For many who don’t have any in-house marketing resource, don’t know where to start, or have done very little in the way of any successful marketing historically, a marketing consultant is the best place to start when looking for a marketing provider.
This is purely because a marketing consultant will start with a blank sheet of paper and consider the bigger picture (not just campaigns and communications). They will create a strategy that is right for your business and focus on generating a return on investment from all your marketing spend.
What Makes a Good Marketing Consultant?
So, you have decided that a marketing consultant is the right route to take, but how do you evaluate who is right for your business? After all, you are no marketing expert – and that’s why you’re bringing them in. Our advice is to look for these skills and traits. If they tick the following boxes, they could be the perfect match for you.
#1 – Experience
When you are engaging with a marketing consultant, in effect you are not buying anything tangible.
Yes, they are likely to have a structured process that they take clients through, but this will only extract the information required.
For a consultant to absorb that data, make sense of it and translate it into a clear marketing strategy, that’s is a specific skill.
And it is not a skill that can be honed overnight.
You may see many consultants who have just completed their training in the field. They have just learned the theory of marketing at University and launched straight into becoming a marketing consultant.
Although the theory of marketing can be learned relatively quickly (it is not rocket science after all), the commercial reality of marketing can only be experienced first hand “in the field”.
Sadly, return on investment (ROI) is still a subject that is barely scratched upon within University Marketing degree courses.
This seems crazy, right? Since that is the sole purpose of what marketing should deliver.
It has become widely recognised, thanks to the research of Malcolm Gladwell, that it takes 10,000 hours of deliberate practice to become exceptional at something. Taking this concept and applying it to experience in the field of marketing, this would require a minimum of 5 years’ experience (as the consultant’s sole focus). Obviously, the more experience, the better.
However, it is not just about how many years of experience, it is also the variety of experience.
Variety of Experience
For example, one person who has been a marketing manager for 20 years at the same company could merely be repeating 1 year of experience over and over again.
Whereas someone with 10 years’ experience in working across 3 different businesses in 3 different industries will arguably have a much better variety of experience to call upon.
However, with that said, that doesn’t mean you require a consultant to have experience in your sector.
Consultants who have never had experience in your sector will simply start with a blank sheet of paper, rather than a “one size fits all” approach.
#2 – Marketing consultants have the ability to listen and understand the business
One of the primary skills of a good marketing consultant is being able to extract the necessary information from the business in the most efficient manner.
If they seem structured and organised, with a good, logical method of questioning, this is a big plus.
There are typically two types of marketing consultants. Firstly, those who love being a marketing consultant because they love being an expert in something.
These types of characters will talk for England, and mainly about themselves (you have probably met one before).
The other type, and the type you should seek out are those who love being a marketing consultant because they love helping others to succeed and grow. You can easily differentiate between them because these consultants will focus meetings around you and your business.
They will carry out a marketing audit, ask intelligent questions about your company, industry, and will listen intently so that they fully understand your business.
If you’re ever in doubt, just ask them to summarise back to you at the end of a meeting what you are specifically trying to achieve.
A good consultant should be able to relay this back to you, probably without even referencing their notes.
Also, don’t be afraid to ask a consultant to explain their process. If you do choose to work with them, what is going to happen? Understand the stages involved and how much of your involvement is required. You can then evaluate whether it all sounds logical.
#3 – A good, track record
We have already talked about experience – which really focused on a number of years and variety of roles or clients. However, track record is something different. This should look at how successful they have been in those roles. What did they achieve? Was the objective when they started working with company X met, did they meet those targets?
A good marketing consultant should have a suite of good success stories and examples that they can share. This could be around something specific (such as enquiry levels, conversion rates, customer retention, market share) or general financial growth (sales, customer values, profit).
Be wary of consultants who will not give you specific figures. A good consultant will take great pride in the results they have achieved for their clients and should be open to share these.
#4 – Dynamic (positive attitude and full of energy/ideas)
Remember you are going to have to work with this person, potentially over a sustained period. With this in mind, you want to make sure that they are the right fit for your business. Can you see yourself getting on with them? Do they have a dynamic, positive, can-do attitude? Are they excited about your business and the possibilities of where they could help you take it?
There is a balance here as you want (and need) a level of realism – otherwise, they could over promise and under deliver.
