Digital marketing consultant is commonly considered as a vague term for businesses. There have been several misconceptions about the marketing consultant as a profession as well as a consultancy role in the marketing world.

For decades, the consultancy has been outlined as business services with a traditional focus on organizational management. However, consulting firms had to evolve to catch up with the changing business world, and that led to advancing their sales and marketing consultancy services. Additionally, marketing and advertising agencies have been advancing their consultancy services and adding new areas such as digital transformation, automation, data analytics along with branding consultancy services.

However, the freelance forces in the digital marketing world started to change the term by providing highly specialized consultancy in channels like SEO, social media, content marketing, and PPC.

What Is the Definition of Digital Marketing Consultants?

The term “Digital marketing consultant” identified as highly experienced marketers with advanced skills in digital technologies. Strategic thinker with avid analytical skills and several years of experience in managing marketing channels and setting branding and acquisition campaigns. Consultants are hired by businesses on a contract basis or as freelancers to solve marketing problems or to conduct research and audit tasks.

\Mainly, independent consultants are cost-effective and fast accelerators for digital marketing initiatives. In addition, consultants help in advancing digital marketing channels, marketing technology, and paid media.  According to stats from Report Linker Marketing Consulting Services Industry in the United States of America is estimated to reach $46.1 billion by 2021.

digital marketing consultants

The definition of marketing consultancy has been evolving over the years. One of the main reasons behind this change is the vast expansion in technology and social networks. As a result, the marketing methodology and applications were impacted, and digital channels started to emerge and to replace the traditional media channels.

This shift brought a new generation of native digital marketers who reshaped the marketing in order to catch up with the social media revolution. Moreover, the online experience and purchasing habits have been in the center of the change and consumer behavior is shifting sand.   

Research vs Enabling

In the last few years, startups were ahead of the game and moved quickly with revolutionized ideas in digital marketing and customer-centric approaches. Therefore, the concept of marketing consultancy had new roles in the business environment.

Startups’ culture has been impacted by the mentorship idea and its benefits. That’s what did happen in marketing consultancy and consultants started to function as external advisors for businesses. However, the consulting firms and agencies still playing the traditional role of consultant with more extensive researches over enabling.

Gradually, the digital marketing consultant role is changing, and agencies are moving towards technology transformations and hiring highly specialized digital marketers to help businesses on execution and technology level.   

Startups had different spheres and terms as mentorship started to shape the idea of consultancy as a business need. With all these trends, marketing consultancy has been not explicitly stated or identified. However, the need for a professional digital marketing consultant has increased rapidly, and businesses started to get more of a clear understanding.

What Digital Marketing Consultants Do?

Part of the dilemma is having goals without a knowledge of how to do it or why? The key to understanding the digital marketing consultants relies on four factors:

  • Consultants help with uncertainty: The major role of consultants is to identify the problem. The definition of a consultant role is described by the term itself. Business owners and marketing departments tend to reach out to professional consultants when they need to find effective solutions for their marketing problems.
    In summary, it is not critical if the business was not able to identify the problem clearly. That’s the consultant job to investigate, identify, and provide the ideas.
  • Consultants transform the marketing: Hiring a digital marketing consultant is different than hiring an agency or full-time marketer. The consultants’ highest value is to provide the change the business is looking for. It is not about doing the job, it is all about investigating marketing objectives, process, and monitoring.
    The digital marketing consultant’s greatest value is bringing the change to the marketing department from restructuring and recruiting to setting new strategic objectives and optimization plan of the digital marketing channels.
  • Consultants are partners: Unlike hiring an agency, consultants are free of conflicts, bureaucracy, overheads, corporate policies. They serve as advisors and align to the business objectives by being results-oriented. The partnership with consultants allows the business managers to have an external expert to analyze the marketing performance and strategic approaches. The big benefit of this partner that it is outside of all the circles of conflict.
  • Consultants enhance the knowledge: Brining a digital marketing expert onboard is the main aim for business owners. Acquiring advanced know-how and technical hands-on experience is the main reason why companies need a professional consultant. Consultant serves in critical and highly advanced areas such as paid channels optimization, programmatic advertising, social media strategy, marketing automation, and lead generation campaigns.
    The benefit is massive for companies who either use an in-house marketing team or agency due to the extensive experience of the consultant. In other words, it is a plug and plays a role in the ability to train and educate internal skills.

