In the previous chapters, we have covered the benefits of working with a marketing consultant, as well as the different approaches and processes each marketing consultant might have. This chapter will focus on what to consider when choosing a marketing consultant.
Choosing a marketing consultant is a big decision.
As a result, there are many factors that will contribute to whether or not a consultant is right for you and your business.
We address 7 key factors to help you choose a marketing consultant; so that you know what to look out for when you make your decision.
By this point in the guide, you should have an understanding of what approach you’d like your marketing consultant to take, in addition to your desired process type. Maybe you’re looking for a guide type marketing consultant who is strategy-oriented.
Whatever conclusion you’ve come to, you’ll now need to whittle down your shortlist of consultants by considering the following:
Even the most experienced marketing consultants and marketing consultancies can have a lousy reputation. Maybe their interpersonal or communication skills are shoddy. Perhaps they are defensive or careless.
There are countless reasons why even a seemingly reliable consultant might turn out to be untrustworthy. Unfortunately, many of these reasons won’t become apparent until after you’ve enlisted their services.
While there are no surefire ways of avoiding a less than satisfying experience with a marketing consultant, there are some things you can do and look for to reduce the chances of being disappointed:
This might seem like an obvious one, but it’s surprising how many businesses overlook reviews, or take reviews on a company’s website at face value.
Keep in mind that reviews on a company’s website are next to impossible to verify, even if they have been imported from a third-party, like TrustPilot.
While we’re not suggesting that reviews on a company website are necessarily inauthentic, they should always be taken with a pinch of salt. At Murray Dare, for example, we include testimonials from happy customers on our website because we’re proud to show them off!
We also have verified Google reviews and we’re more than happy to connect you with some of our previous clients (with their permission, of course) if you’d like to hear about us from the horse’s mouth.
The key point is that when choosing a marketing consultant, you should check reviews from multiple sources; this should include the marketing consultants’ websites, their facebook page reviews (if they have any), TrustPilot, Google reviews, and any other sources that might have information available.
We would also recommend asking a consultant about some of their work and specific recommendations they have received. The more a marketing consultant is able or willing to talk about a specific area, the more likely it is that they are reliable.
Having great reviews doesn’t necessarily mean that a consultant has worked with your particular problem or type of business before. Case studies will give you some insight into whether or not they are experienced in the specific area you’re looking for.
Reviewing a marketing consultant’s case studies can also help you gain an idea of how much experience a consultant has, how varied that experience is, and how consistently they’ve been able to deliver satisfactory results.
There’s no guarantee that a marketing consultant will say yes to this, as they may not want to bother previous clients with a request of this nature.
However, it is always worth asking.
If a consultant or consultancy is able to put you in touch with previous clients, this is a good sign that they have strong, long-lasting relationships with their clients—enough to ask a favour of them.
If you are put in touch with previous clients, ask them questions regarding how the marketing consultant in question works, whether they were satisfied with them, and if they have any qualms about recommending them to other businesses.
Many of the businesses we speak to have worked with very experienced marketing agencies in the past, but have found them unable to help them with their specific situation.
Finding out how much experience a marketing consultant has with your type of business, and your particular problems, is a crucial step in choosing the right marketing consultant or marketing consultancy.
However, we would argue that relevant marketing experience is more important than industry experience. We say this because experience has shown us that industry-led marketers tend to roll out the same solution for each company. For example, a marketing consultant with experience helping fashion brands won’t necessarily have the answer to your fashion brand’s particular problem; relevant experience, however, allows for the application of different methods across different industries.
But it is worth noting that this is completely subject to the context of the problem or problems you are trying to solve. If you want to launch Facebook advertising or Google Ads, for example, then it would make sense to enlist someone who specialises in that area; this will ensure that the ground you want to cover is well-trodden.
Even the best, most experienced marketing consultants are bound to do a shoddy job if they’ve bitten off more than they can chew.
If you’re convinced by a marketing consultant’s ability to support your company, the next question you should be asking is how busy they are. More specifically, how much time they can give to each of their clients.
Ideally, they should be able to tell you how many clients they have, how many more clients they intend to take on simultaneously, and how big their in-house team is. This should give you some insight into how much availability they will have for you.
As an example, if they have a team of three but have fifteen clients, they’re either outsourcing heavily or overloading themselves with work. If this is the case, they’re unlikely to be able to give you the attention you deserve.
Always ask for deadlines for completion when submitting work; this should give you the best estimate of how busy they are.
An experienced marketing consultant might decide to launch a marketing consultancy, hiring a team to support their work.
