Do you want to work from home while doing a job you love? If yes, then becoming a marketing consultant might be the perfect choice for you. In this article, I’ll share some of my experiences and insights into how to become a marketing consultant.
I’ve always had a passion for marketing. I started doing freelance marketing consulting in grad school and eventually became a full-time independent marketing consultant in 2016.
Over the years, I’ve worked with various clients across multiple industries. Today, I’m a freelance marketing consultant that focuses on market research for large industrial clients and commercial due diligence for private equity firms.
I’m also a coach that helps teach other professionals how to start and grow their marketing consulting businesses. My passion is to educate them on the latest trends in marketing, social media, SEO, etc. This way they can create a solid foundation for their marketing companies.
What is a marketing consultant?
A marketing consultant either works independently or for an agency and helps companies market their products and services. A freelance marketing consultant is an independent contractor who works with clients for a limited time.
Marketing consultants usually have a lot of experience in marketing technologies and strategies to attract customers.
They are responsible for the overall success of a project by helping to create a strategy or providing recommendations that will help the client achieve its goals.
The work of a marketing consultant can be broken down into three main areas: planning, execution, and evaluation.
- Defining the scope of the project.
- Creating a budget.
- Determining what needs to happen before the project begins.
Execution involves implementing the plan created during the Planning Phase. After the project is complete, evaluation is the process of analyzing its results.
What does a marketing consultant do?
The job duties of a marketing consultant vary depending on the type of company they work for but typically involves advising companies on the best way to reach, engage and convert customers.
Marketing consultants can offer services including:
- Evaluating current marketing strategies and recommending areas for improvement.
- Helping to develop and implement marketing campaigns.
- Training other marketers on marketing techniques and tools.
- Providing strategies and tactics to reach, attract, and convert ideal customers.
- Analyzing the success of current marketing strategies through analytical tools.
- Conducting competitive analysis to improve go-to-market strategies.
- Collecting voice of customer research to improve product development plans.
Most importantly, a marketing consultant can offer unbiased suggestions and solutions to help companies achieve their goals.
Why do companies hire marketing consultants?
Marketing consulting is growing. According to the BTG Skills Index, there was a 450% YoY increase in requests for Consultants with skills in B2B Marketing in 2021.
There are many different reasons companies hire marketing consultants. However, most of those reasons fall into four categories. They need to fix their marketing and don’t know how
Companies often hire marketing consultants when they realize their current marketing strategy isn’t working. They’ve tried everything but still aren’t seeing results. In this case, the company needs to figure out what’s wrong with its existing marketing strategy. Then, they need to find a solution.
1. They need specialized marketing skills.
Sometimes, companies hire marketing consultants because they lack a specific skill set. For example, maybe they need an SEO strategy or don’t know how to use Google Ads effectively.
2. They need to augment their staff for a short period.
Some companies hire marketing consultants because they don’t have enough staff for a project. This means they no longer can manage all aspects of their marketing. So, they bring a marketing consulting onto the team for a short period.
3. They want or need an outside perspective.
Sometimes companies want an outside perspective to see if their ideas or strategies make sense. Or, they need some fresh eyes to look at their marketing. Then, provide some recommended ways to improve.
4. They need a few degrees of separation
Other times, they need an outside marketing consultant to provide a few degrees of separation from their company. For example, they want to conduct a voice of customer study. They know that customers will more openly speak with a third party. Or they wish to conduct a competitive analysis. And for compliance reasons, it’s better to have a third party conduct the research.
Marketing consultant skills and education
Many people are a little concerned about the education requirements when they start reading about how to become a marketing consultant.
Don’t be! If you got the skills and experience, you can get hired. I haven’t had one client ask me about my education.
Most marketing consultants have a bachelor’s degree in marketing, business, communications, or sometimes psychology. If you plan to work for a company or agency, most will require marketing professionals to have a bachelor’s degree. However, many more companies are starting to accept work experience and industry-recognized certifications instead of formal degrees.
You don’t necessarily need a degree if you want to start a marketing consulting business (highly recommended). If you niche down into a specific marketing skill-set, it could benefit you more if you go the industry certification route and gain work experience. The ROI is a lot higher with this route.
Your freelance marketing clients expect results. If you can deliver results, they aren’t worried if you have a formal bachelor’s degree. We’ve worked with and hired many freelance marketers. Not once has anyone questioned or even asked about their education. It’s all about their skills and results!
Combining soft and technical skills as a marketing consultant will ensure you can create a marketing strategy that exceeds your client’s goals and expectations.
Critical soft skills for marketing consultants include creative thinking, critical reasoning, interpersonal skills, and the ability to communicate effectively with clients. In addition, a good marketing consultant will be collaborative, focused on the team, and willing to be hyper-customer-focused.
Many successful marketing consultants have strong listening and research skills. They can listen effectively to their clients and their clients’ customers to determine what strategy will work best for them.
To be a successful marketing consultant, you’ll need to translate the needs of your client and the desires of their customers into actionable marketing strategies and tactics.
