A marketing consultancy agency is commonly promoted as a marketing services agency with advances in conducting market research and revamping marketing strategy.

Nevertheless, the commercial definition is considered as a limited perception of how marketing consultancy work. The definition of consultancy is constantly evolving due to the rapid changes in the digital marketing world. Additionally, the role of consultancy is empowered by the growing capabilities of AI, MarTech, and Data.

Globally, the concept of marketing consultancy is still limited to marketing services. However, in the USA, marketing consultancy is becoming a complex and evolving business term. Due to the rise of personal online business, a vast amount of Americans are managing their digital marketing by themselves. Eventually, this has been increasing the demand for a professional marketing consultant to review their marketing strategy and audit their campaigns. This demand provided new opportunities for the definition to evolve and expand beyond the concept of consulting firms. Traditionally, marketing consultancy has been offered by big firms and branding agencies and requires a massive budget. Now, the new era is providing a new generation of customized services that fits all types of businesses including startups and small companies.

The Business Value of Hiring A Marketing Consultancy Agency

Marketing consultancy has been a highly specialized category of business services for decades. The consultancy term has been limited to sophisticated consultancy firms and niche advertising agencies. Gradually, the marketing consultancy as services started to evolve rapidly due to the Internet and the rise of online marketing. So, the question of how the marketing consultancy evolved can lead to a better understanding of the functionality of digital marketing consultancy services?

1) Commitment to Business Objectives

The major value of marketing consultancy services is it considered as strategic partnership. Consultants are mainly hired to help business with achieving business objectives. The edge for consultancy is that it doesn’t get involved in long process of decision making or internal conflicts like marketing department, therefore it is a direct task with exclusive commitments.

2) Accountability and creative problem solving

When a business is looking for marketing services, they are not only looking for just executions of marketing activities but they need experts in the field. Consequently, marketing consulting is a highly effective solution to business in order to gain success and generate growth. While in-house marketing and agencies might take time to test their methods, the consultants can bring proven solutions. Typically, this can cost in accessing new markets or implementing a specific channel whether it is organic or paid. Additionally, a marketing consultancy agency can provide highly creative solutions and talents that can add value to the marketing department.

3) Enrich, Deepen the Marketing Knowledge

Marketing knowledge is an extensive edge for any business. Consultants can provide sophisticated and highly specialized marketing knowledge to the team and demonstrate training sessions and support. Moreover, the customized market research and data analytics methods provided by the consultant will help the company in assessing their understanding of the product and targeted consumer.

4) Flexible and Faster Integration

The main obstacle to building an effective marketing plan is finding the right talents. It is usually about the human factor, not the financial investment or market barriers. However, acquiring those highly talented marketers is a slow process in terms of hiring, adapting, executing, and managing. In the business environment, it is easier to integrate marketing consultancy as a third-party on contract terms to assess the company needs and the marketing plan. In addition, consultancy comes in different types which provides flexible conditions for the businesses. The consultancy services can be a monthly retainer, annually, or value-based. Moreover, the services can be very focused on certain marketing channels such as SEO and Social Media or based on technology such as marketing Automation or Programmatic Advertising.

What Are the Main Functions of Marketing Consultancy?

According to the evolution in entrepreneurship and how the business conducted, marketing consultancy had to expand its services beyond the traditional functions such as market research and branding strategy. The whole new dimensions of customer-centric, data-driven marketing and automation technology brought new functionality and process.

Standard Consulting Services

Market Research: Collecting market insights and running competitive analysis is essentially one of the main foundations of the consulting process. Traditionally, marketers used to apply methods such as surveys and interviews to collect useful insights. Eventually, internet marketing has changed the way researchers have been working and provided new opportunities for more accurate resources. Now marketing consultancy agencies are able to collect accurate data using online tools such as SimilarWeb, Social Mention, Google Keyword Tool, Klout, and many more. Those tools allow researchers to get their hands on effective insights. In the past, the task of research would require a massive budget and research companies to come up with an effective analysis. Now, everything has changed and data is available online.

Marketing Strategy: The role of marketing consultancy remains highly effective when it works on building a marketing strategy. Over the years, I have seen marketing agencies applying a set of generic tactics for their customers without customizing the approach. Ironically, a set of actions are drawn on a presentation and presented as an approach. This eventually would include social media marketing and quick paid campaigns to generate traffic and sales. Later on, the client will understand that those quick wins are not cost-effective and not helping the brand to grow. Launching marketing campaigns require an initial roadmap and effective strategy in place. However, there is still a misconception about investing time and money in hiring a marketing consultancy agency to set up the strategy before proceeding with marketing campaigns.

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Branding: The most common question is what is the difference between a branding agency vs a marketing agency? Typically, most agencies combine marketing and branding in their pitch without outlining the difference. Eventually, branding is not just about creative services and design, it is more about ideas, perceptions, notions about the company. This is considered a strategic cornerstone of the marketing plan. The agency’s role is more effective when it has the talents and capabilities to demonstrate strong branding guidelines of creative work and message across different marketing channels.

