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You know you need one, but how do you know the right type of digital agency or consultancy for you and your business needs?

Let’s start with a quick rundown on the digital definitions according to the Cambridge English Dictionary.

  • Digital

Recording or storing information as a series of the numbers 1 and 0, to show that a signal is present or absent

  • Agency

A business that represents one group of people when dealing with another group

  • Consultancy

A company that gives advice on a particular subject

  • Media

The internet, newspapers, magazines, television, etc., considered as a group

  • Marketing

A job that involves encouraging people to buy a product or service

Are you looking for an agency or a consultancy? Do you know the difference between a digital agency, media agency and digital consultancy? There are so many different types, how do you decide which is right for you?

On the face of it, the term ‘digital marketing agency’ can sound like just what you are looking for. But you’ll find it’s not quite as simple as that.

For those unsure of what type of agency you need, or whether to choose a digital marketing agency or digital marketing consultancy, this presentation should help you decide what the right solution is for you.


It isn’t surprising that it’s confusing, so let’s break down the following:

Different types of Digital Marketing Businesses

Digital consultant – Often one or two people with a core specialism and experience in the market. Tends to work for themselves for a few direct clients.

Digital media agency – Often referred to as a media buying agency. They plan and buy your advertising directly with the ad platforms often making a commission on the budget.

Digital agency – Can be many things. Often website designers or a creative shop as the title does not include marketing. However, sometimes this means, ‘manages’ all digital aspects of the business.

Digital marketing agencies

These are broken into 3 as there can be very different digital marketing agencies and its important you understand why.

Digital marketing agency 1 – for low budgets. These agencies will work with most businesses. From £100 to £5,000 budgets per month they have a simple process to manage a large volume of clients in order to drive their business growth. They have a scalable model and can be ideal if you are a local business with a limited investment. They manage your ad campaigns and allow you to get on with running your business.

Digital marketing agency 2 – They work with some known brands and often middle tier clients. You might expect to pay over £2k upwards per month in management fees, but should expect a better level of service and proactivity. They will manage your ad campaigns across multiple platforms; PPC, SEO, display, social media, and possibly offer PR, influencer marketing and website build and design. You should definitely expect recommendations on how to improve performance and results. However there is often a process and box ticking exercise to the account management.

Digital marketing agency 3 – These are the big agencies who tend to work with the big brands. They have highly experienced team members which can reflect the high fees charged. However do note that although you may be paying for experience, you may be allocated junior account managers which don’t always live up the promise. Manage campaigns across PPC, SEO, social media, display, affiliates, email, and often deliver website design, landing page optimisation, conversion optimisation, and offline marketing.

Digital marketing consultancy – Often seen as a digital marketing trusted advisor. They may question your current approach in order to drive success. Can ask some awkward questions and may question other areas of the business to get the answers they need to offer relevant advice. The level of diligence can range and  hence consultancies can range wildly in price. If you are stuck in a rut, or looking for accelerated results, they can be a good step towards change and business growth.

Digital consultancy – Similar to the previous however Digital consultancies will look wider than the marketing role. This could encompass business connectivity, digital infrastructure, digital communication internally and externally. They can however still cover digital marketing advice.

Marketing agency – these agencies show a wider offering of online and offline marketing. This may include PR, Events, TV, Radio, Direct Mail and Digital. Based on this, digital becomes one small piece of the puzzle and depending on the agency the focus can vary drastically to play to their experience and strengths. It’s important to know where your gaps in experience are to match this with the right agency to compliment your skills.

On top of these standard agencies and consultancies, there are some other jargon terms to be aware of.

Digital innovators – could have multiple meanings but should encompass ahead of the curve strategies for anything digital e.g. the website, infrastructure of online ecommerce, apps, marketing online. Innovators can come down to interpretation.

Boutique – normally refers to an authentic smaller agency rather than a big powerhouse with hundreds of employees. Often specialists.

Independent – similar to boutique in some ways but also suggests that they are not part of a media group. With so many acquisitions and mergers in the industry it can be hard to tell sometimes.

Full service – claims to offer everything from planning, designing and building a website as well as all the back end workings. A full combination of all media channels e.g. email, display ads, search, social, SMS, PR, content, etc… Will buy and plan all your media.

White label – companies who work behind the scenes at a lower rate whilst another company marks up and fronts the deal. Can be a good way to get a higher level account management for an overall lower cost.


With so many options and choices available it can be very difficult to navigate and decide on the right agency or consultancy partner for you and your business. For more help see our guide on how to choose the right agency for you.

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