I got a bit excited recently and may have over-egged my analogy when I said that marketing consultants are killing small businesses. What I was saying, in essence, is that inexperience can be extremely dangerous. I wasn’t saying that all marketing consultants are charlatans, nor that there aren’t some recent grads doing excellent freelance marketing work. The problem lies in the label – ‘marketing consultant’. It’s used so much that it’s meaningless.
Marketing is a process
Running brilliant ongoing marketing, that delivers long-term sales results, is a cyclical process of working out what to do > doing it > reviewing it, and so on.
Something like this…
I reckon there are three fundamental types of person you need on a marketing team to make this process flow. All of whom provide real value. When outsourcing these tasks for your small business, it’s getting one type of consultant to do what the other is specifically good at that causes a problem.
Which consultant for which role?
The different parts in the process need different skills, and different levels of experience. And, it is vanishingly rare to find one individual who is good at (and wants to do!) all elements. I find it useful to map three types of person against this process. All these people will be out there selling their services as a ‘marketing consultant’ – perhaps it’s time we changed the labels:
The Marketing Strategist
The ‘this is what to do’ people.
They have a breadth of business experience that necessarily means they’ve been doing this for some time, I’d say 10 years or more. They will have worked up the ranks and know exactly what’s needed of the other people in this whole. They have an end-to-end understanding of how people buy, and can identify where the leaks are in your new business set-up. They can quickly gauge your market and are likely to be adept at asking difficult questions. They get under the skin of your business and often help you to shape your vision. The output you’ll want from this type of person is a clear understanding of what you sell to whom and a broad outline for how you’ll meet your longer term objectives. These people will typically help you look 3-5 years ahead. Market rates for this type of consultant are in the £750 to £2,000 a day range. (Or, if you want a big-name agency or a Seth Godin type character to come in for a day to advise your business, you may be paying out on a day what some people earn in a year!)
The Marketing Project Manager
The ‘this is how to do it’ people.
Once you know who you’re selling what to, and what targets you have in mind – this person can draw you up a detailed plan. They usually have about 5 years under their belt. They’re the ones you’ll need for timelines, budgets, supplier management and that 6-12 month marketing activity plan. Market rates for this type of consultant are in the £250 to £500 a day range.
The Marketing Implementor
The ‘do it’ people.
They do the sleeves up stuff… proof-reading, scheduling, pressing the buttons… making stuff actually happen. Newbies are great in this role, so a smart graduate or someone with a year or so on their CV can be brilliant. Market rates for this type of consultant are in the £150 to £300 a day range.
So, if you’re not sure what you’re selling to whom, or you have big ambitions but you’re not sure how to reach them – call a marketing strategist. If you know exactly who you’re after and why they’d buy from you and now you need to tell them about it, call a marketing project manager. And, if you just need some extra capacity to get the stuff you know you need to do done – call a marketing implementor. But, please don’t get one to do the other!
I’ll end with a quote from Red Adair that captures what I mean superbly: “If you think it’s expensive to hire a professional to do the job, wait until you hire an amateur.”
(Oh, and there are discipline specialists that call themselves ‘marketing consultants’ too. Y’know, PR people, DM people, telesales people, etc. So, do just check a person’s portfolio to see whether they have a medium or discipline bias, as you may find that you can have any marketing technique you like, so long as it’s the one they’re good at.)
© Bryony Thomas
Author & Founder, Watertight Marketing
Bryony Thomas is the creator of the multi-award winning Watertight Marketing methodology, captured in her best-selling book of the same name. She is one of the UK's foremost marketing thinkers, featured by the likes of Forbes, The Guardian, Business Insider and many more, and in-demand speaker for business conferences, in-house sales days and high-level Board strategy days.