You know you need good content on your site to be competitive, but you don’t necessarily have the time, resources or know-how to get your site to where it needs to be. If you hire a content marketing agency you should expect to have a full team of strategists and producers, but at the helm of the entire process you need to have a strong content marketing consultant.

Content marketing consultant: A person or team who is hired to give expert advice on creating a content strategy that educates and triggers actions from your specific audience.

Why turn to content marketing consulting for help?

SEMrush found that 77% of organizations had a content marketing strategy in place, yet only 9% would rate their strategy as excellent. The truth is, many businesses focused on growth don’t have the time or marketing tools needed to execute and manage their plan.

That’s where a content marketing consultant comes in. As a marketing expert, they are well versed in the industry and understand what it takes to stand out from the competition and generate leads using everything from white papers to infographics.

Your business should hire a marketing consultant if:

  1. You don’t have the bandwidth to organize, execute, test and track a content marketing strategy, or don’t understand how to utilize marketing automation tools to your advantage.
  2. You’re not seeing the results you want with your current approach or marketers.
  3. You don’t have the budget to hire full-time employees to create the marketing team you need to jump start your campaign(s).

A day in the life of a content marketing consultant

The first thing a content marketer will want to do is look at your business objectives and assess how your online content marketing presence is currently set up.

They may ask for any assets or marketing materials (like your established buyer personas) you currently have and any project management tools you house your data in. They may run their own tests using Google Analytics to see how your website and content is currently performing, as well as gain an understanding of what competitors are doing to stand out.

They will want to hear about your own goals and expectations from their work. Are you wanting to improve your inbound marketing and to guide consumers down the sales funnel, or are you more focused on lead generation that will draw in high-paying accounts?

Alongside analyzing your brand’s current messaging, the consultant will be able to determine what strategy would work best to achieve your goals. Gaining an outside perspective on your company’s marketing efforts is the starting point of understanding what your business can be doing better to reach your target audience.

After careful consideration, they will recommend common fixes that could improve your online content and marketing performance. This may include their thoughts on the mix of assets that will best support your business goals, whether that be re-optimizing landing pages or ramping up visual content and email marketing.

If you choose to do your marketing in-house, you can take these recommendations and implement them with your own team. Otherwise, your consultant will work with their team of content creators to execute the marketing plan and deliver your assets for review before they’re posted.

Then, perhaps the most important part, they will create a baseline report so that when the contract is up, you can clearly see if the metrics you’ve hired them to influence are moving in the right direction. Some of the key measurements they will evaluate are the organic traffic and leads that have hopefully increased in response to their content marketing strategy.

Depending on the length of your contract, they may shift their marketing efforts or double down on their existing strategy to continue seeing results.

10 questions to consider before you hire a marketing consultant:

1. What’s their team like?

Does your consultant work on a team that has a big client portfolio? It can be a competitive advantage to work with a strategist who has a lot of experience to draw from as they build your campaign and make recommendations based on what they’ve seen work (or not work) for other companies.

During initial calls you can also ask about their specialties. Is the consultant in charge of creating all content, or is there a dedicated social media team that handles influencer marketing and a separate editorial department for written content. While there is a benefit to having one person running the show, as they will solely understand your brand and be able to voice it consistently, a committed team with different specialists will ensure you’re getting the best in every form of content. Depending on your marketing goals, you may want to have a content strategist, writer, graphic designer, videographer and/or a social strategist on your team.

Also, don’t be afraid to ask how these teams collaborate. Are they all in one office? How do they seamlessly integrate a social post to promote editorial content? Will you also be collaborating with the senior graphic designer to nail down your visual content? While your content marketing specialist will most likely be your main point of contact, it’s still important to get a feel for how your work is being executed.

2. Do they have blog posts you can check out?

This will give you some insight into their perspective, expertise and focus. It’s also good to see that they practice what they preach. If you’re trusting a marketing agency to advise you on content creation, it’s good to see that they have mastered it for their own brand first.

Ask upfront if there is any material they can share with you to review and do your own digging on the company. Do they specialize in search engine optimization (SEO)? Then see if their website or keywords are ranking high in organic search. Or, if they market themselves as social media strategists, see how well their social media platforms are performing, posting and engaging with customers.

3. Are they staying ahead of the trends?

A company’s blog will also give you some clues about where they are in the marketplace and if they’re up to date on the latest trends. Over 60% of chief marketing officers believe that their budgets will increase in 2020, so there is plenty of room to begin utilizing some of the latest developments in marketing to improve your strategy. The best marketing consultant will be aware of all the latest trends and help you understand where to invest your budget and resources in relation to the current market and your business’s product or service.

