Why hire an online marketing consultant? 

Simply put, a B2B digital marketing consultant helps you position your business online to attract the right prospects. The aim is to give you an advantage over your competitors to deliver an increased client base, revenue and profits. 

A B2B digital marketing consultant helps you position your business online to attract the right prospects. The aim is to give you an advantage over your competitors to deliver an increased client base, revenue and profits.

Digital marketing consultants help businesses optimise their online presence and marketing activity to deliver on both business and revenue goals. They offer digital marketing services that help you position competitively online so that you have a better-than-even chance of attracting the right prospects and customers, and closing more deals than your competitors.

The marketing consulting services a B2B digital marketing consultant can provide are wide and varied and may include:

  • brand and marketing strategy
  • campaign management and budgeting
  • content marketing strategy
  • service and target market strategy
  • SEO
  • Google Ads management
  • …And, often much more

Changes in B2B buyer behaviour are driving up the demand for digital marketing consultants

The reason for the rise in demand for online or digital marketing consultants is a change in the B2B buying process. This now predominantly starts, and increasingly finishes, online  — even for complex or high-ticket business and industrial purchases. 

The ongoing rise in demand is driven by the fact that modern B2B buyers are researching and making their decisions online well before they engage with an organisation, vendor or brand. This means your digital marketing consultant must ensure you can be found and be considered relevant by the people you want to do business with. 

The 7 core skills of online marketing consultants 

Yes, your average digital marketing consultant can help you with marketing tips, talk to you about inbound marketing, help you make sense of search engines and clarify your target audience. However, what most business owners are actually looking for is someone who can help increase sales and get more leads. Someone who has up-to-date knowledge and quickly understands your business, your customers and your challenges.

If you’re looking to strengthen your marketing efforts, consider the 7 key services areas that online marketing consultants cover.
(Note: I’ve listed these in the order a comprehensive marketing strategy and action plan would be undertaken, but you can hire a consultant anywhere along the process.)

  1. Market research
  2. Digital marketing strategy
  3. Digital marketing plan
  4. Digital marketing management 
  5. Specialist digital marketing services – SEO | paid ads traffic | email marketing | LinkedIn | marketing automation | marketing technology advisory
  6. Digital marketing campaign analysis | optimisation and reporting 

1. Market Research or Marketing Audit

Market Research

Digital marketing consultants that offer services including market research will help you uncover how you can beat your competition. Generating marketing insight through research and understanding the drivers of both your current target audience and prospective customers and competitors is key to out-positioning your competitors.

Digital marketers need to be big on both quantitative and qualitative research to make the right decisions in the strategic, planning and implementation phases of the marketing journey. Sadly, it’s a job that is often ignored or overlooked by marketing managers, who, without good insight, could be wasting money on the wrong content, wrong initiatives and the wrong target audience.

Good market research and insight also help marketing professionals understand the competitive marketing environment, the potential of new products or services and if those services have the right market fit. 

Research can also assist consultants to understand how your marketing message is perceived and if the brand message needs to be changed either in response to competitor activity or purely the wrong client perception of your brand. All this is critical if your digital marketing is going to work!

The Digital Marketing Audit

One of the key things a digital marketing consultant is often hired to do is carry out a peer review or audit the existing marketing strategy or activity. 

Often CEOs like to engage a fresh set of professional eyes to identify missed opportunities or even deficiencies in the current marketing strategy and action plan. Typically this audit is for all online activity, but it can also be for elements like SEO or Google Adwords (now Google Ads). 

2. Digital Marketing Strategy 

With digital marketing moving so quickly, in-house marketing managers have it tough. They are always hands on the wheel, delivering what is essential to keep things ticking over. This doesn’t leave a lot of time for developing smart marketing strategies.

Busy company CEOs and marketers often call on consultants to help develop their marketing strategy. Following market research this is typically done through a mix of stakeholder consultation with management and internal teams, and talking to customers. 

Within the marketing strategy, the consultant will work to refine service strategy, target audience strategy, marketing channels and promotional strategies. 

Beyond the brand, marketing strategy is the highest level document that drives the direction of the marketing activity and aligns that activity to business goals and objectives. 

3. Digital Marketing Plan

Once the business and marketing strategies have been developed, the marketing consultant can draw from these to develop a plan of action for the development of marketing campaigns.

Marketing plans typically outline marketing activities and campaigns for a 12-month period. These are set to a specified marketing budget and designed to achieve target marketing objectives and goals like website traffic growth, a certain number of generated leads or growth in brand awareness.

The marketing plan details the allocation and planning for things like Google Ads, LinkedIn adverts, SEO and email marketing. It also contains the planning for all the content creation (like video, ebooks, whitepapers etc). This is the meat of the plan.

