Back in the day, businesses were either large enough to maintain an in-house marketing department or hire a big ad agency like Ogilvy & Mather, BBDO, J Walter Thompson, or Young & Rubicam, or small enough that they were forced to do all their marketing themselves, often without an awareness of best practices, marketing fundamentals, or even the tools with which to create effective ads.

Today, however, it’s become more and more common for businesses of any size to turn to marketing agencies to help get their message out into the world. “But I don’t need an ad shop,” you may be saying to yourself. “I can do all my marketing on my own and save a bunch of money.”

Of course, you could. With the plethora of design programs available to today’s consumers, creating a marketing campaign is practically as simple as writing some copy, choosing an image, and clicking a button. But is that really your best choice for promoting the business you’ve worked so hard to build? Remember, creating an ad and creating an ad that performs are two vastly different things.

Look at it this way: Imagine you have an attack of appendicitis and you need medical attention. Do you go to the hospital and get professional medical aid, or do you “save a bunch of money” by enlisting the aid of your neighbor, who has seen every episode of Grey’s Anatomy and watches the Discovery Channel, especially the medical programs, all the time? Hopefully, you’d go to the hospital and get trained, professional help. Otherwise… well, you probably won’t be worrying about marketing for very long.

But proper marketing is a skill just like removing an appendix. And if you don’t consider marketing a matter of life and death, we’d suggest you reconsider your business priorities. Marketing can make or break a business. Remember the Quiznos Sponge Monkeys, the little deformed hat-wearing, levitating hamsters from 2004 that played the guitar and sang, “We love the subs?” We all know what happened with that.

Will an agency get it right 100% of the time? Obviously not, as the Sponge Monkey example clearly proves. But in the same way that even the best mechanic can sometimes be stumped by the funny noise your car is making, your chances of success with a real professional are much, much greater. If you don’t personally have the skills and experience necessary to create and operate a successful marketing outreach operation, agencies now exist in all sizes and in all price ranges. With a little research, you can pick the right one to work with you.

In Part 2, we’ll talk about some specific reasons to hire a marketing agency.