6 Steps To Hire An Effective Marketing Consultant

It’s almost impossible to think about growing a business without thinking about marketing that business. In a nutshell, marketing is simply the act of understanding who your customers are, what they want, what you are able to give them, and how to communicate that message. If a new-business launch, business growth, or market expansion is your goal, marketing will almost certainly be a part of your strategy. You can begin by looking at where your business is compared to where you want to end up, and determine how quickly you want to achieve those goals. To establish a benchmark, consider what marketing tactics work for your competitors, and let that be your jumping off point for what you would like to do. Then, compare those ideas to your set of skills, and the skills you need to accomplish what you want with your marketing. For example, marketing goals and skills you may need to outsource include finding ways to:

  • Increase product sales using direct advertising techniques to reach large groups of potential customers
  • Encourage email sign-ups via a newsletter sign-up form
  • Build brand awareness by engaging with a social media influencer
  • Build goodwill by interacting positively with customers on social media and through advertising
  • Create content to build your website and increase rank in search engine results

If you, or someone on your team, has experience with these types of marketing techniques, you may be able to manage your marketing in house. For many businesses, though, outsourcing different kinds of marketing, whether through a single agency or via different consultants in specialized marketing areas, is a better option. Trusting your marketing needs to a qualified and experienced marketing expert can free up your time and the time of your team members to work on other aspects of your business, including R&D, manufacturing and sales. Hiring a marketing consultant also lets you tap into a more advanced level of experience and skill in the areas of marketing that will best serve your goals. Here’s how to partner with the right marketing consultant for your business needs.

  1. Know what kinds of marketing agencies there are and how they differ from one another.
  2. Schedule initial consultations with marketers and ask these 10 questions.
  3. Make sure the agency understands your brand, not just your goals.
  4. Get a clear idea of fees and costs, and beware of budget creep.
  5. Establish benchmarks and keep track of KPIs.
  6. Don’t just hire a marketing agency—partner with one.

Know what kinds of marketing consultants there are and how they differ from one another.

The incredible array of different types of marketing consultants and agencies makes it easy for business owners to find one suited to their specific business marketing needs. Here’s how different types of marketing agencies and consultants operate, and the marketing needs they serve:

  • Boutique marketing agencies provide personalized service and enable business owners to work directly with the creatives who prepare marketing campaigns
  • Digital marketing agencies specialize in using technology to create marketing messages to share over the internet and through mobile apps
  • Email marketing agencies handle the preparation of email newsletters and marketing campaigns
  • Full-service marketing agencies are comprised of marketing professionals who specialize in different types of marketing to provide a full-service package
  • Social media marketing agencies specialize in connecting social media influencers and businesses for the purpose of sharing marketing messages

 Schedule initial consultations with marketers and ask these 10 questions.

Browse around on a marketing agency’s website to get a feel for the type of clients they typically serve and decide whether they might be good fit for your business. Check for marketing credentials or examples of companies they have worked with. Look for portfolios and case studies, and focus on campaigns with objectives that seem similar your company’s marketing needs. Make note of information, such as typos or dead links, that may indicate a lack of attention to detail.

Once you’ve done this up-front research and identified several consultants or agencies that look like they may be a good fit, it’s time to start asking questions. You can do this over the phone initially, but the best way to find really dig deep, and find out if a marketing firm is the right one for your needs, is to meet in person. Doing so will give you an opportunity to ask these questions, and not just hear, but see examples:

  1. Do you have experience or examples of work you’ve done for someone in my industry?
  2. Do I get to work directly with your creatives, or who is my point of contact if I contract with you?
  3. Can I see a list of pricing options?
  4. How long have you been in business, and what is your success rate?
  5. What is your process for developing a marketing strategy?
  6. How quickly can I expect results from the different types of marketing services you offer, based on past performance?
  7. Is your marketing team on-site, or do you use freelancers?
  8. Do you work with any of my direct competition?
  9. What are your specialties?

