Every marketing consultant will have their own particular approach to the way they work, but they generally fall into one of the following three categories:
As mentioned in the previous chapter on the different types of marketing consultants, every business is different and is looking for the right support for their needs.
This means that a way of working that works for one business may not work for another.
This chapter will outline what each of approaches listed above entail and provide insights to help you decide which is right for you and your business.
The title of “marketing consultant” is thrown around a lot. It is a broad, umbrella term that can refer to a range of different marketing approaches, processes, goals, and results. Marketing consultant approaches vary and some approaches may not work for your business at all.
Many businesses, when they go looking for a marketing consultant, aren’t aware of the crucial differences between each consultant type and their approaches—consequently, these businesses end up investing significant sums of money in a consultant that simply isn’t suited to their needs.
The risk of choosing the wrong consultant for your business can be easily avoided if you know the differences between them, the importance of marketing consultant approaches, and what to look for.
In the last chapter, we discussed the different characters and methods to look out for when choosing a marketing consultant. The next step is understanding how you’d like your marketing consultant to work (i.e., would you like them to perform tasks, provide a particular solution, or help you strategise?).
A task-oriented marketing consultant takes a very short-term view of marketing success. They tend to be very reactive and less proactive than solution and strategy-oriented marketing consultants.
Task-oriented marketing consultants work on a task-by-task basis. They ask what the problem is and implement short-term solutions to those problems.
For example, if you were struggling to rank your website on Google, a task-oriented marketing consultant might suggest injecting keywords into your content—often without real consideration of the bigger picture when it comes to SEO, competitor analysis, and the value of the content being produced.
Unlike a strategy or solution-oriented marketing consultant, a task-oriented marketing consultant won’t necessarily consider how their activities contribute to a wider marketing strategy. Their actions are not strategic, but are designed to solve individual problems without addressing their root cause.
This type of marketing consultant is a doer not a thinker. As a result, they function very much like a marketing agency or marketing manager, rather than a consultant. Instead of providing long-term solutions and helping you devise a viable marketing strategy, task-oriented marketing consultants are better suited to solving individual issues.
Marketing consultants who are task-oriented may be suited to you and your business if you are certain of your current marketing efforts and your existing strategy. You may prefer a task-oriented marketing consultant if you are not looking for advice, but simply want someone to outsource ad hoc work to.
However, if it is the long-term growth trajectory of your business that you are concerned with, a task-oriented marketing consultant is unlikely to be a good fit for you and your business.
As mentioned earlier, the title of “marketing consultant” is thrown around a lot. Many professionals claiming to be marketing consultants do not actually specialise in providing consultancy services.
Marketing consultants that are true to their title are there to be consulted, not simply resolve individual issues as and when they arise.
A solution-oriented marketing consultant usually specialises in a specific area of marketing (i.e., email marketing) and relies heavily or even exclusively on that area to deliver marketing success for their clients.
If you have already decided that a particular area of marketing will be your priority going forward, then a solution-oriented marketing consultant who focuses on this area may be ideal for your business.
However, it is worth keeping in mind that solution-oriented marketing consultants do tend to paint all businesses with the same brush. Even if you are not decided on their particular solution, they are likely to recommend it as they do for all their clients.
While their solution could work for your business, what works for one business does not necessarily work for another. Marketing consultant approaches will and do differ for each business. More importantly, you might be missing an opportunity for originality when you are simply cut and pasting someone else’s strategy.
Here’s an example of how a solution-oriented marketing consultant might work for some, but not for others:
Let’s assume that you run an IT training business and you are considering a solution-oriented marketing consultant who specialises in social media marketing.
As you expected, they have recommended a social media marketing solution to improve your business’ revenue and sales. As a business that is reasonably well suited to social media, you can probably expect good results.
Now let’s suppose that you run a refurbished IT equipment company instead, and you go to the same solution-oriented marketing consultant. As with the IT training business, they recommend social media marketing.
