Hiring Consultants vs Agencies

The market for digital marketing agencies and SEO consultants is extremely crowded and it makes choosing the right provider a time consuming choice. See the comparison below.

The goal is to focus in on key skills, abilities, and the energy the provider possesses. Filtering out distractions to obtain clarity is the first priority of any CEO or manager.  So what is essential in your choice? For marketing agencies, see this checklist of factors to review.

SEO Book

Often the truth is apparent. A quick look at a company’s blog or their marketing service pages gives you sufficient evidence of their current state of evolution, depth of their talent, skills and experience. Within 10 minutes of immersion into their content, and you can determine their productive power and whether they’re the exact service you need.  Their future potential is easy to see in the depth of their content and how forward looking they are.

Many agencies dazzle with their big budgets and graphic design, but if they have those kind of resources, why are they struggling? The reason is often that they don’t possess the inhouse talent.  The best advanced SEO consultants work for themselves and not for an agency.  Due to the pandemic, clients are becoming accustomed to finding freelancers such as SEO experts, social media experts and others.  While the agencies and consultants compete head to head, we’re at a point where you can acquire the exact service mix you need.

If you’re thinking that inhouse is the only way, then you’re likely of the conviction that “topic and industry expertise” is the real asset developed and acquired. And that certainly is a big part of the equation.  However, certain services such as brand development, search engine optimization, and social media engagement are significant skills.

To Win Niches You Need Niche Talent

Advanced SEO Strategy

The lesson for any business is to focus on niches you can win, and leverage specific higher skilled talent in key areas where it really matters.

The battle for product, service and brand supremacy comes down to winning at niches.

You might be in a challenging spot yourself right now with brand visibility, lead generation, revenue, and customer loyalty. It’s so competitive today, you must find specific improvements to beat competitors. And while saving money is important, it’s the niche advantage that you really need.

Marketing Agency vs Consultant

To create a sustainable, winning solution will you hire a local marketing agency you found on Google? The problem with marketing agencies is they don’t have the depth in skill and their staff may not feel comfortable going outside their skillset. They stay confined, working in an agency.

Agencies nor In-House is Old School

Marketing agencies are seeing their opportunities dry up in the DIY era, outsourced work from home era. Tools, expertise, and talent are available that allow companies to assemble virtual teams. The quality of this team depends on how well you source and choose them. There may be ramping up period, but at least you can reach the peaks with the advanced search engine optimization talent, web design talent, programming talents and expert brand managers.

Staying old school on staffing could really limit your business potential and make it difficult to contain costs. If you have little money for marketing or advertising, then it’s very important to go bare bones so you can get exposure via Google and Facebook’s platforms.  Even as a short term testing project, money is needed for these projects.

Good virtual staffing solutions can maximize your budget. That will impress investors, if you show them you’ve hired the masters of their discipline and are generating in the industry experience needed.  Talent including Advanced SEO is important, and so is the capacity to build expertise, insight and mastery of your industry.  In SEO or marketing communications, expertise and authoritativeness carry significant weight.

Hiring specialist consultants or several of them could make better sense. It allows you to find exceptional talent and bring them together. Bringing them in-house virtually is good, but not in-house as employees.

I have a client who has done just this. It’s a modern and brilliant startup lead by good managers. Yes, talent still has to be managed sometimes like employees, but the end result is worth any issues. With patience and perseverance you can have your dream team.

Agency Vs Consultant: Fees, Benefits, Performance

Those assessing the agency vs consultant comparison focus on price. Agencies don’t have the best talent, so you can’t buy it from them. Smart managers want performance, and is this chart shows, consultants have lower fees.

Screenshot courtesy of getcredo.com

Compare Agencies vs Consultants

This chart below reveals clearly the real difference between agencies and consultants is convenience. It is easier to offload all digital marketing tasks to someone else. Yet it comes with higher cost and perhaps mediocre results, that simply don’t improve. If sustained results from growing expertise don’t matter, then specialized talent won’t be pursued.


Consultants Marketing Agencies
Specific Expertise
Industry Expertise  √
Integration  √
Skill  √
Best Skill Available  √
General Expertise  √
Assurance  √
Fees  √
Convenience  √
Responsiveness & Dedication  √  √


Of course, there could be pieces missing in your band of talented marketers. A marketer with several talents could ensure you’ve got the entire customer funnel covered.

The fact you can assemble superstars is important. Either through one exceptional talent or several, you’ve got the best. Let’s say it’s a WordPress developer who is smart and passionate about WP, or a programmer who can develop your web application, or who can manage things end to end?

It might be a content specialist who is a wizard with SEO and social media. Or how about a sales/CRM rep who converts leads expertly?

These consultants may have experience with several brands or even your own competition. They could bring a lot to your project’s success.

There are key cornerstone specialists along with those who can wear many hats. You can build your team as you like and even insert temporary talent as projects require.

They’re not going to be located in your city in a building in downtown Boston, San Diego or the Bay Area. That’s too expensive and there’s no chance the very best are all located in your city. Hiring remote talent gives you the best and you could save on salaries.

Agencies: Could We Keep It Shallow?

At an agency, the workers don’t have time to go deep into your business. That would be a risky commitment for them. And people that talented generally end up leaving and working for themselves, where they can be appreciated, paid well, enjoy work freedom, cut their costs, and continue developing their specific talents.

An agency doesn’t have time for anyone to be that proficient in one clients’ business. And what if they lost that highly developed worker? The business risks would frighten them. From experience, I can tell you agencies keep their workers contained.

Agency directors want to you choose a mediocre service and live with that choice. That’s pushing the performance and risk issues back to your table. In the end, you’re not competitive enough.

There’s plenty of other ways to look at the agency vs consultant decision. The trend is away from agencies to assembling nimble teams of experts who can grow their performance faster.

Where can you find Expert Consultants in your Industry?

Linkedin Talent Solutions might be the best source. If you want to hire someone good, it’s better to search for them, and then find the best way to convince them to work for you.

You’ll be able to leverage Linkedin’s tools to conduct the search as well as their big reach to talent. You can drill down into their resume, check their Facebook and Twitter pages, and create a profile of who they are and what they want.

You can use a service such as Hiretual which uses AI to identify the best candidates. Artificial intelligence is entering almost every area of business from marketing to recruiting.  Finding your candidate is like finding a needle in a haystack, but AI can probably do it. Linkedin has AI capabilities.

The key part of recruiting is learning as much as you can about what you need to do and whether a marketing agency can match the skills/experience of the specialist consultant.  What does the person want and enjoy doing? Do they have the drive, independence, persistence, determination, and interest in your sector? Do they show signs of growing, learning, and improving?

Then of course, do they have the skills, and how can their skills be developed. A resume is not very useful. You can likely do the research yourself.

At the end of your research, you’ll know more about them than they may know themselves. That has to put you in the driver’s seat when negotiating and putting together the benefits they can’t live without. Sometimes it’s not all about cash. Younger talent especially want to experience quality of life.

Need Help with Online Marketing?

My specialty is unique content research and copywriting, plus advanced search engine optimization using social media as an outreach tool. That’s a 3 in 1 solution. I’m able to develop expertise in your industry. I’ve done it many times. My background is in marketing, software, real estate, recruiting, sports equipment, IT tech, and building products.

Learn more about me, Gord Collins and you can reach me here.

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