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Consultancy and Agency/Do-It-For-You Services are not the same thing. So in a world full of consultants, freelancers, agencies and contractors, how do you know what you need? And how do you ensure strong marketing ROI?

As a consultant, one of the first things I need to ascertain is if the client has a real need for a consultant or whether they require services more traditionally provided by agencies.  The primary indicator of this usually revolves around their expected timeline and long-term objectives.

In a nutshell, a consultant is usually a highly specialised professional, focused on strategy and long-term thinking to identify and solve problems. They will take a close look at your company, using fresh eyes, insider-insight and AAA access to ensure an in-depth knowledge of the company, its products, aims, needs and wants. The will use market knowledge and experience to help your team define realistic budgets (and determine KPIs/ROI on spend), review and audit suppliers and write integrated strategies which combined 360 thinking across the business as a whole.

While many marketing agencies do employ ‘Consultants’ in various guises, the necessary speed and quantity of their client base often prevents the in-depth knowledge and service that a business should expect from a true consultant.  For this reason, an agency is quite often more ‘now’ focused, helping their clients to identify the quick wins and implement previously identified strategies. They will operate only with the information you provide them and most likely as a third-party supplier with primarily phone/email contact and an occasional, often chargeable, meeting. They will provide retainer or project-based quotes which will need to be factored into any pre-existing budgets by your in-house team. These often have costly add-ons attached for out-of-scope work.  

Working very closely with your board and leadership teams to grow, develop and shape your company future and culture, A consultant will use strategic planning, deep knowledge and long-term thinking at an agreed consultancy rate. They will cultivate relationships across the business and use insights, data, analytics and testing to inform long-term growth which defines and aligns sales, marketing, product development, company mission, vision, values and objectives to drive sustainable and effective strategies and budget planning. They will advise your in-house teams and provide the guidance needed to implement these strategies once approved.

 However, if you want someone to manage your social media feeds, create content and write press releases on your behalf to support or replace an in-house resource, you most likely need an agency, freelancer or contractor to manage this for you. An agency’s strength often lies in it’s dedicated in-house resources such as designers, videographers, PR managers and developers to respond to all their clients immediate needs as quickly and effectively as possible, making them a great fit for creative content creation or campaign implementation.

Consultants in their truest form are, as a rule, far more expensive than an agency in terms of cost-per-hour but their services are not really comparable. The value of both is determined by the weight of need by the client business. A good consultant can help you grow sustainably, securing long-term value and increased market share as well as evaluating activity to ensure efficacy and alignment. A good agency should ensure your immediate and short-term future visibility and brand profile while working to meet your stated strategic goals.

There is no good and bad in this. Both services are capable of providing immense value to your business and, when used correctly, can go a long way to moving you to your end-goal, whether that be winning awards, increasing your social following or growing a start-up into a multi-million-pound corporation.

Knowing which is which, will help you to shape reasonable expectations, maximise marketing ROI and minimise the potential for frustration at both ends of the agreement.

Element 62 is a marketing consultancy with over 20 years experience providing strategic marketing as well as specialist services including Inbound Marketing, Product Marketing, HubSpot CRM, Brand Story, Vision, Mission and Value Creation. Get in touch if you think we can be of assistance in helping your business develop everything it needs to grow sustainably in the experiential and digital marketplace.

Check out our new DIY Digital Marketing Toolkit designed specially for small & local business owners and personal brands who want to take control of their marketing without entering agency or consultancy contracts.