The cold truth is that social media marketing isn’t likely to be nearly as effective for an IT equipment refurbishment company as it is for an IT training company. After all, who gets excited by seeing pictures of old computers as they scroll through their Instagram?
While social media might play a role in this second type of business, it probably isn’t going to be the main strategy that increases their sales.
In fact, investing heavily in a solution-oriented marketing consultant that hasn’t considered your business’ unique position and needs can ultimately break a business.
Plus, we find that a lot of marketing agencies tend to tie businesses up for 6/12 months pursuing one strategy. Only to work out in month three that this route is not going to work; but you are still fixed within a contract that isn’t working for you. This happens more often than you would think.
A strategy-oriented marketing consultant takes a more long-term, tailored approach to each client. They have no set position, which means that they are able to create bespoke strategies.
Provided the marketing consultant is experienced and has sufficient expertise, these bespoke strategies are far more likely to deliver success than the deliverables provided by task and solution-oriented consultants.
Strategy-oriented marketing consultants have a greater focus on the consultancy aspect of their role. They understand that every business they work with has different needs, strengths, and weaknesses.
The marketing strategy they will help you devise will take all of these factors into account, as well as considering your business’ competition, its audience, and the state of its industry.
Each of these components will contribute to your strategy.
Strategy-oriented marketing consultants are thinkers. They understand that there is no quick-fix solution that promises success. If there were, every business would be successful.
Instead, they take a big picture view of your business’ individual circumstances and environment to create a marketing strategy that is targeted, actionable, and offers the best chance of success.
If you aren’t sure what path to take with your marketing initiatives, or you feel that your marketing lacks a clear plan, then a strategy-oriented marketing consultant is the ideal choice for you.
Sometimes we find that businesses are thinking of adopting the right strategy from the get go. Butmore often we find that businesses have tried a few methods that haven’t worked or scaled how they expected, and so they are trying to work out why and how they can change.
Now you just need to figure out what type of marketing consultant you’re talking to when you begin your search. As with determining their approach, the key is to ask lots of questions. Here’s some that we recommend in order to determine the right marketing consultant approaches for you:
If they say yes, this doesn’t necessarily mean that they are strictly a task-oriented consultant, as marketing consultants of all types might be willing to pick up the occasional ad hoc tasks. If they say no, however, they are likely to be a strategy-oriented consultant who focuses on strategy over implementation.
This question will help you determine whether or not they are solution-oriented. If they say yes, follow up with the question below.
A solution-oriented marketing consultant will talk about the success this particular solution has brought for other businesses. They are unlikely to be able to explain exactly why this solution works for your business in particular, but will discuss the solution’s success more generally.
A solution-oriented marketing consultant will apply the same solution to most, if not all businesses. A strategy-oriented marketing consultant, on the other hand, will apply different solutions to different businesses, based on their individual circumstances and needs.
A strategy-oriented marketing consultant will be able to tell you how they will go about devising their strategy. As well as the key things they need to understand or milestones they want to reach. Their answer should focus on learning your business, analysing competitors, and they should mention tools and data they intend to leverage as they try to work out what the best solution is.
Ask for several case studies. These will show you whether the marketing consultant in question has a pattern of performing tasks, implementing one particular solution, or strategising.
Ask how they got to that point and whether the plans changed. Based on their response, you should be able to see exactly the type of approach to expect from them.
Ultimately, the marketing consultant approach that’s right for you will depend entirely on what role you would like your marketing consultant to play in your business. Like businesses, marketing consultant approaches are unique.
If you’re looking for someone to pick up tasks and solve specific problems as and when necessary, a task-oriented consultant might be a good choice for you.
If you have a certain solution in mind (like email marketing) and you’re set on this solution, a solution-oriented consultant who specialises in this area will be able to bring plenty of targeted experience to the table.
But if you’re looking for someone to help give your business a clear sense of direction—who can tailor a strategy to your strengths, weaknesses, and goals—then a strategy-oriented consultant or consultancy is exactly what you need.