The technical skills required will depend on your industry focus, marketing consulting niche, and the type of marketing consulting services you offer.
For example, a B2B Digital Marketing Consultant will require a different set of skills than a B2C SEO consultant.
You may also have expertise in the marketing process, including:
- Marketing Automation
- Public Relations
- Social Media Marketing
- Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
- Search Engine Marketing (SEM)
- Email Marketing
- Print or TV Advertising
- Marketing Project Management
However, the technical skills you provide to your clients and the technical skills you need to run and market your business might differ. For example, you might specialize as an SEO Consultant. But to run and market your own business, you’ll need to develop other skills such as copywriting and email marketing.
Types of marketing consultants
There are many different types of consultants. However, we highly recommend you specialize in one of the technical marketing skills listed above.
The main types of marketing consultants include:
- Digital Marketing Consultants
- Content Marketing Consultants
- Social Media Marketing Consultants
- Marketing Analytics & Data Science Consultants
- Market Research Consultants
- Competitive Intelligence Consultants
- Product Marketing Consultants
- Marketing Project Managers
- GTM Strategy Consultants
- Account-Based Marketing Consultants
If you’re interested in other types of consultants, read our article: 39 Types of Consultants – Which Is Best for You?
Why you need a marketing consulting niche
There are sub-specialties within the types of marketing consultants we listed above. Like you don’t go to your family doctor for heart surgery, your clients want a specialist.
Plus, as a specialist, you’ll have an easier time differentiating yourself and charging more for your services.
A Social Media Marketing Consultant could specialize as a Facebook Marketing Consultant. Or a Market Research Consultant could niche down into Voice of Customer.
If I wanted to grow my Facebook following and drive more business from Facebook advertising, I’d hire a Facebook Marketing Consultant, not necessarily a general Social Media Marketing Consultant. As always, there are exceptions to the rule.
Also, think about how much easier it would be for a Voice of Customer Consultant to market and sell their services against a general Market Research Consultant.
Plus, you can narrow into sub-niches based on an industry or sales process. For example, let’s say you have experience in GTM Strategy for SaaS companies in the B2B space. Well, then you become a B2B GTM Strategy Consultant for SaaS companies. Now, you’re highly differentiated and specialized.
If you’re worried about not finding enough clients that are looking for a Voice of Customer or B2B GTM Strategy Consultant for SaaS companies, stop worrying. There are thousands of clients out there with challenges and looking for specialized help.
Salary of a marketing consultant
As a marketing consultant, how much you make depends on your niche, clients, pricing, and services. Many marketing consultants also productize their knowledge to sell courses, ebooks, and other resources.
However, it’s pretty easy to make over $100,000 per year. For example, Zippia found that the top 10% of “Marketing Advisors” make over $133,000 per year. In contrast, the bottom 10% make under $43,000.
When you look at those statistics, remember that they include everyone, including part-time workers, people who have no experience but are building their portfolios, etc.
The average marketing consultant’s hourly rate is around $50/hour. This includes all marketing consultants, not just digital marketers. Many experienced marketing consultants can charge $200-$400/hour.
How do they charge so much? Because they don’t charge by the hour. They use different pricing strategies such as a daily rate, weekly rate, flat fee for a project, or value-based pricing. And if/when you divide those rates by the hour, you’re in the $200-$400/hour range.
When you gain experience, learn to market yourself, and choose the right niche, you’ll make over $100,000 per year.
How to become a marketing consultant in 8 steps
1. Set goals:
You need to set some clear objectives before you launch your new business. Goals will help you know what kind of results you expect to achieve.
Determine your marketing consulting niche
Now that you’ve got a goal in mind, you’ll need to determine which type of marketing consultant you want to be. Specialize in a marketing niche that you have experience with and you enjoy.
2. Create an ideal customer profile:
An ideal customer profile includes your target market and the type of company that would most likely purchase your marketing consulting services. Your ideal customer profile will contain information such as:
- The size of the company you are targeting.
- The industry and business type.
- The activities they carry out.
- The challenges they face.
- Their goals or objectives.
- Why they’ll be interested in your marketing consulting services.
3. Develop your offer:
Build an irresistible offer based on your marketing niche and ideal customer profile. An irresistible offer makes people feel compelled to buy right now. Your offer needs to feel unique to your potential client’s business, challenges, goals, and objectives.
4. Set your marketing consulting rate:
Now that you have an offer determine your rate. There are many different pricing strategies for consulting rates.
Some consultants charge by the hour. Others have daily or weekly rates.
Depending on the type of marketing consulting you do, you could consider flat fee project rates or value-based pricing.
No matter the pricing strategy you choose, you’ll need to consider the cost of running a business, then price accordingly. For example, you’ll need to think about the cost of your healthcare, taxes, insurance, equipment, software, etc.
5. Learn to market yourself:
Once you’ve determined your marketing consulting niche and developed your offer, it’s time to learn how to market yourself. Here’s what I recommend. First, pick 2 or 3 channels to promote your business when you’re first starting. Then, learn to drive business from those channels. Finally, if a particular channel isn’t working after 6-12 months, try a different platform.
