We live in a time where technology is evolving faster than ever, and marketing is becoming increasingly more technology-driven at the same time. We hear rumblings of the integration of the CTO and CMO roles, recognize the reallocation of technology budgets into marketing budgets, and feel all the struggles that come with running a business and keeping up with all these rapid changes. Now more than ever, businesses are reaching out to small business marketing consultants to fill the gap in the same way they did with technology consultants in the past few decades.
But how do you determine the value of working with a small business marketing consultant if you have no idea what they’re really doing, what kind of services they should be providing, and how to measure the ROI of what you pay for? In short, many businesses have no way of knowing.
Knowing Your Own Marketing Values
Before you can determine the value of hiring a small business marketing consultant, you have to know the value of everything you’re already doing within your own business.
- How much does it cost you to acquire a marketing qualified versus a sales qualified lead?
- How much does it cost you to convert a lead into a customer?
- How much is a customer’s lifetime value worth to you?
- What’s your ROI for every dollar you spend on marketing today?
These are all questions you should be able to answer before you even begin looking for a marketing consultant so you have some idea of what kind of help you need. If it’s costing you too much to get leads into the sales cycle, you need help with content creation, SEO, social media, and other top of the funnel activities. If you’re spending too much money on converting those leads into customers, you probably need a consultant who can help you create solution-focused lead nurture content, business process changes to the sales cycle, lead intelligence implementations, and CRM/Deal Management training to optimize your sales processes.
Understanding your marketing values becomes more than just creating reports for impressing stakeholders, it helps you make the right choices in where to focus your time, money, and energy when bringing in high-priced outside experts who can help you implement those changes properly.
How Much Do Consultants Charge?
One great way to waste hours of time on Google is searching for honest answers on the true costs of hiring small business marketing consultants to help you right the ship for your company. One of the reasons for this is that the costs behind hiring a consultant vary based on the needs of each specific client.
Big Presence is regularly updating our Inbound Marketing Retainer Rate Sheet as we add new services and expertises to our team, but we always base our retainer on the hours we know we’ll be committing on a monthly basis to our customers based on the needs they have for the project. Other consultants may work in niche verticals where they can command obscene amounts of money, because they are looked to as the experts in their industry and clients recognize that a large retainer can still be more affordable than trying to turn their own marketing department into an agency itself.
High-Level Basic Consulting – ($2k-$5k/mo)
For those of you just looking for a consultant who can help you create a basic content strategy, advise on marketing automation platforms, training on said platform, and help you organize a plan for executing properly you’re looking at anywhere between 2k and 5k per month.
To put that into perspective, you’re getting highly specialized talent for the same cost as hiring a full-time entry-level marketing minion, but without all the downsides that come with employing someone who may or may not show up to work on time Friday mornings, or paying someone to infinitely scroll Facebook whenever you’re not looking. Hiring a consultant also means no benefits, no healthcare coverage, and less red tape around moving on in the event things are not working out.
Offloading Some of the Work – ($5k-$15k/mo)
The next level up on any small business marketing consultant’s rate sheet will be some level of adding day-to-day responsibilities on top of the basic monthly consulting services. For small business or marketing teams that do not have enough human resources, or capabilities to manage some of the activities that go along with running a more complete inbound marketing strategy, a good way to utilize the consultants is to allow them to manage some of the tasks that they specialize in such as content creation for the the blog and email campaigns, creating workflows or nurture streams for campaigns on your marketing automation platforms, graphic design for various assets needed in your campaigns, and so on.
By offloading some of these responsibilities onto your consultant, your team is freed up to do what you do best, which is focus on the strategy specific to your business, and avoid the pain of trying to create your own internal marketing agency. When you’re focused on the strategy, your team’s energy is better spent doing whatever your company is best at, and not struggling to juggle both existing responsibilities and adding additional responsibilities on top of that.
Fully Outsourced Marketing Consulting – ($15k+/mo)
In the case of some of our clients, and an increasing number of companies we’re seeing jumping into the inbound marketing methodology, some companies are realizing that you can no longer compete at a high level in today’s economy without a serious commitment to marketing. Those companies are now finding that by hiring a full service marketing consultant can mean quickly scaling up their company’s capabilities online without the risk of hiring on a full team of people individually.
When considering this option it’s very important for stakeholders to understand how much work really goes into outsourcing an entire department of the business to a consultant. A good consultant will be providing CMO-level strategy and leadership, project management services, content creation, SEO, social media management, business process planning, sales and marketing alignment, and intimately learning your business and how it works. This kind of commitment is a large effort for any team, and should not be trusted to a team that does not have a proven track record in all facets of their responsibilities.
This means, getting strong referrals from partners, and trusted industry network connections that you can trust your entire business with. Doing the same due-diligence you would if you were to hire an accounting firm to manage your company’s finances, or hiring a solution provider to migrate your entire company into the cloud.
