Marketing consulting has absolutely exploded in recent years. With so much digital growth, more and more companies are in need of specific expertise and looking for individual consultants that could help them grow their businesses.
Even the US government is using marketing consultants. The US federal government actually spent $705M+ on marketing consulting in 2020.
That’s a lot of zeros.
Marketing consulting was rated the #2 best job in the United States back in 2012 and according to GlassDoor an average salary for a digital marketing consultant job is $69,987 per year (which is 20% than what an in-house marketing associate makes which is basically the same job).
Ok, that’s really high.
As the job became a little more prevalent, and with 35% of the US workforce freelancing for a living, the average salary of a marketing consultant dropped a bit to $65k. But that is still a really great gig.
In fact, some people might even say that it’s one of the best jobs in the world. Here’s a video from Rich (of Rich + Niche) where he goes through his journey of becoming a marketing consultant and how he’s grown that into a lucrative career.
Of course, being self-employed is not for everyone. Like everything else, there are pros and cons to being a marketing consultant, and some people prefer to work for a company as an employee. A lot of times these jobs are remote with limited growth, other times the jobs need to be quickly outsourced because of someone going on leave and they end up being very short-term.
So let’s first define what the job entails, and then talk about why you should hire one, when is the best time to do so, what kind of experience they should have, and how to best manage them.
Let’s dive in.
What is a Digital Marketing Consultant and what do they do?
A digital marketing consultant specializes in developing, implementing, and monitoring the organic and paid marketing activities for a business. Their primary role is to help businesses define and reach their marketing goals. They do this by providing a strategic marketing plan, overseeing the execution, and monitoring the progress along the way.
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Online marketing consultants should have a wide variety of knowledge and experience. In order to take on many roles and responsibilities depending on your business needs.
The responsibilities of a digital marketing consultant can include any or all of the following:
- Evaluate your current efforts and identify new opportunities for your company to expand.
- Customer Relations and Partnerships - how to interact with existing clients and innovative ways to attract new ones.
- Channel Management - Auditing, suggesting, and/or implementing recommended changes to brand assets and online channels such as SEO optimization, social media, email marketing, and the website itself.
- Content Marketing - Coordinating your content across social media platforms and assets to support your KPI’s (leads, sales).
- Brand Strategy - Improving brand strategy and messaging to increase audience engagement and conversions.
- Data Analytics - Preparing reports and presentations.
- Producing necessary materials.
- Marketing Automation - Setting up technical performance tracking systems, analytics integrations, website A/B tests, tracking pixels, CRM, email marketing drip campaigns, etc. To learn more check out our complete guide to marketing automation.
What Skills Should a Digital Marketing Consultant Have?
Digital marketers must possess a blend of technical and behavioral skills. They are required to be very creative as well as analytical thinkers. They don’t need a degree in marketing but they should have an educational background in internet marketing, copywriting, or a related field. One can become a pretty savvy consultant just from street smarts but it’s always better to have the background and the book smarts.
The advantage of being an employee in a reputable company is that training is often part of the job. While an online marketing consultant has to learn everything from scratch and defy the odds.
At the very least they should have extensive vocational experience in the latter. They must also be methodologically and technical savvy on how to integrate various digital marketing tools and social media platforms, to effectively execute and monitor your efforts.
Social media marketing
Social media content is super important for every brand and it’s not just about organic content. A good marketer will know how to advertise on social media platforms or will be able to manage a team of paid advertising experts.
They need to be able to know how to create engaging content on all the popular social media platforms and develop a content strategy to plan out the next 3-6 months of content on each platform.
Search engine marketing (SEM) and search engine optimization (SEO)
SEM and SEO are two related disciplines. Search engine optimization (SEO) is focused on optimizing every page on your site to get better rankings and more organic traffic.
This could be on-page optimization that deals with optimizing the content on your site, as well as off-page optimization that involves backlinks and content partnerships (that’s where two sites exchange guest posts and partner on other content).
SEM deals with PPC and Google Ads (previously called Google Adwords). Both are super important services.