Marketing Campaigns and Marketing Routines 

Marketing plans often consist of two core elements:

  • marketing campaigns
  • marketing routines 

Marketing campaigns are usually run for a quarter (three months) or less. They are marketing initiatives that have a targeted goal (e.g. generating $1M worth of qualified leads from the Australian mining sector).

Marketing routines are planned monthly or quarterly but happen throughout the year, regardless of what campaigns are running. These might include things like a regular monthly newsletter, ongoing Google Ads, a monthly blog, SEO checks, regular weekly social posting. Marketing routines provide the consistency that keeps your brand in front of prospects and customers. 

Marketing Plan Timeframes – 12 months or 3 months?

These days, 12 months is a long time for a marketing plan. The chances of it becoming redundant in a fast-changing world are high; you only have to consider what we’ve all been through during 2020 and 2021.  

The current trend is to plan and work toward quarterly campaigns with KPIs set around a focus for the upcoming quarter. This allows for tighter control and planning and means you can set a broad 12-month agenda but hyperfocus on the 3 months ahead of you.

4. Marketing Management 

Marketing management is just that: managing it all. Marketing management requires good project management and the need to manage varying digital channels to ensure the business’s digital footprint is spot on.

This role includes:

  • managing campaign implementation
  • overseeing any external designers, developers or specialists commissioned either by you or your digital marketing consultant
  • measuring, optimising and delivering results based on your business objectives. 

If you have an internal marketing manager, the consultant may be given the task of running a specific campaign. If you don’t have a marketing manager on board, the consultant can often undertake and manage the entire marketing function as part of an outsourced marketing arrangement. 

5. Specialist Digital Marketing Services

You can also engage digital marketers who specialise in a particular area. Marketing specialities come in a range of shapes and sizes to suit all businesses from start-ups, small to medium businesses and large organisations. 

Hiring a specialist will help you or your marketing manager fill a technical gap that you don’t have in-house. 

Most individual ‘generalist’ marketers also have a speciality in a specific area like:

  • marketing strategy
  • business strategy
  • search engine marketing (SEM)
  • search engine optimisation (SEO)
  • Google Ads
  • LinkedIn
  • email marketing
  • public relations
  • small business marketing
  • traditional marketing (like print)
  • social media marketing

The emergence of specialist marketers with expertise in marketing technology (martech) signifies the rising importance of technology in digital marketing. 

Consultants with a specialisation in marketing tech are in high demand because marketing AI, CRMs, marketing automation, social media automation and sales enablement technology all play a pivotal role in ensuring progressive B2B organisations stay relevant.

Note: The concept of the T-shaped marketer is worth checking out. It outlines the value of having a marketer with a basic knowledge of the foundational marketing skills, plus one or more main areas of specialisation.

6. Digital Marketing Campaign Analysis | Optimisation and Reporting

There is nowhere to hide with digital marketing. Almost everything is measurable, and what can be measured can be managed. So the modern consultant needs to be as analytical, creative and pragmatic as they are intuitive. 

From keyword research to analysing a blog post, reviewing Google Ads or Facebook ads campaigns, interrogating social media campaigns or auditing social media accounts—the numbers don’t lie and they need to be used.

With the analysis, improvement and measurement of results, you can set KPIs such as traffic, clicks, leads or more revenue. These, in turn, drive measures such as ROI or ROAS (return on ad spend), and all these analytics help both you as a client and the marketing consultant hone future marketing activity, gauge success or failure and move quickly when needed. 

If the consultant is acting as your outsourced marketing manager, campaign analysis, optimisation and reporting will (or should) be a critical core component of the service offering. This will allow progress, ROI and optimisation of campaigns to be consistently undertaken—on a daily basis if needed. 

The great news is that digital consultants can be engaged exclusively to set up or analyse and optimise the campaigns you want to run or any internally managed campaigns that are already live. Like an auditor, they can provide peer review to help internal marketing or junior marketing staff and offer coaching and mentoring services to upskill internal staff. 

Two types of digital marketing consultants

Consultants come in many shapes and sizes and with varying degrees of skills, experience and specialisations, but they typically fall into 2 main categories: generalists and specialists.

A generalist digital marketing consultant can do it all. They can replace or take some load off an internal marketing manager or provide an outsourced part-time option. A specialist digital marketing consultant on the other hand is someone who is brought in for a specific skill and is more likely to be employed to cover gaps in the marketing team’s knowledge.  

Which marketer is best for you? 

The type of consultant you need depends on your business requirements, the type of clients you are after and the gaps in your current team’s knowledge. 

The general revenue growth needs and target customers of small business owners will be dramatically different to the CEO of a medium-sized industrial firm. Thankfully, you can hire a marketing professional who is either a generalist or a specialist. 

