Should I Hire a Business Consultant or a Marketing Consultant?
Explore the differences between business consultants and marketing consultants, what their key strengths are, and learn when you might need one or the other.
Businesses, and especially small businesses and those just getting started, can’t possibly have all of the expertise they need in-house already. Additionally, many small businesses won’t have the infrastructure or processes established that may be required for some important functions, including marketing.
The obvious solution, then, will probably be to consider hiring a consultant. But this creates another question—should you hire a business consultant, or is a marketing consultant the right choice? Here we’ll look at the differences between the two, what some of the strengths are of each of them, and some examples of when each type of consultant makes the most sense for your company.
What Does a Business Consultant Do?
First off, let’s take a look at what a business consultant offers to small companies and organizations. Just like any consultant, a business consultant brings expertise, advice, guidance, and education in their area or areas of knowledge. You can probably already name a few of the specialized consultant examples; human resources, accounting, technology and IT, and planning/strategy are just a few types of consultants that companies often hire. Business consultants may also operate within consulting firms, which give you access to multiple experts under one roof.
Business consultants almost certainly bring a fresh perspective to your organization and can help you identify problems and solutions, as well as areas for growth or improvement. Entrepreneurs and small business owners often hire business consultants or consulting firms to help them establish everything from organizational structure to hiring and onboarding practices, communications strategies, and so on.
That fresh perspective extends beyond small businesses, though, to even the largest established firms and companies. When companies are looking to expand, or they are seeing a significant reduction in business results, or perhaps noticing that something within the business isn’t working, consultants are able to take a wide-field view of the organization and help to identify solutions and create plans that will make achieving business goals possible.
What Do Marketing Consultants Provide?
As the name would suggest, marketing consultants provide you with advice and expert guidance, but specifically within the various fields and functions of marketing. For example, marketing consultants are often experts in one or more areas of digital marketing, including SEO, content marketing, lead generation, website design, and other areas. Many marketing consulting services also focus on marketing tactics, market research, marketing strategy and campaign development, and analysis of metrics or KPIs.
Experienced and knowledgeable marketing consultants often have backgrounds working with advertising and marketing agencies in their career, or with in-house marketing departments. As a general rule, marketing consultants have spent time as successful marketing professionals who have been a part of a team, and are now applying their specific marketing expertise to help small business owners and entrepreneurs create or enhance their marketing efforts.
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When Should I Hire a Business Consultant?
Figuring out when (or if) to hire a business consultant requires asking some important questions first. You have to understand where your company is in its evolution, and what problems you want to solve. For example:
- Are you still establishing the foundational processes of your business?
- Do you need advice to help you develop the business plan or organizational structure?
- Is there an area where your lack of expertise is stopping your company from getting off the ground?
In other words, you want to take a long, hard look at what you are trying to achieve, and where there are (or could be) roadblocks. For some small business owners, technology can be a problem area that is stalling progress. For others, accounting or human resources might be the place where know-how is in short supply. Doing an assessment and asking some hard questions will help you drill down to identify the initiatives where a consultant or consulting firm will provide the best return on investment.
When Should Small Businesses Hire a Marketing Consultant?
Likewise, when it comes to hiring a marketing consultant, there are some important questions that can help you determine what specific marketing functions or advice you need. Is your social media marketing getting your business noticed? Have you already developed specific marketing tactics, and are they performing the way you hoped? Or do you need in-depth marketing research that will help you identify target audiences, which in turn will inform your marketing strategy and ensure effective marketing efforts?
Or, perhaps your business has been up and running for a while now, but your marketing team is struggling with finding the right mix of marketing tactics to achieve business goals. Even the very best teams call on experts for help, and a good marketing consultant can help your team overcome challenges and put your marketing plan back on track.
Again, it all depends on your company’s specific needs. But reviewing where you are, what you need, and what questions you still have can help you narrow down the right kinds of marketing consultants to talk to, and the marketing experts who will provide the most bang for your buck.
Get the Advice You Need for Your Business
There are, of course, other important questions to consider. “Pricing” is usually the first question that any small business owner asks, and it’s a critical one. But when compared to the cost of hiring all of these experts within your own business, consultants are a valuable and worthwhile investment.
The most important questions, though, are like the ones we discussed above. And they mainly boil down to these two key factors:
- What are we having trouble doing? (Or what could we be doing better?)
- What does our business need in order to move forward and succeed?
If you have a team or staff in place, these questions are a terrific place to get your entire team involved. No doubt everyone will have their own experience to share, and their own views of areas where things aren’t quite clicking. Identifying those stumbling blocks for your business is not only a valuable exercise in order to determine the right consultants to hire but also because it brings the team together around a shared goal—improving the organization and achieving the business goals.
From executive leadership and management consulting to marketing plans, human resources functions, organizational growth, and so on, a consultant or consulting firm can be a tremendous boost to small businesses. And a good consultant and trusted advisor is just the resource that your company may need.
About the author
Jason is focused on the voice and strategy of UpCity’s written messaging. A former newspaper reporter and editor—and winner of an Illinois Press Association award for sports column writing—Jason has extensive communications experience in a wide variety of interests and industries. He has spearheaded content initiatives in the agency world as well as at major companies such as State Farm and DocuSign. Jason believes in the 3 Cs of written messaging: Be clear. Be concise. Be consistent.