Marketing Consultant, Marketing Know-how

Marketing Consultant vs Marketing Agency: the need-to-know differences

marketing consultant versus an agency

Thinking about getting help with your marketing? If you’re struggling to promote your products and services, it makes sense to get help from an expert. But what kind of help should you get? Read on to find out about the pros and cons of a marketing consultant vs marketing agency!

But first things first, if you are considering hiring either an agency or a consultant to help with your business, there are a few questions you have to ask yourself:

  1. Do you already have a clear brand & marketing strategy in place?
  2. Do you want advice, support or both? Or are you looking for someone to take care of your entire marketing?
  3. Is there one specific area of marketing you need help with, or do you need more general help?

Being clear on the answers to the above will quickly help you establish whether a marketing agency vs marketing consultant is best for you.

What is a marketing agency?

marketing consultant versus an agency
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If we approach this question very broadly, a marketing agency is a company which employs a team of professionals to help businesses like yours with your marketing.

You can work with an agency in a number of different ways. But they will usually have an account manager assigned to your business while having a whole team of specialists working on your marketing in the background.

But it’s a little more complicated than that…

Do they all do the same thing?

No! And that’s a crucial thing to note before you waste any time approaching one that won’t be the right fit. Unless you’re looking at a large full-service agency, most small and mid-sized agencies specialise in a particular area of marketing.

For example, some focus on digital marketing with websites, search engine optimisation (SEO) and social media marketing as core services. While others’ expertise lies in creating your branding and marketing strategy.

This isn’t an exhaustive list, of course, but you get the idea – a marketing agency tends to employ experts in a particular field, especially if it’s a small(er) agency. So it pays to do your research and be clear on what help your small business marketing needs at the moment.

Other things to look out for:

  • Industry speciality – some agencies will offer services for any industry. But others may specialise, and that level of expertise can be a big selling point. Big Bear Creative, for example, is focused on the hotel and hospitality industry. While Foundation Agency works only within the beauty industry.
  • Size – this may not impact on you directly, but understanding the size of the agency can be useful. A small agency with just three or four staff members may mean they work on a smaller number of accounts and can offer a more personalised service. A larger firm may feel slightly more detached, but there will always be someone there to jump in and look after your account if your dedicated account manager is out of office.

What does a Marketing Consultant do?

marketing consultant versus an agency
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I’ve written about this extensively in the past, so I’ll link a couple of those posts here for you to check out after this one.

Unlike an agency, a marketing consultant is an individual who can work with you on your marketing. In most cases, consultants like myself are generalists with a well-rounded grasp on all aspects of marketing your small business.

So rather than being experts in one area like digital marketing or branding, they can help you with everything from strategy to delivery.

All consultants work differently, so be sure to book a discovery call with anyone you’re thinking of working with first. More often than not, consultants offer a whole range of services from one-to-one sessions to workshops for your staff.

A marketing consultant is there to help you understand what marketing actually is, and how to use it to achieve your goals and put together the best marketing mix for your small business.

Marketing can feel like a bit of a mystery when it isn’t your area of expertise. And sometimes outsourcing that to someone else before you really understand it can leave you feeling out of the loop. How can you make sure that what they’re doing is reflecting your brand and values and is reaching out to your ideal customers?

That’s why working with a marketing consultant can be a massive help. It can allow you to learn exactly what is involved in marketing your business. This way, no matter what stage of your journey you are at, you feel confident in how your customers are perceiving and experiencing your business. And you can make sure your marketing always aligns with your wider business strategy.

marketing consultant versus an agency
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Will they both help me create my overall strategy?

A marketing consultant can absolutely help you here. They will help establish what your business goals are, and work with you to get clear on what your marketing strategy will involve across the whole picture.

This will ensure every aspect of your marketing, from your branding to your website to your mailing list, is working towards the same end goal.

They are there to help you form a solid foundation for your marketing. This means fully understanding your position in the market, your USP, your ideal customer and your brand values. Their job is to help you create a sustainable, successful strategy that works for you and your business.

And all before you jump in to the actual marketing tactics themselves (and a consultant can help you with that, too). This support and encouragement is invaluable, particularly for businesses with a small team and budget.

A marketing agency, however, will more often than not require this to already be in place before kicking off. This means that you are still in charge of the big picture (i.e. your brand and strategy) and making sure that all your marketing activities (both in-house and agency-side) are consistent and contributing to you reaching your business goals.

So they may have your social media under control, but it’s up to you to ensure that what they are achieving is being supported by your website, your SEO work and any offline marketing.

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Will they both do the work for me?

In most cases, a marketing agency is like an outsourced marketing department – so yes, they will do the work for you.

If you are looking for someone to take over all of your social media marketing, for example, an agency might be the perfect fit. A marketing agency specialising in social media can take over your content creation, scheduling and advertising, freeing up your time to focus on the things you enjoy.

This can be a massive relief if you’ve been in business for a while, and you’re confident that your strategy is solid. That freeing up of time can be a lifesaver for a busy business owner!

A marketing consultant, on the other hand, won’t take care of the whole day-to-day running of your marketing so you don’t have to deal with it anymore.

They’ll help you out with the delivery of your strategy. But it’s more about divvying up the tasks and supporting you in certain aspects of your marketing. They might also be able to get in other experts and specialists to help build your website or design your logo.

The main thing is that they’re here to set you (and your team) up with the skills and knowledge you. And then you can take care of it yourself, get their support or find the right in-house marketer for your team.

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Final Thoughts

I hope this post helped to clear up the differences between a marketing consultant vs marketing agency. As you can see, both offer a range of services suited to businesses at different stages of their journey.

Maybe initially you work with a consultant to form a 10 out of 10 strategy. Then, a few years later when things are busy, you can hire an agency to deal with the day-to-day running of some of your channels!

Before you rush to hire one or the other, take the time to assess your goals, and which is best suited to help you. Finding the right person or team to work with can entirely transform your marketing – so take your time to find the right fit!


If you are interested in reading more about this topic, have a look at these:
Who Should I Call? 12 Design and Marketing Job Definitions
4 Ways a Small Business Marketing Consultant Can Help You
FAQ! 12 Questions I Regularly Receive as a Marketing Consultant
What Exactly IS Marketing? Or: Marketing Strategy vs Marketing Tactics

Denise Strohsahl brand and marketing consultant for small businesses

Hello, I’m Denise from sandstonecastles, a brand & marketing consultancy based in Edinburgh, Scotland.

I help small business owners like yourself to find the right marketing that’s in line with your brand and values.