Don't Hire a Marketing Consultant Without Asking These Questions First
Over 3.5 billion people are on the Internet daily. Obviously, any business that wants to capture a healthy market share will have to have a strong digital marketing campaign.
Startup entrepreneurs are usually tasked with their own digital marketing, because they are, well, startups, and funds are short. As that business grows, though, and looks to expand its customer base, marketing expertise will be necessary. And it may make sense to contract a digital marketing consultant rather than employ one full time.
The question becomes: How does a business owner, who is not a marketer, go about interviewing potential digital marketing consultants and making the right choice? After all, these people are good at doing the "sales talk", but you will want to look beyond just that.
A disclaimer, before we dive in: I am a marketing consultant at a digital agency. Just so you know.
Your Pre-Interview Tasks
A marketing pro will want to understand your business model and your goals. Get these into a written document so that you can present it to any consultant you plan to have an interview conversation with.
Look for referrals from among related businesses that are similar in size and whose owners you trust.
Contact 3-4 consultants from referrals and/or from your own research - those with a successful track record in your niche.
The Top Three Interview Questions
You will want to generate a list of questions. Here are three "must haves" that will give you insight into skill/expertise and knowledge levels.
1. How do you use analytics in developing and evaluating marketing initiatives?
You may not understand data analytics or how data is analyzed and used to drive marketing decisions. So, you may not understand everything that is said in this answer.
What you are looking for in an answer is ease of communicating to you the "what" and "how" of data analytics, perhaps specific tools that the consultant would use, and the kinds of information the consultant will be looking for as she develops a marketing strategy for you.
2. Based upon your past successes, what content channels do you believe will be the most effective for my business and how will you coordinate them?
Here, you will want an organized answer that includes all of the following:
Determining existing and potential audience demographics and when and where those demographics are online.
Evaluating effectiveness of current channels (social media, SEO, email, etc.) and finding new options to engage current customers and attract new audiences.
Methods of improving your branding, including consistency.
Enhancing audience engagement and interaction.
Coordination of content channels (blog, website, social media, SEO) to ensure consistency of messaging and search engine friendliness.
Management of such things as mobile and local marketing (if relevant).
3. How do you differentiate between strategies and tactics? Give me an example.
Unfortunately, many marketing consultants do not have this distinction clear in their own heads. According to Dariaus Philson, CEO of SerpAlliance, the answer should be something like:
"A strategy is based upon a goal and a plan of action. A goal may be to increase engagement and conversion rates. This goal may be broken down into KPI's (key performance indicators), such as an increase in conversion rates by 15 percent over the next 12 months. This really is the 'why' of a marketing campaign. Tactics are marketing activities designed to achieve that target goal. These may include such things as new email campaigns, more exciting social media content, targeted advertising, and such. This is the 'how' aspect of marketing campaigns."
Look for overall confidence, detail, and a sense that the candidate has comfort with your niche.
Originally published Jun 27, 2017 on Inc.com