Marketing is one of the most important tools in growing your business because it provides the resources needed to continually create new leads and new customers.
Whether your business needs help or not with its marketing plan is a common dilemma for owners of both large and small businesses alike. That help often comes in the form of a marketing consultant.
What is a marketing consultant? A marketing consultant is a professional who acts as a third-party advisor to your company. A consultant will:
- Learn through discussions about your business goals
- Assess business needs and current standings with customers
- Evaluate your current marketing strategy, particularly where you are wasting money and how you can achieve a greater success rate of converting leads into sales
- Adapt key strategies to your specific business
Consulting is a $262 billion industry worldwide for a reason. When you work within a business, you may be too close to operations and your people to see the whole picture. You need a fresh set of eyes from someone who understands business, marketing, branding and growth. A marketing consultant can deliver this.
Because marketing consultants look from the outside-in, they can see what's not working and help you develop a practical, data-driven plan for improvement and long-term growth.
What’s The Difference Between A Marketing Consultant And An Agency?
Traditionally, a marketing consultant focuses more on strategy. An agency implements that strategy.
However, that doesn’t mean an agency won’t provide consulting services. In fact, the best marketing agencies will provide consulting services and offer to implement those recommendations through a customized plan that is based on the needs of your business.
Both marketing consultants and marketing agencies can vary in size. There’s often a misperception that a consultant is one person. But in reality, a marketing consultant can be a team of consultants working toward the same common goal. Marketing agencies can vary in size as well, from small businesses to corporations.
What Kinds of Skills Should A Marketing Consultant Have?
A marketing strategy consultant needs both soft and technical skills. They must understand people and how to work well with them. They need to be able to relate to your target audience and have working knowledge of the psychology of customer behavior.
But being an advisor also requires working knowledge of the technologies and strategies available to get the job done. There are many tools out there that make everything about marketing faster, more effective and cost-effective, especially in the realm of digital marketing.
So your consultant should know what's available and understand which will work best for your business.
The person or agency responsible for laying the groundwork for your marketing plan should also:
- Give you an honest assessment as to whether it is a good fit based on your goals
- Have an in-depth understanding of what your business does and key offerings are
- Have an in-depth understanding of your industry and competition
- Have a strong track record of satisfied customers (and be willing to provide references)
- Provide a written proposal that clearly spells out what services the consultant will provide
- Be well versed in inbound marketing tools, including social media, SEO and blogging in order to create a comprehensive plan that covers all areas of marketing
Finally, a marketing consultant should also have in-depth knowledge of relevant and current digital marketing strategies. The COVID-19 pandemic has significantly changed the ways businesses operate, causing many companies to rethink their digital marketing strategies.
Marketing consultants must be able to adapt the strategies they recommend for your business based on the current business climate and customer buying behavior. Not doing so can produce outdated marketing strategies that won’t help you grow at a time when growth is more important than ever.
How Much Does A Marketing Consultant Cost?
How much a marketing consultant costs depends on the services being provided and by whom. According to Glassdoor, a marketing consultant makes on average $54,268 for a year with a range between $37,000 and $84,000. In some outliers like San Jose, California, they may make over $100,000 per year.
However, a marketing consultant is an independent contractor, and as an independent contractor, the consultant likely has more than one client throughout the year. In other words, you are not on the hook for the entire marketing consultant’s salary.
Instead, consultants will determine the number of hours needed to consult for your business and provide an estimate for a given period of time, usually one to six months. A typical hourly rate for a marketing consultant can be anywhere from $50 to $150 per hour for basic services, or more for more advanced services.
In addition to hours worked, there may also be a retainer fee because after the bulk of the consulting is done, you may need the consultant's ongoing expertise as problems arise or the business environment changes. A consultant can support you long-term, helping you stay on course and adapt to an evolving industry, customer preferences, technologies and regulatory considerations.
It’s important to note that this hourly rate for a marketing consultant may seem higher than an employee at face value. It is not. You are not responsible for paying payroll taxes, benefits, overhead, etc.
What are you paying the consultant for? Depending on the arrangement, you may be paying for time spent:
- Shadowing employees
- Discussing strategy (calls, texts, emails, video chat, etc.)
- Gathering data
- Analyzing data
- Surveying customers
You may also pay for a portion of licensing costs for analytics and other tools that facilitate the most data-driven decisions. Variation in pay may be based on cost of living, experience and track record.
How Do I Find A Marketing Consultant?
Finding the right marketing consultant for your business can be a challenge. Perform a quick Google search and you’ll likely net a return so large you may feel like you want to stop the search before you even begin. Here are a few ways to find a marketing consultant:
Reach Out To Peers
One of the best ways to find a marketing consultant is to reach out to fellow companies in your industry. If you belong to any professional associations, use your membership as an opportunity to find out which consultants companies like yours have worked with and found success. Even other businesses in your community may be able to offer recommendations.
Linkedin is also another great place to find marketing consultants. Skills endorsements, reviews, case studies and other information provided on this networking site can help identify someone you may want to consider.
Freelancer And Job Sites
You can find marketing consultants with various levels of expertise on websites that connect people in need of services with the professionals. These sites often include a review system so that you know how well individuals work with others.
While Google does not rank consultants, the search engine does rank websites. And, ranking a website is part of marketing. So the marketing consultants that appear toward the top of the search have mastered getting their own page ranked highly.
However, Google is more likely to return the names of marketing consultants based on your location. So while it can be beneficial to work with a consultant near you, you may be missing out on other marketing consultants with more experience in your particular industry.
Once you find a potential consultant, it's vital that you interview them to understand how they can help you. You should feel comfortable with their communication and possible approaches. The approaches that make sense for a teen lipstick line probably won't work for healthcare or manufacturing.
What Do I Ask A Marketing Consultant During The Interview?
While you’ll likely have many questions for a potential marketing consultant you may want to work with, here are a few questions you should ask every time.
What's your plan for our business?
What you want to hear: They shouldn't have a plan. Every company has different needs. If they begin speaking about strategies they would consider for your business before they've gotten to know your business, that's a red flag.
What kinds of data will you need/use to develop our strategy?
What you want to hear: A marketing consultant should have strong analytical skills and access to analytical tools. Consultants should understand how to gather and analyze data.
What kinds of approaches do you take for clients?
What you want to hear: A marketing consultant shouldn't be a one-trick-pony. Hitting social media or search advertising hard isn't the right move for all businesses. Remember, this is about you and your business, so your marketing consultant should have tools and training on many types of marketing strategies.
A one size fits all approach does not work for every business. A marketing consultant can help you identify the best methods for you so you can take your marketing plan to the next level.
Bill is the CEO and Founder of InTouch Marketing. Bill drives the vision and direction of InTouch except when England's playing in a soccer tournament, because everything stops!