Why Is Having A Marketing Consultant The Secret To Your Business’ Success?
Imagine this: A steady flow of interested buyers who come to you with minimal effort on your part; who quickly become happy customers and advocates on your behalf; who eventually turn into loyal clients that come back for more, over and over again. What kind of a difference would that make to your business? Is this even possible? Yes, this is possible by having the right marketing consultant to work for you. A marketing consultant can provide your business a tailor-fit strategy and implement marketing promotions as well as tactics to have a steady flow of prospect customers which can be turned into converts.
Sales is the lifeblood of any company, but it’s marketing that drives sales. So if you aren’t sure what marketing channels are giving you the best ROI, or your current efforts are flagging, it might be time to bring in some outside help.
A great marketing consultant can help you acquire, convert and retain more customers. But finding the right one isn’t always easy, especially when you’re looking at potentially trusting them with thousands of dollars… Keep reading and we’ll walk you through the process of choosing a marketing consultant, arming you with all you need to know in order to spot and dodge the snake oil salesmen and find your marketing Cinderella.
Why Hire a Marketing Consultant?
Sure, you could dive in and experiment with new marketing channels and campaigns, tools and technologies, and see whether they deliver results. Or you could engage an expert who knows exactly what to do to move the needle for your business and cut the guessing game short!
The benefit of hiring a marketing consultant is efficiency. You’re paying for them to handle a key business operation so that your time and energy can be directed to better use. Focus on what you’re good at, and hire to fill the gaps.
Signs you should consider hiring a marketing consultant:
- You’ve tried your hand at different ways to bring in new customers, dabbling here and there in events, direct mail, online advertising – and still don’t have a lot to show for it
- You’ve left a trail of languishing marketing projects behind – maybe you’ve started and abandoned a regular newsletter or been putting off committing to that trade show – because you’re flat out managing a million other things in your business
- You know your website needs an overhaul or that you need to be on social media where your customers are – but you just don’t know where to start
- Your company’s in a bit of rut growth-wise and you aren’t sure how to get to the next level
- You’re not sure what you stand for and are struggling to connect with your audience and remain relevant
- You need to bring in more leads, or close more prospects and turn them into sales (or both)
Outsourcing your marketing to someone who has spent years mastering the craft and continues to keep up to date on the latest developments in the field gives you access to those specialised skills as needed. No more, no less.
Marketing is more than just the ‘colouring-in department’
What Does A Marketing Consultant Do?
The right marketing consultant can help you better understand and crush your competition, improve relationships with current and potential customers, differentiate your brand and bring consistency across all touchpoints, measure results and optimise accordingly, and more.
In concrete terms, that means coming up with plans to help your business succeed by growing sales and profits. They can help you zero in on your ideal customer and craft a compelling story to sell more of your product or service to your target audience. Typically, a marketing consultant would assess your current marketing efforts and suggest improvements, and create fresh campaigns and initiatives that align with your business objectives. They might set up KPIs and a measurement framework, and track results.
On stage now at #HCIC18
— Mari Smith Ⓜ Top Facebook Marketing Expert (@MariSmith) November 6, 2018
A marketing consultant might manage some of all of the following: planning and strategy, market research and competitor analysis, events and sponsorship, media buying, production, digital marketing, conversion optimisation, reporting and analysis.
The Role of Digital Marketing
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Except in very rare circumstances, digital needs to be a core part of your strategy.
When looking to hire a marketing consultant, expertise with online channels isn’t optional anymore! That means they should be familiar with the following:
- Website and app design, user experience, and optimisation
- Email marketing and marketing automation
- SEO, or organic search engine optimisation
- SEM, or paid search engine marketing campaigns
- Social media and content marketing
- Analytics, measurement and reporting
As the lines between marketing and technology increasingly blur, a good marketing consultant will keep you abreast of trends like wearables, AR/VR and chatbots, and keep you on the right side of things like GDPR changes. (And if any of those acronyms have you stumped, then you definitely need to bring in outside help!)
Done right, even subtle tweaks to your website can result in a significant boost to your bottom line
Finding A Marketing Consultant
Your peers might be able to recommend a few – if not, it’s easy enough to search online for marketing consultants and compile a shortlist. Once you’ve decided which ones you’d like to have an initial conversation with, reach out to them to introduce yourself and find out more about their services and fees.
Some marketing consultants will offer a short initial consult free of charge, while others consider all meetings billable time. If a face-to-face meeting is off the table, use video conferencing via Skype or Zoom or at least shoot for at least one phone call to get a feel for who each marketing consultant is and what they’re all about.
Are your working styles going to mesh, or clash? Are they easy to get along with? Is this the right fit? Remember, at this stage, everyone is putting their best foot forward. Pay close attention to how they behave now because that’s your best indication of how they’ll operate going forward. You can probably expect a similar level of service (or less), but it’s unlikely that someone who underwhelms you on first impressions is going to improve from there.
