You’ve heard of digital marketing consulting.
You may even have a vague idea of what it entails. But for many, “consultant” is thrown around as a bandaid term for anything and everything they can’t clearly define.
So in this article, I’ll answer all your questions about what digital marketing consulting is, how it works, and why many businesses need it.
By definition, digital marketing is “the marketing of products or services using digital technologies, mainly on the Internet, but also including mobile phones, display advertising, and any other digital medium”
And while there’s certainly more to it than that (and you can read all about it here), generally speaking that’s the practice digital marketing consultants work with to bring client’s results.
How they achieve those results is a different story all
In Digital Marketing Consulting, All Projects Are Different
If there’s one thing a digital marketing consultant needs to understand, it’s this: all projects are different.
Which means that a successful consultant has to be able to wear many hats. They should have their hands on all the latest and greatest digital trends, from social media to SEO and PPC.
This also means that you’ll often find digital marketing consultants that specialize in certain areas. For example:
This is a big one in digital marketing, and anyone claiming the title of consultant should have a well-rounded knowledge of what it is and how to improve it for each individual client.
For a consultant, their involvement in SEO is often to strategize and oversee, while delegating individual tasks to a team (either yours or theirs).
SEO, as you likely know, is the optimization of websites for search engines. A consultant’s work typically involves:
- Building backlink profiles
- Handling on-site SEO
- Content marketing strategies
- Reviewing analytics
- Tracking results
PPC is another area that’s usually best left to the experts (i.e. your digital marketing consultant).
Most consultants who specialize in PPC management will be Google AdWords certified and have a strong background in analytics.
Their process will generally look something like this:
- Define performance goals and review data
- Implement tracking
- Build keywords and targeting
- Develop ad copy and creative
- Optimize landing pages
- Create bidding strategy
- Test and track performance over time
Social Media Digital Marketing Consulting
Creating a Twitter or Facebook account doesn’t mean you have a social media presence.
In fact, if you’re only focusing on the two most known (i.e. oldest) channels, you’re missing some pretty big opportunities.
That’s where a digital marketing consultant comes in. They evaluate a brand’s specific audience and match it with the social media channels that represent the biggest opportunities and growth.
Beyond that, they’ll make recommendations concerning boosted posts and social ads, depending on a businesses’ goals.
A typical consulting process might look like this:
- Determine main goals
- Develop company brand
- Identify influencers, media outlets & customers
- Optimize website
- Build influence
- Build communities, brand and revenue
This is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the kinds of work digital marketing consultants do, and we’ll get more into specific examples in a bit.
For now, let’s take a deeper look at the strategies behind a consultant’s work.
Digital Marketing Consulting: Determining the Business Model
The very first step in a consultant’s work is determining a brand’s business model.
This is the backbone of any strategy, because it determines how that company will make money online.
Successful business models are rooted in reality – and a good digital consultant can tell the difference between a get-rich-quick scheme and a model with a strong strategy to obtain a clear objective.
They help companies realize the full economic value of their product or service, by highlighting its value and how customers will get it.
A solid business model is also flexible. This is often where a good consultant can do their best work: by recognizing opportunities for growth.
Take Kodak, for example. There was a time when nothing was more sought after than the “Kodak moment.” However, as digital cameras and photography began to take over the space, Kodak failed to embrace the change, sticking instead to its guns and its prints.
Needless to say, you don’t hear too much about Kodak these days.
The lesson here is this: a great digital marketing consultant can not only identify the appropriate business model for a given brand, but also identify ways to innovate.
To do that takes a deep understanding of a brand’s target audience: their wants, needs, and values – and how a companies services align with them.
There’s plenty of examples of companies doing just that: look no further than Uber and its sub-business, UberEats. They identified a need in their target audience (quick, affordable service that’s extremely easy to use), that wasn’t being fulfilled by traditional taxis.
The rest, as they say, is history – for now, at least.
Generally speaking, business models can be separated into five types.
Ecommerce Digital Marketing Consulting
This one needs little explanation – they’re all over the internet, from the major players like Amazon to smaller sites
An ecommerce site is designed to make money online by selling products through a web catalog and a shopping cart.
A customer visits the site, browses the catalog, selects an item, and checks out – making the shopping experience as easy as can be for those who no longer brave crowded malls and retail stores.
Where a digital marketing consultant comes in:
A consultant working with an ecommerce model will do a number of things.
They’ll evaluate the actual website for ease of use and a seamless check-out process. They’ll ensure multiple payment options are offered and drip email campaigns are set up for customer retention and abandoned shopping carts.
Beyond that, they’ll run shopping and remarketing ads to attract new and lost customers
Lead Generation Consulting
This model’s just like it sounds: it generates leads for a specific business.
It could be for a range of industries, from a local dentist’s office to a community or vocational school.
Even the aforementioned Uber falls into this category by connecting buyers who need rides with drivers who sell them.
The success of this model is based on how many leads are collected, and how many of those leads then take the desired action – make a purchase, subscribe, enroll, etc.