Fundamentally, these core values of what marketing consultant can do to revamp the digital marketing department and provide advanced knowledge, are triggered by need the scale the business and most importantly to monitor the marketing dollar.

Why the Role of Digital Marketing Consultant is Becoming Important for Businesses?

1) The Competition is Getting Harder

In the online world, everything is getting highly competitive. Everyone is competing over social media and Google search. According to Facebook, there are over 80 million small businesses using Facebook’s free business tools. The new generations of digital consumers are changing all the purchasing habits theories.

Competing in this environment requires getting ahead of the game and hiring the best brains out there to win the competition. However, acquiring full-time digital marketing professionals with advanced skills can be expensive and problematic.

2) Digital Marketing is Changing… Fast

Digital marketing is not the same as it used to be. Social networks are constantly changing their algorithm and the party of organic reach is almost over. Digital marketing platforms are getting more sophisticated and complex when it comes to management and paid ads.

Fast-growing technology is moving towards AI and Machine Learning. Even consumers on each channel are changing quickly and Facebook users are not the same it used to be 3 years ago. The more of Generation Z, the more the change in behavior, content, creative and even mediums.

The change in social media apps, algorithms, and personalized timelines is triggering a more complex targeting. Companies need to move faster or otherwise, their campaign tactics will be outdated and ineffective.

3) Lack of Strategic Approaches

The most common mistake business fall for is conducting marketing without a strategy. Strangely, I’ve been interviewing hundreds of companies from all sizes and in most cases, the biggest issues to spot is the lack of strategic approaches. While some companies had the team and agencies on board for years, yet there was hardly any solid strategy.

Departments and divisions have been working in separate islands and control has been inefficient. It is true that having an effective marketing strategy is no easy task for companies due to several reasons. Some of these reasons are related to business management and the high turnover in marketing positions.

Therefore, marketing consultancy plays the main role for companies to determine the best strategic approach and use an expert vision to analyze data and insights to build a strategy.

consultancy process

4) Gaps Between Marketing & Business Objectives

The gaps between marketing and business objectives are the biggest pain points for senior management. The common issues vary based on the business type. The most common issue in B2B is an inconsistency between Sales and Marketing operations. In big corporates, the gaps could be due to process and isolated marketing division.

Aligning marketing with the organizational objectives is not a decision as it might seem. Usually, it takes a lot of investigation, resources, and data analysis to reach an ultimate situation. Here comes the consultant job as an external resource who has the strategic view and experience in marketing. While internal teams can have a solid process and framework, the digital marketing consultant can help in providing extensive experiences.

5) The Incompatible Marketing and Sales

Marketing and Sales relationship is always described as ‘mission impossible’. Startups try to solve this problem by combining it into growth division. Eventually, the greatest challenge relies on the conflict between the two departments.

There are huge investments now in technology to organize the process which allows us to track the customer journey and set up the contribution. CRMs and marketing clouds have been trying to solve these issues by implementing sophisticated tracking and automation. Salesforce, HubSpot and Marketo have been the key player in the field and they managed to provide effective solutions for tracking leads and customers.

Apparently, to organize the tasks and build consistency in the process not limited to technology, it is about choosing the right Tech Stack and setting up the process effectively. An experienced consultant can help in making planning and executing transformation. Therefore, marketing cloud providers tend to hire consultancy teams to help corporate with transformation and training.

6) Inability to Assess Marketing Performance

Part of the biggest shift in the digital marketing world is data. Trackability changed the industry and performance is converted into charts and tables with very specific numbers and metrics.  

However, it is commonly known for most marketers that marketing in some cases such as organic leads and building brand requires long term tactics. The problem is hard to describe but marketing teams tend to spend all their efforts in reporting than creating creative ideas. Assessing performance is a problem that can be solved by integrating consultancy with the marketing strategy and operation.

Setting up KPIs and automated real-time dashboards can solve the issues of time-consuming reporting. In order to implement the consistent dashboard and KPIs, the process should involve a marketing analytic strategy in order to assess the data and design the marketing dashboards.

7) Underdeveloped Marketing Process and Technology

Technology is a major challenge for all marketers, and it is reflected in managing the process. Getting in-depth with technology can have endless layers and there are over 5000 marketing tools over there in the market.  The challenge for marketing relies on how to find the best approach to shortlist the technology that works and connect the dots by building an effective process.