Nothing beats an in-person meeting when you’re looking to hire a marketing consultant
Scope Out Their Online Presence
There’s a lot you can glean from a marketing consultant’s website – location, services offered, awards and accolades, and more. Take note of what services feature the most prominently; this is a pretty good indicator of where their strengths and focus lie. If there’s a portfolio section, check out examples of their work – do their samples show creativity and capture attention? Or would you just scroll on by?
This is their chance to showcase their best work, so if you aren’t wowed, move on until you find someone with a truly impressive body of work. If they have a blog, when was it last updated and how frequently do they post? An active blog is a good sign of someone who makes the effort to keep current on industry trends – this kind of thought leadership is something their clients will likely benefit from. Likewise, check out the types of content they share on their social media channels, if any.
What you need to bring to the table
It’s vital that you have some idea of what you want to achieve, the clearer the better. What’s your main objective? Do you need to lift brand awareness? Do you want more media coverage? Are you envisioning a better-ranking website or sophisticated online sales funnels? Do you need ongoing support in the relationship or is a fixed-term project more appropriate?
If you have an existing marketing strategy, come prepared to share this. If not, that’s okay too – that’s certainly something a consultant can help you create. In the meantime, here’s some food for thought from marketing guru Mark Schaefer:
“If you’re struggling with a marketing strategy, it might help to ask these questions:
“1. What makes us relevant? Who thinks we are relevant? Are we sure about that?
“2. The people who love us — how are their needs changing? What do we need to do remain relentlessly superior against all possible disruptions?
“3. How do we express who we are in every single thing that we do? Every customer touchpoint is marketing. Do our customers see a consistent expression of our love for them in every interaction?”
What sets you apart from your competition?
Some consultants specialise in one or two areas of marketing, while others bill themselves as more of a full-service, one-stop shop.
Any marketing consultant worth their salt should understand their own value proposition and skill set, and be able to articulate why you would choose them over someone else. That might be an established track record, affordability, personalised packages, great media contacts, expertise in a particular niche … Whether they offer a full suite of services or focus on a subset, the most important thing is whether or not that meets your current marketing needs.
Marketers need to be able to show the results of their work – launching a campaign is just the beginning
What experience do you have with clients in my industry?
A B2B business operates very differently from a B2C brand. An accountant and a plumber serve different needs. A local bakery and a sportswear label require totally different approaches to marketing.
A marketing consultant with experience in your particular niche will appreciate its quirks and can advise accordingly. (Ideally, they will also have had experience in other fields, making for a well-rounded portfolio.) You can’t beat a proven track record! Someone without a relevant background simply may not have the ability to replicate that success in another industry. Producing stellar work for an e-commerce store doesn’t automatically translate to delivering dazzling results for a small local restaurant.
Most marketing consultants will have a page on their website showcasing clients and case studies, but if you don’t see any similar clients listed, ask the question! They may well have worked with one or more businesses like yours, but aren’t necessarily highlighting the fact to the world. It isn’t always practical to include an exhaustive list of all projects and clients. On that note, you’ll also want to find out whether they have any of your competitors on their current client list to avoid any conflict of interest.
What, if anything, do you outsource?
Marketing encompasses a wide range of hands-on skills, from web design and development through to SEO and SEM, photography and videography, event planning and PR, copywriting and graphic design, email marketing and social media management. If a marketing consultant you’re considering hiring outsources certain tasks, ask for details about how that works.
Outsourcing isn’t inherently a bad thing – it just means they’re sticking to their core competencies – but it does mean giving up a certain degree of control over the subcontracted deliverables, so it’s something to be aware of.
What are some of the key techniques you use?
No expert will reveal all their secrets, but it’s fair to ask for some level of detail on how they might approach the challenge of marketing your business. Experienced consultants have proven processes they rely on and should be happy to discuss the direction they’d take if they were to tackle your particular case.
Do you have some references I can speak to?
Any marketing consultant should have a comprehensive LinkedIn profile – possibly even with a few glowing recommendations from past clients. Likewise, they may have published some testimonials on their website. And these days, it’s not unusual to find reviews of service professionals on Google or Facebook – check out all their profiles to see what others have said about working with them!
But nothing beats speaking to a live reference, even if it’s just on a quick phone call. You could contact some who are listed on their website as former or current clients, or simply ask for contact details of some references.
Take the opportunity to delve into specifics with each referral. Did the consultant meet expectations or go above and beyond? How exactly did they go the extra mile? For example, they might have promptly returned every single email within hours, with no question too big or too small to answer. They might have devised a brilliant viral campaign that delivered 500 leads for virtually no cost, or orchestrated a launch at a fraction of market cost thanks to their extensive network of industry contacts.