However, if they aren’t displaying an eagerness to work with you and a confidence that they can take you where you want to go – they are probably not quite right for you.
Work out what pace you like to work at and then gauge whether you think the consultant is at a similar sort of level. One way of doing this subtly is to walk them around your business, at your own walking pace. If they are having to noticeably speed up en-route, they are probably displaying their natural pace of working (which is clearly not in sync with yours).
One slight note of caution is not to get sucked in by lots of creative ideas in an initial meeting.
Remember, they do not know enough about you yet, or your situation, marketplace, positioning etc. They have not done any research. It would suggest a lack of thought and understanding if ideas are being thrown out immediately. Anyone can come up with ideas, you want to make sure they are coming up with GOOD ideas, that are right for your business.
#5 – Marketing Consultant with traditional & digital experience
Marketing is one of those disciplines that is constantly changing. 25 years ago, no-one even had a website.
15 years ago, mobile phones focused on making calls and if you wanted to send an email you got a Blackberry, remember them?
10 years ago, social media was “Friends Reunited”, “My Space” and forums.
5 years ago, SEO was purely about link building.
What we are trying to get across is that marketing is a vast area of business that is ever evolving. It is unlikely that a marketing consultant is going to be an expert in every element – though they should understand all channels.
Ideally, you want a consultant who can demonstrate a track record in both online and offline marketing.
Ask them about their client base. Have they worked with any customers who were purely an online business? If so, and if they got great results with them, then they must have the necessary digital experience.
However, this pendulum can swing the other way as well. A younger consultant may have only worked with digital media, so it is worth exploring their traditional background as well. Consider advertising, PR, direct marketing, sales process etc.
Ideally you are after a balance of both, as the boundaries are blurring, and a more well-rounded consultant will be able to suggest different avenues that a more specialised consultant may not have considered.
#6 – Readily available testimonials
We have already touched upon a track record. Any good marketing consultant worth their salt will have a bank of client testimonials. Check them out on LinkedIn and look at their recommendations. Are they from clients or companies, or just people they used to work with (like co-employees or suppliers)?
Do they openly share names of happy customers on their website? Search the consultant out on Google – do they have some 5-star reviews? If not, ask them why not.
Written testimonials are great – but they only tell you what the consultant wanted to publish.
A good marketing consultant would be happy to share client contact details for you to call them and have a quick chat about their experience.
There is no better way of reducing the risk factor of working with a potential consultant than speaking to previous clients and hearing their experience first-hand.
Would you employ someone in your business without checking out their references?
#7 – Values
Now, not all businesses have publicly communicated values out on display, but really someone in the field of marketing should understand the importance of sharing these.
Your values reflect your core principles and convey how you run your business and work with others.
Most marketing consultants, during their process, will speak to you about your company values, so it is only logical that they themselves have some.
If you can’t find any published anywhere, just ask them about it.
Can they can tell you succinctly what their core values are? If so, then they are probably genuine. The chances are if they get flustered or delay answering, they are probably guilty of “cobbler’s shoes”.
Once you find out what their values are – how do they resonate with you? Is it the type of business/person you feel comfortable working with? Be warned, if you don’t clearly identify early on that you have some core shared values, then things can go pear-shaped quickly.
Key roles and responsibilities of a marketing consultant
Marketing consultants come in a variety of shapes and size (and we are not talking about physical dimensions here).
There are several different roles that a marketing consultant can fulfil so it is important to consider first what you need, and whether this is aligned to what the consultant offers.
The starting point for most companies is that they don’t have any in-house marketing expertise, they know they want to grow, but don’t know how to do it. They have probably identified that marketing is a core skill gap in the business and they are looking for someone to plug this gap.
Deciding what level is required
Firstly, give some thought to the level of responsibility this person would have in your business if you were recruiting them. Would they be at director level, manager level, or at an operational level. Once you know this you can evaluate whether the fit is right.
At a director level, it is likely that the marketing consultant will be very strategic. They will evaluate the desired goals of the business and create a marketing strategy around how the business can get there (a roadmap if you like).
At a managerial level, a marketing consultant will take that strategy and turn into an operational marketing plan and oversee the implementation of the activity schedule.
This could involve managing third party operational staff who they are responsible for. Or perhaps simply mentoring someone else who is responsible for managing the actual delivery of the activity. In this instance, fit with the team is also important.
