6 Questions to Ask Before Choosing a Strategic Marketing Consultant

by Debra Andrews | March 6, 2017

Let’s say you’ve looked into the mirror, come to some terms, and decided you really do need some marketing help. You’ve hit the Google circuit, browsed some websites, and reached out to a few strategic marketing consulting firms.

Good start. But now the tough part. How do you pick one?


It’s a tough proposition, but we can help. Here are six questions to ask your finalists, so you can sort out who’s the best fit for your business.

1. Can you show us a sample Strategic Marketing Plan?

When you ask this, you should get a firm “No.” Good strategic marketers won’t be able to share their past plans, due to confidentiality agreements.

Suppose you commission a marketing plan, and your consultant really digs into the details of your business. S/he objectively examines your circumstances and challenges, and prescribes tactics to help you achieve your business goals.

Would you want that plan placed into the hands of that consultant’s potential clients?

Of course not.

While a consultant shouldn’t be able to give you a plan, they should be quick with their list of references. Take the time to fully check those references out. Find out whether they’re similar to you. Ask if they felt they received value. Make sure the plans were strategic, specific, measurable, and actionable.

2. Do you have experience in working with businesses just like ours?

You’re looking for two things here:

  1. What specific experiences have they had in our space?
  2. Have they been successful in those experiences?

Now, it must be noted that every business is a little different. While some marketing strategies will carry from business to business, others will be custom-built to a given client. Try to get a sense of whether the strategic marketing consultant will build a plan for you, or give you their cookie-cutter list of marketing tactics.

Which brings us to the next question.

3. How does strategic marketing differ from tactical marketing? (And which do we need?)

Strategic marketing is all about designing a plan that achieves your goals. Tactical marketing is all about prescribing and executing the specific actions to achieve those goals.

Think of it like this. If marketing were a paint-by-numbers project, the strategy would be drawing the dark black lines. The tactics would be assigning the numbers and doing the painting.


Whether you need strategic marketing or tactical marketing is dependent on your circumstance. Do you have clear goals? Are you looking for specific results? Do you have a short-term marketing need, or do you want longer-term success?

The fact of the matter is, marketing needs time to generate returns. If your business has a tendency to micromanage and pull the plug if results aren’t immediate, then you probably want tactical marketing. If your business is more likely to judge the overall picture you’re trying to paint, then you probably want strategic marketing. Good strategic marketing consultants will identify which type of marketing you need. And they may even remove themselves from contention if what you need is different from the type of marketing they do best.

4. How have you helped clients reach their goals in a measurable way?

This question examines the consultant’s clarity of goals and results. It can also expose their commitment to keeping up-to-date. Over the last few years, technology has made marketing analytics more accessible. A good marketer worth his or her salt shouldn’t shy away from setting targets and measuring outcomes.

And more importantly, a good marketer should be able to identify how to improve those outcomes the next time around.

5. How do you structure your fees?

At some point, you’re going to receive an invoice, so make sure to get a very clear breakdown of fees and timing before the work starts. This step can save you a lot of potential aggravation.

It’s also a good idea to ask references about their payment experience, which can give you a strong sense of the consultant’s ability to scope the work, stay within budget, and communicate effectively throughout the project.


6. How will you help us after the plan is done?

Be wary of a consultant who props open the Exit door before delivering a strategy.

You see, while it’s easy to recommend, it’s difficult to see things through.

We’ve mentioned it before: the difference between a good and an average strategic marketing consultant is whether they’re capable of executing on their strategy. A consultant that can move with fluidity from strategy to tactical execution is a rare breed. It means they’ll build a plan that’s achievable for your business. Even if they have to stick around to help you achieve it.

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