A clients of mine – the CEO, once told me that all I do is “waltz in, sprinkle some fairy dust on things and then leave in time for the execution to take place”…(Now that’s actually bollocks because I’ll always stay for the drinks and nibbles…but in loose terms that’s exactly where my skillet lies).

This ‘dig’ at what I do was in jest, (in reality we have a fantastic value-add relationship). But whatever you want to call it: ‘Marketing Consultant’, ‘Strategist’ or these days the ‘Virtual CMO’…unfortunately the true value of this role is often misunderstood and therefore not capitalised on by smaller businesses, which is big loss for the sea of SMEs that make up our island nation.

And the fairy dust? In reality it’s the serious blood, sweat (and sometimes real tears) of making sure a company has nailed a brand strategy and marketing plan that will deliver bottom-line results.

 

We’re a country built of SMEs – many of whom don’t have a senior marketing resource.

You’re a small business owner and you’re wearing many hats – often including the marketing hat. You know you need to be marketing, but you also need an affordable resource who can turn their hand to a number of other tasks that need attention in the business.

So I commonly see the reliance on the ‘all-singing-all-dancing’ role of the marketing ‘coordinator’…You know the one…a little marketing, a little personal assistance, a little operations and how about a few HR tasks to boot….

This ‘human octopus’ is stretched in all directions, encompassing everything from social media to the social club. In my view, these broad-sweeping battlers deserve to be put up on a pedestal and showered in rainbows and kudos. They have a tough gig.

BUT this is not a dig at CEOs putting this role in place because it can be very effective to have this function in many businesses. Plus these roles can be varied, exciting and influential.

However, where it gets very frustrating for the individual, is when they don’t get the direction they need, the expertise or support to do their role well and ensure success for the business.  This is especially true for the marketing function – given this is where the company is spending cold hard cash and expecting a return.

As the CEO you’ve got good ideas, but not a lot of time…and so it can become a vicious cycle.

 

According to a recent survey of more than 3000 marketers, those who had a robust strategy in place were 313% more likely to realise success[1].

Enter the fairy dust

Consulting and strategy are frustratingly vague words that could mean all manner of things – and often conjure up images of hefty price tags…

Plus you don’t necessarily need a full-time strategist. But you do need some strategy…

We’re starting to see an increasing number of companies leveraging an external role for growth, as a low-risk commitment to achieve their goals faster. But what is it that a marketing consultant is actually going to do for you? Let’s take a look at how we earn our keep.

We can assist your business in a number of areas, but as a general guide we’ll:

  • Take a view of the ‘big picture’ business goals and how current marketing activities align
  • Assess the strength of your brand how it’s positioned to your customers
  • Ensure all marketing has identified and speaks to your customers’ drivers
  • Review the customers’ experience with your brand – from awareness, to sale and ongoing communications
  • Provide a fresh lens on direction and ideas
  • Provide a devils’ advocate, giving guidance, challenging ideas
  • Determine marketing strategies and plans to achieve goals

On a deeper relationship level, a good consultant should push you and your team hard to disrupt your industry, tell your authentic story, and become a brand that really resonates with the right people.

And on the execution side, it’s not all cut-and-run after the glamour is done… You can select consultants whose remit is to hang around. They’ll continue to provide guidance, refinements and ensure rigorous adherence to the original strategy – maybe even getting hands-on in specific areas where they are proficient.

Importantly, they’ll flush out anything that isn’t on-point to the customer needs, the critical key messages and the original business goals.

 

OK it all sounds peachy, but what’s the damage?

It’s a spectrum of rates for marketing consultants and it will depend on the individual and their experience. You’ll likely pay between $180-250+ per hour and these costs may be negotiated around a monthly retainer and or / project based pricing, or a mix.

Depending on your business, a good approach is to undertake some initial groundwork with your strategist. Get any gaps in strategy filled, make some plans and begin executing using your in-house resource if you have one.

After that, you could lean down and agree on a regular advice model, where you may only require the input of your strategist for 2-4 hours per week.

Let’s say they charge $200 per hour @ 4 hours per week – that’s an investment for your business of $3200 a month. Not huge dollars when you compare it to other business expenses and the influence it could have…

 

Decide if your brand would benefit from a ‘strategy injection’ and then make sure you get the right ‘medicine’…

 Like any good relationship, it’s important to get the fit right. Here are a few things to consider when you’re on the hunt for the perfect marketing strategist for your business:

 Personality fit. For you, your team, and your in-house marketer. Is an aloof, mildly scary strategist going to skillfully terrify your team into action? Or is a bubbly and creative optimist more what your brand exudes? You’ll know what sort of approach and person is going to get the respect of your team and be someone who you enjoy working with.

  • Values fit. What do they stand for? What do they not stand for? How have they ‘arrived’ at these values across their career to date? Do you align?
  • In the first few minutes. Do you respect, trust, like them?
  • Background check. Where have they spent most of their time? Many strategy consultants will have broad skills across the marketing realms but they generally have some specialty areas that you may, or may not be needing. How do these skills align with your business gaps and goals? Either way they should be able to bring a certain amount of creativity as well as commercialism to the table.
  • References. Can they provide a couple of clients – CEOs or business owners for you to speak to candidly?
  • Are they a thought leader? What content / advice / leadership can you find authored and created by them online? Have a read and assess…

Worst case scenario and you engage with someone who’s just not right? The beauty of a marketing consultant – or any external resource for that matter, is that in lots of ways it’s low risk. They’re not an employee, so if you’re not enjoying the journey or seeing enough value then find someone who’s a better fit for your business.

I would urge you however to take the time to select and invest the time to share information with any strategist that you engage with – you’re playing a big part in contributing to a successful relationship and outcome also.

In summary

Companies who identify the need for marketing strategy are already in a mindset of growth. They believe in the power of the marketing function and therefore are open to adopt new ideas, be challenged and execute quickly.

The consultant model gives smaller companies the chance to act like a larger enterprise – gaining expertise on their terms and on their budget.

 

[1] CoSchedule 2019 online marketer survey