Are they a people person – will they bring out the best in others? Obviously, a marketing consultant who is very hands-on at the implementation phase is going to cost more than one who solely provides strategic input. But it does guarantee the roll-out of the plan actually happens.
Other marketing consultants may just simply consult. You would buy a chunk of their time and they will consult on how you can improve the marketing effectiveness of your business.
Typically, this may be a couple of hours up to a full day.
So, in summary, you want to know what you need, the role you want them to fill, and your desired output from the relationship. This way you can make sure that the consultant’s offering is perfectly aligned with what your business needs.
Clear signs you’re in dire need of a marketing consultant
So now we know how to identify a good marketing consultant, how do you know whether you need one?
There are a few tell-tale signs that indicate when you need some external marketing support.
#1 – Lack of new enquiries into the business
One issue many businesses have is that they do not really track enquiries. If you fall into this camp, it can be difficult to spot when there has been a barren spell of enquiries. This is particularly true in a larger organisation where the process for dealing with enquiries may be spread across multiple members of staff.
Sometimes awareness can be instinctive, but usually, you get a clear indication when it starts to have an impact on cash flow.
However you have managed to identify the fact, if you have a lack of new enquiries into the business then a marketing consultant can really help you to address this issue.
Different business models
Many businesses grow and thrive on a model of retaining repeat customers. However, even if this is the case, you will also reach a point, due to customer churn, where you will stop growing.
This is why new enquiries into the business are always critical to maintain.
If the new customers value outnumbers the customers lost value (assuming all other things equal) then you should always be moving in a positive direction.
A good marketing consultant should be able to help you with both ends of this sales funnel.
They should be able to advise on strategies to generate more leads at the top and minimise customer churn at the bottom. Also, they should be able to help you with the middle stage as well – your conversion rate. After all you may not have any trouble generating leads, but the issue is converting them into customers!
#2 – You’re spending a lot with little return
There are typically three types of business when it comes to marketing success.
- Those who invest in marketing at a high level within the business and it generates positive returns. Typically, these businesses will already have marketing covered and are unlikely to need the services of a consultant (unless they feel that their return on investment could still be improved).
- Those who have grown organically through word of mouth and have never really invested in any marketing activity other than the basics (i.e. they have a website and brochure). This type of business could really benefit from the input of a marketing consultant to take them to the next level.
- Finally, those who are investing a lot of money into marketing, but they are not getting a good a return for their spend. If you fall into this camp, your definitely need an external marketing specialist to come in and analyse where you are going wrong. All marketing spend should generate a positive return – so if isn’t, something is wrong somewhere. The chances are they will save you their fee in wasted marketing spend within a few weeks.
#3 – You don’t know what’s working and what isn’t
Linked to the previous point, you only know which camp you sit in if you are tracking your performance.
Some people may not even know whether their activity is generating a return or not, which is always a worrying situation.
You may be using third party suppliers to deliver individual elements of your marketing activity.
Ideally, they will be reporting on the return on investment. However, often the relationship with the business is such that they do not take a holistic view of following a lead through the system to sale (and a monetary value).
In reality, what they will often report on is how many leads or enquiries that their activity generated. Although this is useful, it doesn’t go deep enough.
Understanding of the KPIs
A specific marketing activity could generate you hundreds of leads, but if the conversion rate for the channel is poor, it doesn’t necessarily mean it will translate into sales.
Ideally whatever activity costs you are incurring you want to have absolute clarity on the cost per enquiry (CPE) and the cost per acquisition of a new customer (CPA).
Only when you have these figures can you compare the success of alternative activity.
If you don’t know where to start in tracking these figures, or your supplier is proving no help in this respect, then an outside marketing consultant, with no axe to grind, will be able to help you.
They will be able to look at the whole marketing function and review processes and procedures and make the necessary tweaks so that this level of analysis is accessible.
#4 – You can’t stay focused
Most businesses are started by individuals with an entrepreneurial spirit. This is because it takes that positive attitude, and approach to risk, to make something happen.
They are visionaries who see opportunities, get excited and motivated by the possibilities and then either make it happen themselves, or bring in more task focused individuals to make it happen.
The problem with such entrepreneurial spirit, which is why so many businesses fail (only 4% of businesses celebrate a 10-year anniversary), is because they can lack focus.
