In this article…
- What Is a Marketing Consultant?
- What Does a Marketing Consultant Do?
- Working as a Marketing Consultant
- Marketing Consultant Skills
- How to Become a Marketing Consultant
- Marketing Consultant Career Growth and Advancement
- Marketing Consultant Job Outlook
- Tips for Succeeding as a Marketing Consultant
Marketing consultants are highly skilled professionals who work to help organizations improve their marketing techniques. They use their expertise and industry experience to help companies reach their full potential by facilitating growth. Hiring a marketing consultant can also be the key to establishing a brand identity and building a loyal customer base. If you are looking for a way to take your company’s marketing activities to the next level, a marketing consultant could be a valuable asset.
Image via Flickr by Sandy Huang
If you have experience working in marketing or if you are considering possible career options in the field, you may be interested in learning how to become a marketing consultant. Read on to discover everything you need to know about the job description, hiring requirements, skills, and certifications of a marketing consultant.
What Is a Marketing Consultant?
Marketing consultants are professional advisors who use their expertise and knowledge of marketing to help companies create and execute marketing strategies. They are hired to temporarily assist the company’s leadership in determining a marketing message, formulating a plan for marketing campaigns, and deciding which channels to use to reach the target audience. After the campaign is put into action, marketing consultants are also responsible for monitoring its success, making any necessary edits, and ensuring that it produces the desired effect.
Marketing consultants are usually contract employees who are brought in for a limited period of time. They can be paid an hourly rate or a flat sum. They may work as freelancers or for an agency. Marketing consultants can work a wide range of industries and their specific duties may vary with each client.
What Does a Marketing Consultant Do?
A marketing consultant’s primary duties include:
- Seeking out opportunities to connect with new clients or reprise their role with current customers
- Evaluating a company’s existing marketing materials and campaigns to determine how they can be improved or adapted
- Analyzing the client’s audience and customer base to determine how best to target their primary demographic
- Assisting the client in forming a recognizable and consistent brand identity
- Addressing previous public relations or marketing errors to improve their client’s professional reputation
- Encouraging customer engagement by reaching out to the client’s audience using social media and other popular platforms
- Coordinating with the client’s employees to ensure that all content is consistent and adheres to the company’s vision for message and tone
- Optimizing all marketing content for search engines using keywords and other best practices
- Managing the client’s email accounts and websites
- Tracking and summarizing campaign results to quantify success and show progress
Working as a Marketing Consultant
A marketing consultant’s work environment differs depending on their specific situation. After agreeing to work with a client, they usually temporarily occupy an office on the company’s premises. They spend their days meeting with other employees, such as the marketing director, CEO, and office manager. They often sit at a computer for hours at a time.
Marketing consultants can work within a variety of industries, including health care, retail, real estate, manufacturing, academics, sports, entertainment, food services, non-profit, government, and international affairs. Marketing consultants often specialize in a particular area and acquire advanced expertise that allows them to pursue higher-paying clients in a particular industry.
Many marketing consultants previously held other job titles before pursuing a career in consulting. Common examples include marketing manager, marketing coordinator, marketing specialist, content strategist, communications manager, and marketing director.
Marketing Consultant Skills
Marketing managers use both hard and soft skills to successfully carry out their duties. Important skills for marketing consultants include:
Well-developed communication skills are crucial for marketing consultants. All marketing professionals should be able to communicate their ideas efficiently, both to their teams and to their audience. For a marketing consultant, communication may involve writing copy and emails, holding one-on-one meetings, leading group discussions, public speaking, and negotiating.
Collaboration involves being able to work well with teams of other professionals. This includes the ability to take ideas from multiple sources and find a way to make them complement each other. Marketing consultants can often serve as mediators between a company’s executives, content creators, and other employees. Creating campaigns that incorporate everyone’s preferences is often challenging but is necessary for the job.
Marketing consultants often work for clients in multiple industries and fields. They should be able to adapt their strategies to suit each individual company. Marketing consultants may be asked to change directions or alter a project on short notice. If you can perform well in a variety of environments and work well with a range of personalities, you are more likely to succeed as a marketing consultant.
Marketing consultants use their creativity to design innovative campaigns that capture the imagination of the public. Creative marketing consultants are able to think outside the box and come up with unique ideas that help their clients’ products to stand out. Creativity is also frequently helpful in finding effective solutions to stubborn problems.
Marketing consultants use their organizational skills to efficiently execute complex campaigns while adhering to a strict schedule. Organized consultants are able to delegate tasks, enforce deadlines, and manage multiple assignments at once. A marketing consultant who is organized is also able to manage their team effectively, helping to avoid delays caused by miscommunication or confusion regarding responsibilities.
