How To Get The Right Marketing Help You Need? Choosing the Best Option Between a Marketing Agency, Consulting Firm, Fractional CMO, or Direct-Hire Employee.

You know your business needs help, but do you know the best option for your marketing needs?

Many of us can identity that we need some help in our marketing department, where the challenge lies is figuring out how to get the right marketing help to best address these needs.

With several available options, it can be difficult to choose whether a marketing agency, marketing consulting firm, fractional CMO or a direct hire marketing employee is the best solution. So, how do you get the right marketing help you need, and how do you choose between alternatives?

Let’s explore the various options for getting your business the right help it needs by considering the alternatives and scenarios for each.

Defining The Marketing Skills Needed

The first step is to carefully define the marketing skills you actually need.

The instinct for many is to hire a new employee to fill the marketing need. And while hiring one person to address your needs is certainly an option, it may not be the right solution based on what your actual marketing needs are and where your business is in terms of its scale and stage of maturity. Your needs may warrant more than one person’s skills, knowledge, and experience. You may need the expertise of a team (or at least a few people) who bring the breadth and depth of innovative thinking and proven strategy and execution competencies to reach your desired goals.

Individual or Team Expertise

At times gaining the marketing expertise and talents offered by a team (or select members of a team) is the right solution for your needs. There are several options for gaining the benefits offered by a marketing team without incurring the overhead and longer-term commitments associated with direct hire employee relationships. If your needs warrant more than a single individual’s expertise, then deciding upon the right type of team and relationship to address your specific needs becomes the difficult decision.

Let’s take a closer look at some of these options by starting with a marketing agency and marketing consulting firm.

Marketing Agency or Marketing Consulting Firm

What is a marketing agency?

A marketing agency help clients implement and execute (and sometimes even measure) their marketing plans based upon the agency’s area(s) of expertise, skill sets, or industry focus. Marketing agencies can differ and may include agencies such as these:

Digital marketing agencies focus on digital strategies like SEO, SEM, PPC. They often have some creative talent internally to assist with the visual and copy creation of online ads, landing pages, and promotional digital assets.

Next there is the creative agency. While some creative agencies have the talent and ability to think and develop strategies and approaches, most remain focused on execution including but not limited to brand development, visual identity, advertisements, online design such as website, social channels, and traditional design for print, copywriting, and more.

Then there is the hybrid marketing agency. A hybrid agency offers both digital marketing, traditional marketing, and creative services. Some also offer strategy and planning. This type of agency offers services and support that may include brand development, marketing, communications, sales enablement tools and sometimes even market research.

What is a marketing consulting firm?

Most marketing agencies spend their time engaged on executing the specific areas for which they have expertise. Whereas a marketing consulting firm focuses on the larger business challenges.  This type of firm has the marketing know-how and expertise to think and solve top business challenges rather than executing on specific tasks.

This does not mean that a marketing consulting firm does not get involved with execution, but they are not initially brought in to start with execution, they are engaged for their business acumen and ability to think and help solve top marketing challenges that affect the business.

Common Challenges Solved by a Marketing Consulting Firm

Here are a some common types of challenges that a marketing consulting firm is engaged to help solve:

  • A business is not achieving the desired results. Maybe you lack a marketing strategy or plan. Or maybe the current marketing strategy, plan and team are just not yielding the desired outcomes. Either way, the internal team does not have the ability to understand what is missing or why this is happening.
  • Your company, brand or product is either new to the market or has been around a while and needs revitalization. Your internal team, while adept at their respective roles, do not have the expertise, experience, or panoramic view of business to take on the strategic work of developing the company, brand or product further.

Innovative, objective thinking is needed. A strategy and plan to create an impactful, differentiated brand from the get-go or recharge your existing one.

  • Your sales team has voiced that they need new, quality leads originating from marketing. Today with over 40 choices available to generate new leads, you’re not sure what to do, where to start, and what to even prioritize. Marketing expertise is needed.