Because the entrepreneur is motivated by the excitement of the idea, they are often distracted by future opportunities, rather than maximising what they already have (which can often be the best idea of all).
The Plasticine Effect
To put this into context, consider that all your products, services and ideas are colours of plasticine. Each distinct, vibrant and different from the other. You may start off with one colour – your core focus. It is bright, eye-catching, and communicates with clarity who you are and what you do. Your business starts to do well.
Then gradually you see new opportunities, and new colours are added to the business – which generates additional revenue. They may still be clearly categorised, but clarity over what the core offering is is now becoming diluted, although the company may still be growing.
Before you know it, your focus has switched to the latest new idea which again is a bright vibrant colour which you are excited about – it is the future!
Meanwhile, all of your other product and services have gradually merged together.
No longer do they all have their own identity and individual colours, but the combined mixture of all these colours has just created a brown splurge.
They are no longer indistinguishable.
Sometimes the real cash cow of the business can also be hidden in the brown!
Identifying Cash Cows
A marketing consultant should be able to help you identify where your focus should lie and ensure that those profitable cash cow products and services are not being neglected. Also, they will undertake the same process with your marketing activity.
They will be able to ascertain where your focus should be – which is whatever channels generate you the biggest profitable returns (as opposed to the most exciting).
#5 – You don’t understand your target audience
Who is your target audience? Now if your instinctive reaction was “I am not sure” or your sentence began with the words “anyone” or “everyone” then you need a marketing consultant urgently.
There are two levels with this.
Firstly, knowing who you target audience(s) are.
You cannot possibly try and appeal to everybody – because customers are different, we are not all the same.
What will appeal to one person will turn someone else off.
If you think of music as an example – it is highly unlikely that a person who likes Lady Gaga is the same type of person who likes Dizzy Rascal, Dolly Parton, Dizzy Gillespie, Blur or Megadeth.
However, you could make an educated guess that the person who likes Dolly Parton may well like Kenny Rogers as well. So firstly, you need to segment target markets and treat them differently, because they are different.
Do you really understand them?
The second level is that you may know who your target audience(s) are, but how deeply do you understand them? What are their most common identifiable characteristics? Why would they require your product or service? How are they most likely to purchase it? What will be their decision-making process? Can you identify their key purchasing drivers?
Unless you know the answers to these questions, it is impossible for your marketing to maximise its potential returns. This influences every stage of the marketing process. From the positioning of the business brand, the positioning of the product, your messaging, your pricing, which channels you communicate through, your sales process, through to your customer retention strategy.
It is probably the most common mistake businesses make in terms of their marketing. They just haven’t taken the time to identify and understand who their core target market is.
#6 – You don’t have a real strategy and your marketing is scattergun
Many businesses invest in marketing, without have a real strategy behind which all activity is based upon.
The trouble with such a scenario is that how is it possible to know whether the activity you are carrying out it the correct activity?
A marketing strategy should include clearly mapping out each of the following.
- The business objectives – what you need your marketing activity to generate to meet your long-term and short-term targets.
- How the business is competitively positioned
- A SWOT and PEST analysis of the business
- A breakdown of the key marketing metrics of the business (CPE, CPA, conversion rates etc)
- Clear segmentation of offering
- Target markets
- Marketing activity plan
Once a business has gone through this process it has a blueprint against which to ensure all marketing communications and activity align to.
When something does not align to the strategy – either in messaging, audience or performance metrics, then you should not be wasting resource on this activity.
If you are literally trying “lots of stuff” to see what works, then it is a very slow and expensive way to market your business. With a strategy you will be able to evaluate quickly whether the activity is the correct one. You will also be able to spend more time on tweaking the activity to maximise the returns.
#7 – Your team is inexperienced and needs strategic guidance
Many businesses can grow rapidly. This usually involves taking on key staff who can increase the deliverable capacity of the business.
Also, in the early days, it is possible to gain reasonable traction through the quality of your offering and positive word of mouth. However, what this usually means is that you have grown a team who can service more clients. It doesn’t mean you have necessarily grown a team who can attract more clients.
Quite often, because a business has achieved a degree of success in the early days, it doesn’t identify marketing as a core function. What can therefore happen is that a business has grown to a significant size, with significant overhead, before there is the realisation that to continue to grow there is a marketing skill gap you need to plug.