The average salary for a marketing consultant varies depending on their geographical location, level of education, and area of expertise. According to Indeed’s salary database, the annual salary for a marketing consultant is currently $57,743 per year. The average totals vary significantly by location. The highest paying state included in Indeed’s estimate is Massachusetts, which pays $72,222 per year. Indeed’s lowest paying state is Iowa, where marketing consultants average $39,871 per year.
How to Become a Marketing Consultant
Pursuing a career as a marketing consultant involves following several important steps. The requirements for becoming a marketing consultant include:
1. Earn a Bachelor’s Degree
The majority of employers expect marketing consultants to hold a bachelor’s degree in marketing, business or a related field. Most accredited colleges and universities offer competitive business administration and marketing programs. Coursework for these degrees includes classes on organizational communication, public relations, economics, marketing principles, basic finance, business to business marketing methods, social media, and writing for media.
Marketing professionals who wish to specialize in a certain industry may also earn an undergraduate degree in their chosen field, such as medicine, engineering, or science before pursuing an advanced degree in marketing.
2. Apply for Entry-Level Positions or Internships
Most marketing professionals begin their careers in entry-level positions or as interns. Depending on their skill set, a graduate with a marketing or business administration degree can qualify to work in several capacities, including as a marketing assistant, an administrative assistant, or an entry-level content creator. Employees who perform well in a low-level position can potentially qualify for raises, promotions, and other career advancement opportunities.
Most companies with large marketing departments offer internships to a small number of qualified applicants. An internship is an excellent option for anyone who wants to experience what it is like to work in the marketing industry first-hand. Internships can be either paid or unpaid and typically offer the opportunity for the interns to acquire valuable experience and skills, as well as the possibility of being hired full-time.
3. Acquire Skills and Gain Experience
Marketing consultants are often evaluated according to their skill set and their level of experience. Acquiring industry-specific skills helps aspiring marketing consultants cultivate the expertise they need to act as advisors. Accruing various types of practical experience is crucial for marketing consultants since they draw from their past experiences when working with current clients.
4. Find Freelance Jobs or Work for an Agency
After earning the necessary degrees and gaining the appropriate amount of experience, marketing professionals can begin seeking out clients. To be considered a marketing consultant, most professionals either work independently as freelancers or sign contracts with marketing agencies. Working as a freelance marketing consultant allows you to decide your schedule, set your rate, and choose your clients. Freelancers typically split their time between working from home and working in their client’s offices. Freelance consultants usually do not have benefits or a steady salary, but if they are highly skilled, they can set completive rates.
Working for a marketing agency allows marketing consultants to draw on resources besides their own. An agency can provide benefits, a regular salary, and a list of potential clients. If the agency is reputable, the association can also lend the marketing consultant some credibility.
5. Pursue Certification
Earning a certification can greatly increase a marketing professional’s job prospects. One of the most popular credentials in the American Marketing Association’s Professional Certified Marker designation. To acquire the PCM, candidates take and pass an exam that tests their knowledge of marketing principles. The exam is designed for professionals with two to four years of practical experience and a bachelor’s or master’s degree in marketing.
The exam is comprised of 210 questions that cover relevant topics like executing marketing strategies, handling legal and ethical concerns, evaluating marketing decisions, managing professional relationships and confidential information, and using marketing materials and tools. PCMs must be recertified every three years and are required to participate in 36 hours of continuing education annually.
Another useful certification is the Professional Researcher Certification, provided by the Insights Association. The IA offers over a dozen research-related certifications that focus on different types of marketing analysis and methods for data collection.
The Foundation for the Advancement of Marketing Excellence in Entrepreneurs also offers a five-level Certified Marketing Advisor certification for marketing consultants who work with independent businesses and organizations. The five levels are:
- Certified Marketing Advisor In Training
- Certified Marketing Advisor I
- Certified Marketing Advisor II
- Certified Expert Marketing Advisor I
- Certified Expert Marketing Advisor II
6. Start a Consulting Business
Many experienced marketing consultants eventually choose to start their own consulting business. Running a consulting business allows marketing consultants to establish a brand, hire other employees, and open a physical location. Opening a business involves a considerable amount of time, effort, and money. Paying start-up costs, handling legal documents, and researching local regulations are all important steps for marketing consultants to consider before they commit to becoming entrepreneurs.
Generally, marketing consultants must have extensive knowledge and years of experience before they are qualified to operate their own business. Owning a consulting business means managing all the advertising, customer relations, and accounting activities that are involved in assisting clients. Marketing consultants who wish to start a business must be familiar with all aspects of the marketing industry and be able to successfully manage and mentor a team. Being the owner of a consulting office can be challenging but it is also the most advanced career title that a marketing consultant can achieve.
