Our clients range from startups to Fortune 500’s.
Alla Elfimova March 13, 2023

How Most Startups Evaluate Marketing Agencies (and Why This Method is Flawed)

How can we help?
Let's Talk

As a startup founder, you've got a lot on your plate. Between managing your team, developing your product, and raising funds, it can be tough to prioritize marketing. But let's face it - marketing is crucial to your startup's success. It helps to build brand awareness, attract customers, and drive revenue. In the first part of this series we explained how to determine and manage marketing budget if you're a startup.

Knowing where to start can be challenging if you don't have a marketing background. That's where a marketing agency can come in and help. In the next series, we'll guide you through everything you need to know about selecting the right marketing agency for your business. So, let's get started!

Types of Marketing Agencies

When choosing a marketing agency for your startup, there are various types of agencies to consider. Let me break it down for you:

  • Single-focus Agencies: These agencies specialize in one aspect of marketing, such as SEO, paid media, or content creation. If your startup needs help with a specific area of marketing, a single-focus agency may be the best fit.
  • Full-Service Digital Marketing Agency: Full-service agencies such as Transcend Digital offer various services, from SEO to social media management to web design. They're a good choice if you're looking for an agency that can handle all your marketing needs under one roof.
  • Industry-Centric Agencies: These agencies specialize in a particular industry, such as real estate or e-commerce. They have in-depth knowledge of that industry and can create marketing strategies that cater to it.

It's essential to remember that every type of marketing agency has unique strengths and weaknesses. That's why it's crucial to consider which type of agency best aligns with your startup's specific needs and goals.


Different Stages of the Company's Growth

Your startup's marketing needs will vary depending on the growth stage. Here's a breakdown of the different stages and the marketing challenges you may face:

1. Early-Stage Startups (Pre-Series A, Seed, Pre-Seed)

If you're running an early-stage startup in the pre-series A stage, your primary focus is proving product-market fit. You can get by with basic marketing at this stage and may not need a full-service marketing agency. You can take care of the basics in-house, with you and your founders taking the lead, or you can hire a single-focus agency to complete a specific task, such as developing a landing page. As you select a marketing agency, prioritize your limited budget, and need for brand awareness and establish a solid online presence. Here is a detailed look at some of these needs:

  • Brand book: A brand book is an essential tool for startups that outlines the brand's messaging, visual identity, and values. It helps ensure all marketing materials align with the brand's goals and values.
  • Website/Landing page: In today's digital age, having a website or landing page is critical for any business. It provides potential customers with important information about the brand.
  • One-pager: A one-pager is a concise document that summarizes the critical points of a business. It is useful for startups when pitching to investors or potential customers.

2. Growth Startups (Series A, B)

At this stage, you've succeeded and are ready to scale. You want to expand your customer base, increase conversions, and drive more revenue. However, with growth comes more complex marketing challenges and needs that require more advanced strategies and tactics.

Marketing Challenges

  • BIncreased competition from other companies in the same market segment.
  • More advanced marketing needs that require specialized skills and expertise.
  • Need to generate leads and convert them into paying customers to drive revenue growth.

Advanced Marketing Needs

  • Full-speed on SEO & Content: At this growth stage, Search engine optimization (SEO) and content marketing will become necessary for your marketing strategy.
  • Sales collateral: As your startup grows, you must create collateral to help your sales team close more deals.
  • Webinars: Webinars will help you to generate leads and educate your target audience about your product or service.
  • Email marketing: You will need Email marketing to grow leads and convert them into paying customers.
  • Paid media: At this stage, your startup needs to capitalize on paid media channels such as Google Ads and Facebook Ads to reach new audiences and drive revenue growth.

At this growth stage, a full-service marketing agency or blended model with an agency and an in-house team can provide the expertise and resources you need to execute a successful marketing strategy.

3. Mature Startups/Late-Stage Startups & Beyond (Series C, D+)

Marketing challenges and needs evolve as your startup continues to grow and mature. At this growth stage, typical marketing challenges involve showcasing sustainable growth, establishing predictable sales funnels, and expanding into new product lines or markets. Here are various marketing needs at this stage you should know:

  • Optimized Paid Media Mix: At this stage, your company will need a well-optimized paid media mix that maximizes return on investment (ROI) and aligns with overall business objectives.
  • Omni-Channel Strategy: Your startup will need a multi-channel approach to marketing. At this stage, your company must leverage various channels to reach its target audience effectively.
  • Comprehensive Content Strategy: At this stage, you must create complete content that addresses the different stages of the buyer's journey and serves as a resource for potential customers.
  • Email Marketing: Email marketing will become necessary to engage with your customers and prospects at scale and nurture leads into customers.
  • Sponsorships: At this stage, partnering with relevant industry events or organizations will increases your brand exposure and generates leads.
  • Online Video: Video content has become an increasingly popular format for businesses to engage with their audience and build brand awareness.

Companies can build an in-house marketing team, work with an agency, or blend at this stage.


Further Reading:

Key Takeaway

As a startup founder, selecting the right marketing agency can be a make-or-break decision. It's essential to remember that different marketing agencies cater to different needs and goals and that a startup's marketing needs can vary depending on the growth stage.

That's why we at Transcend Digital want to offer our services to help your startup succeed. As a full-service digital marketing agency, our team has the knowledge and experience to create a successful digital marketing strategy that suits your unique needs. Contact us today to learn how we can help you scale your business needs and stay tuned for part two of this series.

In the next section, we'll dive deeper into choosing the right marketing agency for your startup's success. As you know, the right marketing agency can make all the difference in building a solid brand identity, increasing your online presence, generating leads, and driving revenue. So let's get started with the ultimate guide to finding your startup's dream marketing agency.