The First Marketing Recruit
It is also not uncommon for the first marketing recruit to be at an operational level. Someone who can manage activity – look after the website, manage collateral design and look after social media channels. Also, it is not uncommon for some businesses to assign these tasks to existing resource already within the business, with no marketing background whatsoever.
Whichever route the business has taken, there comes a point where it realises that to grow to where it wants to get to, it needs marketing input at a more strategic level.
It needs a marketing director, rather than a marketing executive.
A marketing consultant can enable you to bridge this gap without the expense of recruiting someone full time in the business on a significant salary.
As mentioned earlier, a good marketing consultant has the experience of working with several different companies and industries and will have their process down to a fine art.
It is much better bringing in someone, even for a short period, who can ensure the strategy is line with the company’s growth ambitions. You may want to work for a longer period with them or you may simply want them to create a marketing strategy which your incumbent team can put into practice.
#8 – You have hit a plateau
As we just mentioned, a business can grow significantly and quickly, based upon a quality delivery of its service or product.
However, with any business, there is only so far that this can take you.
Inevitably all businesses will hit a “glass ceiling”.
There is only ever a limited market which you can tap into “naturally” without proactively going out and getting. For some this can sustain the business for weeks, months or even years.
At some point, however, you will notice that your sales growth has plateaued. It may even have peaked and tipped into decline (if your churn rate is too high). At this point you need to consider how a more proactive approach to marketing your business could stimulate demand and sales growth once again.
Long Term View
Bear in mind that a marketing consultant coming into to advise your business may be able to spot some “quick wins”, but the chances are there will be a much longer process that needs to take place to evaluate where the business is, where it wants to get to, and most importantly, how to get there.
Even if you feel that sales are slowing and that you are just starting to plateau, then start the process of speaking with a marketing consultant early. It could be 3-6 months before you start to see the financial benefits of their input, so don’t leave it until things are desperate and you need immediate results.
#9 – You need a mentor you can trust and provide ongoing support
It is not always that you need a marketing consultant to come in and help create your marketing strategy with you. You may already have some in-house marketing resource and you merely want an outsider’s perspective on things.
A marketing consultant can add great value to your business by merely carrying out an audit on what you currently doing and advising you on how to improve things. It may also be of benefit to work with them as an ongoing marketing mentor for you, or one of your team.
Developing a Rising Star
You may have someone in the organisation who is showing growing potential, but they just don’t have the all-round commercial experience yet that the business requires. This is where tapping into a marketing consultant mentor can be invaluable. A rough diamond in the team with a good attitude and good skill set may just need a more experienced marketing professional to learn from and get the best out of them.
Also, this ongoing external input allows you to sense check activity with a third party who has no vested interest in recommending specific activity channels, and no political axe to grind within the business.
What is the difference between a marketing consultant and a marketing agency?
For many businesses it is easy enough to identify that they need marketing support, but with so many marketing suppliers out there in the marketplace, how do you know which is right for your business?
There are four main types of supplier – those who specialise in a specific channel (digital, PR, advertising, social etc), freelancers (interim support on short term contracts), marketing agencies and marketing consultants. All these options are very different and here we are looking to distinguish the two most common needs that a business may have (a marketing agency and a marketing consultant) and how to choose the best option for you.
The first point to consider is whether you currently have a marketing strategy in place. If you don’t then you should really be looking to engage with a marketing consultant initially. Without a strategy in place, the marketing activity will never maximise its potential returns.
A good marketing consultant worth their salt, would always start by ensuring the right strategy is in place. An agency, on the other hand, may often assume that the client has a strategy in place which they are following. They merely help to roll out the identified activity.
Strategic and Analytical vs Creative (left/right brain)
Tying in the with above point, a marketing consultant is very strategic in their outlook. They will take time to research and analyse prior to recommending activity. Marketing consultants are typically left-brain people. Marketing agencies are full of right brain people. They are driven by creativity.
An agency would recommend a solution that looks more aesthetically pleasing, whilst a consultant would recommend a solution that would generate a better return. An agency would view success as customer awards for creativity, meanwhile a consultant would view success as high levels of return on investment.
