Hiring a Marketing Consultant: Five Ways to Be Sure You Get Your Money's Worth

I've heard way too many negative stories lately from clients who feel like they've been burned by their marketing consultants. 

What's happening? And how can you know if that marketing consultant you hired is really worth it?

Maybe there are a bunch of people out there masquerading as well-meaning marketers...and taking their clients' money without delivering any value in return. Or, worse, delivering value through shady tactics like black hat SEO -- tactics that their clients won't even know to be wary of.

Maybe clients are sometimes unclear about what they're hiring their marketing consultants to do, what success will look like, or when they should start seeing results. So suddenly they find themselves having spent a bunch of money and not sure what they have to show for it. It's understandable. You're hiring help because you don't have the time or inclination or expertise to handle this stuff yourself. You're busy building a business for goodness' sake.

It is possible for you to hire help and get results. Without just ending up with yet another thing you're solely responsible for. 

1) Do your research.

Research the people you're considering hiring. Look at their websites. Go beyond looking at their portfolios -- check out the clients they list on their sites. (I've actually seen marketers list projects in their portfolios for clients who either didn't exist or no longer existed.) You might even ask if you can speak with someone who's hired them before. If this sounds like a lot of work, just think about the alternative -- all the time and money you risk sinking into someone who either doesn't deliver or even damages your brand.

2) Be very clear about what you're hiring your consultant to do.

Think carefully through your overall objectives before you even start searching for your consultant. Why do you need help? And what do you need help for? What's the problem you're seeking to solve? Maybe you're a startup who's started to see enough success in sales that you're ready to hire some marketing power to take you to the next level. Maybe your growth has stalled and you need a fresh perspective on how you can attract and engage (more of) the right people. 

3) Agree on how you'll measure success. 

Your success metrics should be tied to quantifiable achievements that contribute to your brand and business growth. For example: if you're hiring a marketing consultant to expand your social media presence, measure success not only by numbers of followers but also by engagement as well - clicks, visits, and conversions driven by social media. 

4) Set milestones.

When will you see success? Your milestones can be tied to success metrics like increases in social media followers, website visitors, or new leads. Or they can be the completion of key deliverables like giving your social channels a branded facelift, writing up buyer personas, creating a comprehensive content marketing calendar, or drafting a certain number of blog posts.

5) Ignore sunk costs.

Be ready to say goodbye, and maybe even start over. If your marketing consultant isn't doing what you expected, isn't driving the results you want, or isn't hitting your milestones, it's time to say goodbye. You might've hired the nicest person in the world. But if the work you're paying for isn't being delivered, it's time to move on.