A major trend of late is in marketing technology. From marketing automation to artificial intelligence, your consultant should be combining the work of content creators with these martech tools to enhance your strategy. When you utilize the skills of a marketing consultant, you are not only investing in personalized SEO content, but your campaign will be aided by the best tools and trends in the industry.

4. Do they have client testimonials?

Check their website for case studies and client testimonials for examples of the consulting and results they’ve provided to previous customers. If you have time, it might be worth it to call those companies and ask how their experience was. A five minute call could save you months of headaches!

5. Do they work with companies similar to yours?

If you can’t find examples on the website, ask for examples of work they’ve done for companies similar to yours. This will give you an idea of how prepared they are to work with your business and what kinds of marketing ideas they’ll bring to the table.

This is especially true if you work in a niche or highly technical industry and need the content to match. For instance, if you’re in the banking industry, see what they have created for similar organizations or how familiar they are with financial marketing. Look for the language and sources they use to supplement their work to see if it aligns with your expectations.

As you work through a contract, you can point out certain aspects or styles that you like from these pieces or language or would want to avoid in your own content.

6. Will they provide content?

There are different kinds of consultants. Some will come up with great strategies, but leave it up to you to execute them. Other marketing agencies provide consultancy AND have teams to produce the blog content, videos and web design work they recommend.

This is when understanding your own internal capabilities comes in handy. If you feel comfortable creating content in-house, you can receive the guidance needed to help it perform well. On the other hand, having a team of specialists creating the content will free up your schedule and allow your marketing team to focus on other efforts.

7. What services come standard in a typical contract?

Ask if you can talk to your consultant when questions come up, or if there is an hourly charge associated with extra time spent reviewing strategies and getting answers. Some teams offer complimentary rounds of edits, while others may charge for additional changes after the original draft is sent. Understanding how your contract works will help you determine what the workflow will be like and if you need to add extra room in your budget.

8. What questions are they asking you upfront?

Consultants should ask you a lot of questions upfront to get to know your business, understand your buyer personas and become familiar with your marketing goals. Along with questions about your goals and expectations from the relationship, they will want to gain a deep understanding of the marketing channels and materials you already use and if you’ve had any success with them.

Consultants may include content creators in these initial meetings so they can ask questions about the brand voice and messaging you will want to include (or, in some cases, avoid) in the written materials. If you’ve already dabbled in SEO, influencer marketing or email marketing, presenting your efforts and any tracked results can help consultants jumpstart their strategy by determining what you could be doing better.

9. Will they do the reporting and analysis?

Nearly 40% of marketers say proving the ROI of their marketing activities is their top challenge. You want to partner with a consultant who is going to make your job easier with intuitive reports that give clear direction on how to improve your strategy. If you’re not familiar with the style of reporting they provide, you might find it difficult to understand what kind of ROI you’re getting and how it’s helping your business.

Depending on the marketing channels used in your campaign, the metrics used to measure its success could differ. For instance, the ROI on a social media campaign will be determined by how well the content is being shared and the brand is engaging with consumers to increase traffic to the website. However, if you invested in SEO and want to see how well your re-optimized landing pages are performing, a consultant would use tools like Google Analytics to view the conversion rate to see if visitors to the site took the actions you desired to guide them down the sales funnel.

For businesses just beginning to invest in content marketing, it can be easy to be distracted by metrics that actually don’t matter in the long-run. While an increase in social media likes, site visitors and pageviews is promising, these are known as vanity metrics that don’t necessarily correlate with an increase in revenue. What content creators and consultants want to see are more marketing-qualified leads, better conversion rates and increased customer lifetime value from their efforts.

Don’t hesitate to ask your content marketing consultant to present you the results in a different way. You should be able to determine if your investment in their services is worthwhile or see if a different approach is necessary to get the results you want.

10. Is it a cultural fit?

Don’t overlook the importance of finding a consultant who is on the same page as you. Do the employees seem like the kind of people you want to work with? Check out their blog to get a sense of their values and personality to make sure they’ll provide the kind of relationship you want from a consultant.

Adding room in your budget to outsource these high-level marketing efforts doesn’t mean you need to do away with an internal marketing department. In fact, your marketing team can be key in helping a consultant understand your promotional goals and what has already been done. While the consultant works to improve your content or inbound leads, your internal team can continue other complimentary marketing efforts.

Hiring a content marketing consultant can be the best way to jumpstart a campaign and develop materials that are optimized to deliver results. This way, your business can focus marketing efforts through the channels that will have the most impact on your bottom line.

Elizabeth Little is a content writer in Boston. When she’s not typing away on her laptop and putting her marketing degree to good use, you can find her under a fuzzy blanket binge-watching reality TV or trying her hand at an overly complicated recipe hoping it comes out looking like the picture.