Should you hire a B2B Marketing Consultant? The argument for and against...
B2B Marketing Operations and Demand Gen has always been an active space for consultants. The explosion of marketing technologies and their complexities has transformed marketing organizations and now, more than ever, marketing leaders are turning to consultants to help master their technologies and develop their marketing strategy.
Here I try (even though you may think I am outrageously biased) to present a balanced view to the question: Should you hire a B2B Marketing Consultant? The argument for and against…
The argument for:
They will never leave you (probably)
These days it is increasingly common that your Marketing Operations employee(s) will leave for another company after a short tenure. At CS2 we help our clients hire full time and we witness the struggle companies face to hire and retain employees with the technical skill set needed. Often they find someone who starts, gets ramped up, then leaves a year later and the whole process starts again. Knowledge is lost and it’s a huge drain on their productivity and marketing effectiveness.
"We witness the struggle companies face to hire and retain employees with the technical skill set needed."
An agency is your steadfast partner, forever. They won’t leave for more stock options, or for the next cool start up, they will be there maintaining and growing their knowledge of your systems, your people and your market indefinitely.
They can be less expensive than you think
Consultants don’t need benefits or PTO and can be very affordable compared to a full time hire. In B2B marketing technology consulting (in the Bay Area) the market rate is between $150-$200 an hour. If you divide the monthly salary of a full time hire (plus benefits, training and travel costs), you’ll likely end up with a very healthy amount of hours that a quality consultant could make very good use of. Especially when using their battle tested documentation, processes and expertise to complete the project faster and of higher quality than an in-house marketing generalist.
You get a specialized and deep skill set
Marketing technologies can be so complex you need more than a “I kind of know Marketo” marketer. It takes months to be competent and years to be an expert, time which is not available to most companies. A consultant has the experience and will have seen many different client instances, so will be able to jump in and be productive instantly.
"Marketing technologies can be so complex you need more than a “I kind of know Marketo” marketer."
They are low maintenance
You shouldn’t need to manage and work with a consultant to keep them motivated as they should be motivated to keep your business. We at CS2 have flexible contracts so our clients only pay for what they use each month and can stop/cancel at any time with no cost. This forces us to be at the top of our game so we are able to continually earn their business each month. It is a tricky business decision but we would rather earn business than lock people in and become complacent.
The argument against:
Non-marketing project managers
Some of the larger agencies have project managers who have no marketing experience, just project management experience. Some of these managers can be great but it's painful when you have an urgent question, then hear back “Ok I noted down your question and I’ll pass it on to our internal marketing ops team who will put the question in their queue and when they get back to me I’ll let you know.”
"Some of the larger agencies have project managers who have no marketing experience, just project management experience."
We have experienced this ourselves when working in-house and it is frustrating. You really feel the divide between agency and client, which is why we recommend working with smaller agencies where your project manager is also the person consulting and doing the work. We call this an “in-house consulting approach”, you should feel like the consultant almost works for you internally.
They can be expensive
This seems contradictory to the first part of the post but both statements are true. Many agencies work on a project basis which can be overpriced to account for everything that can extend the project time. Operational projects can vary massively on the scale of complexity and before you get started it is very difficult to know what you are getting into. Which is why some agencies charge tens of thousands for what can be a very simple and quick technical set up.
This is why we recommend a pay per hour approach with hour based forecasts for different projects, as you’ll only pay for the exact time it took to complete the project and if it’s finished faster you pay less than expected.
They can be too focused and not as invested in your company's mission
Consultants will be very invested in their client projects but because they are working with several other companies they are not able to be as invested in your mission as an in-house employee. The in-house employee will get a level of insight into the company and the mission that a consultant just cannot replicate.
"The in-house employee will get a level of insight into the company and the mission that a consultant just cannot replicate."
In addition, a consultant will likely be focused on a specific area and maybe not as flexible as an in-house employee who can switch get their hands dirty on a wide variety of projects for different teams internally.
Communication can be difficult
With tools like Slack, Asana, Basecamp, Google Drive etc this is getting easier but communication with consultants who are typically not in your office can be more difficult than communication with an in-house employee. A good consultant will ensure they are embedded within their client’s tools and will attend weekly calls, but sometimes there is no substitute for “water cooler” conversation.
Final thoughts and recommendations
Generally if you have the headcount and budget we recommend hiring in-house and working with a consultant - this way you get the best of both worlds. Your in-house team is part of the mission, 100% focused on your company and can work cross functionally. Your consultant can work deep on complex projects, support your in-house team with execution, ensure the team follows best practices, provide advice on industry trends and will always be there as a consistent partner and knowledge bank.
Hopefully you found this interesting! If you have any thoughts or comments on your experience in this area we would love to hear them.