Hiring a digital marketing consultant vs hiring an agency

We’ve already established, on countless occasions, the vital role digital marketing plays in modern society. Every day, more companies continue to embrace the concept of growing their online presence and brand awareness through the use of digital marketing strategies. The only factor is the means by which they do so. That is where the decision-making process takes place. Digital Dot – a marketing agency in NYC understands the needs of businesses to seek out shortcuts to dominating in their niches and markets. One of the common decisions here is to find the right type of support to help your company grow online. In this article, we discuss the notion of hiring a digital marketing consultant vs hiring an agency and how either can affect your long-term strategy.

The fundamental difference between a digital marketing consultant and an agency

Digital marketing consultant
We start by understanding the fundamental differences between consultants and agencies.

Before we go into the upsides and downsides of hiring an agency or a consultant, we should first explain the function of both solutions:

  • A digital marketing consultant is an individual that can provide professional advice in planning and implementing various marketing strategies. All consultants take on the role of an advisor for marketing-related goals while some can participate in the execution of said plans and goals. Much like with freelancers, you have your consultants that are wide-ranged, dabbling in all kinds of strategies and approach. And you have consultants that specialize in specific digital marketing solutions.
  • A digital marketing agency is a company that takes on the role of service providers as well as advisors. Unlike freelancers and consultants, digital marketing agencies have a pre-defined set of services that they can provide to companies, with individuals or teams that specialize in each of those services. Agencies can handle the entire process of building your online presence – from planning and strategizing to long-term execution and monitoring.

Key determinators when hiring a digital marketing consultant vs hiring an agency

Team of people sitting at a conference table with papers everywhere.
Take your time looking at the criteria to consider when deciding between hiring a digital marketing consultant vs hiring an agency.

Both options have their pros and cons, really. It is the task of the business to consider what its limitations and goals are, before making a decision between the two. And so, we will do a cross-comparison between the two by using twelve basic business criteria:

  1. Experience
  2. Perspective
  3. Scalability
  4. Execution
  5. Passing on knowledge
  6. Creativity
  7. Tech solutions
  8. Competitive analysis
  9. Processes and procedures
  10. Bandwidth and availability
  11. Network
  12. Cost

Based on these criteria, you should be able to make your priorities clear and decide on the best course of action for your business. So, let’s get into it:

Experience

It is difficult to cross-compare the combined experience of an entire team with the collective experience of an individual. Yes, a digital marketing consultant that specializes in a particular area of digital marketing can trump one working for an agency. However, when you count in the added knowledge that other team members in an agency have and put it against a consultant, the winner is clear.

Simply put – the experience criteria between hiring a digital marketing consultant vs hiring an agency is equivalent to listening to a one-man-band and an actual band. One offers useful insight without sufficient in-depth knowledge while the other offers both of those things. Additionally, with the extensive combined knowledge it possesses, an agency will be able to scale and evolve with your business in ways a consultant probably won’t be able to.

Perspective

The matter of perspective is a simple one to consider between these two choices. A digital marketing agency has a complex perspective, built up of a variety of opinions and experiences. A digital marketing consultant is, in most cases, oriented toward a singular business perspective, one that is built from their personal philosophy. And with the shifting dynamics and trends of digital marketing, it can be more useful to have a multiple-minded perspective on your side.

Scalability

Arrow point up, made up of wooden cubes
You need to consider the ability of the person you hire to scale alongside your business as it grows.

While marketing consultants take the lead in the early stages of developing a strategy for clients, agencies overtake them in the long run. As the success of your digital marketing strategy grows, so does your business. And whereas consultants might have been able to coordinate and meet the initial demands of your business, they now need to handle added value to revenue and size. That is where scalability becomes a real issue for digital marketing consultants.

On the other hand, digital marketing agencies have the processes and bandwidth to accommodate business growth. They possess the capacity to meet the rapidly increasing needs of your company without having to struggle with finding additional capacities. And this can end up saving you from having to switch between digital marketing service providers mid-growth.

Execution

We already explained that the role of the consultant is usually synonymous with one of a coordinator/advisor rather than an actual executor. The consultant can provide you with a theoretical solution for your problem(s) and end their work there. In some cases, consultants can recommend third-party individuals to handle the problem at hand and oversee the implementation of the work. However, this usually leads to a higher expense and the decision of hiring a digital marketing agency vs hiring freelancers.

Digital marketing agencies can plan, coordinate, and oversee the execution of their solutions. You have no added expenses of dealing with third-party companies so long as the proposed solutions fall under the pricing plan of the agency. And even if they don’t, you have the option to re-negotiate your contract. Rather than risking the lack of accountability or inability to execute a plan, you can re-focus the work of the agency you hire.

Ability to pass on knowledge

Person showing another charts and analytics
You need to grant your company the option to learn from the professionals you hire.

Hiring a digital marketing consultant is much like hiring a guest professor for one semester. They have the ability to pass on knowledge to you and your team, but their time to do so is limited. Between keeping up with multiple clients and marketing industry trends, it can be far-fetched to expect a report or lesson from them.

