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12-Sept-LF

Focus on… marketing agencies

Continuing our regular feature focusing on some of the most popular small businesses, we take a closer look at marketing agencies.

What do marketing agencies do?
These are the companies you go to in order to sell and promote your business. They will create marketing strategies for all aspects of your business aimed at your specific needs – whether that’s simply to raise your profile, increase your standing on social media or boost sales.

Marketing Strategy Business concept. The meeting at the white office table

Marketing agencies can be split into a variety of sub sectors including PR agencies, digital marketing, telemarketing, print market etc. But they all aim to market you to your specific target audience.

They can be brought in full time to constantly manage your marketing, or can be appointed on an ad hoc consultancy basis to market specific events or product launches, or to turn around public perception of your company after a scandal.

Their role involves knowing your market through market research. These days, this can involve analysing vast amounts of online data. Anyone getting into marketing needs to be able to spot trends and analyse data.

Getting started
People going into marketing can come from a variety of backgrounds including media roles such as journalism and PR, sales positions, business studies or data analytics.

With the growth in digital marketing, a good knowledge of social media, website creation and search engine optimization is also important.

There are a number of marketing courses available to study that will help you get good all round skills. Others start out in marketing as a graduate with most standard degrees accepted. They usually start in sales roles and work their way up to more creative marketing positions.

Getting accreditation from the Chartered Institute of Marketing is also a vital tool, especially if you’re planning on setting up your own marketing small businesses.

As with any small business, it pays to have a specialty. This could be a market sector like digital or print, or a specific industry. Knowing how an industry works can help you to find a space in it for your client.

Once you’ve set up you’ll need the right software to provide data analysis, and connections to freelancers who can provide you with additional skills such as graphic design, video creation or website building. A good network of contracts is also vital, especially in the media as this can help get your client coverage.

Industry challenges
The rise in social media has created a challenge for marketing firms on two fronts. Firstly, it has become a key battle ground for marketing and advertising so many marketers have had to become an expert in what is still a relatively new arena.

Hand drawing megaphone on the blackboard.

Secondly, it’s changed clients’ perception of what marketing should cost. At the dawn of the social media age, many companies were doing their own marketing for free – but this has changed and changing clients’ ideas of what they can get from social media is a challenge.

On top of this, marketing firms are dealing with data privacy and ad-blocking that are making their lives harder.

There has also been rise in what the industry calls ‘non-traditional competitors’. They are new, small marketing firms from abroad or even the UK that don’t go about marketing firms in a traditional way. What used to be called guerrilla marketing is now becoming mainstream and older firms have to adapt.

Personal challenges
Running a marketing firm can be tough at the moment as the industry goes through a period of flux. What were once stable companies are now finding themselves in trouble. Marketing firms often find themselves contracting and expanding regularly, putting staff security at risk.

With a growing international client base, you could find yourself having to work long hours to cover time differences.

And you need to be an expert in all new technologies, apps and industry developments. This means regular training for you and your staff.

Industry facts
• Around 114,000 people are employed by an advertising or marketing agency, according to Ibis World.
• There are over 16,000 advertising or marketing agencies in the UK at the moment.
• Marketers spent £21.4bn on advertising in 2016 – a 3.7% rise on 2015, according to the Advertising Association and Warc.
• Internet advertising spend rose 13.4% to £10.3bn for 2016.
• Mobile accounted for 99% of this growth, up 45.4% to £3.9bn.
• 77% of independent marketing companies experienced a positive growth in turnover in 2016, according to The Drum.
• The international advertising market grew 5.7% between 2015 and 2016, according to Magna.

Case study: Choosing your own direction – ThoughtShift
One of the great things about running your own business is that you can choose which clients you work with.

But sticking with that ethos once the reality of being a business kicks in can be tough. So it’s all the more impressive that ThoughtShift still manages to stick to their guns and work with organisations that meet the team’s ethics while also being an innovative, successful and award-winning agency.

Started by two people in a pub, it took them a matter of hours from writing their business plan on the back of a receipt to launching their first website. Working from a spare bedroom, it was only a year later that they had their first major success – increasing a client’s ecommerce revenue by £1m.

From there it has been awards, big clients and expansion. The Brighton-based company recently won the Best Use of Digital Marketing Awards at the 2017 CIM Awards and is now working with clients like Body Shop and Red5.

So if you’re still stuck in the bedroom phase – it might be time to take things to the next level and get your own offices.