Cost Benefit of a Consultant Versus Hiring In-House
As mentioned above, the cost of hiring a marketing consultant, or agency will vary based on the amount of work required to create and execute a strategy that meets the needs of your company. However, hiring in-house to cover those needs is a bit more cut and dry, as we have a lot more readily available data on what it costs to hire full-time marketing positions, and we can reasonably assign a skill level and expectations for time commitments to that number.
Let’s assume you’re a small business (generally defined as under $50M in revenue per year), and your new goals and strategies will require you to:
- Create a full inbound marketing strategy
- Create 8 pieces of content per month for the blog
- SEO everything you’re publishing on the blog to fit your keyword strategy
- Increase your monthly email campaigns to include typical marketing automation nurture campaigns
- Create 1 new premium lead generation content offer per quarter
- Properly manage the increased flow of new leads into appropriate sales buckets
- Increase your social media presence by doubling the output of content and customer interactions
These are some basic activities that all marketing teams identify as key objectives when implementing an inbound marketing strategy, and often these are either added to an existing team’s already busy schedules, or used as grounds for hiring on additional team members.
The average salary for a college-educated marketing specialist that should be capable of implementing these kinds of processes with little to no training, ranges between $42k and $65k, assuming they’re not already being offered more by another company that’s also trying to woo them. Let’s say you have a really cool vacation package, and enough free snacks, coffee, and perks to land someone capable of all this for $50k/yr + benefits.
Benefits are generally an additional 30% of the new hire’s salary, and must be considered a limited resource, as you can only ask that person to work as many hours as one person can handle in a week.
$50k + (50k * .30) = $65k/yr
divide that out per month
$65k / 12 months = $5.4k/mo
So for $5.4k/mo you have 1 incredible marketing powerhouse who may have a couple of years of experience running inbound marketing campaigns, and will be doing the job of 3-4 experts you would have if you were to hire a small business marketing consultant or agency. What are the odds of finding someone like that for $50k per year? ……. I’ll give you a hint:
Now don’t get me wrong, we always encourage our clients to do as much as they can in-house, but we also want everyone to be realistic about what your team is capable of doing well, and what types of marketing can be done by guns for hire. Building emails, optimizing content, creating data-driven content strategies, implementing marketing automation solutions, etc may not be core strengths of your team, which is when you want to weigh the costs of doing it yourself versus hiring a small business marketing consultant.
How to Find a Small Business Marketing Consultant
Once you know what level of consulting your company needs, and have identified where your team could use additional help, it’s important to find qualified consultants that meet those needs. There are a number of ways to find the right consultant.
- Referrals – Talk to your network about consultants they’ve used and look for someone who has worked with a company similar to yours in scale and objectives. Referrals will tell you whether a consultant can follow through with all the promises they will make, and give you a quick list of candidates to work off of.
- Marketing Software Partner Databases – If you’re looking to utilize a marketing automation tool like HubSpot or Marketo, ask for referrals from your contacts at those companies, or scour their Partner Agency boards for companies that fit your needs. Generally, you’re going to find committed agencies with good relationships with the solution you want already, so you’re not working with a team that’s learning beside you as you ramp up on a new technology.
- Google Searches – When you’re looking for a marketing consultant, why not use the same technological devices they’re going to sell you to find them in the first place? By searching keywords like “inbound marketing consultant” or “small business marketing consultant” and adding in other longtails like location or industry, you’re going to see which consultants are practicing what they preach. If you can’t easily find a marketing consultant through search engines, there’s a good chance they’re not going to help your potential customers find you anyway. Be sure to add your locality to the search for results nearby.
- Customer Review Sites – As sites like Yelp are now allowing consumers and company stakeholders to freely review companies with marketing services, we’re beginning to see a boom in the importance of maintaining a high level of customer service from marketing consultants that used to be able to hide from unsuccessful engagements in the past. As the business world grows smaller by shifting online, we’re able to quickly find reviews and testimonials not hand-picked by the companies themselves for the proud displaying on their own sites. Use these reviews to gage a consultant’s commitment to clients, and leave feedback for the one’s you work with to help new clients find them faster.
Is the majority of this article as self-serving for Big Presence as it is informative for the marketing professionals reading it? Ya of course it is, this is the Big Presence blog.
But everyone on the Big Presence Team has spent time on your side of the fence as well, and the same reasons we give our clients for hiring small business marketing consultants like ourselves are the reasons we saw a need for an agency like ours to provide services to marketing teams that do not have the budget to become an agency within a company. The real value of hiring a small business marketing consultant (or agency) is being able to pay a flat monthly cost for years of specialized experience, strategies, research, methodologies, training, and the strength of having an entire team in place of 1 or 2 additional full-time employees.
Every company’s budget varies, but the need to get the most of that budget is the same for everyone, so be thorough, take a long look in the mirror at your company, and find the right team the first time so your money is well spent.