Why Hire Marketing Consultants for Small Business? Pros and Cons

Written by Peter Keszegh

It almost seems like everyone and their mother has their own small business nowadays – today’s ever-evolving market landscape made it possible for aspiring small business owners to show the world what they had to offer. But how can you make sure you stand out? Who can you ask for help on setting yourself apart?

This is where marketing consultants come in, as they can help small business owners make smarter decisions. In this article, we’ll talk about how marketing consultants for small business owners might be helpful for you, and what steps you can take in fostering a good working relationship with them.

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What are marketing consultants?

Marketing consultants for small businesses are professional advisors who can help you with your marketing strategies to make them more effective. For instance, if you need to boost sales or site traffic but you’re not sure how to get there, you might find it useful to seek advice from a marketing consultant.

You can ask for advice from marketing consultants on various concerns, which range from digital marketing and SEO to traditional advertising and brand strategy.

What’s great about marketing consultants is that they’ll do their best to meet you where you are – they’ll tailor their strategies to make sure they align with your business vision and goals. It’s also great to hear a second opinion from a professional when you need a fresh perspective on how to manage your business.

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Why hire a small business marketing consultant?

Let’s take a look into the reasons why hiring small business marketing consultants would be a good fit for you.

You may consider hiring a marketing consultant if:

You need specialized expertise and insights

If you run into issues in your business that you can’t seem to manage by yourself, you’ll want to make sure you consult an expert. Marketing consultants often have a wealth of knowledge from working with businesses from different industries, so they have a good understanding of best practices and emerging trends.

Marketing consultants can help you also identify untapped opportunities or relevant markets that you haven’t already explored. They also make decisions backed by data and evidence that prove their strategies are effective.

You need flexible and customized solutions

Larger marketing firms usually stick to more rigid, one-size-fits-all approaches. Marketing consultants for small business owners are more flexible and can develop customized solutions that are better for your specific needs and goals.

This kind of flexibility also means that they’re quicker to respond to market shifts and customer feedback, which will help keep your small business ahead of the game.

You need cost-effective solutions

Especially for a small business, hiring a marketing consultant may be more cost-effective than consulting a full-time marketing professional or an entire team.

Hiring full-time marketing professionals means you’ll have to deal with overhead costs such as their benefits, their office space, and ongoing training their firms invest in.

You need a fresh perspective

Because of their expertise, marketing consultants can bring new ideas to the table that you and your team might not have already explored. These kinds of insights from an external partner are helpful if you need an unbiased opinion.

You need a strategic partnership for growth

Marketing consultants serve as strategic partners for small businesses. Not only do they focus on your short-term needs, they make sure their strategies and recommendations take your long-term vision and goals into consideration.

They’ll work closely with you to establish long-term goals, making sure your business stays relevant and resilient amid market instabilities.

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Marketing consultants vs. digital marketing agencies

You might be wondering whether there’s a difference between hiring a single marketing consultant or working with a larger marketing agency. Here are some of the things you’ll have to consider:

Understanding marketing consultants

As mentioned earlier, marketing consultants can provide tailored and personalized solutions to address your business needs. They often have their own niches as well, depending on their areas of expertise – for instance, some marketing consultants are good with social media, while others are good with branding.

However, you’ll have to consider that hiring a single marketing consultant isn’t suitable for full-scale execution or major projects. Marketing consultants are better for strategic planning on smaller-scale projects.

Understanding digital marketing agencies

Bigger digital marketing agencies boast a wide range of services, as their team members specialize in different areas relevant to all kinds of businesses. This means you’ll have many resources at your disposal when it comes to consulting.

But agencies might not be able to offer personalized strategies because of their broad client base and standardized internal protocols. They’ll also come at a higher price point compared to individual marketing consultants.

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Risks of hiring small business marketing consultants

Marketing consultants aren’t magicians, and they’re not perfect. If you do choose to hire a small business marketing consultant, here are some things you need to be aware of:

Potential for misalignment

Marketing consultants should be able to meet you where you are, but that’s easier said than done. There’s a chance that marketing consultants for small business owners may not fully understand your business vision and core values, which might result in them recommending strategies that don’t resonate with you.

It’s important that you make sure you communicate your long-term vision for your business with marketing consultants, so that they get a better understanding of what you want to achieve. They’ll then be able to recommend strategies that are more sustainable for long-term growth.

Dependence on external expertise

You don’t want to rely too much on your marketing consultant for advice. If you always depend on your marketing consultant for business strategies and insights, this could hamper you and your team’s ability to develop your own smarts and capabilities.

If you’re hiring a marketing consultant for a limited period of time, make sure to discuss how you can ensure their strategies will be sustainable for your business in the long-term, especially if your internal team still lacks training.

Varied quality and results

Not all marketing consultants are built the same. The quality of marketing consultants and their work may vary, which means that not all consultants will be able to deliver on their promises or meet your expectations.

It’s important to measure how effective your marketing consultant’s strategies are on your business’ growth, so you can address inadequacies as soon as possible.

