When sales begin to sag or competitors heat up the race, organizations often turn to an outside marketing consultant for help, and with good reason. They bring fresh ideas, proven strategies, and abundant resources to boost their clients’ marketing efforts. Outside marketing consultants are remarkable short-term or long-term partners for any organization’s marketing efforts, whether you engage them for a few months or a few years.
As you consider potential outside marketing consultants for your company, think about your goals and what kind of outside marketing consultant you need to achieve them. Beyond the specialization and expertise of each outside marketing consultant, there are many categories of such experts.
For example, throughout my career in marketing communications, I have worked closely within marketing departments as an outside marketing consultant for extended periods. I have also helped in the short term for specific initiatives such as developing a new website, creating a corporate video, or developing a content marketing strategy.
Outside marketing consultants come in three basic categories, each with specific pros and cons. As you begin considering your options, think about what level of service you need for your business and the essential qualities you need in a marketing partner.
Regardless of which one you choose from the three outlined below, you can expect your consultant to do the following either partially or in their entirety:
- Listen to your needs and wishes for your company’s marketing
- Help you refine and confirm your marketing goals
- Make strategic recommendations to reach your goals
- Fulfill the strategy
- Provide a report of results
Let’s examine the three main choices for outside marketing consultants and the pros and cons of each one.
#1 THE LARGE MARKETING AGENCY
Larger marketing agencies (13+ employees and team members) typically have an impressive scope of services and live up to expectations for high-quality work. You benefit from the diverse ideas and contributions from a larger team.
- Established firms have procedures to get you onboarded and start on your project very quickly. They also usually support clients with more sophisticated reporting and software to simplify workflows between your team and theirs.
- Larger firms have experts in many areas of marketing. As a client, you benefit from their experience. Large agencies may also have internal departments for web development, graphic design, videography, and anything you need. This simplifies communication and keeps it all under one roof.
- High-quality work. For marketing firms to stay successful, they must produce impressive results to go head-to-head with the competitive agency market. Clients get results from larger agencies.
- Larger firms cost more than smaller firms or independent marketing consultants. Depending on the services needed, larger firms can charge $2,500/month minimum for a service package.
- Staff turnover. Larger agencies have a larger workforce, filled with less experienced, younger people with talent and ambition who tend to look for greener pastures. Don’t be surprised if your account manager turns over several times during your contract period. This can lead to some inconsistency in creative vision, as the replacement account manager takes the reins.
- Culture Fit. Is your business the ideal size for a larger firm? If you are a smaller company, your work may not be a priority for the agency. As a result, you could get lost in the shuffle.
#2 THE SMALLER MARKETING AGENCY
Smaller marketing agencies (3-12 employees and/or team members) can produce results that equal or surpass those of larger agencies. However, they often take a different route to get there.
- Smaller agencies typically charge less because they have lower overhead. You can often achieve more on a smaller budget.
- Working with a smaller agency makes you a bigger fish in a smaller pond. This often means attention from the top, as well as your account manager. At a smaller agency you will feel important, and the employees will go the extra mile to keep you as a client.
- Smaller firms are invested in your success and willing to work with you when plans change. With fewer layers of hierarchy, smaller agencies can sometimes switch gears more quickly than their larger counterparts.
- Scope of Services. Smaller agencies may not be able to offer as many outside marketing consultant services as larger agencies by virtue of their size and experience. Be sure the smaller agency you hire can perform the work you need.
- Smaller Staff. The bench isn’t as deep in a smaller agency, so turnaround time for work may be affected by circumstances at the agency. Smaller agencies combat this weakness by having a good-sized network of other creatives to complete larger, untimely, and more challenging projects.
- Because of their smaller size, smaller agencies produce fewer results throughout the year. This can be an argument that smaller agencies have less experience, so check the credentials of the person at the top of the smaller agency.
#3 THE FREELANCER
The term “freelancer” was introduced by Sir Walter Scott to describe those medieval knights who used their lance on a mercenary basis, unsworn to a single lord’s service. The freelancer is an individual professional for hire that can be a valuable addition to any team as an outside marketing consultant.
- For micro-budgets, a freelancer may be a good option. Freelancers are typically willing to work within your budget and often bill hourly at affordable rates.
- Service Flexibility. Freelancers are an especially appropriate choice when you need a single service, such as social media postings every month or an e-newsletter created and distributed. They may also be open to working with you hourly, per project, or on a retainer basis, as you prefer. Freelancers are also used to working on different platforms with different applications (ex. Basecamp, Trello, Mailchimp, iContact, Google Drive, etc.), so they will conform to your team’s project management regimen as opposed to you having to fit into an agency’s project management system.
- Your relationship with a freelancer is one-on-one, and the feeling of responsibility for your success is palpable. Your freelancer will undoubtedly become invested (or almost as invested) in your success as you are.
- It may be hard to choose a freelancer without spending some time vetting them carefully. Look for reviews, read recommendations, view work samples, and if you’re still not convinced of their qualifications, ask to speak to one of their clients.
- Freelancers are fallible human beings. They fall sick, need family time, and take vacations. They will always try to prioritize their clients, but your work may take a backseat to their personal lives if they do not have someone to cover their absence.
- Culture Fit. Because you work closely with your freelancer, you must like them and get along well. Unlike the larger agency, there is no buffer between you and the freelancer. If you discover you have incompatible values, opposite expectations, or different work ethics, it may be unpleasant to work with your freelancer.
What About Big Ideas Writing?
As an outside marketing consultant, we are a smaller agency with freelance capabilities. We can create a marketing strategy to reach your goals and fulfill them. We are also able to jump onto your marketing team as valuable contributors and collaborators, and even offer a small selection of ala carte services including press release writing and distribution and book ghostwriting.
Best of luck in your search for an outside marketing consultant. If you think a smaller agency with freelance capabilities may suit your company, let’s see what Big Ideas Writing can do for you! Contact us today at 630-778-6182.