With the way digital marketing has exploded online, it's pretty easy to find a professional that calls himself a digital marketing consultant. But in such a young, developing field, there's no question that many so-called consultants lack the background required to do a professional job for their customers. They may have some knowledge of digital strategy and content marketing, but they aren't as skillful at driving reliable returns — or at understanding the best strategy for a particular brand.
Businesses too often invest in the wrong digital consultant, and they come out hurting in the end, after their high-end spending delivers bargain-rate results. The key to avoiding a similar fate, Social Media Today notes, is knowing what to look for when you hire a consultant. Here are five things you should expect from any worthwhile consultant.
1. Transparent Reporting
When your strategy is implemented through campaigns, businesses shouldn't let digital consultants handle all the data. A good consultant won't ask for that, anyway; he's more likely to offer transparent reporting up front. This reporting shows, for better or worse, the results from current active campaigns. Bad consultants won't want to show these because they fear the poor numbers will cost them their client. But good consultants understand that, even if some of the data isn't flattering, it's not the end of the world.
Depending on the campaign, a lot can happen in a day. Strategic moves may backfire, performance may be well below expectations and so on. A consultant should be readily available to respond to these needs. If a consultant can't guarantee responsiveness, it's usually for one of two reasons: Either he is too busy to take you on, or he doesn't want to fix the problems he creates.
3. High-touch Local Customer Service
Digital consultants are there to help their clients avoid the mess of computers and automated processes, so why would they automate their customer service? By asking for high-touch local customer service, businesses are making sure that they can reach their consultant in a pinch. Local support ensures that they aren't being outsourced to a specialist in Dallas when they really need someone on the ground in Orlando. Consulting firms should know their clients want this close working relationship.
4. A Template for Success
Digital marketing consultants should come in with a template for success that has been customized to suit your brand and marketing needs. Ask to see the short- and long-term strategy, as well as past use cases where their approach produced tangible results. If they haven't had success before, your business isn't likely to be the first.
5. Ongoing Optimization of Campaigns
Remember those detailed reports you expect from your consultant? They should be used as more than just a progress report on your current performance. A good consultant will take those reports and make strategy adjustments that continually optimize your campaigns for success. Don't invest in a consultant who writes a prescription and walks away: all good consultants understand that the best campaigns take time to mature.
A little due diligence is all it takes to save your business from the teeth of an unqualified digital marketing consultant. Understand what qualities matter most to you, and don't be afraid to shine a bright light on any candidate before making your choice.