How to choose a digital marketing consultancy – Our 5 Step Guide

June 16, 2022 Marketing Advice

digital marketing consultancy

How to choose the right digital marketing consultancy for your business needs


Digital marketing is a vast and ever-changing landscape, which can make it difficult to know where to start when looking for a digital marketing consultancy. But don’t worry, we’re here to help. In this blog post, we’ll discuss what digital marketing is, what you should look for in a digital marketing consultancy, and how much you can expect to pay for digital marketing consulting services.

Choosing the right one can be difficult, but don’t worry, we’re here to help! In this blog post, we’ll discuss what digital marketing is, what you should look for in a company, and how much you can expect to pay for digital marketing consulting services.

What is digital marketing consultancy?

A digital marketing consultancy is a company that helps guide its client through the digital landscape. They tend to provide higher-level digital marketing consultancy services to the client including strategy, planning, and resourcing solutions for a digital marketing programme. They are quite often brought in at the business strategy stage to help define and hone a marketing strategy. They can also provide a whole host of digital marketing services to businesses including; website design and development, search engine optimization (SEO), social media marketing, email marketing, content marketing, and production services.

Digital Marketing Agencies vs Digital Marketing Consultancies

The demarcation between agencies and consultancies in this field has become blurred. But essentially consultancies consult, meaning that they use their experience and subject knowledge to advise the client. Whereas agencies do; they do strategy, they do SEO, they do campaigns.

That being said some consultancies implement as well as advise, and some agencies do provide some advisory services. The real difference is the approach in that agencies want to sell services and a consultancy wants to sell an engagement whatever that may entail.

Another difference is who tends to bring in an agency or consultancy. Agencies usually sit under the remit of a CMO, whereas consultancies are usually engaged via a CEO or CFO. This is because quite often part of the engagement for a consultancy is to assess the performance of the marketing function as a whole, including any agencies that may be incumbent.

Why are they important to businesses?

Digital marketing consultancies are becoming increasingly important as the role of marketing evolves. Businesses are demanding more flexibility in the way they market their products and services. This means that the tenures of CMOs are becoming shorter (just 40 months) and partners such as agencies can be brought as the need arises. Often consultancies are brought in to bridge the gap between CMO posts, or even take over the ownership of the long-term strategy.

The key benefits of using a consultancy are:

  • Perspective – an objective and independent digital marketing perspective that is not influenced by any legacy activity or internal politics.
  • Agility – the ability to respond quickly to changing digital landscape and business needs.
  • Expertise – digital marketing is a vast and ever-changing landscape. Consultancies have the specialist skills and knowledge to help businesses stay ahead of the curve.
  • Independence – digital marketing consultancies are not aligned to any one digital solution, platform, agency, or partner which means they can provide unbiased advice.
  • Flexibility – digital marketing consultancies are often engaged on a project basis which gives businesses the flexibility to scale up or down as needed.
  • Time – As the saying goes time is money, by utilising their expertise they will be able to help you move faster, which in turn will save money.
  • Profitability – Any professional consultancy will make sure that they have linked their inputs to real-world outputs within your business and be able to demonstrate how the work they undertake will have positive ROI.

How do I hire a digital marketing consultancy?

When choosing a digital marketing consultancy, first it is important, to be honest, and undertake a bit of introspection. Ask yourself why are you considering this route? And what does your business really need to achieve your goals? Maybe a consultancy is not the best solution for you, to find out check out how to find and work with a marketing consultancy.

Once you have decided that this is the right route, follow our 5-step guide to hiring a marketing consultancy:

1. Audit your internal capabilities.

It is important before contacting consultancies to have a very clear idea of what you will continue doing in-house and what areas and services you need help with.

For some businesses, a simple SWOT analysis will provide enough information to do this, but if you have a systemic business problem this may require more work. A consultancy will be able to help you with this as part of a discovery exercise, but be prepared to pay for this.

Be prepared to articulate clearly this so that they have a good brief to respond to, and be honest about your weaknesses.

2. Set out your goals.

Be clear about your business model, how it works and what you need to change to be better.