Holistic approach vs campaign level
Although a marketing agency may have different services that it offers to clients (branding, design, PR, advertising, SEO, PPC, Web, Social etc) these all tend to be different teams within the business. This therefore means it is likely they will focus solely on their own specialism.
One benefit of this is that you are getting specialised people working on each element – which is great.
The downside to this is that their focus is very much on their campaign element rather than the bigger picture.
In comparison, a marketing consultant would take a holistic view of marketing the business, whereas an agency would tend to focus on only the promotional or communicative elements of marketing.
A marketing consultant will cover those but also consider fully the whole customer journey, including internal sales processes, systems, pricing, tracking mechanisms, customer management etc.
Long term vs short term view
A marketing consultant would usually become a valued member of the team. They would, in effect, become your marketing function, just not on the company payroll.
The vast majority will live and die by the results they get and will often be focusing as much on the 3-year plan as the next 12 months. Undoubtedly, they want to create and implement a strategy that is going to grow the business in line with ambitious targets. Unless the customer can see tangible results, they won’t be retained.
A marketing agency is usually viewed as a supplier. They simply focus on delivering what you ask of them. Typically, they won’t track results, so they won’t be able to report on return on investment. Their short-term focus will be driven by keeping their contact happy – because if the customer is happy with the service delivered, they will come back to them for the next project.
KPI tracking and ROI focus
Because a marketing consultant is measured very simply by results, it is critical that they track everything within the business.
A marketing consultant wants to ensure that every pound spent is going to work hard as an investment.
Because of this focus and mentality, a marketing consultant will often benefit the company by driving down third-party supplier costs. It is in their best interests to do so.
A good marketing consultant will report back on the marketing performance of the business. They will be able to provide you with data on lead generation, conversion rates, cost per enquiry and cost per acquisition across each channel used, as well as total return on investment.
Marketing agencies, on the other hand, doesn’t usually have the motivation, nor the analytical skill set, to put these procedures in place and will often place the measuring of results down to the responsibility of the client. For many companies, this means that simply no tracking takes place. This, in turn, leads to an uncertainty over which channels are working most effectively for you, which leads to marketing budget being wasted.
A marketing consultant is assigned because of many of the points mentioned – they are strategic, holistic, left-brained, analytical, long-term perspective, results focused.
Because of all these things they do not have the right brain creative focus of an agency. Inevitably what this means is that they don’t try and deliver the creative elements. A typical consultancy would outsource those creative specialisms to experts in their field.
What this ultimately means to the customer is that they are completely impartial as to what channels are being used and recommended (as they don’t financially benefit from the creative production).
A marketing agency, on the other hand, makes most of its money through creative production. With this is mind, by the very nature of what it is selling, the more marketing channels that are being used, the bigger the positive impact on the agency. This is by no means implying that all agencies sell you services that you don’t need (although some undoubtedly do). But they can never provide you with a truly impartial view of the situation.
Blank sheet of paper approach
This differentiator is usually driven by the company itself as often they will ask what has worked previously for companies in a similar industry. An agency will answer by showing you examples of campaigns that have been deemed successful and could be tweaked for your specific business.
This is not necessarily a bad thing as it could provide you with a quick-win campaign within a comparatively short period.
A marketing consultant would, however, prefer to start with a blank sheet of paper and not rely on “campaigns” that have worked in similar industry. They want to make sure that all activity recommended is right for you. This means understanding more about the business, your industry, your clients, their purchasing behaviour, your competitors, your positioning and messaging, before making recommendations.
After all, two competing businesses in the same sector can have radically different, yet successful, marketing strategies.
One way of looking at this is to consider how you would feel if you went to your local GP and before you had a chance to tell them what your symptoms were, they had written you a prescription for some antibiotics because they worked so well on clearing up Mrs Jones issue last week. You probably wouldn’t visit that doctor again!
Now this won’t be a universal differentiator, but it is generally considered that a marketing consultant can be much more transparent in their pricing and how much their services are going to cost you.
This is because their service is very much a methodical process, which will hardly vary at all from client to client. There will be businesses of varying complexities but the process that a consultant will go through and the time it will take can be accurately estimated.
With this is mind, a consultant can give you a fixed idea on cost up front – whether they work on a specific package basis or a time based hourly/daily rate.
Typically with a marketing agency, the work is less process driven. You may be working on a fixed hourly rate, but it can be hard to know how much studio time is going to be required to get to a creative output that you are happy with. Every set of amends will be billable (or you will be limited to a fixed number).
