Marketing consulting has absolutely exploded in recent years. With so much digital growth, more and more companies are in need of specific marketing expertise and look for individual marketing 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 US back in 2012, and even back then people were making a median income of $92,100.
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 the best job 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. 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 skills they should have, and how to best manage them.
Let’s dive in.
What is a Marketing Consultant and what do they do?
The prime role of marketing consultants 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.
Online marketing consultants should have a wide variety of useful skills and knowledge. 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:
- Evaluating your current marketing strategy and identifying 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 marketing channels such as SEO optimization; Social media presence and engagements; email marketing; website appearance, and performance
- Content Marketing - Coordinating your content strategy across 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 marketing presentations.
- Producing necessary marketing materials.
- Marketing Automation - Setting up technical performance tracking systems, analytics integrations, tracking pixels, CRM, email marketing drip campaigns, etc.
What Skills Should Marketing Consultants Have?
Digital marketing consultants must possess a blend of technical and behavioral skills. They are required to be very creative thinkers, while also being data analysis inclined. Preferably, they should have an educational background in marketing, business or other related fields.
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 marketing efforts.
Top skills every marketing consultant should have:
- Social media marketing and popular social media platforms
- Search engine marketing and search engine optimization
- Reputation management - digital public relations
- Image and brand management
- Consumer behavior and customer psychology
- Analytics tools and marketing software solutions
Professionally, a trusted digital marketing consultant must be able to collect and analyze data and translate it all into actionable insights for your business.
The marketing consultant’s action plan will be the measuring stick, with which you not only measure your own marketing success but their success as well.
Lastly, your marketing consultant must also be on top of current best practices and digital marketing tactics, as these change dynamically over time.
Personality-wise, a trusted digital marketing consultant will have great ‘people skills’. They are required to be empathetic enough to relate to both your business challenges and your target audience’s pain points (which your business provides a solution for). Your marketing consultant should be a good listener, a problem solver, and have leadership qualities when it is called for.
Hiring a Marketing Consultant - the Why, Where, and When
Why should I hire a digital marketing consultant?
A marketing consultant, whether they are an independent contractor or a fully-staffed agency is a worthwhile investment for growing your business, regardless of its size.
The main reason for hiring a digital marketing consultant is to benefit from their experience and knowledge and enable business growth. With the fast pace of changes in the marketing world, it is nearly crucial to hire someone with a level of expertise that can ”take-over” and allow you to focus on your core business instead.
Think about it.
The right marketing advisor can outline a detailed marketing plan, help determine a business's marketing message and, identify the appropriate marketing mix to get the message out to your target market.
At the same time, the consultant is unbiased, he can help monitor your marketing efforts and their results continuously, whether they are being performed in-house or externally. A trusted marketing advisor will have your best business interests at heart and an outsider’s point of view that can help illuminate your path to success.
When to Hire a Marketing Consultant
The subject of hiring an external marketing advisor comes up often when a business reaches a certain tipping point at any stage of its lifecycle. A new business can make use of a marketing consultant to help define a clear company vision and goals, long-term marketing plan, and shorter-term digital marketing launch strategy.
Any existing business wishing to improve their current performance would benefit from a digital marketing consultant as well. A digital marketing consultant could help construct a focused marketing strategy. Such a marketing strategy can improve on current marketing 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.
A business seeking to break into new markets and attract new customers would also benefit from a trusted marketing consultant with relevant experience. They would help determine the best market penetration strategy considering the competition and a company’s ability to set and reach realistic goals.
Employing a digital marketing consultant or firm to steer your business's advertising efforts 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 it makes it really hard to know who is good and who would be a good fit for your business.
Choosing the right digital 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 agency, 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 marketing consultant or marketing agency carrying out your marketing strategy, you should still be the one managing and overseeing their work.
Ok, so you’ve decided to hire a marketing 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 “top marketing consultant” + 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 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 marketing-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.