Where a digital marketing consultant comes in:
This involves the nitty gritty work of determining what information to request in your lead forms to what value you’ll offer in exchange for that information (free ebooks, guides, training videos, free trial, etc.)
Beyond that, a consultant should be well-versed in conversion optimization and lead nurturing to make sure there is a clear plan to lead prospects down the funnel.
And that’s just the tip of the iceberg – lead generation is an art in itself, and requires the work of a consultant familiar with all stages of the process and a complete of the tools to help in the conversion process.
Branding Business Model
Branding: “The marketing practice of creating a name, symbol or design that identifies and differentiates a product from other products.”
On the surface, at least. Beyond that, branding tells your customers what to expect from your company and its services, and helps give a brand a singular identity in an increasingly competitive age.
Think of Nike. Lululemon. McDonalds. Think of swooshes and golden arches.
These brands are iconic, and each conjures up certain images and emotions in customer’s minds.
People buy based on those emotions, and continue to based on brand loyalty.
Where a digital marketing consultant comes in:
A consultant helps develop a strong brand identity by compiling all the data on a company’s target audience, and refining and creating clear brand guidelines for images, copy, tone, colors and more.
The news model focuses on providing information, sometimes around a specific subject.
Major news publications all fall under this category.
Some of these models make money by selling subscriptions to their content, while others rely on advertisements.
Where a digital marketing consultant comes in:
A successful news model relies on strong, engaging content. A successful digital marketing consultant knows how to deliver it.
These are similar to news models, but generally relate only to a very particular subject.
You’ll see these commonly in industry blogs; an expert produces posts that address and answer specific industry tools, trends, and ideas.
These too often rely on advertisements or niche items like training videos to make money.
Where a digital marketing consultant comes in:
A consultant’s work here involves building a strong standing in a particular niche, among other things.
That means working to establish industry expert status by participating in social discussions, creating strong email campaigns, and optimizing every piece produced on the site for higher rankings in the SERPs.
Digital Marketing Consulting: Asking the Right Questions
Once the model they’re working with has been established, a consultant will have a better idea of the kinds of tactics and tools needed for success.
Next, they have to evaluate each business individually to create a personalized strategy.
To do so, a digital marketing consultant asks a series of questions.
- What are the goals of the business?
Your business goals inform the entire game plan; after all, how will you find success if you don’t even know what you’re looking for.
That said, there’s a difference between rookie and expert goals. Rookie goals, for example, look like this:
- I want more website traffic
- I want to rank #1 in Google
- I want more email subscribers
What marks them as rookie is that they’re poorly-defined. A digital marketing consultant will come in, evaluate your current numbers and overall goals like above, and expand those goals ot look something like this:
- They need 5,000 more website visitors a month
- They need to rank #1 for the keyword “refurbished iphone”
- They need to collect 2 leads from each remarketing ad
See the difference? Setting real numbers will help achieve real results.
- Where is the business in the product or service life cycle?
A life cycle describes the stages a product or service goes through from conception to the end of its run. Typically, it looks something like this:
By determining where a product or service is in its life cycle, consultants can identify where the work initially needs to be focused. That could be building buzz for a product that’s being introduced, or brainstorming ways to extend the life cycle of a service that’s declining.
- Where does the business need to go to be profitable?
In order to be successful, every business needs a way to make a profit.
Based on the business model, a digital marketing consultant will identify ways to earn a profit and what steps the business needs to take to get there.
To earn a profit, a business has to make more than it spends, and a consultant can also help make decisions about current spending to make sure it isn’t hindering any potential profits.
- How much funding or cash does the business have?
To make the most informed decisions about where marketing dollars should go, a consultant needs to know exactly what they’re working with.
First of all, it will enable them to set a marketing budget. Then, based on the business goals and opportunity for profit, they can determine how much should be allocated to each area – from where they should advertise down to the tools used to track their efforts.
- Where are the businesses customers online?
- How do they like to interact with business online?
- What content and ads do they respond to the best?
These are grouped together for a good reason – they all come down to a deep understanding of a business’s target audience.
The process involves several steps, including:
- Analyzing current customer base
- Analyzing the competition – who their customers are and who they’re targeting
- Analyzing the product’s value, features, and benefits
- Creating buyer personas based on demographics – age, gender, occupation, location, etc.
- Analyzing characteristics – personality, lifestyle, values
Based on who the consultant determines the target is, they can conduct subsequent research into the channels most used by that audience and demographic, and determine which content resonates most with them.
- How expensive will it be to set up traffic generation through each marketing medium?
After the particular digital marketing consultant has determined the best channels to use, they then have to look at it in terms of budget.
For example, if the target audience is mainly B2B professionals, they’ll likely consider LinkedIn as an appropriate channel.
However, advertising on LinkedIn tends to be more expensive than other social channels. A consultant will know this, and be able to make budget recommendations accordingly.
- What is the cost per conversion?