Most digital marketing agencies will take the time to explain their solutions and the theory behind them. As a team made up of specialized individuals, they have sufficient time to pass on the knowledge behind their processes to you as the client. And this is a simple enough notion, but one that can definitely benefit your own employees in the future.

Creativity

The creativity comparison between hiring a digital marketing consultant vs hiring an agency is one that can go either way. Consultants have more liberty to work outside closed industries and markets, giving them a wider scope of ideas to work with. Additionally, their capacity to plan and coordinate rather than execute inside an established framework offers a varied insight. And so, they can borrow ideas from other industries that could work for your company as well.

A digital marketing agency, especially one that specializes in certain industries, is more likely to work inside an established framework of tasks and processes. And this is good as it is a proven working strategy, but it is also potentially closed off in terms of innovation and experimentation. However, as a client – you have the liberty to explore new ideas with an agency, giving them a direction in which you would like to head. And this can invite the need to adapt through new and creative solutions.

Tech solutions

Digital growth chart above a tablet
Can digital marketing consultants match the software tools that agencies possess?

Consultants are often financially limited when it comes to the range of software solutions that they use. Most simply can’t afford to subscribe to a variety of tools that they might or might not need to use in the upcoming months/years. And so, consultants will usually rely more on free tools and solutions as well as those they can access through your accounts.

With agencies, the story is different. As a team of professionals that covers a wide range of services, they need to possess the tools to do the heavy lifting. And it’s not a matter of whether or not they will need those tools – it is a matter of necessity. The added benefit is that, unlike consultants, digital marketing agencies have the financial foundation to afford a variety of tech solutions relevant to their work and that of their clients.

Competitive analysis

A digital marketing consultant will have the insight that agencies might not have when it comes to competitive analysis. However, what variety of knowledge consultants possess in general they balance out with the above-mentioned lack of tools to get the whole picture. There are paid tools that can aid in the competitive analysis of a business much more than those that are free.

A digital marketing agency has the tech and skills necessary to conduct a thorough competitive market analysis. And for agencies that specialize in specific industries, this analysis can offer a lot of insight. They understand the results of competitors and can offer counter-measures to match them. However, the other side of the coin is in the inability to fully grasp a competitive analysis in industries and markets they are unfamiliar with.

Processes and procedures

Goal - strategy - plan - the three pillars of digital marketing strategizing
A framework is important when looking to grow your business online.

Consultants will usually take great pride in the quality of their work and input. However, as individuals, we lack the pre-established processes and procedures necessary to maintain consistency in the services we offer. And so, clients are left to rely on a flexible approach that each consultant takes in the work he/she does. Hiring an agency translates to a process made up of defined tasks and procedures that will ensure long-term consistency. At the end of the day, do you want a professional consultant with no strict schedule or an agency with clearly defined steps that you can monitor and inquire about?

Bandwidth and availability

We’ve already mentioned that time is a very limiting factor for digital marketing consultants. It is a weakness that directly reflects on their scalability. After all, working on multiple projects at the same time leaves little to no room for attending to your specific needs at any given time of the workday. And when you add to that the possibility of sickness, travel, or vacationing – the time frame dwindles even further.

  • Simply put, bandwidth is not something that a consultant can guarantee to businesses that hire them on a long-term basis.

Agencies, on the other hand, possess much better control of bandwidth and availability in responding to the needs of clients. You always have the opportunity to reach out and schedule a meeting regarding a particular topic or issue that you might be experiencing. If your initial point of contact is unavailable, there is always someone there to step in and offer support in their stead.

Network

Hiring a digital marketing consultant vs hiring an agency relies on the network
Consider the network of partners either choice can bring to the table.

Given the amount of time and effort that consultants need to invest in the work they do and their own self-development, establishing a network of partnerships can be challenging. In fact, it can be next to impossible. And so, while consultants can offer great value and insight, they simply don’t have the additional support to cover all the bases you might need. It takes time to build a network, and it takes even more time to nurture that network.

Digital marketing agencies thrive on the strategic partnerships they create. It is based on your network of partners that you can adapt to the various needs of clients. And that leads most consultants to build a team around them and convert into agencies.

Cost

Finally, we come to the criteria that most businesses will look to rely on. However, price should not be your primary decision-maker when it comes to the choice of hiring a digital marketing consultant vs hiring an agency. That is why we put it at the end. The fact is that the cost of hiring a consultant is lower than the overall expenses of hiring an agency. Less commitment and fewer work hours lead to lower cost per hour.

On the other hand, the cost of hiring a digital marketing agency, as high as it might be, grants you much more power. With the resources an agency has at its disposal, you can achieve a lot more in a short amount of time, with long-term results.

Consult with Digital Dot today and speed up your decision

Whether you get the perspective of a digital marketing consultant or a digital marketing agency, facts are still facts. A rational business mind can easily measure the scales of both options before realizing which wins out in the long run. Certainly, each company is unique and has specific needs and resources at its disposal. It falls on to you to decide which fits in better with where your business is currently – hiring a digital marketing consultant or hiring an agency.

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