As a business owner, choosing the right marketing strategy is crucial for achieving your goals and staying competitive in today’s fast-paced market. Thus, two of the most popular options for marketing expertise involve choosing between a marketing agency vs. consulting.

While both can offer valuable services and expertise, there are pros and cons to each approach, and the decision can be challenging. So what are the differences when comparing a marketing agency vs. consulting? First, let’s define each.

A marketing agency is a company that provides a wide range of marketing services to businesses. These services include advertising, public relations, social media, email marketing, content creation, and more. 

Marketing agencies typically have a team of experts with various specializations, such as designers, copywriters, social media managers, and account managers. They work with clients to develop and implement comprehensive marketing strategies that align with the client’s business goals.

Should you choose to hire a marketing agency, you are, in effect, hiring a whole marketing department for your organization. The benefit of this is that an excellent marketing agency will identify areas of weakness in your marketing strategy and help your business improve its customer acquisitions. 

As for a marketing consultant, this is an individual who provides strategic marketing advice and guidance to businesses. Marketing consultants typically have extensive experience in marketing and specialize in a particular industry or type of marketing. 

They work with clients on a project or ongoing basis to provide tailored solutions to their marketing challenges. Consultants often focus on strategic planning, market research, and analysis and may collaborate with other marketing professionals as needed.

The misconceptions: marketing agency vs. consulting services

Before we look at the pros and cons of each, it is worth getting some common misconceptions about each out of the way.

  • One option will offer us more attention than the other: Many assume that hiring a consultant means working with a single individual who can provide personalized attention to your business needs. Conversely, some assume that hiring an agency means working with a large team that may not be as focused on your specific needs. In reality, both options can offer personalized attention to your business needs, and the level of attention you receive will depend on the specific consultant or agency you choose to work with. 
  • The consultant we hire will be the only one doing the work: While it is true that consultants often work independently, they can also collaborate with other external professionals to help you achieve your business goals. Consultants can work with a team of experts, including analysts, strategists, and designers, to deliver the marketing results you desire. Similarly, agencies can work with a single point of contact in your organization (such as the marketing director), ensuring everyone works together to achieve your business objectives.
  • Because they (the consultant or the marketing agency) worked with a popular company within the same industry, they must be capable of delivering results: While it is true that experience can be a valuable asset, it doesn’t guarantee success. Each business is unique and faces different challenges, and what worked for one company may not work for yours. Thus, choose a consultant or marketing agency based on their expertise and experience in your industry or niche. 

With these misconceptions out of the way, we can move on to the next deciding factor; the pros and cons of a marketing agency vs. consulting.

Fractional CMO Agency vs. Consultants: Pros and Cons

Before continuing, it’s worth defining what a fractional CMO agency is. A fractional CMO agency is a company that provides fractional Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) services to businesses and has an in-house team to help with execution. A fractional CMO is a part-time or project-based CMO who helps businesses develop and implement marketing strategies.

For the purposes of this blog, we will assume that a fractional CMO agency and a marketing agency perform the same tasks and are one and the same. 

Let’s now take a look at the pros and cons of marketing agency vs. consulting

Pros of hiring a marketing agency

  1. Access to multiple resources: One of the primary benefits of working with a marketing agency is gaining access to multiple resources you may not have otherwise had. These resources can include software tools, marketing automation platforms, social media scheduling tools, guides, marketing methodologies, and more. With access to these resources, your business can stay up to date with the latest marketing trends, discoveries, and technologies, which can help you stay ahead of the competition.
  2. Relationships and networks with other leading marketing institutions and industry experts: These relationships can be valuable in helping your business gain access to the latest marketing trends, insights, search algorithm changes, marketing best practices, and resources. Additionally, these relationships can help your business gain exposure to a broader audience, which can help increase brand awareness and drive traffic to your website.
  3. Comes with teams with a wide range of expertise for your business needs: These teams can include marketing strategists, content writers, graphic designers, social media experts, SEO specialists, and more. With this team of experts, your business can tap into a range of skills and knowledge that can help you achieve your marketing goals more efficiently and effectively.
  4. The ability to scale with your business: As your business expands, you may need to adjust your marketing strategies and tactics to keep up with the changing market and customer conditions. A marketing agency can help you adapt to these changes by providing the resources, expertise, and support you need to grow and scale your business.
  5. Larger bandwidth for testing while still staying up to date with industry developments and changes: This capability of a marketing agency can help you identify what works best for your business while still staying ahead of the curve in terms of industry trends and best practices.