Cost per conversion is the average marketing cost of each new customer.
Cost per conversion = total number of clicks/total number of conversions.
To properly assess, a digital marketing consultant will look at the average amount being spent per click, the average profit margin, and the number of people who actually buy something after clicking
This is a process that will need to be implemented throughout the marketing campaign to ensure a profit is being made. If at any point it the CPC rises, your consultant should be aware of it and adjust accordingly.
- What is the return on advertising?
Return on ad spend (ROAS) measures the overall effectiveness of a digital advertising campaign.
A digital marketing consultant needs to be able to calculate a company’s current ROAS (if they’re already ads) and keep tabs on it in the future.
Average ROAS will vary by industry, which is why it’s important to have a consultant that evaluates not only your ROAS, but can compare it against industry averages.
This number will help inform future budgets and overall direction of a marketing strategy.
- How long will it take to become reliable?
Once a digital marketing consultant begins to form a direction and choose channels for a particular strategy, they have to look to reliability.
They have to be able to tell a client what their projections are, and how long they’ll take to achieve.
To do that, they have to have consistent, reliable information. Sure, it’s great to see sales increase for a month, but to truly nurture a successful business, you need to be able to rely on those numbers consistently going up.
This will take some time. The foundation has to be set, along with reliable metrics and analytics.
- How large can it be scaled at the current price point?
Fact: To make more money online, you have to be willing to spend more.
A digital marketing consultant is able to evaluate your current budget and scale it in a way to get the most returns.
For example, content marketing. Good consultants know that producing more quality content will yield bigger returns, and can work within your budget to make it happen.
If the budget allows for more writers and designers, great. If not, they can allocate the job elsewhere, or look at ways to repurpose existing content into videos, slideshows and infographics to keep the content consistent.
- How much overall profitability does the business see?
At any stage in the strategy development or deployment, a consultant must be able to measure profitability in order to determine the best business practices.
To do so requires analyzing a myriad of factors: production costs, gross profit, daily operations, etc. to ensure that any measures going forward will increase, not take away from, any existing profit.
Digital Marketing Consulting: Custom Projects
Often, a consultant isn’t hired to oversee a company’s entire marketing strategy.
Sometimes, they’re brought in for specific projects that require their expertise
We touched on some of the areas a consultant can specialize in above, but now let’s take a look at some of the custom projects that may require a consultant.
As a company grows, so too does its audience.
Sometimes, that means growing wide enough to reach an international audience.
While that’s a good thing, it will mean redoubling and restructuring your SEO efforts to include multinational and/or multiregional SEO.
A digital marketing consultant will know the in’s and out’s of International SEO, and should be able to address everything from optimizing website content for a variety of languages and multiple geographic areas, to using Facebook global pages and going international on Amazon.
Launching an App or Website
Website and app launches are another big reason consultants are often brought in.
For example, a startup may be looking for some help launching their first website, or an established business may be introducing an app on the market and looking to build some buzz.
Either way, a digital marketing consultant can help form a strategy to ensure you see significant traffic or downloads – even on the very first day.
They’ll likely focus on building and promoting through social media, creating landing pages and sending relevant traffic there, sending out press releases, crafting incentives, etc.
A social media presence is a must in this day and age (and no one knows that better than a digital marketing consultant).
But many businesses find themselves at a loss when it comes to building an effective social strategy. After all, it’s a space that grows and changes at a moment’s notice, and it can be hard for anyone to keep on top of it.
Which is why you bring someone whose job it is to stay on top of the trends.
For example, if you’re running a local dental office you may not think there’s a place on social media for you. But a good consultant knows that locals love social media (70% of customers choose a local business who has a social media site).
They also know how to use it to increase your customer base and loyalty – through engaging content, how-to’s, special promotions, and local ads on Facebook.
Email Automation Campaigns
Email automation – a series of emails that are sent in a sequence – is an extremely effective way of reaching and retaining customers.
But it’s not so simple as sending an email here or there.
First of all, do you have a reliable email list (and a way to grow it?) Do you know which email automation tools are right for you? Which metrics you should be tracking? How often you should be sending them, or what elements you should be testing?
Maybe not, but you can be sure a good digital marketing consultant does.
They’ll know the tools to use, the analytics to monitor, and the creative that will attract customer clicks.
For example, if you run an ecommerce company, you should know that 40% of cart abandonment emails are opened, and that half of the customers who click through end up purchasing.
But those numbers don’t happen by themselves, and to make yours successful there are several factors to take into consideration, including timing, bold CTAs, product reminders, related items, and convincing copy.
That’s outside of many ecommerce site’s expertise, and that’s exactly when they call in a digital marketing consultant
Wrapping Up Digital Marketing Consulting
Digital marketing consulting is complicated, to say the least.
Their work involves strategies, tactics, numbers, and tools.
But at its heart, it involves getting a client seen – in search engines, in prospects inboxes, and in their social feeds.
If all goes well, you’ll be seeing those prospects pop up on your websites and shopping carts as well.