External marketing consultant or in-house marketing person / team? The truth is that it’s probably best to use a combination of both, if you can afford it. But, if you can’t, here are some reasons for going the consultant route (and no, I don’t even mention the fact that a consultant means one less person on your permanent payroll).
An in-house marketer can get to know your business inside out because they should be eating, sleeping and breathing your company, its competitors and your industry. However being in-house they can get sucked into all the internal politics that can make it hard for them to do their jobs properly and which sap energy. Using an outside consultant means you can brief someone to do the job – and then let them get on with it. Hopefully they will do it well and make you look good in the process.
A consultant brings the knowledge that comes from working with a range of clients across a broad range of sectors. Some of these clients may be in the same industry as your business and some may not.
A good consultant will immerse themselves in your business and industry but I don’t believe that unless the consultant specialises in a sector that he or she can get to know it as well as an in-house person could.
Before I talk myself out of work here, let me say that I believe consultants are valuable precisely because they are not too close to your business. Sometimes this distanced perspective is good. They are not as emotionally involved in your business as you are.
Consultants also know they are only as good as their last job or last idea and that they had better keep producing if they want to keep you as a client.
And finally, because we don’t have to get involved in all the myriad meetings and other time-user-uppers that companies insist on, we may have more time than the in-house person and so may just get to do that job that you can’t.