Finding an Expert Marketing Consultant for Your Next Startup -- How They Help, What to Look for, and What to Expect
Table of Contents
- Think About Marketing (Sooner than Later)
- Enter the Startup Marketing Expert
- Sometimes You Need a General, Sometimes You Need an Army for Digital Marketing
- Timing is Key
- But How Much Do Marketing Consultants Cost?
So you’ve decided to take the plunge and start a new venture eh? First, a big congrats on choosing to forge your own path. It’s not for everyone, for sure. But for those who DO choose the path to bring their Big Idea and Vision for a better tomorrow to life, entrepreneurship can be an incredibly exciting journey.
Before we go deeper into how (and why) to find and hire a seasoned marketing consultant, or a startup marketing agency (if you need something a bit more robust), let's first talk a bit about digital marketing, the role it plays when launching a company, and when to consider it when starting your entrepreneurial journey of building a venture from the ground up.
Think About Marketing (Sooner than Later)
As you start really thinking through all the pieces of what it’s going to take to achieve your vision and bring it to life, inevitably the topic of marketing will (hopefully) enter your mind.
“Once I’ve got this startup sorta built, how will I grow it?” 🤔
Building a startup from the ground up, launching it, and growing it for the long haul all requires you to get as many relevant touches and eyeballs on it as possible, as early as possible. It's ok not to get them all in one big burst, or all in a single month. Rather, good, healthy growth over time is a better target to aim at.
And if your eventual goal is to raise outside capital -- such as getting an angel investor on board, or venture capital -- showing that you did, and can, grow your startup (known as "customer traction") is absolutely clutch for investors to see before they're going to write you that first investment check. You may think your idea is great, but once you've put the skin in the game to lay a solid foundation and bring it to market, the big question is then: Will people like it? Will they engage? Will they buy/subscribe?
Hopefully, you can answer an overjoyed "YES!", but a strong marketing strategy is critical, along with finely-tuned creative for your marketing campaigns and advertising to deliver your message to those eyes and ears and hearts and minds you want to reach.
"So how soon should I be thinking about marketing though," you ask?
A best practice to follow is to think about marketing as absolutely early as possible, not after you’ve “made the movie”, metaphorically speaking. Carrying on with the movie-making metaphor, keep in mind that the marketing budgets for most major pictures are as big, if not bigger, than the production budget itself (meaning, the budget for doing everything to make the movie and get it in a state that people can watch).
In fact, don’t just think about it as early as possible — start to talk with, and even hire, potential marketing reinforcement for your startup as early as the idea stage. This is where a digital marketing consultant (with a background in building new ventures) can come into play early in the game as an invaluable resource.
After all, an efficient process to creating a business, or anything from scratch is about this:
90% planning, 10% execution
The opposite looks like this (and is something I commonly hear about) with first-time startup founders:
Do, fail, do, fail, spend money to patch bad planning, fail slightly better, think harder, try again, fail again (you’re not surrounded by any experts still), and so on.
(Oh, and you have no new customers to show for it because you've focused too much on trying to execute, but haven't even been able to launch.)
I've seen this go on quite a bit with “bootstrapping” founders, sometimes to the tune of blowing through six figures of capital (and above), and yet still have little to show for it in the end. (Yes, seriously.)
Enter the Startup Marketing Expert
Maybe you’ve not “done” and failed too many times yet...if so, excellent! (And if you have, that’s ok, it has happened to some of the best startup founders, CEOs, and entrepreneurs on the planet)
There’s an old adage, which I too have had to learn the hard way in the past, which goes something like this:
“Surround yourself with people who are better and more skilled than you” 🎯
And it’s incredibly true. I can attest to it.
In other words, don't not hire. Don't hire bad. Hire good...better than you.
Experts can be like a Sherpa, guiding you along a treacherous, exciting, scary at times, exhilarating at others, type of journey to a previously uncharted destination.
So when it comes to marketing strategy for your new venture, you'll want to consider hiring an expert just as you would in other critical areas of the company that you're not a subject-matter expert in yourself.
That planning for growth, sales, how to get new customers and clients, and beyond should start before you even launch (unless you really love cold opens).
Some would say it should start before you even really start as you look at how the journey might look towards building a new business venture, and what the next year, two years, three years, and so on may look, and what they'll require.
A senior digital marketing consultant that knows startups and how to achieve growth from a tough place (ground zero) can — among many other things, both tangible and intangible — put together a go-to-market plan to help with planning how you’ll market your new startup.
This plan should dive into which advertising channels may be best to start with, as well as which social media channels to use (you can't tackle them all at the beginning). It should also detail the kind of advertising & media budget you’ll need to plan for and set aside to make it all happen (these are the channels where your digital marketing tactics will be best executed).
This type of marketing plan for startup companies is best constructed by a marketing expert, rather than a marketing generalist.
The difference between marketing generalists vs. specialized, expert marketing consultants is important to note. Why? Because generalists are far less familiar with the often tight constraints that startups have to deal with on a day-to-day basis, and how best to extract the most value for the dollar out of a startup-sized advertising budget.
On the flipside, expert marketing consultants know the terrain you'll be traveling, and know it well, thanks to a wide range of past experience that they carry with them from their past work.
And especially when it comes to digital marketing, the game is always changing.
Social media platforms and advertising channels are introduced seemingly every month these days, and marketing consultants with a special focus on helping new companies can definitely help you find growth.