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Choosing the right small business marketing consultant

You want to make sure your marketing consultant is a good fit for you, your business, and your overall goals and vision. Finding the right marketing consultant for small business owners ensures that you stay on the same page, and that things will go smoothly from there.

Here are some steps you can take to find the right marketing consultant for small businesses:

Assess your marketing needs

You need to identify what exactly it is your business needs, so that you’ll know exactly what you’re looking for in a marketing consultant. Do you need help in boosting brand awareness? Do you need more leads? Do you need to improve your online presence?

Once you’ve gotten all that down, you can set concrete, actionable objectives, which will make it easier to find the right marketing consultant that can help you with your problems.

Research on potential consultants

Do your homework! When looking up potential marketing consultants, make sure to check their past work or clients – that’ll give you a better idea of their specific expertise and which areas of marketing they specialize in. For instance, if you need help with digital marketing, get a consultant who’s a digital marketing expert.

You can look for potential consultants by asking for referrals from some of your trusted business contacts, or by crowdsourcing in networking events or online communities.

Check references and reviews

When you’re doing your research, exercise due diligence and check what former clients or other people have to say about your potential consultants. Read reviews and ask your professional connections if they have experience working with marketing consultants, and if they can refer you to the ones who fit you best.

Conduct interviews and consultations

Don’t be afraid to reach out to potential consultants and ask them a few questions. Prepare a list of discussion points that you’d like to cover when you connect with marketing consultants, so you can make a more informed decision before you decide on a final marketing consultant for your business.

Ask yourself what your non-negotiables and negotiables are, and evaluate potential consultants based on these criteria.

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Hiring marketing consultants for small business owners

If you’ve found a marketing consultant who seems like a great fit for your business and is available to help you out, then the next step would be to formalize your working agreement.

Here’s how you can go about hiring marketing consultants for small business owners:

Initial agreement and negotiation

Lay everything down so each party knows what’s expected of them. Discuss payment terms, timelines and deliverables, work schedules and overall availability, etc. Be specific, too, about the scope of work, and outline the exact tasks and projects you’ll be handling together.

Drafting a contract

Here’s where you’ll be putting everything in writing. Write down all the specific details of the working arrangement such as the duration of the project, compensation, etc. You can ask a legal expert to review your contract to make sure you’re complying with standard legal regulations.

Setting up communication and reporting protocols

Agree on communication channels and the frequency which you’ll be needing to update each other on relevant tasks. Will you be meeting in person every now and then, or will video calls or email threads suffice? Do you prefer daily, weekly, or monthly updates?

You should also establish clear key performance indicators (KPIs) from the get-go, so that it’s easy to report on and monitor progress. Establishing clear communication and reporting protocols will make it easier for all parties to stay updated.

Onboarding and integration

Of course, make sure to introduce your marketing consultant to the rest of your team and make them feel welcome. Provide opportunities for your consultant and your team to work together, share resources, and undergo necessary training.

Managing the partnership

Schedule regular check-ins and meetings with your marketing consultant to ensure that everyone is aligned on strategies and deliverables. Make sure you have structures in place for each party to provide feedback, so that you can quickly and easily adapt whenever there’s room for improvement.

Evaluating performance and ROI

Go back to your KPIs every now and then to track how effective your partnership with your marketing consultant is. It’s also helpful to set meetings for regular performance reviews.

Planning for the future

Once the contract with your marketing consultant ends, make sure you document everything necessary for turning over relevant strategies, knowledge, and workflows for future reference. 

If everything goes well with your marketing consultant, you might also want to consider engaging with them long-term even after your project is completed.

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Marketing consultants in the digital age

The widespread use of social media and new technologies changed the game for small businesses everywhere. If you’re still not sure how you can make the most out of digital tools in your small business, here’s how marketing consultants can help you:

Adapt to digital marketing trends

You’ll need to stay updated with everything digital marketing if you don’t want to fall behind.

For instance, if you’re having trouble with how to advertise across various social media platforms, consider hiring a consultant who knows how to tweak your business’ voice and branding on different social media accounts.

If you need help getting more traffic on your website, reach out to a consultant with a background in SEO.

Using digital tools and analytics

You’ll likely be keeping a lot of databases for various things, such as product inventories, lists of suppliers, customer information, and more. Your consultant can help you use digital tools like Zoho to make it easier to store and navigate large databases relevant to your business.

Analytics are everything, too – marketing consultants can help you look into the nitty gritty of business analytics to help you make data-driven decisions. For instance, if the data shows that your products are especially popular with a certain age range, they can suggest strategies for you to capture that market.

Boosting online presence

Every single business can be found online, so it’s important that your business has an online presence to meet customers where they are. If you’re struggling with getting followers or traction online, your marketing consultant can help you put yourself out there to gain more potential customers.

Marketing consultants with backgrounds in social media management can also help you craft comprehensive social media strategies that focus not just on promotion, but on engaging with online communities as well.

Digital branding and reputation management

Businesses with strong digital branding can easily capture audiences online. You can work with a marketing consultant with a background in brand strategy to help create a distinct name and look for yourself, so that it’s easier to attract the attention of potential customers online.