The process takes more than empowering people with technology, it is about people first place. Here it comes the role of consultant to review the situation and determine the technology based on the most important which is human. Providing customized training according to the company’s needs is one of the greatest benefits of having a marketing consultant on board. It is a fast track, direct to the point, and live examples from the heart of the marketing department.  

8) Expensive Marketing Resources

Headhunting is the most important step to build successful marketing. Acquiring the right digital marketing skills is what makes a difference in every brand we see online. According to Steve Jobs, the right people don’t need to be managed because they know what to do. However, in a competing world, it is not an easy task to afford the best talents in the market.

Initially, hiring a consultant has several cost-effective benefits such as negotiation and remote part-time contracts.  The contract is usually associated with results and specific assigned tasks. According to a survey by Credo, the average hourly rate for digital marketing consultants worldwide is $140.29 per hour, while 41.25% of worldwide consultants charge less than $100 per hour.

9) Lack of local market knowledge

While some companies might have a country-specific marketing team, it is hard to hire in-house local marketers for each market. Companies who want to scale and expand into new markets are searching for local experts who have deep insights into the market and the consumer.

Marketing consultants are essentially experts in a region or local market and have years of experience in this market. They can consult the company about potential opportunities and threats. In the case of cultural barriers and different languages, the digital marketing consultant is an effective solution for companies during the early phase of building a local marketing strategy and understanding the consumer persona.

Area of expertise

In the digital world, the full stack consultant is considerably rare. However, there are always consultants who are strong in specific areas based on their demonstrable experiences and skills. Consequently, it is important for businesses to select a consultant based on their priorities and strategic objectives.

Digital marketing consultancy combines a long list of fields due to the complexity of the digital world. Therefore, it is important to define here some of the most important categories to consider.

  • Market Research: Conduct market research to identify the opportunities, competitive analysis, customer persona analysis, and digital media trends
  • Brand Consulting: Provide guidelines for the branding strategy, positioning, brand image, and marketing message
  • Marketing Strategy Consulting: Develop and implement a marketing strategy based on the objectives and allocated budget and resources
  • Marketing Management Consulting: Study the marketing process and provide recommendations for the structure, recruitment, roles, and process
  • UX Design and CRO analysis: Run website analysis in order to study the customer online journey and develop an optimization plan
  • SEO Consulting: Provide SEO Audit, SEO analysis, keyword research, and optimization plan
  • Social Media Consulting: Define the social media strategy, optimize the channels, setup paid social strategy, and campaign plan
  • Google Ads Consulting: Conduct PPC audit, performance analysis, technical integration, and optimization plan
  • Content Marketing Strategist: Provide content strategy and implement the content calendar, inbound marketing, Email workflows
  • Marketing Technology Consulting: Analyze the marketing technology needs and give direction to configure automation tools and AdTech
  • Marketing Analytics Consulting: Develop the marketing analytics strategy, integrate the marketing data, provide data analysis framework and design marketing dashboards

Companies with established in-house digital teams may be too deep in the weeds to realize where their weakness lies. It might be the lack of improving marketing technology or moving around the strategy gaps instead of taking intensive actions and rebuilding their approach.

Consequently, businesses are aware of the risky situation that might occur by losing opportunities in market share or losing the brand positioning due to the lack of effective marketing reach or inefficient performance control. Therefore, searching for professional digital marketing consultant is an addition to the in-house teams and digital agencies.

While in-house teams and agencies can help businesses to execute and track the digital marketing plan, the consultants can always provide the best help in building an effective strategy and provide enhanced researches on the gaps and provide marketing technology consulting. While the hourly fee could be higher than a regular agency, professional consultants create more value than they charge. In addition, companies can only retain them for a few hours each week or month, they reduce the overhead cost.

According to the feedback from several recruiters and freelance websites, the majority of business owners are relying on digital marketing to grow their business profitability and market share. While there are plenty of digital marketers who can create and manage their SEO and social media, the results are usually disappointing and the competition is growing harder.

Business owners are actively searching for solution providers who are experts in the market to advise on strategy and conversion metrics. Counterintuitively, even an expensive freelance marketing consultant can save money and decrease the costs of ineffective campaigns and paid advertising.

Published by Yasser Ahmad

Yasser Ahmad is an independent marketing consultant and marketing strategist with a Master's degree in Data Analytics & Marketing. Specialized in MarTech, AdTech, Marketing Automation, Performance Marketing, and Growth Hacking. Providing marketing consulting services across different regions including the Middle East, Europe, and APAC.