Despite the fact that most businesses have worked with marketing agencies and other marketing professionals, many of these businesses have a narrow—if not completely misguided—understanding of what a marketing consultant is and what to expect when working with one.
Ironically, we think the marketing industry is pretty poor at actually telling people what we do in a clear and concise way. Plus, if you’re looking for marketing advice online, you’ll quickly discover that almost all of it is self-serving and generic. We think this approach reaps very little value for businesses and marketing professionals alike.
In response to this, we created a complete guide to choosing and working with a marketing consultancy—because we believe that before making any investment, you should be armed with all the facts.
What’s important to us is that you make the right decision for your business, whether you choose to work with us or not.
This guide will help you understand the following:
With this information at your disposal, you will be best placed to make an informed, low-risk, high-value decision for your company.
Before continuing, it is worth noting that this guide wasn’t written for every business. Here’s a quick overview of who this guide is for.
As a general rule, the types of businesses we tend to work with fall into one of the following four categories:
These are the types of businesses we hear from most often and this guide is built for them.
To be clear, this guide was not written for large enterprises with their own in-house marketing teams, but for small to medium-sized businesses looking to improve their marketing function in some way.
Though each of the types of businesses listed above may need a marketing consultant, their approach to marketing differs significantly in our experience.
If you’re a start-up or new business, it’s likely that you’ve considered doing your own marketing—saving yourself the cost of hiring a consultant or agency.
Most businesses start out this way, and it’s easy to understand why. During a period in your business’ timeline when costs are high and profits are low, identifying areas that you can run yourself feels like a cost-saving initiative.
In the initial stages of launching your business, marketing may well feel like an area you can tackle alone.
What start-up owners quickly realise is that what they don’t pay for in currency, they pay for in time. We’ve lost count of how many start-up owners have expressed their exhaustion, having spent more time on their marketing than they could ever have imagined—and with very little to show for it.
Though they may not have spent a penny on their marketing, the cost of their time—which could have been spent elsewhere—puts a real dent in their growth trajectory.
Disheartening, to say the least.
We all understand that businesses can only sustain a lack of growth for a limited period of time. So spending the first several months of your business’ timeline bleeding costs and trying to master marketing yourself is a surefire way to erode your passion, your motivation, your time, and your growth potential.
The businesses that invest early in marketing are the businesses that see early growth—a growth that allows you to reinvest and gets you that much closer to profitability.
Many of the businesses we work with came to us simply because they didn’t have an existing marketing function.
Without a dedicated marketing specialist or team, marketing initiatives fell to the wayside for these businesses. Instead, they were picked up on an ad hoc basis—with little enthusiasm or direction.
The result? Lack of visibility, poor growth, inconsistent branding, limited connection with their audience, and low returns.
Businesses without a marketing function often lack trajectory and have a poor understanding of how marketing works. Many do not even have a marketing strategy in place, which creates a significant point of vulnerability in their business.
The third type of client we work with is businesses that have some kind of marketing support function, but not at a senior level. These businesses usually find that though their marketing efforts seem to be working to an extent, they are not quite meeting their expectations.
These types of clients often want to develop a considered marketing strategy that plays to their strengths. Alternatively, they want to enlist specialist support in areas that their current team is inexperienced with. This might be SEO, conversion optimisation, digital marketing, competitor analysis, or another area of marketing.
This is our most common type of client.
If you search for marketing agencies online, you will find hundreds of options across the UK. The market is saturated with agencies, the vast majority of which offer packaged services.
The issue with this approach is that these packaged services fail to take into account differing business needs. If you’re lucky, you may see some pretty decent results, especially if you have a product that is especially suited to marketing. But in most cases, results are mediocre or subpar.
For businesses that have had bad experiences with marketing agencies, marketing consultants and consultancies provide a viable alternative. As providers that primarily perform a consulting function, consultancies tailor marketing strategies to your business. As opposed to trying to fit your business within an existing model.
We’ve all heard the old adage, “nothing’s free” and experience has proven this to be true. So why have we gone to all the effort to write this guide, giving away all our industry’s secrets?
To answer this question fully, here’s some important context.
According to Travis Thorpe, in an article written for Inc., the top five reasons that small businesses fail are:
Each of these failures is intimately linked with the marketing process.
In our experience, most businesses don’t fail because they invest in their marketing; they fail because they don’t think about how best to invest. It is the strategy that falls short.
Despite marketing being at the core of business success, the complexity and importance of marketing are so often overlooked. Businesses are so keen to do something that they waste time doing stuff that isn’t going to move the needle.
This is where a marketing expert should be able to help.
There is, of course, an important caveat to this statement: if you choose to outsource your marketing, be careful who you choose.
Sadly, the marketing industry is swarming with fads and off-the-shelf packaged solutions that sell well but deliver very little.
You may be thinking at this point, “how convenient—a marketing consultancy telling me to throw my budget at marketing and to beware of dodgy salesmen.”
Of course, you have a point. But we didn’t write this guide to persuade you to work with us.
We believe in businesses and their ability to change the world, and we’re passionate about authentic, honest marketing.
And to put it simply, that’s why we wrote this guide—to equip your business with the tools and information necessary to challenge and interrogate your providers. To advocate for honest, authentic marketing that delivers.
We’ve seen firsthand that poor marketing can put great companies with genuine potential out of business, and that sad fact serves no one but the shoddy providers that turn a profit.
So we encourage you to ask providers difficult questions and to arm yourself with an awareness of how their price models work, their vested interests, and their processes.
If, once you’ve read this guide, you choose a provider that is able to meet your needs and help your business meet its full potential—whoever that provider might be—then we will consider this guide to have served its purpose.