Don’t try to do everything all at once. Keep things simple. Here are a few channels to consider promoting your marketing consulting business.
Network with your personal/professional contacts:
Also, people buy from those they know, like, and trust. So your number one goal when starting your business is to find the fastest path to trust. Reach out to your personal/professional contacts. Let them know you started a marketing consulting business.
- Friends & Family
- Former colleagues
- Former classmates
- Other professional contacts
- Your accountant & lawyer
Blog on your website:
A great way to promote your marketing consulting business is through blogging. You can write blog posts related to your niche and publish them on your website. Blogging allows you to share knowledge and expertise with others. It also allows you to connect with other bloggers and influencers in your industry.
Create email newsletters and send them to your list of contacts. These emails should include helpful tips, resources, case studies, etc. The content should relate directly to your niche.
You may decide to use social media platforms like LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, Facebook, or Pinterest. You can share your blog posts and provide other valuable content to promote your marketing consulting business.
Just make sure you pick social media channels where your ideal customer hangs out and engages every day.
According to MBO: State of Independence 2021 report:
- 72% of respondents said social media is an important tool for building a professional reputation
- 36% of respondents said social media is one of the top three methods in which they acquire work
You can speak at conferences, meetups, events, and workshops if you’re good at public speaking. Speaking is another excellent way to get your name out there and promote your marketing consulting business.
Create a podcast or YouTube channel:
Podcasts and YouTube videos allow you to create content that is easily accessible. They also give you the ability to reach new audiences.
6. Learn to sell
One of the hardest skills you’ll need to learn is how to sell. You can market the hell out of your business, but if you can’t sell, you’ll fail.
Selling is about building relationships with potential clients. Once you build rapport with your audience, you’ll learn about their needs, wants, and challenges.
Then, you can come up with proposed marketing solutions to solve their problems.
Once you propose potential solutions, you’ll need to convince the client you are the best marketing consultant to hire.
You’ll need to study how to overcome objections as well. So here’s a post to help you with objections – Expert Advice: How to Overcome Sales Objections (6 Common Types)
7. Grow your client base
The most important thing you can do to grow your marketing consulting business is to increase your client base. You need cash flow coming in and client testimonials.
Many new marketing consultants try to land a large project or client immediately. Some do, while others don’t. I’m not saying you don’t try to land a large deal right at the start. However, consider a “land and expand” approach.
Don’t be afraid to take on a few smaller projects—Land the clients. Get to know them. Build trust by exceeding their expectations.
Then, expand your services with them. Find bigger projects that you can support with your services.
8. Ask for and promote client testimonials
Again, always remember people buy from those they know, like, and trust. Client testimonials provide social proof. The more social proof you have, the better.
Consider doing a few smaller quick but valuable projects for your client. Then, ask those clients for a testimonial.
Promote client testimonials on your website, social media pages, proposals, and anywhere else. You can combine your testimonials with case studies you create on specific projects.
Through the content, you create and share, plus your testimonials, you’re well on your way to building your know, like, and trust factor.
Challenges of starting a consulting business
The challenges with starting a marketing consulting business include:
- Finding Clients
- Building Your Brand
- Pricing Yourself
- Getting Paid
- It’s hard work to get started
You may also face challenges because you’re new to this field. For example, you’ll need to learn a specific skill and may not have any experience to reference when marketing your services.
Benefits of starting a consulting business
The benefits of starting a marketing consulting business include:
- You can make money doing what you love
- Consulting allows you to build a brand around your expertise
- You can charge higher rates than working at a job
- You can choose which projects you take on
- You can set your own hours
- You can work remotely
Those benefits align well if you look at a study conducted by COMATCH, “The DNA of the Independent Consultant in 2020”
Why consultants choose to go independent
- 91% decide which topics I work on
- 85 % have more flexibility in my schedule
- 79% decide which clients I work for
- 73% give more purpose to my professional life
- 67% have more free time
- 61% be able to work remotely
- 54% gain more responsibility
- 52% make more money
If you’re interested in reading more statistics about independent consulting and freelancing, read our article: 128 Incredible Freelance Statistics (+Consulting Data)
Tips for succeeding as a marketing consultant
Here are some tips to help you succeed as a marketing consultant:
1. Understand how to sell yourself
2. Know your value proposition and how to communicate it in less than 30 seconds
3. Have a clear vision of where you want to go
4. Be prepared to pitch your ideas
5. Learn how to write great proposals
6. Focus on delivering quality results
7. Keep learning new skills
8. Stay organized
9. Don’t be afraid to fail and always keep improving
10. Don’t forget to network
11. Create a portfolio
12. Build relationships
13. Make sure you’re charging enough
14. Hire a virtual assistant
15. Take on smaller projects to land new clients, then expand your services
Now you have a good understanding of how to become a marketing consultant. Starting a business isn’t for everyone. It takes a lot of hard work to get your business up and running. However, you’ll have control over your destiny, can make more money, and build your business around your life.
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