While working with a consultancy over a single consultant can certainly have its benefits, it is worth asking how long the consultancy has been in business.
If they have only been in business for a limited period of time and or all their employees are brand new, there are likely to be some potential teething problems with their processes as they will effectively be testing their ideas and services on you.
New businesses typically take at least a few years, if not more, to start functioning like a well-oiled machine. Much like you get things wrong, marketing agencies and consultancies do too. Getting things wrong is actually fundamentally important to getting things consistently right in the end.
Working with an older marketing consultant, however, will ensure that you are not the guinea pig. They will have had time to perfect their ideas and processes under different circumstances.
How a marketing consultant or marketing consultancy communicates and reports on its results is almost as important as the actual results they are getting.
A clear system of communication establishes greater accountability, giving marketing consultants very little freedom to pull the wool over your eyes.
When you start work with a marketing consultant, they should be able to give you a ballpark idea of results you might expect. Though these aren’t necessarily a guarantee, they will then be expected to provide valid reasons for why these results haven’t been achieved (if it comes to that).
Marketing consultants who don’t communicate expected results are much better placed to string you along with reassurances that “you’ll get results eventually” and “you just have to be patient”.
Of course patience is important, but it is also the sleazy marketing consultant’s weapon. It can be a tactic to keep you hooked into their services with false hopes of success that may never be realised.
A lot of marketing agencies work on year-long contracts because of this; that way, even when things do go wrong, you can’t do anything about it until the contract is complete.
An authentic and reliable marketing consultant will base their estimation of expected results on their previous work. They will be able to show you data, but will manage expectations by reminding you that every business is different and success isn’t guaranteed. They won’t overpromise, only to underdeliver, but arm you with the facts before taking you on as a client.
Any marketing consultant that guarantees you massive success is lying to you and is likely to be reckless with your investment. Don’t be fooled. A marketing consultant who understands the fickle nature of the market and manages expectations is a careful, data-driven marketer who stands the best chance of maximising your investment.
In terms of reporting on results, your marketing consultant should have a process for keeping you informed. They might email you a PDF report of the latest results for your campaign, for example, at the beginning of each month. Or they might schedule a weekly phone call with you to catch up and explain your results.
Before enlisting a marketing consultant, we recommend asking them how they will report on results. If it is important to you that results are thoroughly explained, you might want to choose a consultant who reports on results over the phone. This will give you the chance to ask any questions you might have.
Passionate marketing consultants are able to apply that passion to your business, which will reap the highest rewards. Passion breeds understanding, and understanding allows them to tailor their marketing strategy to your individual needs.
We all know how hard it is to stay motivated when we don’t enjoy something. The same is true of marketing consultants.
There are a few things you can do to determine whether or not a marketing consultant you are considering is passionate about what they do; you can ask them, for example, how they got into marketing in the first place.
Was it something they stumbled into by chance or something they aspired to do?
Although there are a few questions you can ask to suss out passion, discerning exactly how passionate they are comes down to pure instinct. Trust your gut. If they sound enthusiastic about marketing your business, that’s a great sign.
As with all industries, you get what you pay for and the right price for you isn’t necessarily the lowest price. There is a massive difference between cost and value.
The cost of a marketing consultant or consultancy can vary wildly, from £150 per day to upwards of £2,000 per day. Overall, the consultancy’s size, reputation, experience and location will determine the cost.
Of course, the cost that is right for you will depend on a number of factors, including your budget and the scope of the work you want completed. To discern whether a price you have been given is good value, we would recommend getting quotes from at least three different consultants or consultancies.
When you are reviewing your quotes, remember that the lowest price won’t necessarily be the best price. You are likely to find that consultants and consultancies with higher rates are well worth the difference you’ll be paying, because they more than make up for it in value delivered.
The key to making the right decision is to thoroughly interrogate each quote, so that you’re clear on what you will be getting from your consultant should you decide to hire them.
The next chapter will dive into cost and value assessment in greater detail, giving you insights into how you should balance risk with cost savings.
There is no definitive “right” answer when it comes to price. The answer to this question varies between businesses, and it depends on how much you want to spend, how much you can afford to spend, and how convinced you are by a marketing consultant’s ability to get you where you want to go.
Buy cheap, buy twice does of course spring to mind, but focusing purely on price as your key benchmark is likely to be an error.
As this chapter has outlined, there are plenty of considerations to take into account when choosing a marketing consultant for your business. Before signing any contracts, be sure to ask the right questions and suss out any red flags.