How to find, select, hire and pay a marketing consultant
It’s a great idea to hire a marketing consultant. Why? They’ll make sure the to-do list to get and keep customers/clients gets done! Then you can go back to doing what you should be doing: running your business or enjoying the benefits of paying someone else to do work you don’t want to.
What you want a marketing consultant to do for you:
1. Set up the marketing basics – things like a customer database, customer/client contact plan, email newsletter, website, brochure, get your business listed online, create a Facebook and/or LinkedIn profile.
2. Maintain your marketing and business development activities so they get done every month.
To save money, you can hire someone to set things up for you and then manage it yourself but for many businesses, marketing won’t be a priority until you need clients/customers. Marketing is like a sprinkler system for your yard that is always working for you. A marketing consultant can act as both the equivalent of a landscape designer and contractor and also handle ongoing maintenance of your marketing. That’s a smart investment.
A caution about hiring people to help you with marketing
Advice from a small business owner: “I find time to be my biggest challenge. Yes, you can pay people to do some of the necessary work but you still have to do the planning and thinking to guide these people. You are the one who understands your business and niche best -so whatever you delegate, you still have to know the content and processes. I think the social media tools have made this more attainable for small businesses and you can certainly level the playing field by utilizing social media but it still requires a lot of time to create content, develop a community or at least relationships and then to deliver a top notch experience.”
You can delegate but you shouldn’t abdicate. You need to be involved, engaged and deciding what’s appropriate for your brand and what’s not.
Types of marketing consultants
Full-service marketing consultants generally create a marketing plan and budget for a business or non-profit organization and also implement the plan they create.
- They need to be a great planner and project manager who understands all the different types of marketing and can meet deadlines within budget.
- Full-service marketing consultants are like Internists in the medical world – they are generalists who understand marketing. They often hire and work with specialists in marketing like graphic designers and web designers.
- They can be like having a “time share” of an expert marketing leader for your small business or “extra hands” to get things done. Since they’re not on payroll, you pay them for their time or agree to a retainer fee to secure a specific amount of their time each month.
- They should understand your industry and the target audience (type of customers) you want to reach.
- Expect to pay a full-service marketing consultant who is working as a freelancer anywhere between $75 and $150/hour depending on their particular expertise.
Marketing planning and budgeting consultants work with a company to create a marketing plan that someone else implements.
- You want to hire the most senior and experienced person you can afford to do this important strategic work.
- You want to find someone with expertise in your industry and marketing to the type of prospective customers you want to market to. You’ll then benefit from their accumulated “lessons learned” and not be paying someone to come up-to-speed.
- You want them to be “marketing tactic neutral” meaning that the person understands and appreciates all the different marketing tactics (email marketing, direct mail, advertising, PR, trade shows and events, social media, online marketing, websites).
- If you are considering any type of advertising, you want to make sure this person has expertise in developing media plans and scenarios so you can evaluate the options and trade-offs at different budget levels.
- If you’re doing local marketing, you’ll want to find someone who knows the costs and local marketing suppliers in your city or town.
- The people doing this type of consulting work are often people who worked in senior marketing jobs at companies and left to go freelance for the flexibility in their schedule. They’re often great at creating marketing plans and budgets but you may be overpaying if you are having them do more tactical work like setting up a trade show or event or writing brochure copy.
- These strategic marketing consultants also tend to be very well connected within the industry or locally so can be very helpful also with business development and identifying leads for companies selling to other businesses.
- Expect to pay a marketing consultant that is developing a strategic plan and/or budget for you $100 to $175/hour. Why so much? This is a one-time project for someone and they are sharing their years of accumulated expertise to develop a plan specifically for your business. Many marketing executives from large companies now freelance. Find someone with expertise in your industry.
Other marketing consultants are specialists for a type of marketing activity like:
- SEO (search engine optimization)
- Writing web content, white papers, articles, etc.
- Websites – website design, creation, ecommerce, web analytics
- Data analysis, customer segmentation, ecommerce analytics
- Social media
- Market research – these people are specialized generally too based on qualitative or quantitative research
- Direct mail marketing – there are specialists in direct mail lists; creating direct mail; direct mail fulfillment; analysis
- Customer database – there are specialists in database creation, development, enhancement and management
- Trade shows and events
- Branding and creating logos and visual identity
- Email marketing – there are specialists in email lists, creation, planning and analysis
- PR – press relations, analyst relations and pitching stories to the media
- And many other areas
Marketing specialists who coordinate marketing activities are paid a lower hourly rate than their peers who are more senior that handle marketing planning, budgeting and business development. Expect to pay someone doing tactical marketing coordination work $50 to $100 an hour. The more experienced the person is, the more they will charge. You may end up spending less money if you hire someone who is more experienced because they should be better and faster at getting things done and will require less management on your part.