Cons of hiring a marketing agency

  1. Cost: Hiring a marketing agency can be expensive, particularly if you’re a small business or a startup with limited resources. Marketing agencies typically charge based on the scope of work, the complexity of the project, and the amount of time and resources required to achieve a specific SMART goal. This can be a significant investment for your business, and you may need to carefully consider whether the benefits of working with a marketing agency outweigh the costs.
  2. They may require access to some of your sensitive systems: While many marketing agencies are reputable and trustworthy, there is always a risk when you grant access to sensitive systems to a third-party provider. As these agencies have lots of people working for them, you may need to take extra precautions to ensure that your data is protected and that your systems are secure. Hence, carefully consider the scope of work you give a marketing agency and the level of access they require. For example, you may restrict access to certain systems or provide limited access on a need-to-know basis.

Pros of hiring a marketing consultant

  1. They are a cost-effective option for startups and small businesses: Marketing consultants typically charge an hourly or project-based rate, which can be more affordable than hiring a full-time marketing employee or working with a marketing agency. This can be particularly beneficial for startups and small businesses with limited resources and budgets. By working with a marketing consultant, you can get the expertise and guidance you need to develop and execute a marketing strategy without breaking the bank.
  2. Ease of building one-to-one relationships: When you work with a marketing consultant, you can communicate more directly with them, which can help build trust and rapport. If you’re a small business or startup just starting out and need more personalized attention and guidance, this can be extremely beneficial for you. 

Cons of hiring a marketing consultant

  1. You’re often hiring a one-stop shop: This means that one person is tasked with not only your marketing strategy but the strategies of all of their other clients as well. This can mean that your consultant’s attention is divided, and they may not be able to provide as much focused attention and tailored guidance as you would receive from a larger marketing team or agency. Also, because marketing consultants typically work independently, they may not have access to the same resources and tools as larger marketing agencies, limiting their ability to provide comprehensive and cutting-edge marketing solutions.
  2. They may adopt a “set it and forget it” mentality with PPC efforts: PPC campaigns require ongoing monitoring and optimization to ensure they deliver the best possible results. However, marketing consultants juggling multiple clients may not have the bandwidth to provide the ongoing attention and monitoring that a PPC campaign requires. This can result in campaigns that are not optimized and may not deliver the results you’re looking for.

Contact us here if you would like to hire an industry-leading marketing agency for your business.

Agency vs. Firm: The Differences 

It is worth mentioning that there is another option that a business might want to consider when looking for marketing expertise: agency vs. firm. In the above, we listed the pros and cons of marketing agency vs. consulting. While marketing consulting does have its pros, a marketing agency may be the best option for those looking for scalability and a wide range of expertise. 

But what about a marketing firm? A marketing firm is a small group of professionals with a limited range of services, usually specializing in one or two areas of marketing. Firms are ideal for businesses looking for one particular marketing specialty. For example, a firm might specialize in search engine optimization (SEO) or social media marketing.

Basically, a firm tends to be a good fit for only specific, specialized requirements, while a fractional CMO agency covers all of your marketing needs and any new ones that arise unexpectedly. Thus, if you are looking for a fractional CMO for hire, always be sure to look for one that has excellent client reviews.

Key Factors To Consider When Choosing Between a Marketing Agency vs. Consulting 

We have looked at common misconceptions in regard to a marketing agency vs. consulting service. In addition, we have also looked at the pros and cons of marketing agencies and consultants. In all of these were listed key factors that you should consider when determining which of the two to pick. These key factors were:

  • Cost
  • Level of marketing expertise needed
  • Level of service provided
  • Time needed to see results 
  • Level of relationship and communication required

By considering these key factors, you can better determine which is best for you and your business. 

For more on recent trends in digital marketing, read our blog and talk to us if you are considering hiring a fractional CMO.