How Much Does it Cost to Hire a Marketing Agency?

As a startup CEO or founder, you know that hiring a marketing agency can be expensive but essential for your business growth. The cost of hiring a marketing agency depends on various factors, such as the type of service you need, the agency's quality, and the project's complexity. Here is how to calculate the total price:

  • SEO & Content: This service is typically flat-rate or retainer-based, meaning you pay a fixed monthly amount. The cost will depend on the project's scope and the agency's experience.
  • Paid Media: The cost of paid media can be a flat rate or a percentage of the media spend, whichever is greater. Ask the agency how they calculate their fees and what results you can expect.
  • Email Marketing: Newsletters are typically priced on a retainer basis, while drip sequences are priced as a one-time fee. Again, the cost will depend on the project's complexity and the agency's experience.
  • Sales and Marketing Collateral: This service can be retainer-based or a one-time fee per asset. It includes designing and producing sales and marketing materials such as brochures, flyers, and presentations.
  • Creative: This service is usually billed separately on a project basis / ad hoc. It includes creating visual content such as videos, graphics, and social media posts.

At Transcend Digital, our Growth Packages start from $5,000 / month. If you’d like to learn more about our solutions or discuss pricing – please contact us today.


How to Choose a Digital Marketing Agency for Your Startup

When it comes to choosing the perfect marketing agency for your startup, there are several things you should consider. Statistics show over 6,000 digital marketing agencies are based in the United States alone. With such a large number, you should not settle for just any agency. Consider the following factors:

1. Make Sure They are Truly Full-Service

An excellent full-service agency will take ownership of your paid, owned, earned media campaign management from start to finish. The agency will handle various items such as creative development, tracking, tagging, CRM integration, and copywriting. Having an agency that takes care of everything can help you focus on other aspects of your business while knowing that your marketing efforts are in good hands.

2. Expertise and Specialty

Look for an agency with expertise in your industry. For example, if you are in the prop-tech, fintech, or health tech industry, you should look for an agency specializing in those areas. Here are a few tips on how to evaluate an agency's expertise:

  • Check their website and social media profiles to see if they mention any specific industries or niches they serve.
  • Look for case studies or examples of work they have done in your industry.
  • Check if they have any certifications or partnerships related to your industry.
  • Ask for references from clients in your industry.


3. Look for References from Trusted Marketing Sources

Looking for references from trusted marketing sources is essential when evaluating potential marketing agencies for your startup. By doing so, you can better understand an agency's reputation, track record, and expertise in the industry.

When finding references from trusted marketing sources, one agency that stands out is Transcend Digital. This agency has been named one of the top marketing agencies for startups by Influencer Marketing Hub, a leading industry publication. The recognition is a testament to the quality of work Transcend Digital delivers to its clients.


4. Check their Presence at VC-Related Events

The presence of a marketing agency at VC-Related Events significantly boosts your efforts at finding the right agency for your startup. It shows they are well-connected in the industry and can help you make valuable connections.

You can attend VC-related events and conferences to meet potential marketing agencies for your startup. These events and seminars are designed to bring together startups, investors, and service providers, including marketing agencies.

premium logo

Budgeting for Growth Marketing Exec. Report

Your fast-track guide to the common pitfalls surrounding the allocation and use of marketing funds.

While experience and a strong portfolio are important aspects to consider when evaluating a marketing agency for your startup, creativity and a deep understanding of your product and audience are the most critical. Case studies might showcase the agency's past successes, but it's essential to ensure that those successes align with your unique business goals and target market.

5. [often overlooked] Look for Creativity


One of the most crucial yet often overlooked factors is agency's  creativity skills. Choosing an agency solely based on past results might lead to the implementation of generic, one-size-fits-all strategies that may not resonate with your specific audience or effectively highlight your product's distinct value proposition.

A creative agency invests time and effort in truly understanding your startup, its offerings, and your audience's pain points and desires. They tailor their approach to match your brand's personality and your audience's preferences, crafting campaigns that speak directly to your target customers.

Avoid cookie-cutter solutions (often masked as 'tried-and-true' tactics). This approach could result in a lackluster marketing campaign that fails to differentiate your brand or connect with your intended audience.

Blog Posts-Mar-10-2023-07-08-54-6210-PM

Hire an agency that can provide fresh and innovative approaches to targeting, messaging, copywriting, creative design, and lead generation. Look for a partner that goes beyond the standard tactics and embraces out-of-the-box thinking to craft campaigns that resonate with your audience in unique ways. A creative mindset allows for experimentation, innovation, and the development of cutting-edge strategies that can elevate your startup to new heights.

  • Examine Pitch Materials: Look beyond the surface-level details and dig deep into the effort they put into understanding your startup's unique market position and audience intent. A creative agency will go the extra mile to craft a tailored marketing proposal that aligns precisely with your business goals.

  • Review Their Portfolio: Look for diverse and unique case studies in their portfolio that demonstrate their ability to tackle different challenges creatively.


Choosing the right marketing agency is a critical decision for any startup founder. By understanding the costs of hiring a marketing agency and what to look for when evaluating agencies, you can make an informed decision that will benefit your startup in the long run. Research and compare different agencies before making a final decision.

At Transcend Digital, we offer top-notch digital marketing services to help your startup achieve success. Our team of experts specializes in creating tailored marketing strategies to meet your specific needs and goals. Contact us today to learn more about how we can help your startup grow.

Topics: product marketing

Alla Elfimova

By Alla Elfimova

Stay up to date
with the latest news