I’ve just finished a 7-month retainer with my first client. This will always be special and it seemed appropriate to mark the milestone in some way. So, this blog is a case study of the experience. I hope it lifts the lid on how a marketing consultant can help businesses and gives a few tips if you’re considering working with one.
Rosie Berridge, Director at Accountability Edinburgh, got in touch after I posted on the lovely EGG Facebook group. We arranged a time to have a longer chat (aka a discovery call, fact finding session or consultation…)
Before that chat I did some research on Accountability Edinburgh – their services, team, clients, existing marketing, key messages, competitors etc. I could then tailor my questions to Rosie and get a better understanding of what she was looking for (or potentially needed) in terms of marketing for her business.
Sometimes clients know exactly what they want/need whilst others just know they ‘need help with marketing’ – neither is wrong, it just means the questions or approach during the initial chat may differ or take a little longer.
It was easy to chat to Rosie – she was open, honest and I could relate to her as another female business owner and mum. She’d also been running a successful business for 10 years so I knew I’d learn from her too! Most importantly, she knew marketing was important for her business and was willing to commit her time and resources to that for a few months.
I can’t stress how important it is to be committed (or willing to be made accountable) to ensure you get the best value and results from a marketing consultant – it’s a team effort and they effectively become your outsourced marketing department. No department should work in silos and without communicating regularly with their colleagues/boss. If working with a marketing consultant for several months I’d recommend having regular catch ups.
Rosie gets golds stars for putting up with my Monday catch up calls where I sometimes pushed for content, decisions or challenged an idea!
On the back of our chat, I prepared a proposal (marketing suggestions and costs) for Rosie which ultimately was a client retainer for 6 months, with one day (7 hours) a week. Over that time, I would:
· Develop a strategy overview (define vision, values, key messages)
· Produce a marketing plan (purpose, activities and timings)
· Automate some of her marketing activity (set up Hootsuite, Survey Monkey and Mailchimp)
· Implement the marketing plan (developing content for social media, blogs, newsletters and events)
· Develop a few adhoc items – how to documents/process notes (so any of the team could use Hootsuite, Mailchimp or Survey Monkey) and a mailshot for a direct mail campaign.
One of the benefits of working with a service-based business and in the business-to-business (B2B) space (like Accountability Edinburgh) is the need for an integrated marketing approach. I got to work across several elements of the promotional mix, which is great for a marketer like me! I’ve added a photo below to show you what I mean by the promotional mix. (Note - you should get to grips with the marketing mix or 4Ps - product, price, place and promotion - before tackling the promotional mix.)
Remember a proposal is just that – there’s room for changes and negotiation. If the costs are more than you were expecting then ask if some of the activity could be taken out. Or if there’s too much activity and you just want to focus on one or two areas to start with, ask for recommendations for prioritising work.
And if the activity suggested is marketing jargon, ask for a simpler explanation. Most marketing consultants will have no issue explaining – in fact, they’ll enjoy a client being engaged and interested in their work.
Review and audit
Rosie and I spent the first few weeks reviewing all her existing marketing activity. We audited (collected previous results and had a look at available insights e.g., on social media, website analytics or anecdotally from her client feedback). The outcome from this exercise (as is common with a lot of business owners) was the realisation that Accountability Edinburgh were ‘doing’ lots of marketing but it was sporadic, full of mixed messages, not aimed at their ideal client and disconnected from their overall business goals. Ultimately, their marketing wasn’t getting effective results.
This may sound a bit harsh and it can be a bit of a ‘painful’ exercise but even Rosie admitted afterwards there were a few lightbulb moments!
Armed with all that information, we then discussed and agreed:
· what marketing was working
· what marketing wasn’t working
· the changes needed to existing marketing (even if that meant stopping something completely)
· potential new ideas/activity
This is the time to make a record of your marketing metrics (measurements that can be used to decide the success or not, of your marketing activity). This could range from the likes, followers and engagement on your social media to Mailchimp reports on your newsletter performance to return on marketing investment (ROMI). At the end of working with your marketing consultant, look back at these metrics and take the new measurements. This will give you an idea of the impact of their work. Rosie got sent a monthly marketing metrics update from me – I’m not sure if she read it every month but I think there was piece of mind that I was being accountable for the work I was completing!