Technology: A marketing consultancy agency is highly effective when it can provide technical capabilities. The strategic approach is not enough when the technology is missing. Therefore, the role of marketing consultancy is to provide a Techstack plan which includes automation and analytic tools. It is a crucial part of the consultancy excellence and benefits. Essentially, the role here is not just to draw charts and provide guidelines, but also to bring cost-effective technology to the marketing process in order to enhance and scale.

New Marketing Principles

Data-Driven: The times of conducting market research and campaign planning based on hypnosis and intuition, not applicable anymore. We are in the age of data and marketing decisions are now subject to digital analytics. A successful marketing consultancy agency needs to design a fully data-driven process from research to situation analysis all the way to control and campaign management. 

Customer-Centric: Companies design their product and manage their brands to become customer-centric. Consulting is required to be at the core of this mission and uses customer data in creating personalized marketing campaigns. The consumer data is becoming the main source of predictive analysis and highly advanced segmentation. 

Marketing ROI: Business management nowadays is thinking of marketing as one of the key generators of growth and therefore marketing investment is becoming under massive pressure. Each marketing dollar is required to generate a profitable ROI. Marketing is not a PR or leads entity anymore, it is now at the heart of ROI calculation and the consulting should be designed to serve this business objective.

E-commerce consulting: Online shopping is taking over the way companies are conducting business. However, the e-commerce process requires a specialized consulting agency to provide the right setup of shopping carts, tracking pixels, cross-selling, Email automation, and customer journey personalization. While some might think that setting a Shopify website is an easy process, e-commerce marketing is quite challenging due to the high competition on paid channels. Essentially, the e-commerce strategy requires extensive planning to reach the target conversion cost.

Business Consulting Firms vs Marketing Consultancy Agency

Over the years, marketing consultancy service has been dominated by two main providers which are consulting firms and marketing agencies. Essentially, business consulting firms are well-established organizations that mainly provide management consulting. As part of their services, they provided Marketing and Sales consulting as well as digital transformation.

Basically, the downside of consulting firms remains in their high-level strategic approaches. ِAs a result, firms are limited to companies or corporations with big budgets to invest. The experience of the firm doesn’t provide the same level of flexibility you can find in boutique marketing agencies and independent marketing consultant.

Moreover, consultancy firms are already in partnership with the top tier technology providers. Hence, their technology is more expensive and doesn’t fit with all types of businesses. The cost of Salesforce Marketing Cloud, Adobe Marketing Cloud, Marketo, and Hubspot requires more than subscription fees. There will be always the cost of IT infrastructure, training, integration, and more. Marketing consultancy agencies are also partners with popular technology providers such as HubSpot. Eventually, the issue remains in the conflict of interest. Essentially, consultants should be providing a customized approach and valid recommendations instead of selling a certain technology.

Personally, I believe that while the partnership helped the marketing consulting agencies to empower their clients with automation, the know-how becomes a real barrier for the firms to evolve. Limiting the knowledge to one platform provided certain scenarios of marketing plans and tech exclusiveness that is not anymore customizable for clients. Fundamentally, it is crucial for any consultancy to provide flexible approaches and transfer knowledge to the company during the transformation and execution stages.

The Other Side of Marketing Consultancy Agency

Traditionally, marketing agencies have been providing marketing consultancy as part of their services. However, marketing consultancy as a service has been saturated among different service providers. Eventually, in the last two decades, the agencies have evolved to catch up with the digital age by implementing digital marketing services under their hood.

In the meanwhile, native digital agencies started to rise in the market and provided more channel-based services such as SEO consulting, Social Media consulting, Google Ads consulting, Marketing Automation consulting, and so on. Therefore, marketing consultancy has been normalized on different levels and there have been consulting services for the channels.

Eventually, the downside of this evolution remains in the chaos represented by hiring several third parties to get your marketing going. Even the top agencies will hire multiple resources to manage different digital marketing functions. In a single account, you will meet a multinational agency team that consists of project managers, a UK based agency that manages Paid Search, a Local branding agency, a third-party Social Media agency, a marketing technology partner and the list goes on.

Rethink Marketing

In conclusion, you will need to rethink marketing. Think of how you actually need to position yourself in the market before you launch the marketing activities. Set a clear prospective and expectations of your marketing goals so you can choose the marketing consulting services that can help achieving those goals.

The core value of marketing consulting remains in setting the right strategy and effective analytics. Rethink marketing beyond execution and campaign management. Marketing is eventually a very strategic function because it is value-oriented not just results-oriented.

Finally, a specialized marketing consultancy agency or an independent marketing consultant remains the most effective solution. The edge here is for the native consultants who have a specific process and framework. In other words, it is better to search for the value you are getting from the process not just assigning the task to an agency.

Published by Yasser Ahmad

Yasser Ahmad is an independent digital marketing consultant and marketing strategist with a Master's degree in Data Analytics & Marketing. Yasser is a certified member of the CIM and holds and has over 16 years of experience in managing marketing strategies and consulting brands in EMEA, USA, and APAC. Specialized in Marketing Analytics, MarTech, Growth Hacking, Automation, and Performance Marketing.