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3 Telltale Signs That Marketing Consultant Is a Waste of Money The first thing to learn about consultants is the ones who don't know what they are doing cost about the same as the ones who do.

By Eric Samson Edited by Dan Bova

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.


Talented marketers know how to spend $20,000 on advertising and generate $200,000 in revenue. They also view individual tactics as critical components of a grander, integrated marketing strategy. No single marketing channel offers a silver bullet for growth. Instead, the best marketers believe process and relentless optimization are the keys to success.

As you scale your business, you may want to recruit an experienced marketing agency or consultant to come in to help you take your company to the next level. To make sure you hire one worth their fee, HubSpot's Corey Eridon recommends you:

  1. Check that they practice what they preach.
  2. Ask for industry-relevant case studies.
  3. Listen carefully to make sure they address your specific goals.
  4. Confirm which aspects of the work they fulfill in-house or outsource.
  5. Test their familiarity with your industry.
  6. Align their interests and motivations with your long-term goals.

Don't be fooled by a consultant's charisma. Plenty of marketers have worked at big companies and tout impressive resumes. Many times, they sat on the sidelines while more senior marketers did all of the hard work. For select campaigns, they may have had enviable success, but often struggle to replicate those same results with new clients.

Here three red flags to watch out for when you recruit a marketing consultant to help accelerate growth.

1. No micro marketing strategy.

Few businesses can afford to pursue a mass-marketing approach costing millions of dollars that takes years before the campaign is profitable. And that is a best-case scenario. For the most part, big-budget advertising drives vanity metrics with very few attributable results.

A marketing consultant who suggests you need to get your ads on prime time television will quickly waste your resources. Instead, you will want to look for someone that champions micro marketing strategies with the goal of maximizing your ROI from every dollar spent.

Related: 10 Questions You Must Ask When Hiring a Social Media Consultant

2. Absurd promises.

It is a major red flag when a person tries to justify her $500/hr rates by saying, "I guarantee you'll get your money's worth." If someone tells you they are confident they can grow your business 100 percent this quarter, tell them to put their money where their mouth is.

Smart marketers know that every business situation is unique. Strategies that worked for one company might not work for another. When a consultant does feel confident she can deliver meaningful results, she will agree to be paid purely on a performance-basis.

This guarantees the consultant will be fully invested in your success because she only wins if she delivers results, thus mitigating the risk you face as the client.

Related: Don't Hire a Consultant Until You've Vetted Them and Considered These 6 Points

3. Secret process and strategy.

The best marketing consultants freely give away their secrets to success. Because they are good at what they do and drive remarkable results, they do not worry about clients running away with their playbook and hiring cheaper talent.

Inexperienced marketing consultants, instead, shroud their work in mystery. To the unknowing client, they are predators. Most of the time, it is because they lack process and structure, taking a haphazard approach to marketing. Without a clear strategy, marketing projects fail horrendously.

Spend time interviewing your marketing consultant to learn what he can do for your businesses and, more importantly, how he will do it. Afterwards, ask yourself: Can you confidently articulate his process to your friends or colleagues? Be very wary if the answer is "no." Top-notch marketing consultants also pride themselves on being teachers; they invest heavily in educating you about the work they do so you are able to make smarter business decisions as it relates to marketing.

Related: Hiring a Consultant? Shun the 24-Hour Turnaround and Other Hype.

Eric Samson

Founder of Group8A

Eric Samson is the founder of Group8A, a boutique consulting firm focused on developing and executing integrated marketing and digital solutions for companies of all sizes.


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