthwhile issue to mention here. What about, freelancers and contractors not being on message, having limited resources themselves, not necessarily having enough depth in the company’s particular focus area, difficulty addressing all aspects of marketing because they’re more niche-oriented. Please revise. so they can be quite frustrating and unreliable to work with.

However you look at each alternative, it’s explicitly clear that hiring a reliable marketing agency is your safest bet. They provide a diverse skill set, offer great reliability, and hiring an agency is typically much more cost-effective than rounding up an entire internal team.

Marketing agencies are also typically more efficient at delivering maximum ROI for companies. That’s partly thanks to the fact that they have access to the right tools and experts needed to create and implement compelling marketing campaigns.

And with their reputation on the line, they are often committed to pleasing the client, which is a good thing if you’re a business. To that end, top marketing agencies in Chicago have your best interest at heart and are willing to go above and beyond to deliver results and earn their keep.

Can I Hire a Marketing Agency for My Small Business?

Short answer: yes. Small businesses often run on lean budgets with a limited range of expertise. That’s exactly where marketing agencies can come and fill in the gap.

There are, of course, a myriad of reasons why small businesses and marketing agencies are a good fit.

– Marketing agencies free up your time

Even if you’re an avid DIY entrepreneur, running every aspect of your marketing while running your business can be daunting. This is particularly true if you aren’t conversant with modern digital marketing strategies.

The learning curve for getting familiar with the latest best practices, tools, and techniques can be quite steep. This would rob you of the precious time you can use to focus on the cores of your business. That’s why we say marketing agencies and small businesses are a match made in heaven.

When it comes to creating and implementing modern marketing strategies, the agencies will do all the heavy lifting, allowing you to refocus your time, energy, and resources on what matters the most: running a successful business.

– Marketing agencies help small businesses save money

Traditionally, small businesses resort to hiring someone when they’ve got an immediate need. When they need accounting help, they zoom directly to hiring an accountant. When they require help running marketing campaigns, their first instinct is to hire an internal marketer. It has always been the go-to option, but this route can be unbelievably expensive compared to hiring an agency.

The national average of a marketing manager’s base salary is well over $86,000. That, however, doesn’t factor in the cost of recruiting, training, and onboarding, as well as value-added benefits. Hiring a mid-tier Chicago marketing agency, on the other hand, can set you back a surprisingly low monthly fee of around $3,000.

It’s clear that small businesses can dramatically cut their payroll costs by partnering with a marketing agency. In fact, certain estimates project that they can save up to $300K annually by doing so.

– Agencies provide expert help bringing your marketing strategies up to scratch

Marketing strategies employed by small businesses rarely cut the mustard. This can be a huge disadvantage in an increasingly digital world where small enterprises and large corporations with bottomless budgets must compete for the same business. It isn’t a level playing field.

The best way to ensure that your marketing strategies are up to snuff is to work with agencies. After all, they will bring their enterprise-level expertise to the table, allowing you to create a level playing field.

– Small businesses get access to a diverse team of experts

Aside from the cost factor, it’s tough for small businesses to access top marketing talent. Individuals specializing in marketing are more interested in big corporations with fatter checks, more perks, and better career advancement opportunities. But working with an agency is like opening a door to a room full of marketing professionals. You’ll get to work with experienced content marketers, SEO pros, social media gurus, video strategists, business analysts, and much more.

– Agencies get things done faster

Timeline is a major concern for businesses of any size when it comes to marketing. In most cases, small enterprises are hard-pressed to develop, refine, or modernize their marketing strategies. This can be due to increased competition, flopped product launches, or customer growth constraints.

In such a situation, small businesses need urgent action and should seek out the help of a good marketing agency. With their ready-made team of experts and tools, the agency will dive right in and create an effective marketing strategy.

The bottom line is that a dependable marketing agency can tick most of the right boxes and address the majority of small business pain points —such as lean budgets, limited time, lack of marketing expertise, poor online visibility, and lack of viable leads.

How Do I Choose a Good Marketing Agency?

Deciding to hire a marketing agency is the easy part; the difficult part is choosing the right one to work with. Here’s how to choose the perfect marketing agency for your specific needs.

1- First things first: Know what you want to get out of hiring an agency

No two businesses are alike, and the same is true of marketing agencies in Chicago. Some agencies focus on one or two specializations, while others are “jack of all trades.” As such, it’s important to identify your goals and know what you want to accomplish by partnering with a marketing agency.

For example, if you want to improve your website’s search ranking, your choice may be as easy as picking the best SEO-focused marketing agency.