Sometimes You Need a General, Sometimes You Need an Army for Digital Marketing
Depending on the scale and size of your vision, potential available market, what stage you’re at in the strategy to branding to tech build and so on, you may be ok with just a single, experienced marketing consultant to help guide the way.
A marketing agency with experience in helping their customers build businesses in an industry like yours can give your company the guidance, expertise, diverse service mix, tech-savvy support, and know-how of a singular marketing consultant, PLUS the benefits of a digital marketing team. That team can execute on a cross-functional approach including branding, marketing, technology development, advertising, SEO, search engine marketing, PPC management, and beyond.
While this team may be packaged as a say, "digital marketing agency", you'll be getting the benefit of an interlocked team of marketing consultants, managed by a senior marketing consultant if you can locate a solid company to hire and work with.
Bringing in a digital marketing agency can also give you the benefits of bolting on an expert, multi-disciplinary team that can execute once the strategy and planning are solid, without the headaches and overhead of employees and payroll.
If you bring on this type of digital marketing army, not only can they assist or even lead with the strategy development, these type of companies can also manage everything from designing your user experience, building your website, managing your social media marketing strategy, ongoing SEO for your company, technology setup, designing creative automation to touch leads, advertising + marketing campaigns setup and optimization, and more.
If you can find a great strategic marketer in one of these companies during your initial search, their team can help you fast track your strategies, get campaigns up and running faster than you ever could, and start helping you find those leads that will eventually turn into your next customer or first batch of clients.
Timing is Key
As mentioned earlier in this run-down on how to find a solid, senior digital marketing consultant that knows your industry and knows startups, timing is critical when you’re a founder of a startup company (obviously, you’ve got a lot to juggle).
So don’t let this ball hang too long in the air.
Rather, locate, and start conversations early with a senior-style marketing consultant, or startup marketing agency, and select a strategic partner as early as possible (especially if they can help you with the upfront strategy and planning part).
An additional expert brain at the table to help you see all the angles can be extremely powerful when It comes to preparing your startup for a pathway aimed at success.
But How Much Do Marketing Consultants Cost?
For sure, there are a lot of "expenses" involved with starting a business...it's guaranteed, so plan on it. But don't look at them as expenses, as they are really strategic investments in getting farther, faster, and with little to no capital waste in an ideal world.
A good, expert marketing consultant, or marketing agency, will come alongside you as a part of a monthly retainer type of engagement. As you're paying for expertise and experience, not just hours, you will most likely see this kind of pricing model with any experienced specialized marketing consultant or agency you explore working with. For you the startup founder, this also gives you the benefit of not feeling the pressure of "watching the clock", but having a true strategic partner that's just as engaged as you are, and willing to go the extra miles when necessary (which will be often in this type of role).
This is also a much better approach than giving up equity in something too early on.
Remember, equity in your business is not "monopoly money," and investors down the road like to see a clean cap table instead of one where you've given up say, 15% of your equity in exchange for services. Prepare to invest, and keep ideally 100% of your ownership equity in your business. Trust me, you'll thank me later for this tip 😉
Costs overall really depend on the level of expertise the consultant has in the space you're working in. Are you building a business focusing on the B2B (business to business) sector? Great! Look for a consultant with a background in marketing to other businesses and business owners. They'll have some great vantage points on how to reach your ideal customers, and draw them towards your company.
Are you building a lifestyle brand, or B2C (business-to-consumer) focused business? Cool. Then be on the hunt for a expert marketing consultant, or lifestyle startup marketing agency, that specializes in that space and has worked with other B2C or DTC (direct to consumer) businesses.
The strategies and tactics you'll need within your marketing campaigns -- yes, you'll need to be armed with a lot more than just a website and sales goals -- along with creative and technical execution, can look somewhat different here when compared with a B2B-focused startup marketing consultant. Even if the pricing is more than you expected, having a specialist on board that knows the terrain is critical for your success.
In the first year of building a company, this is a very top-heavy role. A senior digital marketing consultant has to put in a lot of thought and strategy development, so be sure the specialization is there, along with the bandwidth to adequately support your business along the way for the first year, and potentially ongoing beyond that point too.
By now, you should have a good understanding of the powerful role digital marketing consultants can play when you are going it alone and forging a new path for your Big Idea.
Building companies from the ground up requires some incredibly heavy lifting, focus, research, tools, know-how, experience, and drive in a complex cross-section of digital marketing, technology, sales, creative, SEO, and social media (among others).
A well-selected digital marketing consultant who keenly understands building new ventures can act as a fractional Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) for your budding company, at a fraction of the cost of hiring a full-time CMO (which for most startups, is too costly too soon).
Also, they can serve as a quasi-co-founder for you and giving you an objective sounding board to provide solid, untainted advice, guidance, and direction in unfamiliar, and ever-changing terrain when it comes to digital marketing, advertising, and how to execute it all from a creative and strategic perspective.
If you have any questions on anything above, or simply on how we can help your brand reach more of your ideal customer + what tools to use, feel free to get in touch with me via:
- The Contact Us section here on our website
- Connect with me on LinkedIn
- Call/text us at 800-936-2170, or
- Hit us up on our on-site chat down in the bottom right corner of our website
and I'll be happy to have a conversation with you any time.
We wish you the best in your journey ahead...bon voyage!