If I’m not satisfied, can I get revisions on my marketing campaigns?In addition, be prepared for the marketing consultant(s) to ask you questions about your brand, your customers, your past experience, and your goals, which may include:

  1. How did your company launch, and how did you come up with your brand identity?
  2. What distinguishes your business in the market?
  3. Who is your typical customer or user?
  4. What is your value proposition to your customers?
  5. What do you think your competitors are doing better than you are, and why?
  6. What weaknesses or deficiencies do you see in your business model?
  7. What marketing campaigns or techniques have you employed in the past, and how successful were you with them?

By taking a collaborative approach, right from the outset, you are more likely to see positive results in your marketing efforts. And if those efforts are not producing the metrics or results you are aiming for, you are much more likely to be able to enact quick change and improvement.

Make sure the agency understands your brand, not just your goals.

While it’s easy to focus on what you expect from a marketing campaign, it’s essential to find a marketing consultant or agency that understands your brand. Ask if the creative you’re working with has ever used your product or service or a similar one. Expect to work with the marketing agency to create user personas for your key demographic groups. Ask if the consultants and creatives you work with are open to testing your service or product to ensure they understand your offerings and your business on a personal level.

ExperTip: When it comes to your marketing consultant’s communication with you, transparency is paramount. Yes, you’re hiring a marketing consultant because they have specialized knowledge and industry-specific skills that you don’t have in house. But that doesn’t mean your marketing consultant’s work should be shrouded in secrecy, or impossible to understand. If you ask a question about a specific component of your proposed marketing plan, whether it’s related to creative content, strategy, or budget, your consultant should give you a clear and reasonable answer. If you’re already working with a marketing consultant, and they don’t respond to your questions promptly and in detail, it may be time to look for a new one.

Get a clear idea of fees and costs, and beware of budget creep.

Be alert to the costs associated with hiring a marketing agency, and know how the company you’re considering establishes prices. Common pricing structures, beginning with cost-plus pricing, charge a base amount for a given service plus the cost of labor and delivering the marketing campaign. Markup pricing involves the base cost of the marketing materials and a markup percentage.

Budget creep is another detail to pay attention to as your marketing campaign progresses. With budget creep, new services with small fees attached are added beyond your initial purchase agreement, and before too much time has passed, the bill for marketing services can become much larger than you expected.

Establish benchmarks and keep track of KPIs.

Some benchmarks to set when hiring a marketing consultant or agency include timelines for when each part of your marketing campaign is completed and details about how each goal is met. For example, if one part of your marketing campaign hinges on the completion of another element, you need to be clear on when data about the effectiveness of that deliverable is going to be in your hands. Making sure your marketing is on par or superior to that of your competition is also important when benchmarking your own marketing campaigns.

Some key performance indicators (KPIs) to look for in the monthly reports from your marketing agency include:

  • Email list growth after installing a contact form on your website or sending out an email promotion
  • Click-through rates or sales resulting from an email newsletter
  • Analytics information, such as an increase in the click-through rate from a social media campaign
  • Increase in returning customers as shown by analytics

Don’t just hire a marketing agency—partner with one.

One way to increase the success of your marketing efforts is to partner with a marketing consultant or agency. Developing a personal relationship with the strategists and creatives who work on your marketing campaign gives them the chance to understand your business and needs on a personal level. It also makes it easier for you to reach out when you have questions or concerns about the direction a marketing campaign takes.

Some best practices to consider when partnering with a marketing agency include:

  • Know how your marketing agency expects you to communicate so that the lines of communication remain open, ensuring you’re an active partner in your company’s message and branding efforts.
  • Make sure your contact at the marketing agency knows what KPIs you expect to see in your monthly reports so you get the data you need for decision-making purposes.
  • Keep your marketing goals dynamic and adaptable. If the business environment changes due to external complications, you’ll have the ability to adjust your campaigns to proactively meet those changing needs.
Ready to talk to an expert? Here is our list of the best marketing consultants near you.