Businesses involved in marketing conventional products and services, as well as other organizations, such as non-profits that are otherwise involved in campaigning or fundraising, retain marketing consultants for their unique expertise in the art and science of promotion. Marketing consultants are there to provide knowledge, experience, specialized skills and creativity, contacts, tools, and, of course, man-hours that may not be available within the organization.
Marketing consultants give advice related to strategy and planning, product branding and positioning, licensing and other legal considerations, as well as franchise planning. Marketing consultation services are usually provided within the context of the four components of the marketing mix:
- Product – what products are available and how they are packaged and labeled
- Price – setting a price to attract desired customers, while also creating the desired profit for the company
- Promotion – letting consumers know about the products through means such as advertising, personal selling, publicity, and sales promotions
- Place of distribution – where products are sold and what channels are used to distribute the products
Effective marketing consultants stay current on the many new developments in marketing, including the new mediums through which marketing reaches its intended audience. A consultant needs the ability to dig into a business and develop solutions that fit the unique situation of that particular business. Good communication and leadership skills are essential, as is creativity and an inherent understanding of how to reach various target markets.
Marketing Consulting Services
Marketing strategy defines the business and how it wants to position itself in the marketplace. Strategy is based on overall business goals. A marketing strategy includes:
- Defining the business and its products or services
- Creating a profile of target customers
- Applying findings from analysis of past marketing campaigns
- Determining the role of the business in the marketplace in relationship to the competition
- Understanding the market climate and marketing strengths and weaknesses
Other important pieces of strategy include positioning and brand strategy – defining the elements of a brand and how it fits into the marketplace – and product and pricing strategy.
Marketing planning is mapping the process for reaching target customers. Questions involved in planning include:
- How do target customers respond to both online and offline media?
- How do the target customers search for, study, shop for, and buy the products/services being sold?
- What marketing approaches will work?
- What happens if one aspect of the plan changes?
- Does the marketing plan fit the strategy?
Do we know what would happen if we change one element of the plan?
The many other considerations in the marketing strategy and planning process may include:
- Developing marketing objectives and policies
- Forecasting sales
- Setting up customer service
- Market research
- Licensing and franchise planning
Options for Marketing Consultants
Some consultants work primarily in the larger areas of strategy and planning, while other consultants may get involved in implementing a marketing plan, which may involve more hands on work in developing marketing collateral that may include brochures, flyers, sales packages, and websites, or organizing marketing events such as trade shows. Some marketing consultants may also provide promotion and public relations services.
Marketing consultants may specialize in an industry such as real estate, dining and food service, or financial services, or in a medium such as Internet marketing or direct marketing. Some consultants work only with large businesses, while others focus on small businesses, self-employed professionals, non-profit organizations, businesses in trouble, start-up businesses, or some other segment of the business world.
Marketing consulting firms or large consulting firms that offer marketing consulting as one of their services employ marketing consultants. Consulting firms generally look for a bachelor’s degree or higher, usually require extensive on-the-job training or related experience, and typically offer the best advancement opportunities to consultants with more education.
Self-employment or operating a small business is another option for marketing consultants. More latitude in education exists among these consultants, but experience is a must for independent consultants who will market their own services and work to gain the trust of potential clients.
A bachelor’s degree in marketing or in business with a marketing emphasis is the industry standard starting point for marketing consultants. Earning a master’s degree in business administration (MBA) with a marketing concentration is considered one of the most respected academic achievements in the marketing industry. Consultants who specialize in highly technical industries like biomedical science may actually begin their careers in the field with degrees specific to the area of engineering or science, and then move on to earning a master’s in marketing or an MBA.
Certification can also enhance opportunities for a marketing consultant. The designation of Professional Certified Marketer (PCM) is available from the American Marketing Association (AMA). Candidates for this certification must pass an exam designed for industry professionals with two to four years of experience, and who hold either a bachelor’s degree in marketing or an MBA.
The 210 questions on the exam cover the following core marketing concepts:
- Assessment of and planning the strategic marketing process (how the business competes in its target markets)
- Legal, ethical, and professional issues in marketing
- Evaluation of the marketing process and other factors
- Management of relationships, information, and resources
- Use of the marketing mix
Recertification takes place every three years and requires 36 continuing-education hours.
Marketing consultants who focus on market research may want to consider Professional Researcher Certification from the Insights Association. The association offers eighteen certifications, grouped into three types (research provider, corporate researcher, and research adjunct) tailored to the different segments of the marketing industry.
The Foundation for the Advancement of Marketing Excellence in Entrepreneurs (FAMEE) offers a five-level Certified Marketing Advisor program for consultants who work with entrepreneurs. The program focuses on not-for-profit marketing but is open to all consultants who work with entrepreneurs. The five levels are:
- Certified Marketing Advisor In Training (CMA Trainee)
- Certified Marketing Advisor I (CMA1)
- Certified Marketing Advisor II (CMA2)
- Certified Expert Marketing Advisor I (CEMA1)
- Certified Expert Marketing Advisor II (CEMA2)
More specialized marketing certifications are also available, including:
- Certification in business-to-business marketing from the Business Marketing Institute
- Certified Product Marketing Manager (CPMM) from the Association of International Product Marketing & Management
- Certified Financial Marketing Professional (CFMP) from the American Bankers’ Association
Marketing consulting makes up about 15 percent of the management, scientific, and technical consulting services industry, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). The average salary under the BLS occupational classification for marketing managers, which includes consultants, was $134,390, as of May 2010.
The BLS also reports an expected 83 percent increase in employment in the consulting industry between 2008 and 2018, attributing the increase mostly to economic growth and the increasing complexity of doing business in the 21st century. The BLS reports that the demand for marketing consultants will increase considerably as franchised restaurants and retail stores expand and require consultants to help choose the best locations and develop marketing plans.