Marketing is an essential part of your company you can’t, and shouldn’t ignore. It literally, drives the dollars coming through the front door. Your company may have DIY’ed your marketing to a certain point, or you may have worked with an agency in the past but felt that you weren’t getting the most out of a relationship. Or, your in-house marketing staff may be too young or simply overloaded and the time has come to bring in some outside marketing help.
Colleagues and friends may be quick to throw you business cards and referrals for marketing consultants but is a marketing consultant the right fit for your company? Will you get the biggest bang for your marketing buck by hiring a marketing consultant?
Marketing Consultants Aren’t Magicians or Miracle Workers
A consultant can't answer a wish and magically bring your business back from the dead.
If you have a product that just doesn’t make sense to your customers, the best marketing consultant in the world can’t fix that for you. Your product could be overpriced, have incomplete features, a significant outlier in your product catalog, or a whole host of other “misfit” characteristics. A consultant could make recommendations to help drive qualified traffic to your website, but if the product and customer fit aren’t there, there’s nothing they can do to help you.
A marketing consultant can’t fix internal political battles or cure toxic employees, which distract you from reaching your goals. You must address this internally.
Marketing Consultants Can't Fix Your Company Foundation
You can’t build a house on a shifting foundation of sand.
If you’ve made several pivots to your business in the past couple of years, this is a red flag to any reputable marketing consultant and those that are willing to take you on as a client may wind up wasting your money. The change that comes with a pivot is massive and stressful, and any future rapid-fire changes will result in the draining of your marketing budget if you bring on a consultant.
Marketing Consultants Make Recommendations Based on History and Experience
Many marketing consultants have histories as in-house employees for larger companies. Their experience is vast and broad, but they tend to focus on one or two deep areas of specialty.
Don’t hire a marketing consultant who specializes in lead generation when you have a high-volume, low margin e-commerce site. Ensure that their experience aligns with the help you need.
Marketing Consultants Specialize in Strategy
If you need someone to push pixels or to manage the nitty gritty details of a campaign, a marketing consultant is NOT the right pick for you. This isn’t to say that a great consultant won’t get their hands dirty but you’re better off finding a specialized freelancer to help you out and optimize your budget in the process.
A good marketing consultant will help you solidify your #1 business objective and goal and refine the company and marketing strategies to support that singular business goal. Everything comes back to strategy for a good marketing consultant.
If you’re an early or mid-stage startup, a marketing consultant is a smart hire. They can help you set your overall marketing and acquisition strategies and help oversee in-house employees or freelancers to execute on those plans, freeing you up to pursue fundraising and operational objectives. They’re also cheaper than hiring a full-time CMO (and they don’t require giving up a significant chunk of equity).
Tips on finding a good marketing consultant
Here are a few tips to know the marketing consultant you’re speaking to is worth the investment:
- A great marketing consultant will have experience handling your most pressing marketing problem either in their former life as an in-house marketer or with current and former clients. Acquisition, conversion, content, etc. They’ll do what you’re looking for and won’t try to sell you on a service that has no bearing on your company’s goals.
- A great marketing consultant will say, “No,” if what you’re asking them to do isn’t in their area of specialty or is outside of their primary marketing discipline. Many will make referrals to trusted resources who will be able to help you.
- A great marketing consultant will suggest a trial project to establish fit and performance and then expand on the relationship at the end of the trial project. They would never propose a high-cost evergreen consulting or retainer agreement right out of the gate.
If you’re looking to accelerate your growth or if you’re a startup who needs to set a marketing strategy to get yourself on the map a consultant is a great hire for your company.
If you’re looking for someone to solve your internal business problems or wade waist-high into the details, a consultant is probably not your best bet and a freelancer will give you more work product for your dollar.