Selecting A Marketing Agency or Marketing Consulting Firm 

Selecting a marketing agency makes sense if your defined needs align well to their strengths and abilities. A marketing consulting firm is the right choice over a marketing agency when you want results and the support of proven, experienced strategic thinkers who work with and as part of your business.  This type of firm has the know-how to help you think and create a strategy and plan that sets you on the right path to success and results.

As mentioned earlier, some marketing consulting firms also get involved with the implementation and execution phases of marketing. It varies by firm.

Fractional CMO

Now that we’ve defined the differences between a marketing agency and marketing consulting firm, let’s look at another option, the fractional CMO.

What is a fractional CMO?

A fractional CMO is a senior marketing leader joining your company to build or lead your marketing function on a part-time basis. The fractional term denotes the model whereby you get a seasoned professional fully committed to your business for a reduced amount of time each week, e.g., 8, 16, 20 hours or more.

When Is a Fractional CMO the right choice?

A fractional CMO is often the right choice for startups and smaller size businesses who do not have the budget or are not at the stage of maturity to justify an investment in a full-time CMO. A fractional CMO offers the same benefits of a full-time CMO by immediately diving into a business to gain a panoramic understanding from an inside perspective. Yet, the reduced weekly time commitment of a fractional CMO allows businesses to get the same knowledge, experience, and high level of expertise for a reduced investment.

Let’s look at some of the benefits offered by a fractional CMO.

How the Relationship Structure Differs among These Options?

When choosing among a marketing agency, marketing consulting firm or a fractional CMO, here is how the relationship structure with each differs.

A marketing consulting firm works with either new companies, or established businesses ready to scale. The firm is brought him to help solve strategic marketing challenges for the business. The firm already has a team of resources already in place. Its team is proven and works well among each other. As a team of experts, they bring a strategic mindset built on many years of knowledge, skills and experience. While a marketing consulting firm is sometimes engaged by a company’s top Marketing leader, typically the firm is brought in by a CEO or President to serve as the company’s marketing department or a designated extension of the function. Although you will work with the team, in most situations there is a lead marketing consultant who will be your primary point of contact.

As mentioned earlier, many marketing consulting firms also carry out marketing and communications execution by maintaining the talent in-house or through partnerships.

A marketing agency commonly works with new companies or those who already have their own internal marketing team. The agency is brought in to complement or enhance the marketing team in a specific area for which the employees either do not have the expertise or are tapped out and need extra support. This type of agency is brought in to execute on specific tasks with defined timeframes and deliverables. A marketing agency designates an Account Executive or Account Manager as your relationship manager and contact.

A fractional CMO is not a marketing agency or a marketing consulting firm. Rather, he/she is a proven, seasoned marketing leader who brings the thinking and hands-on expertise to lead your marketing function on a reduced weekly time basis.  This is a 1-1 service relationship and does not span to a team.

Last but not least, let’s look at the individual employee option.

The Direct-Hire Employee

While a direct-hire employee needs little explanation, here too are pluses and tradeoffs that need to be considered with this choice. Besides the fixed overhead costs of employee benefits and employer-employee taxes, you are limited to the skills and competencies offered by a single individual.

As previously mentioned, hiring just one person to address your needs may or may not be the right solution. It should be based on what your defined marketing needs are and where your business is in terms of its scale and maturity. You may need more than one person’s skills, knowledge, and experience. You may need the expertise of a team or a few people who bring the breadth and depth of thinking and strategy and execution competencies to reach your desired goals, without the fixed overhead costs of an employee.

Choosing the Right Solution for Your Needs

There are several factors to consider when weighing which is the right option for gaining the marketing help you need. If you want to learn more about these options and discuss your specific needs, please schedule a phone call or video discussion with us.

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Marketing Matters based in Stamford, CT in Fairfield County serves diverse businesses and organizations in CT, NY, NJ and throughout the US. We help clients across the entire marketing spectrum from conducting research to gathering insights and intelligence, developing strategy and plans, brand development, traditional and digital marketing and communications, and aligning with and enabling sales to drive growth and achieve results in today’s evolving market.  For questions or to learn more, contact us by phone at 203.329.7773 or online.