Reputation management - digital public relations (PR)
Public relations (PR) is a way to share your brand story and promote your products to engaged audiences. When a potential customer sees your brand advertised on a large online publication it becomes a really important touchpoint on their digital journey. PR services are particularly crucial for DTC brands that sell physical products.
Conversion rate optimization (CRO)
Sometimes small changes make the biggest impact, and this is definitely true about conversion rate optimization. An experienced CRO consultant can improve the conversion on every page of your website and that will improve the sales of every digital channel you have.
A lot of brands spend large amounts of money on Facebook ads but their websites don’t convert that traffic. So they don’t see a return. If they first worked on optimizing their websites for conversion and then ran the ads they would be able to grow much quicker.
Content marketing and copywriting
Content is one of the most important aspects of any online strategy. It’s also one of the most sought out jobs for consultants. Content services range from copywriting, transcription, translation, to video script writing.
Image and brand management
Reputation services have become really important in the last few years. Lots of brands have said the wrong thing on social media or haven't answered customers on time so their reputation begins to suffer as a result. Brand management or online community management is a great way to mitigate these kinds of hiccups and it’s important to put processes in place to ensure that everything is communicated properly.
Consumer behavior and customer psychology
Both of these boil down to the customer experience (CX) and touch upon a lot of different disciplines within marketing. It can include looking at your sales funnel, changing the design on your site to improve the user experience, and tweaking your customer personas to get better at targeting. CX services vary quite a bit so it’s always good to hire a consultant per hour and get a quick CX audit.
A trusted consultant must be able to collect and analyze data and translate it all into actionable insights for your brand. A marketing analytics expert will be able to tell you where your traffic is coming from, how to get more traffic, and what demographics to focus on.
The marketer’s action plan will be the measuring stick, with which you not only measure your own marketing success but their success as well.
Lastly, they must also be on top of current best practices and digital marketing tactics, as these change dynamically over time.
Personality-wise, a trusted marketer needs to be great with people. They are required to be empathetic enough to relate to both your own challenges and your target audience’s pain points. Your digital marketing specialist should be a good listener, a problem solver, and have leadership qualities when it is called for.
Hiring a Digital Marketing Consultant - the Why, Where, and When
Why should I hire a marketing consultant?
An online marketing consultant, whether they are an independent contractor or a full-service agency that offers marketing services, is a worthwhile investment for growing your brand, regardless of its size.
The main reason for hiring a consultant is to benefit from their experience and knowledge and enable business growth. With the fast pace of changes in the marketing world, you want to hire someone with a level of expertise that can ” take over” and allow you to focus on your core online marketing campaigns.
Think about it.
The right marketing advisor can outline a detailed digital marketing plan, create the right marketing messaging, and identify the appropriate marketing mix to get the message out to your target market.
At the same time, the consultant is unbiased and can monitor your marketing efforts and their results continuously, whether they are being performed by a local consultant in-house or externally by a remote digital marketing consultant, team, or an agency. A trusted marketing advisor will have your best interests at heart and an outsider’s point of view that can provide better insight.
At the end of the day, they want to see you succeed.
When to Hire a Digital Marketing Consultant
The subject of hiring an external marketing advisor comes up often when you reach a certain tipping point, a glass ceiling. A new business can make use of a consultant to help define a clear company vision and goals, a long-term marketing plan, and a shorter-term digital marketing launch strategy.
Any existing business wishing to improve its current website performance would benefit from an online marketing consultant as well. They could help construct a focused digital marketing strategy. Having a good plan will improve results in both the long and short term.
This might include:
- Defining better success metrics, and how to monitor them to reach desired business goals.
- Focusing on improving relations and loyalty with existing clients while minimizing attrition.
- Continuously working on conversion optimization and implementing growth hacking tactics.
If you’re seeking to break into new markets and attract new customers you would also benefit from a trusted consultant with relevant experience. They can help determine the best market penetration strategy considering the competition and a company’s ability to set and reach realistic goals.
