Hiring a Marketing Consultant or Going With an Agency: What’s the Difference?
Are you in need of marketing help but unsure of which route to take? This article will break down the top differences between working with marketing consultants vs. marketing agencies.
Any time you are looking to bring marketing services to your business or organization, there are two possible options; hiring a marketing consultant, or contracting with a marketing agency. Of course, there are strengths that each of these options can offer, and different types of knowledge about marketing strategy, digital marketing, content marketing, project management, and more.
Here we’ll take a look at the differences between working with a marketing consultant or hiring a marketing agency. We will review some of the strengths that each option offers, and how those strengths can apply to branding, market research, or any area where your business is in need of marketing efforts.
What are the Big Differences Between Marketing Consultants and Marketing Agencies?
To get started, let’s look at the big differences between marketing consultants and marketing agencies.
First, marketing agencies will obviously consist of multiple people working together to provide services that meet many different marketing needs. Many agencies will often have several specialized people working under one roof, including experts in marketing plans, strategy, graphic design, social media marketing, SEO, and more. In some ways, you can think of a marketing agency as being similar to having an in-house marketing team but without the time and cost associated with building, hiring, and onboarding a house marketing team.
Marketing consultants, on the other hand, are often individuals with many years of experience in marketing. Marketing consultants, however, don’t usually cross over into multiple areas of expertise. If you were to hire a digital marketing consultant, it is unlikely that they would also offer services such as copywriting, template building, or graphic design. The specialized knowledge, however, is often very important to building a marketing strategy that helps you achieve business goals in a cost-effective manner.
Do Marketing Consultants and Agencies Offer Different Services?
The role of most marketing consultants is generally in the areas of strategy, analysis, evaluation, and research. Some examples of marketing consultant duties include:
- Evaluating what is or is not working with a current marketing campaign
- Identifying new or existing target audiences, marketing channels, business goals, etc.
- Developing a digital marketing strategy, lead generation campaign, or similar
- Recommending workflow and project management solutions
- Offering an analysis of current metrics and development of new KPIs
Marketing consultants often have a deep level of experience in their specific area or areas. Often, marketing consultants will have served in marketing roles for many years, may have agency experience, or may have been marketing managers and even CMOs prior to their consulting work. The breadth of their experience and client base is often considered one benefit of hiring a marketing consultant.
Marketing agencies generally offer a number of services on the production and implementation side of marketing. For example, a marketing agency you choose to hire may provide:
- PPC advertising production and SEO content development
- Copywriting and digital design services
- Social media marketing management and content creation
- Content marketing and CRM services
- Branding and identity work
- Public relations and media relations
These are just a few examples, of course; marketing agencies often combine people with a significant range of experience in marketing campaign creation and implementation, requirements for various marketing channels, and more.
What are the Different Capabilities of Marketing Consultants and Marketing Agencies?
Marketing consultant capabilities differ from the kinds of things a marketing agency will typically provide, as we explored above. There are other ways in which the capabilities between these two options differ.
For example, marketing consultants advise business owners at many different stages of the marketing process. Consultants are experts at strategy and are focused on how different strategies and approaches will affect the bottom line. They also focus time and resources on optimization, all the way from product packaging and information development to short-term and long-term marketing campaign approaches.
Marketing agencies, on the other hand, typically come into play once a digital marketing strategy is already developed, and they provide marketing services that are needed to put that strategy and plan into action. This is not to say that marketing agencies are only focused on production, though. Many marketing agencies have developed a significant amount of knowledge in terms of the effectiveness of various marketing channels. An agency you work with may recommend some modifications to your plan based on their experience with marketing partners and different marketing channels.
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What are the Cost Differences Between Agencies and Marketing Consultants?
The pricing difference between hiring a marketing consultant vs. a marketing agency can vary depending on exactly what your small business needs, and where you need to pour your energy and efforts right now.
If you are at a point where you need a strategic expert to help you develop a comprehensive marketing approach for a new product, choosing a marketing consultant is the right choice. Likewise, if you need an external marketing partner to provide knowledge and clarity for analysis of current or ongoing marketing campaigns, a consultant is a great place to start. Consultants can be hired for anywhere between $80 and $150 per hour. Specific pricing will be based not only on the type of project but on what kind of expertise will provide the benefit and results you are looking for at this stage of your marketing campaign.
Marketing agency pricing varies in much the same way; depending on the services you need, the price may look quite different from those of other small businesses. PPC campaigns, for example, will typically bill a percentage of your overall ad spend. Other agencies, such as design and content firms, can be found in a range from $150 per hour up to $350 per hour. Again, the exact amount depends on what services they’re providing, how large the project is, and even the area where the marketing firm is based. New York agencies will obviously bill more than a similar marketing group based in a smaller city.
Choose the Service That’s Right for You
In the end, the route you choose is really based on what you need. If your current marketing isn’t working, or you want to start a new marketing campaign off with as much information and strategy as possible, then you should hire a marketing consultant early in the process. If you are ready to put the power to the pavement and begin production and implementation of your marketing campaign, then contracting with a marketing agency is a terrific choice. Whichever choice you make, know that there are numerous qualified contractors and consultants ready to ensure that your marketing has the biggest impact possible on your small business’s bottom line.
About the author
Michelle is an SEO Content Strategist at UpCity. She focuses on leveraging creative and strategic marketing practices to connect users with insightful content. Prior to her role at UpCity, Michelle has worked on both agency and in-house digital marketing teams with an emphasis on content optimization and SEO analysis.