It’s those kinds of details that help paint a picture of what they’ll be like to work with, and what kind of value they’ll bring to your business as a marketing partner.
Warning signs to watch out for…
Be wary of anything that sounds or feels off, and don’t be afraid to trust your gut. Not all marketing consultants are created equal. Here are a few things to look out for…
They don’t ask questions
Your marketing consultant can – and should – act as a strategic partner. And in order to do that, they’ll want to know about your strategy, objectives, current and past marketing tactics, for starters.
If they aren’t making the effort to get up to speed on your offering, your customers, and your goals, they’re going to struggle to work effectively on your behalf.
They’re cagey about measurement
It’s one thing to underpromise and overdeliver; it’s another to avoid the subject of metrics altogether. Watch out for marketing consultants who can’t point to how many leads, conversions or sales they have achieved for previous clients.
And don’t be fooled by someone who only talks about vanity metrics like page views or social media followers, either. If they can’t show how they’ve boosted the bottom line for a business, move along!
Transparency is a must-have – don’t settle for vague claims that aren’t backed up
They push you to spread your resources too thin
The likes of Nike and Burger King can afford to saturate the market – TV, billboards, digital, sponsorship, influencers, and any other medium you can think of! But a small business doesn’t have that luxury. Instead, success will hinge on identifying key channels and focusing your efforts there. A good marketing consultant will work with the budget you actually have, not the budget you wish you had! Beware of anyone who tells you that you must be everywhere in order to succeed.
Particularly when it comes to digital and social media, a scattergun approach is not the way to go. “Businesses should strategically choose platforms based on the target audience and goals,” says Jeff Bullas.
“A reputable social media marketing agency will look into the target audience for a brand and then pick the social media platforms most likely to reach those audiences instead of simply advising every business to be active on every website.”
Your budget probably isn’t going to stretch this far!
They sound too good to be true
Look out for overblown claims that promise the world and steer clear! If you come across someone who guarantees to achieve massive results in a short span of time, don’t hesitate to move on.
True experts don’t need to resort to pushy tactics; their results and references speak for themselves. They’re confident not cocky, and they know that growth takes time. It’s unrealistic to expect to rocket up to page one on Google in a week or double your social media following overnight.
How much will it cost?
If you’ve never hired a marketing consultant before, it may be worth chatting to local industry acquaintances to gauge how much similar services have cost them.
Typically, a marketing consultant would operate using one of two models. They might charge either an hourly consulting rate, or a fixed price on a project basis. Costs will of course vary depending on factors like their level of experience or your geographic location (a seasoned marketer can command higher rates, especially in a market where there’s high demand for their services) but as a rough ballpark, you might be looking at $60 per hour through to $250 per hour or more.
Does that sound excessive? Let’s reframe and look at it another way. If a marketing consultant could deliver a strategy for $2000 that delivered $10,000 in revenue, would that be worth it? Ultimately the key factor comes down to value – whether you’re getting a good return on your investment.
Billing – one-off fee or regular retainer?
Not only will you need to ensure your marketing budget works for your company’s bottom line, you’ll want to make sure the payment structure suits the work at hand.
A discrete project like a website migration or competitor analysis lends itself to a one-off fee. On the other hand, ongoing work is less suited to a lump sum upfront; running PPC campaigns or managing an email marketing programme is usually charged on the basis of a monthly fee.
It takes time to start seeing results, so you may need to commit to working together for a few months initially. This enables your marketing consultant to get your campaign up and running, start to draw insights from the data and really make it hum along.
What to expect when working with a marketing consultant
It’s fair to say there are a few basics you can reasonably expect from a marketing consultant or agency. For starters, they should take the time to listen, get to know you, and understand your company’s needs and the landscape you operate in. They should audit any current marketing methods you’re using, and demonstrate a clear understanding of strategy vs tactics. Another crucial quality is the ability to roll with the punches. Marketing is such a fluid beast, and the flexibility to cope with changing priorities and deadlines is a must!
When it comes to the ongoing relationship, you might expect to receive regular reporting on the performance of your marketing activity and have regular scheduled meetings or calls to review how things are going and discuss what’s coming up. Once you’ve wrapped up due diligence and negotiations with your marketing consultant, request an outline of how things will operate going forward that clarifies how you’ll work together, what deliverables you’ll receive and when, and anything else that’s important to you.
Success in business is all about the people. None of us are pros at everything, so if marketing isn’t your strong suit, bring on board someone whose skills complement your areas of expertise.
Once you find a talented marketing consultant who you click with and who understands what you’re out to achieve, odds are your business will reap the benefits sooner rather than later. What are you waiting for?