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 time vetting, negotiating, critiquing, until you hire the right person. And even then, it’s a hit and 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 and consultants. You have a better glimpse into their experience and reviews but you still don’t really have the data on their past marketing 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 or the best one 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 up the top marketing consultant or agency in your area, and then check them out on directories like Clutch or 99Firms.
Pros: You can find out how well these people rank on directories.
Cons: All you know is how well these people rank on directories. Also, agencies 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 Klaviyo for email Marketing or Google Ads or Facebook/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 marketing consultants/experts have an average of 10-12 years of experience in digital marketing.
- A much more affordable rate than what the agencies charge.
- Unbiased monitoring
Cons: your business better be ready to grow, because we are hyper-focused on growing your ROI.
So, now that you know where to find the right marketing consultants for your business, let’s talk about the process.
Hiring a digital 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, business size, marketing challenges, and channels. This will help you 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
By pre-defining what you hope to achieve with the assistance of your marketing consultant, you will be able to track and measure success. Looking to generate more qualified leads? Set a goal number. Looking to grow your social media engagement? Define the desired engagement rate.
3. Vet your digital marketer
Be sure to select a marketing consultant with a history of delivering the results you'd like to achieve. Feel free to ask them to provide examples of their previous successes. A trusted marketing consultant 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 marketing consultant or agency you should inquire if they:
- Have worked with similar businesses in your industry
- Are familiar with your target audiences and where to reach them
- Are experienced in managing similar sized marketing budgets
- Can provide success rates on relevant (to your business) 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
Digital marketing advisors will offer a free initial consultation in hopes of gaining your business. 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, if possible, is to hire a marketing consultant on a short-term project, before hiring them for a larger project.
You should also set some ground rules.
Before you get to the actual work it is 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 suite you
- Share how often you expect to be sent progress updates
Setting the right expectations goes both ways of course. In order for your digital marketing consultant 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 online marketing consultant 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 work 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 to see?
- What are your business 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?
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 marketing 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 digital marketing consultants and agencies we have compiled a useful checklist of rules to help you manage your online marketing advisors.
The following pointers will help you evaluate their service level, communicate your desired results, and maintain control of your marketing assets all within the first month of hiring.
How to best work with a marketing consultant
Hiring a marketing advisor, as in any business relationship 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 work and the level of influence their decisions have.
1. Be clear and cooperative
avoid misunderstandings before they occur by setting clear work expectations for the work process and desired results, time frame for achieving them, etc. Make note, that this is a two-way street and that your marketing consultant will have expectations from you as well, that will enable them to do their job.
2. Be fair
Value good work and reward it 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.
3. Be vigilant
Even if you get along really well with your marketing advisor, always remain focused on their results and whether they are still proving their worth. Your business and marketing results should continuously grow, and your marketing consultants should continue working toward that.
4. Be patient
Once you have decided to put your trust in your hired marketing consultant give it 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
Once you have started working with an online marketing consultant it is important 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, sort of like a “secret recipe” that always turns outright. If your marketing consultant is worth anything they will 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 marketing tactics are being used by asking questions such as:
- How are your ad campaigns built?
- Where are your ads showing?
- Is your marketing 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 one might seem impossible, but it holds true to any ongoing management situation. You’ll want to keep your marketing consultant motivated and focused on continuously improving your marketing results. If you can get your marketing expert to care about the results of their work, then they will be motivated to keep up the good work.
What motivates your marketing consultant can vary and is something you need to clarify with them.
For example, one marketing consultant 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 online marketing consultants 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 marketing efforts, and with Mayple you can view all the results in a nice-looking dashboard that we have created for you.
Since your marketing efforts are an ongoing process, 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 your marketing consultant to update you on progress, and for you to send feedback and ask 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
Marketing is the growth engine of your business and it can be difficult to keep up with the changing trends and best-practices of the day. Hiring a marketing consultant you can trust is a great solution that can quickly help you grow your business.
Let’s review the important steps that we covered:
1. Find the right marketing consultant.
2. Clearly define SMART goals and KPIs.
3. Vet your candidates thoroughly.
4. Establish guidelines and a good long-term working relationships.
5. Start the work 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.