It’s also important to make sure your business has a good reputation, so it’s important that you and your marketing consultant discuss how to engage with online feedback and reviews.

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Developing marketing strategies with consultants

Thinking about the concrete steps you’ll have to take once you sit down with your marketing consultant? Here’s what you can do when it’s time to develop marketing strategies together:

Establish clear business objectives

From the very beginning, you should make it clear with your consultant what you plan to achieve with your new marketing strategies. Do you want to appeal to a wider customer base? Do you want to penetrate new social media platforms? Do you want to ramp up sales for your new product or service?

Establishing these goals early on will allow you to tailor your marketing strategies as needed, to achieve those business objectives.

Conduct market research

What are your competitors doing that you can learn from, or what are they doing that you can do differently? You have to know who you’re up against, and your marketing consultant can help you with market research to figure out how your business can stand out.

Your marketing consultant can also help identify emerging market trends that you can ride on, so that your business stays agile and relevant.

Define your target audience

Who exactly do you want to reach out to? Who will benefit the most from your product or service? What kinds of customers are likely to stay loyal to your business?

Your marketing consultant can help you narrow down specific customer segments relevant to your business, so that you can focus your marketing efforts towards the audiences that matter.

Set KPIs

So you’ve established your business objectives, done enough research on the market, and found your target audience. Now it’s time to make sure you and your marketing consultant set clear key performance indicators (KPIs) that will help you assess whether or not your marketing efforts are paying off.

Make sure your KPIs are specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound (SMART), to make it easier to evaluate your performance based on quantifiable evidence.

Formulate your strategy

Here we go! This is the part where you talk about the meat of your strategy, such as brand messaging, content, marketing channels, and more. Make sure that your marketing efforts not only align with your core values and beliefs, but that they resonate with your target audiences as well.

Identify the channels and platforms where your target audience is most active, and make sure to work your strategy around these. For instance, if your target audience is active on TikTok, it would be wise if you shift your promotional strategy and consider creating more TikTok content.

Allocate budget and resources

It’s nice to let your imagination run wild, but remember that you’re working with a limited budget and limited resources. Make sure your plans are feasible and don’t overwhelm your resources and finances.

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Case studies with small business marketing consultants

To make it easier to understand how marketing consultants can help small business owners, here are some case studies of hypothetical businesses who sought advice from consultants on a wide range of problems:

Small Business A: Digital transformation success

The owners of Small Business A had a difficult time adapting to digital trends, and therefore had a difficult time attracting customers online. They hired a marketing consultant with a strong background in digital marketing to help them boost their online presence. 

The marketing consultant created a comprehensive digital marketing strategy, where they recommended an overall revamp of the business’s digital branding, migrating to popular platforms to sell their products, and using digital analytics to measure how well their marketing efforts were paying off.

This allowed Small Business A to develop a strong branding that was popular with social media users online. Their products were now available on popular e-commerce platforms that were more accessible to online shoppers, and digital analytics allowed them to make smarter data-driven decisions.

Small Business B: Overcoming market entry

The owners of Small Business B planned to launch a new, innovative product, but lacked a good understanding of the market and their competitors – this meant they couldn’t come up with a strategic way to advertise their product or position themselves in the market.

They tapped a marketing consultant to help them conduct thorough market research they needed to rethink their marketing strategies. The marketing consultant was able to identify gaps in the market that Small Business B’s product could fill, allowing them to capitalize on that in their marketing strategies.

This empowered Small Business B to center their marketing efforts on their competitive edge, allowing them to attract various customers and boost their revenue.

Small Business C: Rebranding for growth

Small Business C was once well-known for its popular products, but they’ve since experienced a decline in revenue and customer retention after their overall branding became outdated.

The owners of Small Business C worked with a marketing consultant who’s helped multiple businesses rebrand to capture new markets. The consultant worked closely with the owners to identify their brand identity and their communication strategy goals, and helped develop a distinct voice they could call their own.

Once Small Business C found the brand voice and image that resonated with their core values as well as their target markets, they were able to attract new customer segments and see their revenues rise again.

Small Business D: Making operations efficient

Small Business D specializes in food products, but its owners have trouble keeping up with their regular operations and managing their resources. This leads to wasted resources, which means the owners have been spending more money than what they’ve been earning.

The owners of Small Business D tapped a marketing consultant to help streamline their daily operations to make sure they’re using their resources efficiently. The marketing consultant helped identify operational bottlenecks and set up solutions on how to enhance team productivity and make processes more efficient.

The marketing consultant’s strategies proved to be useful for Small Business D, which stopped wasting resources unnecessarily and made the most out of their expenses and their production.

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Marketing consultants for small business owners: Takeaways

Today’s business landscape may be a bit daunting for small business owners, but don’t be afraid to ask for help from experts when your business needs a little push and some improvement here and there. 

There are many benefits to hiring marketing consultants for small business owners, and if you take the right steps in finding the best consultant for you and in crafting a strategy that resonates with your business and target market, then you’ll be on your way to success in no time.

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