Employing an ads expert or ads agency to steer your campaigns in a profitable direction is wise yet almost too easy a choice nowadays.
The problem is - that it’s really hard to find someone experienced.
There are so many self-proclaimed or even recommended online digital marketing agencies and advisers that are looking for jobs online. It makes it really hard to know who is good and who would be a good fit for your team.
Choosing the right online marketing consultant has become an unwanted hurdle to overcome.
Whether your business has gone with a small digital strategy consultant or a large-scale B2B marketing services agency or firm, the initial apprehension is the same. How can you be sure that they will deliver on their promises?
While the burden of proof is on your consultant or agency carrying out your online marketing plan, you should still be the one managing and overseeing their work.
What should be included in a digital marketing consultant job description?
The job description of a marketing consultant should be no different than if you are hiring a digital marketing specialist in-house. The only difference here would be that the consultant is just there to manage your digital channels or create the overall strategy.
Here are the things to look for:
The right skills - they should have all the skills we mentioned earlier in this article.
Familiarity with the right tools - they should be familiar with any of the digital marketing tools that you are currently using or are hoping to start using in the near future.
Experience in your industry - they should have experience in your particular niche or at least know enough about your target customer to be able to help you grow your business. Sometimes a consultant may not need to know the ins and outs of your niche, but it’s a huge plus.
A successful track record - they need to have a proven track record of success in the specific area of marketing that you are hiring them to do or in your specific industry/niche (and not just fluffy client testimonials).
How much does a marketing consultant cost?
If you’re hiring a freelancer online they could cost anywhere from $15/hour to $200/hour. If you are hiring someone in-house or on a long-term basis then you would be paying them a salary. A marketing consultant's salary could range from $50k to $80k, and upwards.
Should I hire a marketing freelancer or an in-house marketer?
Imagine you have a project that you want to improve on. You know that you need an experienced digital marketer to take a look at it but are not sure if you should get a consultant or hire someone in-house to become part of your marketing team.
Your decision depends on a few factors:
- The scope of the project - how big is the project? Is it a quick fix or something long-term? If it’s creating a few landing pages then hire a freelancer. If it’s more extensive, like managing all of your social media marketing then you might want to hire in-house
- The cost of the project - a project with a large budget may need to be managed in-house, depending on the scope and the work required.
- The expertise required - if the project requires a lot of expertise you may not be able to find any marketing professionals in your immediate area to add to your team, so your best bet would be to hire a consultant/freelancer.
- The time required - a successful marketing project might last for 6-12 months or a very short period of time. Business owners need to factor that in when making their hiring decisions.
Ok, so you’ve decided to hire a consultant, where do you find one?
Where do these guys & gals hang out?
Best places to find good marketing consultants
Don’t just go googling for experts in your city, that's just going to show you who bid the most money on that keyword. Here are 6 different places to find a digital marketing consultant - ranging from worst to best.
1. Facebook groups
You can definitely get in touch with a variety of marketing experts if you join related Facebook groups. There are a ton of them, in every industry and niche. So pick a few and go hunting.
Cons: it’s as good as shooting a dart in the dark.
2. Slack groups
Slack groups are a little bit better than Facebook groups. There are a few really good ones like Online Geniuses, where you can find a few very talented marketers, and they might point you in the right direction. And there are a whole bunch of them, from the type of groups that help you with advice, to ones that are exclusively focused on hiring.
Pros: Still free.
Cons: You can’t really be sure about their past experience
Ah, Fiverr. The notorious first-comer to the gig economy that absolutely took the internet by storm. Fiverr does have some great talent on there, you just have to spend a lot of energy vetting, negotiating, critiquing, until you hire the right type of person. And even then, it’s a hit or miss.
Pros: Relatively cheap, can be a quick turnaround
Cons: Extremely hard to find someone with extensive experience in their field.
The next level is UpWork. This platform is like Fiverr but has much more serious and experienced freelancers (like SEO, content writer, web designer). You have a better glimpse into their experience and reviews but you still don’t really have the numbers from their past campaigns, so you really don’t know.
