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 overwhelming availability of self-proclaimed or even recommended online digital marketing agencies and advisers ironically makes finding the best match even harder than it should be. 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.
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.
Before you start working with a digital marketing consultant-
#1 Choose the right digital marketing consultant
As we started off stating, choosing an online marketing consultant from the unfathomable array of possibilities can be daunting and a full-time project all on its own. No one scrolling through Google looking for “digital marketing consultant near me” should ever choose the first results, just because they ranked high in the search results. You need to investigate and compare your potential marketing consultants based on performance and business matching indicators.
To verify 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)
This step is crucial and should be entirely customized for your business's specific needs, there is no one size fits all.
Rule #2 - Stress over the details and set the right expectations
Congratulations! You have found “the one” - a digital marketing consultant to work with. But 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 into the mutual work agreement, you should be able to confidently allow the online marketing consultant to do their job mostly uninterrupted.
Rule #3 Define a marketing strategy and stick to it
If you have taken the time to define your business objectives, it is important to always refer back to them as your project progresses. Your marketing consultant should provide you with a clear marketing strategy to approve before executing it. This will be the base line reference against which progress and performance will be evaluated.
A marketing strategy should state your agreed upon and business-specific goals starting from general objectives down to specific expected results. Your strategy should answer questions such as:
- 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?
The list can go on and on, and should be tailored to your business needs and expectations by cooperating with your marketing consultant.
Managing your digital marketing consultant - on the job
Rule #4 Make sure best-practices are being used
Once you have started working with an online marketing consultant or marketing agency it is important to hold them accountable for using best-practices as it is in your best interest.
While we did stress a lot about your business’s uniqueness and how important that is, using general best-practices are 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 out right. 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?
Rule #5 Hold up on your end of the deal
You deserve a high level of service from your marketing consultant, that is true. But work relationship expectations should be mutually met. If you expect your consultant to be highly responsive to your emails, then you should return the same. Your marketer might request some updated marketing materials in order to set up new campaigns, and you need to be the one who provides it as soon as possible. By cooperating as a team towards the same goals, you will be able to achieve those goals faster. Everyone has their part to play out and you need to be accountable for your success as well.
For a successful long term relationship with your digital marketing provider
After all the effort put into choosing and onboarding your marketing consultant to fit your business needs, assuming things are working out, you’ll want to retain them. Here are a couple of pointers on how to make a good relationship with your digital marketing consultant last.
Rule #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 instance, 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.
Rule #7 Measure your progress to succeed
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 progress reports is something your marketing consultant should provide.
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, ask questions and move on. This can be done in a manner of ways:
- 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
As long as you define what to keep a constant eye on, your marketing's attention will be more focused and the desired results will soon follow.
Why hiring a digital marketing consultant is worth the effort
Deciding to outsource and intrust your marketing efforts with a professional marketing consultant or hiring a designated marketing agency is intimidating and can feel like a blind leap of faith. But, as you can see, there are ways to minimize the uncertainty.
What you “loose” in on-premise control you gain in professionalism that can not be achieved any other way. It does mean a lot of planning a preliminary work on your part, but the more preparation you do, the more pleased you will be with the results.