I am often asked: “What does a marketing consultant do?” The answer is that they provide strategic advice and guidance. When it comes to marketing, as in so many other areas in life, there are many opinions. A marketing consultant should be able to provide you with impartial advice, as they are not a marketing communications (‘marcomms’) agency. In other words, they don’t employ staff who build websites, design advertising campaigns, or run promotional campaigns.
The first step is a written plan. This should not be the size of a telephone directory (who’s going to read it?) Concise plans and clear action points are much better.
A marketing consultant will tell you how to position your business, create and build a brand and attract customers. In order to do this, they will help you to differentiate your business in a crowded marketplace. They will talk to you about your products and services as well as pricing strategies. They will make you think about your geographical footprint (how far afield should you be selling your wares?)
A key topic is promotion, particularly as we now live in a digital economy. You can talk to your marketing consultant about your website, Search Engine Optimisation, social media, newsletters, videos, and writing for the web. They should have in depth knowledge of the hundreds of digital and traditional promotional techniques that are available to you.
Top marketing consultants usually have an academic background, as this is an in-depth, technical subject. A degree in marketing or academic position indicates that they have intellectual depth. However, in the real world, the academic side of things is not enough. Look for a consultant who has worked for a lot of clients. A few dozen is not enough. A few hundred is better. A few thousand is exceptional.
The advice can be delivered in conversations and by email. It may also be provided as training, i.e. how to get the best out of your website and social media.
Effective marketing advice can help startups, small businesses, medium sized companies and corporates. It can also help schools, colleges, universities and public sector institutions.
Measurement will play its part – including the measurement of outputs as well as sales leads / sales.
The best marketing consultants love what they do and will have worked with several businesses similar to yours. They can think strategically and – at the same time – have an eagle eye for detail. It helps if they have a sense of humour and the ability to get along with people. They must be able to listen and to answer your questions without referring to external sources.
If you are looking for a marketing consultant, ask your contacts or try an online search. Then call three of them and have a conversation. A good consultant will get you talking about your enterprise and your issues. They will not waste your time banging on about their qualifications and experience.
Written by marketing consultant, trainer and author Nigel Temple. “30 years of marketing consultancy experience. Over 3000 clients. Always learning.”