Pros: You can find marketers that are more experienced than on Fiverr.
Cons: Still a lot of uncertainty, not sure who is the perfect match for your company.
5. Online Directories
At this point, you probably get tired and say - screw it, I’m going back to Google and just finding someone myself. The best way to do this, in this case, is to look at directories like Clutch or 99Firms.
Pros: You can find out how well these people rank in directories.
Cons: All you know is how well these people rank on directories. Also, a full-service digital marketing agency could get really expensive, upwards of $5-10k.
Last but not least, here’s the bottom line.
If you really want to find a marketer who has 10-12 years in your specific niche and with the platform that you want to be using (whether that’s Google Ads, Facebook ads, or Instagram ads), you have to check out Mayple.
Pros: how much time do you have? Seriously, our list is that long.
- Find experts with proven experience - we look at the data from their previous campaign and import it for you to see
- Find someone with experience in your industry - our experts have an average of 4+ years of experience in your particular niche.
- A much more affordable rate than what a full-service agency or company would charge.
- Unbiased monitoring
Cons: your company better be ready to grow because we are hyper-focused on growing your ROI.
So, now that you know where to find the right marketers, let’s talk about the process.
Hiring a marketing consultant in 5 easy steps
1. Decide on the skills and expertise you need
Right from the start, work on defining what areas of expertise you are looking for, based on your industry, company size, challenges, website requirements, and channels (social media, PPC, SEO, etc.). This will narrow down your search to more relevant candidates. Also, be sure to ask your candidates about their relevant experience to corroborate their ratings and professional profile information.
2. Define your SMART goals
Defining your goals early on in the process will help you to better track and measure your success. Are you looking to generate more qualified leads? Set a goal number. Looking to grow your social media engagement? Define the desired engagement rate. Looking to see an increased conversion rate? Write that down.
3. Vet your marketer
Be sure to choose a marketer with a history of delivering the results you'd like to achieve. Feel free to ask them to provide examples of their previous successes. They should have these readily available. Verify if they have been active in the past year, as a reflection of their grasp of the most current best practices.
To verify the performance and match of any consultant or full-service agency you should inquire if they:
- Have worked with other brands in your industry
- Are familiar with your target audiences and where to reach them
- Are experienced in managing a similar-sized marketing budget
- Can provide success rates on relevant performance metrics (leads, cost-per-leads, conversion, etc.)
- Can meet your expectations and align up with your goals (expected results, work process, and expected timelines)
4. Take a test-drive
Marketers will often offer a free initial consultation. These are great opportunities for you to get a feel for your potential work-chemistry and to test the relevance of their knowledge to your industry, type of business, target market, marketing goals, etc.).
Another option is to hire a freelancer on a short-term project, before hiring them for a larger project.
You should also set some ground rules.
It’s important to dive into the details and make sure your intentions and expectations are clear to your marketer.
- Define project duration and important milestones
- Specify time restraints you foresee
- Prioritize your tasks (not everything can be handled all at once usually)
- State what communication practices suit you
- Share how often you expect to be sent progress updates
Setting the right expectations goes both ways of course. In order for your expert to do their job, they will need things that only you can provide such as:
- Existing brand messaging and assets
- Social media and campaign account access
- Business brief and market analysis
- Analytics and past performance information
By taking the time to go over the details and adding them to an agreement, you should be able to confidently allow the marketer to do their job mostly uninterrupted.
5. Decide on the Scope of Work
Clearly define the expectations you have with the consultant:
- What will your process be?
- How often do you expect progress reports?
- How will the planning and execution be distributed between the consultant and your team?
- Also, will you be paying a monthly retainer or an hourly rate?
- What is your ultimate end goal? What does success look like in your mind?
- What other results do you expect and want to see?
- What are your strong points and unique value proposition? And how should this be communicated across media channels?
- What are your weaknesses compared to your competitors, and how should that be addressed?
- What media channels will you be using?
- Are there short-term success goals vs. long-term goals?
- Will the consultant become part of a remote team you build?