Also remember because of the holistic nature of a marketing consultant’s approach – their pricing is always likely to stay constant. With an agency, costs will depend upon the number of projects being worked upon. This can see costs escalate pretty quickly unless you are keeping a close eye on it.
How much does a marketing consultant cost?
The million-dollar question – how much should I be charged by a good marketing consultant? Unfortunately there is no clear answer to this as there are too many variables involved to give you a rule of thumb figure for the industry.
Firstly, a marketing consultant’s capacity is dictated by one thing – their time. Therefore, successful marketing consultants, with a proven track record, who are in demand, can increase their prices accordingly. If demand is outstripping supply, they can obviously charge a premium and only work with those companies who value the consultant at that level.
Geography is another consideration. You are unlikely to be charged by a marketing consultant in Yorkshire the same rate as one based in central London (even though they may be better). The cost of living is 58% higher so in relative terms you can expect to see a comparable variance in costs (so £2K a month in Leeds would be around £3200 in London).
Also, you need to take into consideration the geographical proximity between the consultant and client.
Do travel costs and time need to be factored in? How much time is required on-site as opposed to remotely?
What is the experience of the consultant like? You are going to be paying a lot more for someone with 25 years of experience across a varied range of industries as opposed to a 28-year-old with 5-years’ commercial experience.
Costs will also vary greatly dependant on the level of support you need. Do you want an ongoing outsourced marketing director, some short-term strategic input, an audit or some mentoring?
One way to evaluate the price point is to work out what the average customer lifetime profit value is for your business is (average order value x average number of annual transactions x average number of years a client x profit margin).
Depending on your business this could be anything from £100 to £100,000. Whatever it is you can then calculate how many new customers their intervention would need to attract to pay for their fees. If it seems reasonable, then you must put their fees into context (i.e. two new customers over the course of six months would cover their fee).
It can also be good to benchmark what you need alongside what it would cost if you recruited someone full-time into the business.
A marketing director could cost you anywhere from £60K-150K (depending on business, industry, and location). Meanwhile, a marketing manager could cost anywhere from £30K-60K. A marketing executive or assistant is likely to cost between £18K-28K.
However, as we highlighted in the first section, there will be a variety of marketing consultants from different backgrounds and levels of experience. Therefore, take the time to find the right consultant for you, rather than just buying on price.
The less experienced they are, the more expensive it could actually be for you, due to investing budgets in the wrong areas.
Consider the outlay as an investment in your business as opposed to a cost and make sure you choose wisely.
When is the right time to hire a marketing consultant?
The right time to get professional marketing advice is ideally before you even start your business – to ensure you set off on the right foot.
However, due to resources and cashflow restraints, this is not always possible.
In reality, as soon as you can afford the services of a marketing consultant, if you don’t have the in-house knowledge or resource, is the best time to start.
The reason being is that a marketing consultant is an investment in the business.
Making investment work harder
It is very unlikely you are doing absolutely nothing with regards to marketing, so you are probably incurring some marketing costs on an ongoing basis (even if it is only a website). Typically, a marketing consultant can pay for themselves by stripping out the inefficient spend and refocusing budget on the areas that generate the best return.
Most companies, however, won’t identify that they need a marketing consultant when times are buoyant and cashflow is good. Usually it is the opposite. When sales start to dip and cashflow dries up they identify that they need more clients and that marketing is the vehicle to drive them into the business. This is what makes the decision harder. However, if a good marketing consultant had been brought on board during the good times, that sales dip is likely to have never occurred.
As you can see marketing is a huge discipline and is not just about looking good and promotional campaigns. There are a plenty of creative focussed agencies to help you with such projects. In all likelihood, a marketing consultant would engage their creative services further down the line, with a tight creative brief, and a mechanism for measuring results.
A marketing consultant really becomes the marketing function of the business, advising on how to tie marketing in with the strategic direction of the business. A good marketing consultant will also help to oversee and manage the implementation process for the business. This is the easiest way to guarantee that suggested plan generates a solid return on investment.
You just need to make sure that you select one who has the right attitude, credentials and personality, and who will be a good cultural fit with your business.
After all, if they do a good job you are likely to be working with them for many successful years.
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