How to Hire a Marketing Consultant
The first step in hiring a marketing consultant is to know why you’re hiring a marketing consultant. A good marketing consultant will provide you with a holistic integrated marketing approach, not just parts and pieces. (They should be able to confidently recommend those parts and pieces, but with the whole in mind.)
So much of what people buy under the heading of marketing today is really just one tactic or another, whether it be social media, SEO, content, web design, and so on. A marketing consultant’s job, and why you would want to hire one, is to orchestrate all of those moving parts under the banner of a unified strategy.
But, I do have to warn you that marketing in general, but certainly if you’re going to take this holistic approach, is a long-term investment. There isn’t one magic solution that is going to make all of your marketing come together overnight. Now, there may be some improvements or areas you can fix that may be hurting your online presence, for example, but there isn’t a quick fix.
Who can marketing consultants help?
A marketing consultant can help somebody who already has a solid business with a solid product or service and happy customers. Consultants can help people who want to take their business to the next level by investing in building a marketing plan or system and who want to get very integrated and serious about their overarching marketing approach.
It’s very difficult to help a business that isn’t keeping customers happy or that doesn’t have a solid point of differentiation. In some cases, no amount of marketing or expertise is going to be able to help that kind of business.
When you’re ready to hire a marketing consultant, you should have a proof of concept. You should have a solid plan or idea in mind, and a solid understanding of who makes an ideal client for your business and why. A marketing consultant can then significantly amplify your success.
What does a marketing consultant do?
A good marketing consultant will have a very solid, systematic, streamlined, sensible, consistent, repeatable approach. First, they will do research and learn about your business and market. From there, the consultant will be able to present the various pieces of your marketing plan in logical order of how you should build them, fix them, or redo them.
In the end, good marketing consultants will start with strategy first. So many people are selling parts and pieces under the heading of marketing consulting, but marketing consulting is all about a solid marketing strategy first, and then building your entire marketing plan around that.
A consultant should help you build a total online and offline presence by starting with strategies for:
- Who makes an ideal client
- What your core message is
- How to present your core message and tell your story
You should expect an engagement with a good marketing consultant to last anywhere from six months to a year to meet your goals. This doesn’t mean you won’t start seeing results faster than that, but the real value comes in that long-term investment.
Every consulting engagement will be different, but there are some must-haves your marketing consultant should discuss including your:
- A Marketing driven website
- a strategic SEO approach
- Content as a strategic tool
Rather than talking about blog posts or tactical components, the three elements above are “must-haves” that need to be built into the strategy.
It’s important to look at the process the consultant goes through. Observe their method for discovery, baseline research, and for putting your plan together. These points are very important as you talk to a marketing consultant about their approach to get you the results you’re looking for.
What’s the process for hiring a marketing consultant?
There are four elements for hiring a good marketing consultant:
1. Look at their online presence
This element has to do with your own online research. If you’re considering hiring somebody to do your marketing and create a total online marketing presence for you, then they should certainly have a substantial one themselves. They should be doing what it is that they are telling you to do.
2. Schedule an interview
It’s important to schedule an interview with the consultant. Put together a process where you can get to know them and get to hear their approach. Don’t get bogged down on the deliverables or tactics in this interview. You want to make sure you know how you feel about their approach and how you think you’ll work together.
In the interview, the consultant should ask you a lot of questions. A good marketing consultant is going to want to know about your:
- Overall goals,
- Ideal customer
- Core message of difference
- Most profitable products, services, and offerings
- Competitive landscape
- Lead generation and conversion efforts
- Idea of success and how it will be measured
Pay great attention to the questions that they are asking, and if they’re not focusing on those areas, they probably are not going to take a holistic approach to your success.
3. Ask for references
When it comes to references, ask about the consultant’s work. Don’t just focus on whether or not they’ve worked with others in your industry. Spend time looking at their past clients and results. You may even want to take the time to speak to one or two of their references.
4. Ask for an audit
Most good marketing consultants will be able to offer you an audit to get a sense of:
- Where your marketing is today and where it needs to go
- What’s broken
- What needs to be fixed
- What your priorities are
- What their recommendations might be
While not every marketing consultant offers an audit, I think it’s a very powerful approach to sample each other and get a sense of how you’ll work together. This audit should culminate with recommendations and maybe even a proposal for a scope of work. (Expect to pay something for this audit and take the process seriously.)
Lastly, do you get a sense that they teach as well as do? I believe strong marketing consultants today should be looked at as an asset, not just to help you with your marketing, but to also raise the skill sets of everyone in your organization when it comes to marketing.