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What is a Marketing Consultant? Read This Before Hiring One

What Is a Marketing Consultant
Josiah Roche
Josiah Roche

Digital Marketing Consultant

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There is a growing need for marketing consultants to provide their digital expertise to large and small businesses.

And with good reason. 

Because they stay on top of the ever-changing online marketing trends, just think about how many businesses were affected by the pandemic.

Around 64% of Australian companies were pressured to implement new marketing channels and strategies to keep their businesses visible in the eyes of the homebound consumer. 

As many companies are still new to the digital space, there’s a growing trend for digital marketing consultants to provide expert guidance and help with fulfilment.

In this article, we’ll explore the question: “what is a marketing consultant” specifically one that specialises in digital.

What is a Marketing Consultant? 

Marketing consultants play an integral part in the success of a business.

It’s their sole responsibility to analyse a business holistically to see the marketing gaps and how they can bridge them to move the money needle for the brand.

Day-to-day marketing consultants are responsible for studying current marketing trends and crafting high-level strategies based on their findings.

It’s a constant learning curve and one that is never mastered.

The way that digital marketing consultants approach their analyses and fulfilment varies between each of them. Some only do marketing plans.

While others provide holistic audits while making the option available to hire them to fulfil the work themselves on an ad-hoc, hourly, or project basis.

Roles of a Marketing Consultant

A marketing consultant typically has more responsibilities than just advertising your business to the world. Like you, they wear many hats in the digital sphere.

Some are generalists who can help your business in many ways but likely do not excel in any particular thing. And others are specialists who only stick to a few channels but produce predictable results.

Whichever type of digital specialist you choose, depending on the project you’ve partnered with them to do, they should be well-versed in sales psychology and general psychological principles relating to marketing.

Here are some typical traits you’d expect of a marketing consultant.

marketing specialist vs generalist
Source: Fizzle.

They’re excellent at market research

At the core of every project is well-researched insights that drive strategic campaigns.

Marketing consultants will constantly be on the lookout for the latest news and trends and will work out ways to transfer them into actionable strategies that work for your business.

That said, more experienced consultants will take caution of fads and fly-by-night tactics before prescribing them for your business.

Before considering whether to adopt a new strategy, it’s best practice to revise your target audience and judge whether it makes sense for them.

For example, you wouldn’t run a new Instagram ad if all your target customers live on the LinkedIn platform. Just because everyone else is doing it doesn’t mean it’s right for you.

They can both create and execute strategies themselves 

Experienced consultants will be able to develop and launch full-scale strategies themselves.

This may be designing and developing a brand’s website redesign to revitalise its positioning or creating and managing profitable Google Ads campaigns.

Either way, the consultant should be capable of doing the work themselves.

You’ll sometimes come across consultants who only prescribe recommendations and do not offer to fulfil the work themselves.

This is a clear warning sign that they may not have the practical experience in the field they’re providing advice for.

what is a marketing strategy similarweb
Source: SimilarWeb

They emphasise both long-term and short-term goals

Depending on where a business is in its lifecycle will determine how desperate they are for sales.

Typically, startups and small businesses will think more short-term because there’s a level of scarcity due to a lack of revenue.

Whereas more established companies past this point of scarcity will think more long-term because they have enough revenue to make mistakes and perform exploratory research and development.

There’s a saying in silicon valley that your first million is the hardest to make. And that it’s relatively much easier to scale a business from $1 million to $3 million.

In either case, experienced digital marketing consultants will have worked with various clients in many stages of the business lifecycle and thus offer unique strategies that are tailored for the lifecycle.

That means that if you’re still within that $100k to $2 million range, chances are you’re looking for lead generation or expert-build sales engines (websites, funnels, ads, email campaigns) to drive more bottom-of-funnel traffic.

Whereas if you’re part of a Fortune 500 company, you’re looking for more brand awareness campaigns that aim to keep your brand at the top of consumers’ minds for longer (lift).

Meaning that direct-response marketing is likely not suitable for your campaign goals.

marketing business life cycle chart
Source: Manraj Ubhi

They can save a lot on salaries by providing an in-house feel.

Sometimes, marketing consultants can offer to be in-house advisors that act as chief marketing officers or board-level advisors.

So instead of paying $150k+ on an in-house CMO, you could hire an external marketing specialist and work out an arrangement where they can work part-time or on day rates which still works out to be a fraction of the cost of an executive on a salary.

No holiday pay. No sick leave. No tax obligations (in most cases).

The downside is that if there isn’t an arrangement in place, the consultant’s availability could be booked up in advance, leaving you to fend for yourself.

So there are certainly pros and cons to hiring a marketing consultant.

modern marketing consultant roles and responsibilities
Source: Smart Insights

When Would I Need a Marketing Consultant? 

It’s important to get a clear grasp of why you need to hire a consultant. Many people start their journey and think hiring an agency is the best fit.

This section will explore whether that truly is the case or not.

You don’t have a predictable way of getting new sales

If you’re a service business and you do not have a high-converting website that generates high-quality inbound leads, or you’re an e-commerce business, and you know your cost-per-acquisition, then it’s time to hire a digital marketing consultant.

In addition to the reasons mentioned in the previous sections, consultants will give you clarity on your online marketing.

No throwing things at the wall to see what sticks. No more trends and gimmicks because everyone else is doing it.

By hiring a marketing consultant, you’ll get a laser-focused strategy that helps you understand how to fix your leaky sales pipeline or lack of acquisition channels.

You’re unsure about what to do

If marketing isn’t your forte, or you’ve been tasked to hire someone in marketing, sometimes it’s better to hire a consultant who’ll guide you without committing to anything straight away.

It’s only natural to be a little confused about where to start. Do you need to run socials? Start a blog? Do this SEO thing that seems to be a buzzword floating around?

By hiring marketing consulting services, you’ll get a crystal clear idea of what you need to do and where to go with your online marketing.

types of digital marketing
Source: Nikolina

You don’t have time 

Let’s face it; you get to a point where you have more money than time. And eventually, you understand the value of hiring people smarter than you to do a job they’re made for.

But at the beginning, when you’re a small business owner, you want to take control of every aspect of the business.

That means micromanaging professionals due to budget constraints or not knowing when to let go.

However, as I said above, you will get to a stage where you have more money than time. You learn to let go and trust in the process.

That’s the precise moment when hiring a marketing consultant is perfect.

And, if you’re past that point or not that type of person, even better. Marketing consultants will take care of a lot of the heavy lifting digital-wise.

Whether it’s finding and hiring new members of your marketing team or taking care of your SEO strategy, consultants are perfect partners who’ll build your business with you until you develop your internal team.

So…did that answer your question about what is a marketing consultant?

As you now understand, consultants play a gigantic role in the success of your business. They’re the oxygen to your sales, the colour of your brand, and the character of your words.


Josiah is a multi-award-winning digital marketing consultant and former journalist for the Australia Times. He now helps startups and Fortune 500s use online marketing to generate predictable growth.

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