Articulate your current state of how you reach consumers, and how you attract and convert them into customers.

A good consultancy will want to know your CPAs, conversion rates, average order values, LTV, and marketing budgets as a bare minimum. Also, express how you would like these numbers to change to fit your business plan over 12 months.

It could be useful to split these goals into hard metrics such as sales or ROI, but don’t exclude goals that are harder to define like improvements in branding, messaging, or company culture.

3. Briefing.

Once you have compiled all the information from the first two stages you will be in a position to start the briefing. To find companies to brief either search Google for consultancies in your area, utilise your personal network and get recommendations. Linkedin can be useful for finding digital marketing consultancy websites.

The briefing can be done informally via meetups, calls, or over coffee. However, if your business is larger might involve creating and sending an RFP. You can find many templates for this online, so either download this easy-to-follow one from Indeed or drop us a line.

In most cases, you will make contact with someone who does new business development at the consultancy, and after giving them a brief overview of the business send them the RFP.

4. Vetting & fit.

Once you have briefed everyone, allow everyone enough time to respond (do set a deadline). The easiest way to approach this is to have two rounds of vetting:

The first one will exclude all the consultancies that either did not respond or completely miss understood the brief. Make sure you send them a quick note to say why they have been excluded from the process, this will save you time in the long run.

Most consultancies that did respond will also want to present their service or solution, so make sure you block off enough time in advance to do this.

The second phase of vetting should be a bit more considered. Work with just two other people in your team to assess each presentation. Give them the set of criteria to judge each proposal and ask them to judge each pitch by the goals and fit you laid out in steps 1 and 2.

5. Decision making.

Once all the presentations and/or RFPs have been received and presented, you should be in a position to form a consensus based on the checklists you provided.

Don’t forget though you are running the process, so if there are comments you don’t agree with feel free to discount them.

At this point, you should have two or three options that have naturally risen to the top.

Next, you will need to find a way of making a decision based on cost and benefit. To do this you will need to compare pricing. This can be difficult as some proposals might be based on a fixed project cost and others on flexible day rates.

To get an ‘apples for apples’ comparison it is important to estimate the flexible costs that you think you will need to deliver your goals. This may involve asking for a revised proposal based on your assumptions or estimating this yourself.

Once you have a meaningful pricing comparison together with your selection criteria, you are in a position to make a decision.

This can be very difficult too! If it is any consolation, almost all the RFPs I have been involved with in the past have been decided on intuition or gut feeling. Don’t forget if you end up with two great options to decide between, they are still good options so don’t worry. Quite often culture, and fit outweigh small additional costs.

What you should look for in a digital marketing consultancy?

To make a good decision when appointing a digital consultancy, look out for:

  • Consultancies that have a tight service fit your needs. If they have an extensive menu and you only need a few specialist services, maybe you are better off with another more aligned consultancy.
  • Consultancies that can demonstrate that they understand your business. The business model, macro factors, and marketing mix.
  • Companies that have a pricing structure that is clear and easy to understand. Be wary of consultancies that obfuscate costs, or try to sell a solution without understanding your needs.
  • Signs that the consultancy is honest and transparent. Also that they will be solely focused and engaged in solving your specific business problems.
  • References and case studies. This will help you determine whether they are legitimate and whether the projects they have undertaken are similar to yours.

How much you can expect to pay?

The cost of digital marketing consulting services will vary depending on the size of your business, the scope of your project, the company’s experience, and much more. However, you can expect to pay anywhere from £1,000 to £20,000 per month depending on how many services you require.

We suggest that you compare any quotes you receive against Major Players handy benchmarking tool, or take a look at the following chart from Statista which outlines the costs from different services in their own research from March 2021:

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A digital marketing consultancy can be a great way to get expert advice and guidance on how to improve your digital marketing strategy. However, it’s important to choose the right one for your business and to know what you should expect to pay for their services.

With this in mind, we hope this blog post has helped answer some of your questions. If you would like to learn more about digital marketing, or how we can help your business, please get in touch. We offer a free initial consultation to all new clients.

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