Marketing is a vital aspect of all businesses, small and large alike. For many, it’s their figurative lifeblood; brand awareness, lead generation, and, ultimately, sales, hinge on it. Therefore, many resort to hiring marketing consultants when their marketing efforts fail to fully meet their business’s goals. However, small businesses, in particular, tend to have different marketing needs and goals, and thus different hiring criteria. With that in mind, let us present a guide on hiring a small business marketing consultant that your business can benefit from.
What marketing consultants offer
Marketing consultants are, simply put, hired marketing experts. As independent contractors, they can substitute for in-house employees and offer considerable marketing expertise.
They can help businesses identify their optimal target audience, choose the ideal marketing channels and technologies, and plan a concise marketing strategy.
Beyond theoretical marketing knowledge, many consultants also carry the practical experience they have amassed over the years.
By extension, beyond the basics, many specialize in a specific niche, in various ways. Namely, they may differ in terms of such factors as:
- Skillset – a focus on different aspects of marketing
- Business size – accrued experience with start-ups, small or large businesses
- Industry – familiarity with different industries and business types
Therefore, this is a crucial factor to keep in mind. Small businesses do tend to have distinct effective marketing strategies, after all.
Thus, in this case, small business owners can specifically employ the services of a specialized, small business marketing consultant.
If budget restraints don’t permit it, of course, any such market expert can still bolster your marketing strategy.
Hiring a marketing consultant for a small business
With the above in mind, let us explore the most crucial factors to consider when hiring a marketing consultant.
While the process is, by all means, applicable to many cases, small business owners may need to be more diligent.
Define your needs
As the very first step, you should carefully consider and pinpoint your marketing needs.
You may be just setting up your first marketing strategy and need general guidance.
Your business may need to specifically increase its social media presence, or expand its target audience, or even bolster brand loyalty.
You may be starting a new business venture soon in NYC, and need valuable insights on the local market.
You should thus note your unique needs and goals, and, ideally, hire the consultant who can best meet them.
On the flip side, you may want to take care to avoid hiring someone who is overqualified as well. If their specific niche does not match your needs, it is unwise to pay for more than what you need.
Establish your budget for a small business marketing consultant
It is crucial for any business to establish a set budget in advance.
However, small businesses specifically need to be even more prudent about it. Tighter budgets require even more careful planning for investments to be as cost-efficient as possible.
Hiring a marketing consultant is, by all means, an investment as well.
Depending on the results, you can certainly negotiate budget changes down the line, but you should start with set budgets.
Your marketing efforts should yield a notable return on investment (ROI) for them to be viable, especially at the early stages. Don’t be afraid to turn down those who may exceed your budget, unless you are certain they are worth it.
Review their online presence
With established goals and budget in hand, you may begin reviewing small business marketing consultants’ websites.
Remember to do so carefully and diligently, and keep your standards high. First impressions tend to be vital, and this should be no exception.
Whether you’re looking for internet marketing assistance or not, a polished, professional-looking website is essential.
After all, an experienced marketing consultant should be fully able to market their own services convincingly. Review their portfolio carefully, and look for testimonials and past client reviews.
Then, make sure that their services and expertise suit your needs well, to ensure you make the most out of your investment.
Lastly, if you’re looking for the very best, you can also look for the Certified Management Consultant (CMC) status.
The Institute of Management Consultants, a professional consultant society, offers this prestigious certification. This can assure you that the marketing consultant you have in mind is, indeed, highly qualified for the job.
Once you have narrowed down your options, you can then begin scheduling interviews.
As you do, keep in mind that you’ll be spending lots of time cooperating with them. If this early communication doesn’t appeal to you, it might be better to move on to the next candidate.
Interviews are a great way to gain a better understanding of how each marketing consultant operates.
For instance, you can ask for recent examples of their work and their current list of clients.
Testimonials and referrals from other companies can also paint an even clearer picture of the services they offer.
On the other hand, you should also expect them to ask for crucial information on your business and goals.
It is vital for a marketing consultant for a small business to ask for precise information in advance. This way, you can define the grounds of your potential cooperation, as you identify the crucial areas of your strategy.
Define “success”, make arrangements, and commit
Once you’ve found your ideal marketing consultant, it’s time to tend to the details of your cooperation.
Make sure you’re both on the same page on the significant aspects of your relationship and define “success” early.
At this point, you should both have a clear understanding of each other’s expectations.
You must agree on the type and scope of work you will share, as well as the costs involved.
Likewise, you must establish channels of communication and ensure they remain open.
Lastly, and most importantly, you should both agree on which metrics and results define “success”. You should be able to evaluate your collaboration’s results through the same criteria since you work towards the same goal.
Once you’ve made the commitment, make sure to see it through with consistency and professionalism.
Maintain channels of communication, and remain available whenever they may need to reach you. Provide your consultant with as much assistance and support as they need throughout the process.
Finally, keep a joint eye on your goals at all times and measure your results against them.
Shristi is the Chief Content Officer at Raletta. She enjoys writing about food, fitness, finance and everything in between.