2- Check the agency’s portfolio

The best Chicago marketing agencies take great pride in what they do and what they have done for their clients. They want to get the word out there about their best work yet. So, your next sensible step is to go through the agency’s list of past clients, case studies, testimonials, and the like.

If you can’t check out their live samples of past work, you can always view who their past clients are. If the agency has delivered tangible results for a recognizable brand willing to vouch for it, then you’re likely to get the same level of success.

3- Check agency experience and level of expertise

No matter what you are after, it’s crucial to ensure that you hire a marketing agency with the right team of experts who can complete your project. For example, you can’t hire an agency to do your social marketing if they don’t have social media managers on their team.

4- Reputation can be all the difference

Client reviews, testimonials, ratings, and other pieces of social proof can provide you with great insight into what to expect working with the firm. Plus, client complaints, as well as bad/good reviews, can tell you a lot about the agency’s strengths, weaknesses, and struggles.

5- Ensure the company’s ethics and core values match yours

Take some time to glance through the agency’s core culture, values, and mission. It’s vital to work with an agency that operates in similar work culture and values the same things that you do.

6- Does the agency make achievable claims/promises?

The kind of results the firm promises to deliver is a telling sign of their understanding of the industry. For instance, if the agency claims that they can take your website to position #1 on the Google results page, it may not have much knowledge of how SEO works. You should only work with marketing agencies that have been there and done that.

Are There Many Marketing Agencies in Chicago?

Chicago’s reputation as an agency global powerhouse is unquestionable. The city has a long, colorful, and storied history of advertising, marketing, PR, media, digital and creative agencies. It dates to 1858 when Charles H. Scriven established the first advertising agency in the city, followed by Coburn, Cook & Company seven years later.

Marketing is an industry Chicagoans have prided themselves on for the past one and a half-century. You could say it’s as much a Chicago staple as Garrett’s Mix and the Cubs. That’s why it comes as no surprise that Chicago remains one of the US’s leading marketing agency hubs.

Top Chicago marketing agencies are world-renowned for their strong industry reputation, highly experienced specialized teams, and for delivering top-notch work for big and small brands.

How Do Different Marketing Agencies Charge Customers?

If you have ever wondered how marketing agencies are paid, you came to the right place. Chicago’s marketing scene boasts a wide variety of agencies, and they charge clients in different ways. Here are the most common pricing models used by most marketing agencies in Windy City:

1- Charging by the hour

Some agencies charge an hourly rate, most often strictly for the time spent on the project. There’s really no mystery to the charging by hour pricing model. As an example, if the agency hourly rate is $75/hr and it takes 100 hours to complete the project, then you’ll foot a total agency bill of $7,500.

Profitability is built into the heart of this pricing method. It may be profitable for the agency, but the model doesn’t guarantee efficiency and quality work. Besides, the agency may bill you for non-work hours, such as time spent updating you on the progress.

2- Commission-based pricing

For the client, the commission-based pricing model is a big leap from charging an hourly rate. There’s a good incentive for the agency to deliver benefits for you, as that’s also where it draws its commission. It’s also predictable, but a conflict of interest may rear its ugly head during the project.

3- Retainer-based pricing

A retainer is perhaps the most common pricing model among Chicago marketing agencies. It simply means that the marketing agency will get a fixed fee weekly, monthly, quarterly, or annually for a scope of work agreed to by both parties. It’s predictable and offers more value for your money. The client will pay the same amount regardless of the amount of work done.

Are There Different Types of Marketing Agencies?

Yes, there are many kinds of marketing agencies, and each type specializes in different focus areas of marketing. Here are the most common types:

Full-service marketing agencies – These marketing agencies do it all, from SEO, paid media, social medial, and email marketing to content marketing, web design, and pay-per-click (PPC) advertising. To do so, they have a fully-fledged team of marketing experts.

Social media agency – The name says it all — this type of agency creates, develops, and implements social media marketing strategies. They may focus on one or several social media platforms.

Specialized marketing agencies – Also called boutique marketing agencies, these firms focus on a single area of specialization, such as video marketing, social media marketing, web design, or marketing research only.

ABM (account-based marketing) agencies – These agencies target a specific niche, existing account, business, or a subset of customers.

Promotional agency – Although the basic definition is debatable, promotional agencies focus on creating promotional campaigns for packaging and retail

Digital agencies – Agencies that fall into this category are widely available these days. They are digital-only marketing agencies that focus on content marketing, social media management, ecommerce marketing, and other aspects of internet marketing.

Advertising agencies – These are age-old marketing agencies that focus on print and online advertising. Their services have expanded over time beyond advertising, touching on strategy, technology, branding, and digital marketing.

PR agencies – This is another old-school type of agency that works on improving a brand’s public image, perception, and reputation.

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