An inbound marketing agency provides turn-key solutions, but cost more - Consultants are cheaper (on paper), but they require hand-holding...
How many times have you been faced with this conundrum? You know that it's time to start feeding your sales people with inbound leads, but you're struggling with whether to hire a consultant vs an inbound marketing agency.
Both have their appeal, and in many ways, both are necessary to reaching your ultimate sales & marketing objectives. But there is only one right answer at this particular moment in time, and getting it wrong at this critical stage can lead to delayed objectives and wasted resources - two things that weigh you down every day.
Here are a list of pros and cons for each so you can choose the better option for your company.
The Inbound Marketing Agency Pros -
It's important to note that you won't necessarily find these with a generalist agency.
Formulaic approach -
Consultants may bring some working knowledge of the inbound, but can ONE person execute all facets of an inbound marketing program? Very unlikely. Inbound involves a wide array of marketing tactics, and the skill-sets often contradict one another.
- Creative Strategy: Your idea generator
- Project Management: Keeping it on time and working toward common goals
- Content Creation: Blogging, content offers, landing pages, emails
- Graphics Design: Somebody to make it look pretty
- SEO: Attract organic visitors to your website and through your lead funnel
- Technology: Getting all of your tools to communicate properly
- Data Analysis: Decipher results, and translate to actionable plans
- Growth Hacking: A/B testing your way to optimized results
- PPC Ads Management: Accelerate your program with paid visits
Delivery system -
When working with a solo marketing consultant, you're never going to have two operating with the same delivery system. Hell, they are likely to not even have a delivery system at all, and will rely on your team to lead them in this regard. If you don't have that kind of leadership or system in place, expect to be frustrated.
With an agency, however, particularly a turn-key agency, this is akin to breathing. They work with a lot of moving parts, each project having multiple people involved, so in order to keep up with their promises, they'll have software programs and templates at their disposal to work from... systems that they've refined over years of delivery of the same programs to businesses in a similar industry as yours.
This is valuable, because it's one less thing that you have to worry about, and it will instill confidence that your delivery goals will actually be reached every month.
Succession planning -
When you experience turnover for whatever reason, you're going to need somebody to fill the vacancy. With a delivery system in place, you're not going to have to worry about whether that replacement will feel lost or need time to "ramp up."
Now, I have seen consultants selling services for installing a system. But the question then becomes, who is driving it afterwards, and how are you getting newbies to adopt it? With an inbound agency, the expectation is that you won't have to teach anybody anything new about the system or your company and goals. Additionally, this makes cross-over project work considerably more efficient.
The value of your time & output -
Juggling marketing consultants is a tough job in of itself. You're recruiting, interviewing, hiring, onboarding, and managing them throughout the engagement.
Worst, you're expected to lead a successful project doing something you've never done before. Is it really the best and highest use of your time to stumble through a program that requires more time learning than it does executing?
The Consultant Pros -
Not every situation requires a turn-key solution. In fact, we get a TON of inquiries from small businesses that have a variety of interests, which may include inbound marketing, but may also include 20 other tactics.
Easy to pivot -
Need a slide deck or other marketing collateral at a moment's notice? Depending on how you have your arrangement set up, that shouldn't be a problem. Some turn-key agencies offer a solution for this as well (we do - under our Fractional CMO Services), but because they plan weeks and months in advance, they'll push back on the idea of diverting resources away from their main deliverables... as they should. Instead, they'll offer it as an out-of-scope delivery.
You didn't hire the turn-key solution to jump on your every whim. They're there to achieve a specific goal, and they should fight to protect that. And you should accept that if you want them to be successful.
This is ESPECIALLY important if your company is undergoing or about to undergo major operational changes. For example, if you're considering dropping a service line, a goal-oriented plan is very likely going to suffer. If you don't know your company's voice or have a clear vision for its future, a generalist is going to be a better value.
Not confined to any one type of thinking -
Not every solution is right for everybody or every situation. If your needs change dramatically, and you're working with a specialty agency, you may find yourself in a precarious position.
For example, what happens when you want to develop a video or build a sales process? Most specialty agencies aren't equipped to go from blogging to either of those.