Marketing Consultant Career Growth and Advancement
Marketing consultants typically start in low-level positions before working their way up the corporate ladder. Many marketing consultants begin as marketing interns, administrative assistants, or entry-level content creators. For the first few years of their career, they spend their time observing their superiors, working alongside their mentors and learning from their own mistakes. As they gain important skills and become more comfortable in their role, they may be asked to take on more responsibility in exchange for an increased salary.
Aspiring marketing consultants often choose a particular industry in which to specialize and may request to work primarily in their chosen field. If they consistently perform well and exceed expectations, they may be offered the opportunity to take a leadership role within the company or agency for which they work. This may involve being promoted to creative team lead, content director, or marketing director. In these roles, aspiring marketing consultants can deal directly with clients and learn how to effectively manage a team.
After several years of gaining skills and experience, marketing professionals can choose to pursue a career in consulting. This typically involves either requesting to make a lateral career change with their current employer or seeking out marketing consulting positions with other companies. Marketing consultants might also choose to quit their full-time job and work as a freelancer instead. Once they find work as a marketing consultant, individuals can then begin working toward other advancement goals, such as leading a team of other employees or opening their own consulting business.
Marketing Consultant Job Outlook
The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that the employment of marketing specialists, including both managers and consultants, will increase by 8% between 2018 and 2028. Quality advertising and marketing campaigns are essential to the success of the average business and the need for experienced experts continues to grow.
Companies who use digital marketing are more likely to need consultants than companies who prioritize print marketing, so professionals with technical skills are more likely to find steady work. Marketing consultants can also improve their job prospects by earning certifications and advanced degrees.
Job outlook varies significantly by geographical location. Metropolitan areas with a higher concentration of businesses and denser populations are more likely to have job openings for marketing professionals. Some states consistently maintain higher employment rates than others. The top five states with the highest employment level for marketing consultants and managers are:
- New York
Tips for Succeeding as a Marketing Consultant
Finding success as a marketing consultant involves being a hard worker and a quick learner. Here are some tips for how to perform well as a marketing consultant:
One of the fundamental truths of marketing consulting is that clients will only hire professionals whom they trust. When a client agrees to work with a consultant, they are putting their faith in the consultant’s expertise. As a consultant, you must be able to prove that you are knowledgeable, experienced, and capable of making a positive impact on the company. This involves being honest and up-front about your level of education, your professional skills, and your abilities.
You must also be able to consistently follow through on any promises that you make. Earning a client’s trust takes time but once you have it, customer loyalty can be extremely rewarding.
Understand the Brand
When taking on a new client, it is crucial for marketing consultants to research the brand and its history. Consultants cannot give informed advice or launch successful campaigns if they do not first understand the brand identity that the company has cultivated. Some marketing ideas and methods are more suitable for certain brands than others.
For example, marketing a new product as a luxury item has the potential to increase a company’s profits and improve its public image. However, if the brand has previously worked to market itself as affordable, introducing a luxury product could lead to the loss of loyal customers. Marketing consults can familiarize themselves with the background of their client’s brand by conducting an internet search for the brand’s name and by discussing the history of the company with the more seasoned employees.
One of the keys to becoming a successful marketing consultant is making yourself useful. If you can prove to your clients that you actively helping them to solve problems, overcome challenges, and satisfy needs, they are more likely to view you as indispensable. To meet clients’ needs, you will need to acquire a varied skill set that can be used in a range of situations. You can also hone your problem-solving capabilities by learning to observe your environment and identify areas that can be improved.
Being able to effectively see and address needs is a valuable quality in any consultant. This ability comes through practice and effort and may take some time to acquire. If you continually audit and evaluate your own skill set, you will likely find areas in which you can improve. Constantly looking for opportunities to grow your expertise will help you to skillfully handle any challenges that come your way.
Know Your Worth
If you are working as a freelancer, you will need to set your hourly or daily pay rate. It is important that your rate be both reasonable and appropriate. You want your clients to be able to afford your services but you also need to make a salary that is equal to your skills and experience. You will also need to consider and factor in overhead costs, which include gas money, electricity bills, travel tickets, and other necessary expenses.
To calculate your rate, start by deciding how much you want your annual salary to be. This should be enough to comfortably cover the cost of living in your area and allow you to provide for any dependents. For example, let’s say you need to make $100,000 per year. First, divide that figure by the number of hours that you plan to work in a year. Working full-time usually means working about 40 hours per week. $100,000 divided by 52 40-hour work weeks comes out to about $48 per hour.
The best client/consultant relationships consist of two-sided conversations. Instead of only giving orders or making requests, marketing consultants should also be willing to ask thoughtful questions and listen actively to the answers. Clients typically know the ins and outs of their business and are usually more than happy to explain the company’s history and why they do what they do. While you may be the one in the relationship with the most experience, your clients likely know details about their team or their product that can help you make more informed and practical decisions.