First, watch this short video on “How To Hire A Marketing Consultant,” from John Jantsch of Duct Tape Marketing. We think it’ll share a great point of view on ten things you should be looking for in a marketing consultant so you can start your search off right.
To John’s points, we’d like to expand on these key questions:
Ideally, you’re bringing aboard a marketing consultant because you want a more holistic approach that steers a unified marketing approach to align with your brand. You don’t want to hire a whole variety of different vendors, buy a bunch of tools that sound good, put yourself on this or that social media channel because you heard from a family member or friend that it was the “hot” place to be (never a good reason) and then, on top of that, try to figure out how all this marketing stuff comes together. That’s going to be a chaotic mess in no time without someone in charge to make sense of your next steps based on short-term and long-term goals.
Your marketing consultant needs to be someone who stands atop your marketing effort. Rather than existing as one of many marketing vendors for you to coordinate, they should be the one who is 100% in charge of coordinating all the elements of marketing for and in partnership with you.
You want a “quick fix” where you can work with a marketing consultant for two or three months and call it a day? That’s not happening. At least, no marketing consultant with real integrity promises that. Look, marketing is a system. We’ll repeat that for emphasis because it’s that important. Marketing is a SYSTEM. To build that system, whether or not the contractual language says so, you must have the mindset of working with a marketing consultant for the long-term.
What’s long-term? If you’re not thinking this is someone you could work with for at least six months to a year – and hopefully many years to come after that if all works out beautifully as an extension of your team, thereby forming a highly rewarding relationship, you may not be ready to hire a marketing consultant.
Understand that a marketing consultant can’t make your environment be attractive if you’re a lousy boss who demeans his staff, if you have a crappy internal process and if your level of service generally sucks. That’s called putting lipstick on a pig and in that event, marketing isn’t your primary challenge.
However, if you’re an established company and you need to build on the solid foundation you’ve already set forth, a great marketing consultant can work wonders in so many awesome ways to elevate your presence and create a powerful story that your people – and customers – can believe in. Especially if you’re holding up your end of the bargain with superior service, making the brand promise ring truly authentic.
The best marketing consultants are people who can be thought partners for entrepreneurs, especially since entrepreneurs have no one else to talk with on a strategic level about their business. But you shouldn’t expect them to just sit there and listen. They will want to contribute to the conversation around the business, doing everything from designing offers with you to expanding your service offerings.
For example, let’s say you have an initiative that you and other managers believe is “all fleshed out” and ready to go to market. You then bring your marketing consultant and they tell you that, in reality, you’re only 50% there. To get repeat business, they offer some things you might want to add in because they’re always looking at marketing through a lens of repeat business. It’s not a one and done. So your marketing consultant should be someone who can help you design your services so that there is repeatability. They’re helping you with your business model.
On this point, they should be able to take the whole hodgepodge of ideas you may have about the direction of your business and then sift through them. If you still have some things worth keeping, they’ll keep them and trash the rest. What really changes is your clarity.
That is so much more than purely being a writer, designer, Instagram or LinkedIn expert, SEO expert or web developer.
Your marketing consultant should be an absolute expert in understanding things through the lens of the customer.
The marketing consultant should be very good in keeping you focused and reminding you that at the end of the day, there’s a customer who is buying what you have to offer and that’s the person your marketing should be talking to. Not to yourself or your colleagues. The consultant should be able to simplify and put your verbiage back into the language of the person who’s going to be buying your service.
Hopefully, your answers are “very much” and “yes, I’m committed to strategy first.” In a sea of consultants and agencies that are quick to throw a host of tactics at you, it’s important that the marketing consultant you hire is 100% committed to thinking strategy first, tactics second. Otherwise, it’s just throwing things against the wall to see what sticks and that’s definitely not any sort of brand strategy. It’s OK if you have some existing channels that need to be maintained, like your social media channels, eNewsletter, etc. A consultant can keep those plates spinning while the strategy is being developed. But if the strategy yields recommendations steering you away of certain things you’re doing right now, you need to be prepared for that finding.
Real marketing consultants aren’t in “pitch mode” when they first meet with you. They’re not trying to “close the deal” from the very beginning with some dog-and-pony show. They’re not starting a meeting by showing you a billion things they can do and talking about all of them for the better part of an hour. And they’re not trying to get you to sign paperwork right away before you change your mind.
No, a real marketing consultant is there for one reason and one reason only – to ask a wide range of questions in a Discovery agenda to better understand your business. What results is an enriching first conversation that keeps things simple for the time being as they work through deciphering your business problem in the name of ultimately crafting an exceptionally customized brand strategy.
If there’s a reason to take a reasonable next step by the end of the meeting – it’s not an agreement to engage then and there but to take the next step forward for the purpose of identifying if this is going to be a mutually beneficial relationship. Take advantage of this opportunity to see how the marketing consultant thinks about your path forward by requesting a brand audit or assessment prior to the actual engagement.
For example, in our case at Caliber, that might be an agreement to do a Total Online Presence or a Strategy First Blueprint. That’s not a commitment to fully engage. It’s a paid next step to see that we’re in strategic alignment or not before the actual engagement, which includes execution of our recommendations.
Don’t be swayed into thinking that a marketing consultant who has previously worked in your industry is the only type of consultant you can work with. It’s just not true. No marketing consultant with an industry specialty can claim to be automatically “better” than someone who doesn’t have that singular industry experience going in. Many times, an experienced consultant who has worked with many different types of industries and professional service firms can be just as good a fit for you if not better than someone who has worked exclusively for your industry – especially if you click on the chemistry side of things (you are going to be working with and talking to this person a decent amount going forward, so it would be helpful if you actually like them, right?).
Knowing this, to make yourself more comfortable, don’t simply ask for references. Check out their real “social proof” in the way of reviews and recommendations. These things matter, particularly if you see a high volume of comments that form a pattern. For example:
You can’t fake this kind of stuff. It tells you a lot about the marketing consultant’s consistent quality of work, their value, their work ethic, their passion and more.
That’s right. Do they hold a marketing certification? People don’t think you can be certified in marketing or in a particular marketing system, but you’d be surprised to learn that, in fact, you can be. Why is that important? For one, because anybody who likes to be on social media or takes a few classes these days can call themselves a “marketing consultant.” Secondly, it conveys the highest standard and commitment to the craft of marketing on behalf of other firms.
At Caliber, we are certified in the marketing system that we provide clients in professional services. We didn’t write a check to get certified or be added to a list. We underwent rigorous training to combine that status with our 25 years of experience in brand development, content creation and creative direction, making us a Certified Professional Services Marketing Expert recognized by one of the top marketing organizations in the world. However, we can’t just hang a piece of paper on the wall and admire it. To maintain this certification and ensure our knowledge is constantly evolving to be in sync with the latest information on new and emerging trends in our business, from techniques to tools to technologies, we must attend regular training sessions online on a monthly basis and Bootcamps around the country in person on a quarterly basis.
As you seek to further clarify your options and hire the top marketing consultant for your professional services firm, Caliber is happy to help one way or another through a complimentary Discovery session. If we think there’s a reason to take a next step in the process – not a full engagement but a paid strategic assessment – we’ll discuss that. If we’re not a fit for you, we’ll tell you that much too. No sell job, no pitching, no BS. Reasonable enough?
If that appeals to you, simply give us some information about your current challenges ahead of a meeting here and let’s put that initial conversation on the calendar. Looking forward to it!