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Marketing Consultant: What do they do and how to find them

Companies hire marketing consultants in order to define, build, and implement marketing strategies and plans. Le’ts explore what these consultants do and how to find them.

By Navid Jafari  |   Aug 2020  | 2
Marketing Consultant
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A marketing consultant is a role that companies hire in order to define, build, and implement marketing strategies and plans.  A strong consultant is a person that has a detailed understanding of marketing fundamentals, best practices, and a thorough knowledge of the industry in which they are being hired.

Skills of an effective Marketing Consultant

A successful consultant is a person who has a combination of marketing (and business) knowledge, technical knowledge, and industry knowledge.  Let’s explore this further:

  • Marketing knowledge:  Consultants are often hired to help build marketing strategies and plans.  Therefore,  companies look to hire consultants with deep marketing knowledge along with an intrinsic understanding of business principles.  Marketing knowledge without business acumen is an academic exercise.  Consultants must understand the relationship between marketing practices and specific business needs.  For example, a branding consultant understands the practices that help grow a brand (e.g., social media), but must understand the business well to execute appropriately (e.g., using Twitter instead of Facebook for B2B).
  • Technical knowledge: Typically, consultants have in-depth technical expertise in many areas of marketing.  Perhaps, the most critical area of technical expertise is in digital marketing.  For example, depending on the specific needs of a company hiring a consultant, an in-depth (hands-on) understanding of Search Engine Optimization (SEO), email marketing, video marketing, and content marketing are pivotal to the success of the hiring.  Additionally, there are many fantastic marketing technology tools available for automation, CRM (affiliate link), and other needs.  Therefore, the consultant must be able to demonstrate technical authority in order to provide the best advice.
  • Industry knowledge: Although a good consultant can provide marketing insights in any industry, a software company looking to hire an advisor should look to hire someone with direct knowledge of software marketing.  After all, an experienced consultant in a specific area or industry is likely to have addressed the similar needs of many other companies in the past.  This industry-specific knowledge can give the company an edge, reduce the time and resources needed to address the challenges at hand, and increase the odds of a successful partnership entirely.

Who should hire a marketing consultant

Consultants are often considered when a company has specific needs beyond its current (in-house) capabilities.  Companies hire consultants when they need particular advice as they, for example, grow their brand, venture into new categories and markets, or want to address the specific marketing challenges that they face.  Consultants can provide fixes, insights, guidance, and general and technical advice that can help companies thrive.

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A company looking to hire a consultant should define their specific needs carefully.  For example, imagine a company is looking to hire a consultant to help them turn around their marketing slump.  It would be prudent to first examine and define the problem well before hiring a consultant: is this a digital marketing problem?  Is this a lead capture/nurture problem? Or is this a marketing strategy problem?

Although an experienced consultant should be able to address each of these concerns reasonably, sometimes it is better to hire someone that specializes in a specific area.

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What to look for in a suitable consultant

A skilled consultant can provide the expertise that can ultimately help a company reach its goals.  Companies who are interested in hiring a consultant should look for fitment in 2 areas:

  • Knowledge and experience: as discussed above, a thorough understanding of marketing knowledge is imperative but not enough.  A successful consultant should have extensive direct experience in the area(s) of marketing that corresponds directly to the company’s needs. For example, if a software startup is looking for a consultant that can help them launch their new SaaS,  they must look for an expert software marketer who has direct experience with SaaS offerings, digital marketing, and Go-To-Market (GTM) strategy.  Finding a natural fit may be difficult, but it is crucial to find a consultant that is as close as to a perfect match as possible.
  • Availability & Cost: companies should find consultants who can commit the necessary time required to address the challenges at hand. Finding consultants who can quickly address the needs may save the company substantial sums in opportunity, new sales, or general growth.  Of course, companies should also consider the costs of hiring a consultant carefully as well.

Finding the right consultants

A quick Google search may help find consultants in the desired area, but there are other ways companies can find a suitable candidate.  LinkedIn, the largest professional social network, is an excellent place to search for consultants as well.  Additionally, professional organizations may also have lists of qualified consultants, but this isn’t a requirement for finding the right candidate.

The Do’s and Dont’s of hiring a marketing consultant

In the past 15 years, I have both worked as a marketing consultant and have brought on consultants to help.  Here are my do’s and don’ts for anyone considering a consultant:

  • Do hire someone who understands the business needs well.
  • Do ask for references or to see previous results, if possible.
  • Do negotiate a mutually beneficial rate and term.
  • Do take your time to find the right person for the job.
  • Don’t set unreasonable expectations (i.e., hire one consultant to the job of 20 people).
  • Don’t wait until it’s too late. If a company has a need for a consultant, a wait-and-see approach may prove costly.

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