3 Reasons Why You Should (And Shouldn’t) Hire a Marketing Consultant as a Startup or Small Business

Working with a marketing consultant is a decision that requires some consideration before jumping into. Here are my three top reasons why you should, and shouldn’t, work with a marketing contractor.

Let’s start with the negatives first ;-).

Why You Shouldn’t Hire a Marketing Consultant

Personally, I don’t think just anyone should engage a marketing consultant for any reason, though. Here are the top reasons you shouldn’t.

The Product/Service Isn’t Ready Yet

Marketing something that is not inherently sustainable (e.g. people join and leave the service due to delivery or product issues) is arguably a poor use of time. You can’t polish these things with great marketing, and customers may resent you more for trying.

At this stage, I believe it is worth investing more time into perfecting the product and getting that ‘must-have’ feeling from them before focusing on efforts to growth.

Caveat: If the marketing consultant is a specialist in advising people on how to develop a product that is easier to market some how, that would be an easy exclusion to this point.

Not Enough Data

Another reason not to engage a marketing consultant is where you don’t have enough data to make descisions. Asking your consultant how to double your conversion rates when you don’t have any traffic is a difficult ask.

Also, having data but no way to developing conclusions from that data is just as unhelpful to getting results from using a contractor. For example, if you traffic but no idea where it came from and why, or who actually converts, you will be investing more time into testing than growing.

Disorganised While Fire-Fighting

The last reason is not often talked about – being disorganised. For many founders, this is easy to do as they move between wearing all hats and putting out fires, while jumping into the next project.

The problem with this is that you might find you’ve loaded up your consultant with projects and briefs but they have nobody to work with in order to deliver it. Emails go unanswered, meetings are missed or postponed, etc. Money spent on this consultant will be wasted as your efforts are stuck in ‘start-mode’.

Why You Should Hire a Marketing Consultant

Having covered my three favourite ‘no-go’ reasons, let’s look at some of the reasons why you should consider hiring a contractor.

Shortcut Your Learning

The most obvious benefit to working with marketing consultants is that they have more experience than your average team member on a particular subject.

The topic of their expertise can range from an approach (example, growth marketing) or a tactic (for example, inbound marketing or Facebook advertising). Often these are in niche topics that it wouldn’t make sense for you to invest in your team learning, too, like some software systems (e.g. HubSpot).

The idea here is that you can shortcut the time needed to evaluate employing these ideas or in executing them effectively by engaging an outsider who’s dealt with it before.

Note: There are many consultants or contractors that don’t actually have first hand experience. To me, this is OK when this is actually disclosed and the client feels comfortable that the consultant has transferrable experience and skills, or is providing the service at the rate of someone developing in that skillset.

Get It Off Your Plate

Another issue facing many operations managers, marketing managers and founders is the ability to have things executed without supervision.

Working with a contractor can get those things off your plate in a way that is more hands-off than a usual employee. Marketing contractors are expected to square the project boundaries, deliverables and timelines with you and chime in when there are things to approve, action or results to share.

Short-term Commitment

By the nature of the job, marketing consulting and contracting is often ‘at-will’ and while you might agree to a long period of time for the engagement, it is understood and perfectly accepted that you will end the engagement at sometime.

Compared to internal team members, switching contractors frequently provides little disruption to the team and can help you make sure you have the right match for the job.

Conclusion

It is easy to suggest everyone should engage a marketing consultant (by being one) but the truth is, nobody wants to waste time, money and energy into projects that stall.

I hope these reasons can give you some ideas from my perspective on when it makes sense to engage a contractor so that you can find the right match at the right time.

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