Make sure that you discuss and agree on all of these things before continuing further.
Now you must be asking yourself “how will I be able to manage my hired experts when my lack of in-house knowledge is the reason I hired them in the first place?” and you’d be right to doubt your ability but do not be discouraged it is possible.
Based on our combined experience of over 20 years managing both in-house and outsourced consultants and agencies we have compiled a useful checklist of rules to help you manage your talent.
The following pointers will help you evaluate their service level, communicate your desired results, and maintain control of your assets all within the first month of hiring.
How to best work with a marketing consultant
Hiring an expert marketer requires properly defining the boundaries and expectations of your trusted alliance.
Are you hiring a consultant who’ll perform one-off tasks, manage marketing campaigns, or a deeper problem solver who’ll offer advice and identify opportunities as part of a broader marketing strategy?
Your work relationship can of course change over time.
As your consultant proves themselves trustworthy and professional, you might deepen the relationship and increase their scope of the job and the level of influence their decisions have.
1. Be clear and cooperative
avoid misunderstandings before they occur by setting clear expectations for the process and desired results, the time frame you need for achieving them, etc. Make note, that this is a two-way street and that your consultant will have expectations from you as well, which will enable them to do their job.
2. Be fair
Value good results and reward them with kind feedback, pay on time, and continuously motivate your consultant to be proactive and offer advice beyond their originally defined scope of work, they might have very helpful insights from a semi-external point of view. So build some good rapport with any consultant you work with.
3. Be vigilant
Even if you get along really well with your expert, always remain focused on their results and whether they are still proving their worth.
4. Be patient
Once you have decided to put your trust in your new hire, you need to give them a real chance. Be patient and have faith that their process will get you the results you expect.
5. Make sure best practices are being used
Make sure to hold them accountable for using best practices. While we did stress a lot about your business’s uniqueness and how important that is, using general best practices is also a key element not to be ignored.
Best practices are based on what works for most businesses, sort of like a “secret recipe” that always turns out right. The person you work with should be familiar with current best practices and how they should be used to achieve your business goals.
Best practices change all the time, so while you don’t have to be an expert yourself, make a point to at least know what tactics are being used by asking questions such as:
- How are your ad campaigns built?
- Where are your ads showing?
- Are you targeting your intended audience?
- How is your budget allocated across media platforms and campaigns?
- How often are your results monitored and your ads updated?
6. Keep everyone focused and happy
This might seem impossible, especially if you are working with a remote consultant or a whole team, but it’s an absolute must for any ongoing management situation.
You’ll want to keep your consultant motivated and focused on continuously improving your marketing results. Motivate them to care about the results of their work, so that they will be motivated to keep going.
For example, one marketer might be motivated by financial incentives related to success rates (percentage of closed deals/bonuses) while another would be motivated by being increasing their level of involvement in the decision-making process.
In many ways, motivating and managing freelancers, in general, is similar to managing onsite employees, you need to find out what will keep them “on your team” and aligned with your business goals.
7. Measure your progress
Keeping track of your progress is the best way to ensure continuous improvement.
It is imperative that you be able to view the results of your efforts, and with Mayple you can view all the results in a nice-looking dashboard that we have created for you.
Your results should reflect what has been achieved so far as a new set point to learn from and move forward. Be sure to establish a structured communication process for regular updates, feedback, and questions.
Communication could include:
- Periodic phone calls and/ or meetings
- Scheduled weekly/monthly reports
- Shared dashboard with live updates
- Designated analysis tools that produce customized reports
- Quarterly result-based performance evaluations
It can be difficult to keep up with the changing trends and best practices of the day. Hiring a marketer you can trust is a great solution that can quickly help you grow your business.
Let’s review the important steps that we covered:
- Find the right consultant.
- Clearly define SMART goals and KPIs.
- Vet your candidates thoroughly.
- Establish guidelines and good long-term working relationships.
- Start and see your brand flourish.
Does that sound too good to be true?
Well, it isn’t.
Start your journey with Mayple, and let us show you what we can do.