Generalists are usually employed by small business owners or overworked marketing managers. Specialists are used for their deep skills in a particular area and to do a specific job. 

The generalist digital marketing consultant

The generalist has done it all. Think Experienced Marketing Manager or Chief Marketing Officer (CMO).

A generalist digital consultant has a broad range of skills from marketing strategy to management. They have typically spent time working as a marketing manager for a B2B business and have had exposure to many different platforms. They’ve created digital marketing strategies and brand strategies and have built social media strategies from the ground up. They have got their hands dirty doing SEO and online ads and know how to run the whole show if they have to.

The generalist has implemented marketing strategies, managed a marketing team, and managed or overseen B2B marketing campaigns. Generalist marketing consultants also have experience in marketing planning and have been employed by a client because of their digital marketing performance. 

The specialist digital marketing consultant

These marketers have a deep understanding of a particular area of online marketing. Two key areas of specialisation are SEO and paid ads, but there are many more.

Specialisation is wide and varied and a consultant can often have 2 or 3 areas of specialisation, but marketing is moving too fast to effectively specialise in more areas than this.

Typical specialisations include:

  • digital strategy
  • online campaign management
  • SEO
  • SEM/aid traffic (e.g. LinkedIn ads, Google Ads, Facebook ads)
  • website optimisation
  • lead generation
  • social media
  • content writing

There are many more, so you can rest assured if you have a need in a niche area, there will be a professional who can help you out.

Hiring a digital marketing consultant by project or by retainer 

Two ways to hire an online marketing consultant are by project or via a retainer to deliver ongoing services. 

Project-based hiring of digital marketing professionals

Hire on a project basis if you need to get a specific task done that is time-dependent and has set variables. 

If you need a campaign set up and managed for the next quarter, scope it and hire for the project. If you require an audit of your website or a plan to create more traffic, hire on these deliverables as a project. 

Hiring by project is a great way to get particular jobs done, especially if you are using specialist marketers to achieve discrete tasks. 

Retainer-based hiring of digital marketing professionals

Retainer-based marketing consultant hiring is generally adopted for a longer-term. A retainer relationship is where the marketer is hired for a term based on a set monthly or quarterly fee. Retainer contract agreements are usually for 12 months or more.

A retainer relationship allows clients and consultants to develop a scope and plan around the business and marketing goals of the business over a longer term. Rather than focus on the immediate ‘jobs to be done’, the retainer relationship focuses more on developing strategy and an action plan to grow the business over a 12–24 month period. 

Retainer relationships work when there is both trust and a clear, shared objective between the client and the consultant. 

Consultants on retainers often provide generalist services as an outsourced marketing function of a business, ongoing overflow capacity to an overworked marketing team or are retained for specialist services delivered either directly to the CEO or to the marketing manager or director. 

Specialist marketers are often retained for ongoing management of a key skill area such as SEO, Google Ads management or social media marketing.

Things to look for when hiring a digital marketing consultant

Do you believe your prospective consultant when they say they can generate leads and grow sales? 

Whether your marketing consulting needs are short or long term, there are certain signs you’re dealing with a marketing consulting partner that is worth taking on.  Here are a few questions you can ask to make sure you’re speaking to the right person. 

Have they worked with clients as a marketing manager?

Client-side experience as a marketing manager is a great training ground for success as a marketing consultant. Having lived and breathed marketing for an organisation, it is the best place to learn the ropes and get it right. If your consultant has had experience managing a marketing team, even better. 

Do they have reference clients? 

Are there clients that you can speak to who have benefited from the consultant’s marketing advice?  Like hiring any consultant, speaking to your consultant’s past clients and their marketing team is a great way of getting third-party insight into the consultant you are about to hire. 

Do they have marketing certifications, qualifications or professional training? 

In addition to certifications and training, are they keeping up to date with what is happening in the digital marketing space? Are they a member of any organisations or associations?

Do they work alone or as a part of a team? 

Understanding whether you are talking to the person who is going to be doing the work is important. If the work is going to be taken on by your consultant and their team, you might wish to meet the rest of the team. 

Do they have a network of experts they can call on if need be? 

While not critical, it is handy if the marketing professional has a network of trusted specialists they can call on. Being able to convert plans into action quickly, with trusted hands, is a luxury that you want if you can get it. 

B2B marketing in constant evolution

One thing is for certain, digital marketing is an increasingly critical skill set that every business needs and it’s constantly changing and evolving. 

Finding a smart online consultant who can support your marketing team or take on an aspect (or all) of your digital marketing is something every business needs to consider at some point in time. With the world moving and changing at pace, this point in time is often a lot closer for many businesses than they realise.