Marketing Outsourcing vs. Marketing Consulting: What’s the Difference?

by Debra Andrews | August 17, 2018

On the surface, the difference between contracting and marketing consulting isn’t obvious. A company probably wants marketing advice in both scenarios, but there’s a twist when it comes to the execution and who’s responsible for results.

Who executes the marketing plan?

The Company

In marketing consulting, implementation of the marketing plan remains with the company. Typically, there is an in-house marketing coordinator or manager that will be responsible for effectively pushing the plan forward. More than likely, he or she will need to vet and manage various marketing subcontractors such as graphic designers, search engine specialists, web programmers, and more. Depending on the complexity and aggressiveness of the marketing effort, this can be a significant responsibility. The success or failure of marketing effort rests on the shoulders of the in-house marketer, who’s managing all the details.

Outsourced Marketing Firm

Under the marketing outsourcing scenario, the execution of the marketing plan is the responsibility of the third-party firm. In effect, the hiring firm relinquishes a certain amount of control to its outsourced marketing provider. That team is expected to push the marketing plan forward without day-to-day oversight from an in-house person. Typically, the outsourced marketing company reports directly to senior management or the owner and shareholders of a business.

Most outsourced marketing firms, such as Marketri, have either employees or dedicated subcontractors in each of the specialty areas of marketing. This creates one point of contact for their clients, which is a key benefit. Managing creative types takes experience in order to stay on budget and a timetable. Another key benefit for the outsourced marketing client is that their provider will know what market rates are for SEO, web, graphic design, social media services, and more. This reduces the chance of getting taken to the cleaners. I have seen it happen too many times!

Which delivers the best results?

The success of marketing plans depends on (1) how good they are to start with and (2) how smooth and thorough the execution. Under the marketing consulting arrangement, it will be up to the in-house marketing person or department to drive results and measure progress. Some businesses like being able to walk over to the in-house department and meet them at a moment’s notice. Management typically needs to provide a fair amount of oversight and strategic guidance.

Under the marketing outsourcing scenario, the third party vendor can and should be held accountable for the execution of the marketing plan with little to no oversight. The marketing outsourcing company should be proactive in keeping their clients informed and comfortable with the progress and results of the execution. They must hold their own feet to the fire!

Which is right for my company?

While I am the owner of a marketing outsourcing company, I realize that we are not the right fit for every company. Over the years, I have discovered that it tends to work well under the following set of circumstances:

  • The hiring company has had a number of in-house marketers and not experienced success.
  • They don’t have someone on the management team with the knowledge and/or time to oversee a marketing person or department effectively.
  • The company has outsourced other functions such as human resources, IT, or finance and it worked out well.
  • The company has a sense of urgency and wants to scale up quickly. They need experience and resources that they can’t afford to hire in-house.

executive guide to strategic marketing plans