By Michele Linn published July 1, 2011 Est Read Time: 6 min

Who Should Help Me with My Content Marketing? An Agency or a Consultant?

Once marketers get started with content marketing, they often realize they need help. If you don’t have the time or skills in-house, one of the best ways to get help is to hire someone.

In our ongoing series, our CMI contributors are helping marketers get the help they need. Last week, they answered the question, Which parts of the content marketing process are best to outsource (e.g. strategy, process, content production, distribution, and measurement, etc?)”

This week they tackle, “When would I hire a marketing agency versus a consultant for content marketing?”

Consultant = expertise, agency = expertise + manpower. Part of most agencies’ business model is marking up time that is too irregular or specialized for a company to hire with a full time position. So if you want a few extra pairs of hands as well as the expertise – and if you do not want to recruit full-time – use an agency.- John Bottom (@basebot)


The first sign you need content marketing support is when your marketing expands its scope along the entire purchase process.  This often requires more content than can be handled within your organization. Be aware that this isn’t a black and white issue. Before hiring outside resources, check whether there are any employees across your firm who’d like to create content. Many marketers overlook this option. The benefit is that non-marketing employees bring a unique company perspective that incorporates an understanding of your brand and your history. They may,however, require additional copy editing support. Explore the breadth of content marketing options beyond marketing agencies and/or consultants. Include freelancers, bloggers, search optimization firms, and media companies. Choose consultants, freelancers, bloggers, search optimization firms and media companies to create content and fuel your content engine. Use marketing agencies to help with multi-media, expanding your reach on third party media and integrating with other marketing materials.Heidi Cohen (@heidicohen)


A couple of reasons to hire an agency:

  • You need the power of synergy on your campaign where an agency will have a group of specialists all review and contribute to concept and strategy.
  • You need to make sure you have enough coverage and back-up for mission critical tasks like ongoing development and maintenance of a larger CMS.

Consultants are good for focused tasks as part of your overall content marketing strategy, while agencies are better for multiple tasks and overall campaign support and management.

– Scott Frangos (@webfadds)


The line between agency and consulting has blurred quite a bit. At Velocity, we play both roles. If you know exactly where you’re going and what you need, any good agency should be able to help. If you don’t, a more consulting-led approach is best. In either case, the key question is whether they really get content marketing and, if so, can they can prove it.- Doug Kessler (@dougkessler)


Marketing agencies and content marketing consultants can peacefully coexist, and it often makes sense to work with both.Developing a content strategy for what you want to say, how you’re going to engage your prospects and customers and where you’re going to find them is the first step.Traditional agencies are excellent when you want help with trade shows, conferences, graphic design services, printing services, event management or buying advertising space for radio, television, newspapers and billboards. These are all important marketing related activities that complement your content strategy.- Sarah Mitchell (@globalcopywrite)


I think a consultant would be a fantastic choice if you are looking for someone to guide you as well as perhaps instruct you on maintaining your own content marketing program.But if you’ve got no time or very limited resources, I’d suggest that you start looking into marketing agencies that will be able to provide a more complete menu of  services and have larger resources to commit to your projects.- Elise Redlin-Cook (@redlincook)


Hire consultants when you want someone to come in and help you and your business learn how to eventually do some or all of your content marketing on your own. This will require having the internal resources available for training, development and execution.  If you don’t have those resources today then outsourcing to an agency makes sense, but know that you will be giving control of content to a party that will only really know your business from an outside perspective.  Make sure that the agency does not intend to approach content marketing from a more traditional mindset of push marketing and “brand messaging.” Content marketing is more about letting your audience form their own opinions on your brand and less about your business telling them what to think.- Nate Riggs (@nateriggs)


These are generalizations, but when I hear agency I think “tactical execution,” and when I hear consultant I think “strategy and guidance.”For any content marketing effort, especially if it’s a new initiative, you need both  strategy and guidance first, tactical execution second. Unless you have marketing leadership with a strong background and knowledge base in content marketing, you should  hire the consultant first, and then once the plan has been developed go ahead and hire the agency if necessary. The best shops blend the strategy and guidance of a consultant with the tactical execution of an agency; these are the types of firms you should be talking to if you are outsourcing a significant portion of your content marketing effort.- Mike Sweeney (@mjsweeney)


The difference between hiring an individual consultant vs. a content marketing agency depends on the scope of work you need help with and timing. An individual consultant and an agency can likely help with similar services, but the nature of the project and turnaround time are important. A consultant will likely be able to work on one or two projects at a time, while an agency can handle multiple projects at once because it has more resources than a consultant.  If you’re looking for strategy and content development either option will be able to help you, but if the project has more legs,with multiple layers and simultaneous deadlines, an agency will likely be a better bet. It also depends on the size of the agency you’re talking to. For example, we (Sprout Content) are a content marketing agency offering a variety of content marketing services, but we are more of a boutique firm with a small staff.- Debbie Williams (@sproutcontent)


Summary

As a number of contributors have indicated, the lines between consultants and agencies are blurring, and depending on who you use you may be able to get many of the same services. However, in general, consultants are a great choice if you want help defining your strategy, and agencies are perfect if you need manpower to get all of this done. Of course, some consultants work with teams to provide execution as well as strategy, and some agencies are well-versed in strategy.

What are your experiences  working with agencies or consultants for content marketing? Share your ideas in the comments below.

Author: Michele Linn

Michele Linn is the co-founder and chief strategy officer of Mantis Research, a consultancy focused on helping brands create and amplify original research they can use in their marketing. Before starting Mantis, Michele was head of editorial at Content Marketing Institute, where she led the company's strategic editorial direction, co-developed its annual research studies, wrote hundreds of articles, spoke at industry events and was instrumental in building the platform to 200,000 subscribers. In 2015, she was named one of Folio's Top Women in Media (Corporate Visionary). You can follow her on Twitter at @michelelinn.

Other posts by Michele Linn

Join Over 218,000 of your Peers!

You can unsubscribe at any time.

FOLLOW CONTENT MARKETING INSTITUTE ON SOCIAL