Outsource Smartly: A Guide to Choosing Marketing Consultants or Agencies

Outsource Smartly: A Guide to Choosing Marketing Consultants or Agencies

by Shandy Dunn
June 26, 2024

Outsourcing talent has become increasingly common for marketing and communications departments due to slashed internal creative teams, increased workloads and specific skillset gaps. With cost-cutting and stricter budgets in these areas, the question has become, what's the best way to source needed expertise — independent consultants or agencies?

While both offer obvious advantages and challenges, they aren't interchangeable fixes for your strategic and tactical needs. The best choice depends on factors such as the size and scope of the project or campaign, the amount of time it will take and the budget. You also want a trustworthy provider who understands your particular marketing and communications space and can have an immediate impact.

Identify Your Gaps and Needs

Before you bring on outsourced talent, you should understand your team gaps and support needs. Some things to consider:

  • Do you have a big campaign or company announcement coming up?
  • Are you part of a restructuring or M&A initiative?
  • Is there employee turnover that's creating a knowledge gap?
  • Do you require completely new subject matter expertise?
  • Do you need to prepare your senior executives for public roles?
  • Is your company growing faster than anticipated with a new sales strategy or entering a new market?

Finding the right expertise to fit these short-term, long-term, strategic and tactical needs can be overwhelming — but it doesn't have to be.

When Should You Hire an Agency?

The pressure to stay at the forefront of marketing trends while managing daily operations can be crushing, especially if you’re a startup or have a lean in-house marketing team. Hiring an agency to augment the gaps in expertise or staff can help you create dynamic solutions that bring new foresight, agility and innovation to your marketing and communications.

For large-scale initiatives with numerous creative and strategic needs, agencies can provide a full scope of services, from branding to public relations and analyst relations, digital marketing, creative and communications. Working with an agency also gives you access to experts, technology, analytics and other resources so you can feel confident handing off a comprehensive project for them to execute with just a single point of contact for you to manage.

It’s best to consider an agency when you:

  • Roll out a big go-to-market (GTM) initiative that needs extensive marketing and communications support. A classic example is Nike, whose GTM strategy is well-known for building customer relationships and engendering brand loyalty through its athlete partnerships, exclusive product drops and immersive digital experiences — all of which require far-reaching expertise and support to execute successfully.
  • Don’t have the in-house expertise for a specific assignment. For example, your CFO is giving detailed remarks about your business for a financial analyst roadshow. You may need someone experienced in investor relations to craft the presentation, format the Q&A and coach the executive in presenting the remarks.
  • Embark on a reorganization that requires change management messaging and/or executive communications support. Let’s say you recently merged with another company, sold a business unit or had a sudden change in senior management. A strategic communications agency can help you weather the potential storm.
  • Need to focus on an overarching social media or digital marketing strategy. If you’re considering a new social media, email or digital marketing strategy, an agency can work with you to develop a comprehensive strategy for launching it successfully.
  • Want support over a long period or on a bigger scale. You might have multiple launches and events planned over several months or years that could take place in various markets. It makes sense to bring on an agency with broad-based talent to support your goals and help you scale.
  • Need to hand over coordination and management of specific teams. You may require multiple experts to handle disparate functions within certain skill sets. Take design, for example. You might need graphic, web and UX designers, but you can’t find them all in the same place, or they haven’t worked together previously. An agency will have these specific experts on hand – either in-house or through relationships with freelancers – and supervise their interactions, taking the burden of managing their workloads and communications off your plate.

When Should You Hire a Consultant or Consulting Team?

Consultants are a great option if you want agility, flexibility and cost-effective solutions. That’s because you get powerful expertise for a specific need without paying the comprehensive fees of a full-service agency.

You can also get a bit more “bang for your buck” with consultants. They are dedicated and can dive deeper into collaboration and integration than an agency. Because consultants work so closely with your internal stakeholders, they can become embedded in your team or even an extension of it.

It's best to consider a consultant when you:

  • Can't afford an agency. If you’re a startup or a small organization, you might not have the resources to hire a full-service agency. Or you might need only one skill set — such as writing or design — and not the full complement found at an agency. Bringing on one or two consultants to do the work is often more cost-effective.
  • Don't have the budget to add a full-time employee. Organizations are running “leaner and meaner” these days, so the trend is to use freelancers and consultants for assignments.
  • Need long-term talent. You might be launching a new marketing or communications strategy that will require a leader to guide it. Or, you need a seasoned professional to mentor executives taking on new roles (i.e., a director of sales becoming VP of marketing).
  • Don’t have the in-house bandwidth to take on a project or campaign. This often happens when you launch a new product or are relaunching your website.
  • Need a resource for a specific amount of time. You might be coming up on a peak busy period or a time when full-time staff are away — for example, on medical leave – and you need talent to quickly step in and take on projects.
  • Want to try someone out before you bring them on full-time. Hiring full-time talent can be expensive, so you may want to hire them on a consultant basis to see if they can handle the workload, provide the expertise you need and fit in with your team culture.
  • Require particular expertise for a set project or period. For instance, your needs might be limited to drafting a speech for the CEO or producing a video for a company event. Consultants or freelancers are ideal to handle these types of one-off projects, especially when your internal team is at capacity.
  • Want the flexibility, agility and/or speed that working directly with a consultant can provide. Consultants are usually self-directed and don’t require a lot of handholding to get a job done — especially when you need a quick turnaround time.
  • Need expertise for a specific assignment. For example, your CEO may be giving a keynote address at a high-profile conference. You may need someone with executive speechwriting experience to craft remarks.
  • Need to hand off tactical responsibilities. For example, if you want to create and test a new social media, email or digital marketing strategy, you still need hands-on support to execute what you have in place while considering the broader changes.

The Stakes Are Higher Than Ever

Technology has rewritten the rules of marketing. Today’s consumers — even B2B buyers — often do their own research until they make the purchase decision. Having the marketing talent to be able to innovate, educate and differentiate in a crowded, increasingly online marketplace is critical.

You need thought leadership, market presence and educational communications to engage with customers and prospects. You also need the singular expertise of content creators, social media marketers, SEO experts and video and design professionals to bring your story to life.

Whether you require an agency or consultant(s), outsourced talent can provide you with the knowledge and expertise to stay on top of trends, make a significant impact on your business and succeed in a new world of digital marketing.

Don't Let Your Marketing Get Left Behind

Are you restructuring? Missing key marketing skill sets? Have a major campaign in the works and need support you can trust? Armanino can provide a full range of agency services or connect you to experienced consultants — learn more about our Armanino Exchange Service. Find out how our marketing, sales and customer strategy experts can help you access the ideal talent to fill your marketing and communications gaps.Find out how our marketing, sales and customer strategy experts can help you access the ideal talent to fill your marketing and communications gaps.

Power Your Growth Strategy

Armanino Ignite can fuel your revenue and ROI gains with key sales, marketing and customer strategy capabilities to fill your unique needs. Contact our experts today for a complimentary growth strategy discussion that’s focused on your vision.

Shandy Dunn - Consulting | Armanino
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