Some things to know about hiring a marketing consultant
- Freelancers are individuals who work for themselves who you can hire on a per project basis or for an hourly rate. Many marketing consultants will expect to be hired on a retainer basis, meaning you agree to hire them for a specific number of hours a month or for a specific period of time to complete a project.
- Some marketing consultants can write. Most are not graphic designers.
- Marketing consultants are generalists who should have an excellent understanding of marketing techniques, marketing planning, budgeting and marketing project management. They’re like “orchestra leaders” in the marketing world. They get everyone else to sing from the same music.
- You can find someone who lives near you who you can work with in person. Or hire someone you will work with you by phone and email.
- An agency offers marketing consulting service through their account managers and planners. They charge more than a freelance marketing consultant would since they offer “full service” with account managers, strategic planners, graphic designers and copywriters on their staff.
Know this about hiring a marketing consultant
Don’t restrict yourself to hiring someone in your town if you do nationwide, regional or online marketing. Find the best person with the expertise you need and be willing to work with them via the phone and email. This is how most of them work anyway.
Before you hire anyone, ask to see examples of what they’ve done for other clients and ask them what their role on each project was. You want to understand if the person was “part of a team on this project” or did this work themselves or was the leader.
Once you find specialists for what you are looking for, check what their hourly rate is and then look at samples of their work and from others at higher and lower hourly rates to determine what hourly rate you want to pay. Higher hourly rates are generally, but not always, aligned with people with more expertise who can command these higher prices.
Ask for the names of the last three people they have done work for as a reference. You don’t want references from “long ago”. And you do want to check references. Ask for the client’s email address and phone number. The key question to ask when you contact these references is “Would you hire this person again?” and if so, “for what?” Also ask for their advice on how to best work with this person, if they made deadlines, stayed within budget.
Decide if you want to hire someone on a project basis (fixed fee, fixed deliverables and “change order costs”) or on an hourly rate.
A freelance marketing consultant needs to be an excellent communicator on the phone and in email.
Even if you hire someone who is nearby, you’ll be primarily working with them over the phone and via email. When you’re interviewing candidates, you want to assess if you can work well with them in this way.
How to Structure a Kick-Ass Marketing Team (from Hubspot’s blog – they’re a company that sells digital tools and dashboards). This is great advice from them so we’re including it.
“Some small businesses are lucky if they have ONE dedicated marketer, and there are plenty where the owner is just dedicating 5-6 hours a week to marketing. We’re going to focus on those companies who are big enough to warrant a dedicated marketing resource. When hiring your solo marketer, you need to find a utility player who is first and foremost smart. Second, he/she cannot be a specialist; your perfect marketer probably won’t be a pure-play journalist or a graphic designer who wants to try something new.
You need to hire someone who has demonstrated success in a few different areas:
Content Creation: Did they blog, do some corporate communications, work at an agency creating content for a variety of companies? GREAT!
Analytics: Your marketer doesn’t need to be an Excel junkie, but they should have a working knowledge of the marketing funnel, know what questions to ask and be comfortable doing some basic tracking and ratios using tools like Google Analytics, Excel or even Hubspot.
Digital: Do they understand how the internet works and how businesses can leverage it? Do they use the web for personal reasons and have accounts on popular social networking sites like Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter?
Creative: Unless you strike it lucky, you probably won’t find someone who can crank out logos and artwork in a snap and do all the rest. But if you target someone who has taught themselves some basics in Illustrator or another graphics program, you’ll likely be able to get CTAs, sufficient enough imagery, and basic creative done without spending a ton of money on contractors.
Campaigns: Ideally, you’ll find someone who has run a few campaigns across multiple channels — they can be as simple as email + call campaigns, or be through full-fledged event type campaigns. Your utility player needs to understand the lifecycle of a campaign and how the different pieces play together for a bigger bang than a sole tactic.
Where can you find these utility players?
Sadly, there are very few college programs that crank out EXACTLY this profile. However, a lot of PR, marketing, and communications grads will go work for a marketing agency after college and find that they love the work, but would rather dive in deep to just one company rather than jumping from client program to client program. You should consider hiring someone with 3-5 years of agency experience across a variety of skills that is ready to dedicate their efforts to helping just one company grow and find satisfaction in seeing their longer term impact.”