The Marketing Plan
Once the proposal was agreed and we had some initial metrics to work with I developed a plan for Rosie. This set out the overall purpose of her business’s marketing, some key objectives and how results would be measured. It also detailed the specific marketing activity to be completed and when. Most plans should include costs but with Rosie this was already agreed within a retainer fee and any ‘extras’ e.g., for Facebook advertising or subscription fees for platforms/tools were agreed in advance too – no surprises!
It’s easy to skim over the marketing plan as a client – by this point you probably have a reasonable idea of what your marketing consultant will deliver and when (and you just want them to get on with it!). But make sure you’re comfortable with the overall purpose and objectives too. This will ensure a consistent, on-track approach to your marketing, especially when introducing new activities.
One of the biggest challenges for business owners is effective use of their time and resources. I get it – when you’re doing the work, you can’t be running the business. For most of us, we want to do the work because that’s what we know and love. And if we can make the running the business piece easier, bonus! I try to help my clients with this so their marketing is less of a chore and is simplified or streamlined. With Accountability Edinburgh this meant introducing Mailchimp for all client communications (to a group, not to individuals), using Survey Monkey to gather client feedback and Hootsuite to automate (schedule) their social media. While I don’t know every tool and platform, I’m happy to suggest and recommend the ones I’m familiar with and that may be suitable for your business.
Sometimes there’s a cost associated with automation e.g., a monthly subscription for tools/platforms. Make sure you understand the costs and how long you’re signing up for before committing. There are free options available but often these are restricted to only basic functionality. It’s worth discussing the options (and their pros and cons) with your marketing consultant before making a final decision.
If you have a team of people working for you (like Rosie at Accountability Edinburgh) and you’d like some input from them on your marketing, this can add another dynamic to hiring a marketing consultant. You may want someone that has the skills and experience to run training sessions, either on marketing generally or something specific e.g., how to set up and use Mailchimp.
After a long period of working from home Rosie was keen to get the staff together for a team day. She also realised that their input was essential for developing quality content for marketing her business. Each member of the team had specific skills or knowledge that could be shared with clients (or potential clients).
I developed a short training session on ‘content development and planning for social media’ to support her team and encourage their confidence in getting involved with marketing. I was secretly a bit nervous about getting a group of accountancy and payroll professionals on board with marketing! But I needn’t have worried, the Accountability Team were genuinely lovely and were all willing to get out their comfort zone!
Ask your marketing consultant if training is something they could offer at first contact. That way if you’re considering some team training you know whether you can add-on to your proposal or would need to source someone else to deliver the training.
I couldn’t end the blog without Rosie’s take on the experience too.
“When I got in touch with Jen at Belter Marketing, I was (in marketing terms) all over the place! Whilst the company is at a really exciting growth stage, with new services and offerings being developed all the time – in marketing terms, we weren’t thinking clearly or strategically.
After an initial chat, it was clear that Jen was the right person to provide strategic insights, clarity and direction! We agreed together some key priorities, tone of voice and the campaigns we wanted to run. We then discussed and agreed platforms and channels by which we were planning to communicate – and when. I was then able to leave the delivery of this plan in very capable hands!
We had a regular weekly meeting agreeing content and updating the plan – but the relief at being able to hand over the responsibility for this was amazing! I was able to concentrate on my regular work – and do what I do best! Having got us up and running, Jen has now supported a new member of the team to take on this work – and has also provided training across the team in content planning on social media."
The nature of marketing consultancy means it will come to an end at some point. It’s a bitter-sweet part of the job. You’re glad the client feels they can tackle marketing themselves, or in the case of Rosie, she felt confident to recruit a permanent member of staff. I take that as the biggest compliment - I convinced her that marketing was worth more of her resources and is essential for her business going forward!
Despite the positive experience I’ve had with Rosie and Accountability Edinburgh, there may be bumps along the way with your marketing consultant. This is to be expected – it’s rare we all get on with work colleagues 100% of the time. And it’s quite an intense relationship that requires a lot of trust, especially if you’re sharing details about your business. So, my final tip? Communicate clearly with each other (don’t be afraid to ask questions!), have a formal contract/agreement and find someone you’ve a genuine rapport with.
If you’d like to discuss your business and marketing opportunities or are thinking about hiring a consultant, you can call me on 07739 898 447 for a free, no obligation chat.