What's a Content Marketing Consultant Do? (And How to Hire One)
I run a content marketing agency that focuses on blogging. When you hire me, I develop a content marketing plan for you, I perform topic ideation and competitive research, and I use my roster of writers to create optimized content for you. I manage your blog for you, so you don't have to, and you can focus your energies elsewhere.
I've been asked a few times by business owners if I'm willing to hand over my topic research and let my clients get the content written elsewhere. I typically say no; my specialist writers are some of the best in the business, and to be frank, those clients often just want to save money by hiring cheaper writers. Those writers won't produce quality content those topics deserve, the blog won't perform as well, and everyone involved is let down.
I am not a content marketing consultant. So what is a content marketing consultant, and what do they do?
I like to compare blogging to throwing darts at a dartboard. A bullseye is a great throw - something hard to pull off, but with great returns. In blogging terms, a bullseye would be a post that gets a lot of links and traffic, generates exposure, maybe even goes viral.
Anyone, given enough darts and enough time, can get a bullseye. It might be one dart out of 100, or one dart out of 1,000, or one dart out of 10,000, but eventually, through sheer statistical probability, it'll happen.
I'm a content marketing expert and SEO guru, so growing websites and sculpting blog posts is what I do for a living. If you want to see a case study, the average website we work with grows by over 800% in the first year. I can take over your dart throwing and generate higher odds of getting a bullseye, as I've already thrown thousands of darts and I know how to throw to increase my chances of getting there. You pay me to do it, and I do it for you.
A content marketing consultant is a little different. They don't take over your dart throwing. Instead, they teach you how to throw better. They look at your form and help you adjust it. They give you tips on how much power to add, how to hold a dart, where to aim for the distance you're standing away from the board.
When someone like me ends a contract, we leave, and you're left with a more successful blog than you had before, but not necessarily with the knowledge of how to run it the way I was running it. When a content marketing consultant leaves, they've taught you lessons on how to run it yourself with a greater degree of success.
That's the comparative impact of a content marketing consultant. Of course, you pay for the teaching, not just the management; consultants are often come in for a few months at a time to help guide your in-house teams or your teams of freelancers to do what you want them to do and then leave to move on to other gigs. Such is the life of a consultant; always on the move.
The Benefits of a Content Marketing Consultant
Above all, a content marketing consultant is a trainer. They're an external force that you hire, as a consultant, to come in and teach you how to do better. Consultants exist for everything, from ISO compliance to business processes to Agile coaching to management. Why not SEO and digital marketing?
Every good content marketer needs to know how content marketing works. They need to understand things like:
- They need to understand how to identify the target audience of a blog.
- They need to understand how to learn and understand what that target audience is looking for.
- They need to understand how to create high-quality content that reaches that target audience.
- They need to understand how to promote that content on your social media profiles like LinkedIn and Facebook, connect with influencers, and distribute it to other channels.
- They need to understand how to monitor the performance of that content, identify key performance metrics, and optimize your SEO for better results.
- They need to understand how to audit, adjust, and optimize the processes involved to streamline your marketing efforts.
- They need to understand how to use analytics and SEO software, monitor your organic traffic and conversion rate, and spot areas for opportunity.
The only question is, how do you learn that?
- Many companies learn it themselves through trial and error, through reading the blog posts published by agencies like my own, and through monitoring what their competitors are doing.
- Many companies don't care to learn it themselves and hire another company like mine to help them grow their sites the right way.
- Many companies combine the two; they build their team, but they skip the trial and error by hiring a consultant to train them.
A content marketing consultant brings many benefits to the table. They know what they're talking about, and they know how to teach it to your team. They can help you avoid the common pitfalls that cost businesses a lot of money and growth over the years. They can help correct past mistakes, remove past penalties, and improve past performance.
Most importantly, the main benefit of a content marketing consultant is institutional knowledge. An agency like mine, if you cut the contract, we leave. We may teach you how to do things occasionally, even though it's not in the job description, but most of the time we're doing work for you. A consultant personifies the adage; if you give a man a fish, he will eat for a day. If you teach a man to fish, he can feed himself for a lifetime.
"If you give a man a blog, he will generate sales for a day. If you teach a man to blog, he will generate sales for a lifetime."
Of course, there are other benefits too, especially for businesses that find it difficult to get things done.
For example, a consultant brings in objectivity. They aren't going to fluff up your performance numbers to make themselves look better. They aren't going to play into office politics, because their contract is temporary and it doesn't matter once they leave.
We create blog content that converts - not just for ourselves, but for our clients, too.
We pick blog topics like hedge funds pick stocks. Then, we create articles that are 10x better to earn the top spot.
Content marketing has two ingredients - content and marketing. We've earned our black belts in both.
A consultant brings in accountability. You're paying them to teach you how to get results, and if you don't put their advice into practice, it's an investment wasted.
So why am I an agency rather than a consultant? They're different business models, and there are drawbacks to hiring a content marketing consultant.
The Drawbacks to a Content Marketing Consultant
Before you jump for joy and start looking up the names of the local content marketing consultants, you should remember that there are reasons that they aren't the perfect solution for everybody. There are several significant drawbacks to hiring a content marketing consultant over the other options.
1. First up, you have the cost. The cost of a content marketing consultant is generally high. Consultants charge a premium to teach because their role is temporary. They might work with you for a few months, or a year, but sooner or later, they'll have taught you what they can teach you and they'll need to move on.
2. Secondly, you have to have an in-house marketing team. It would be best if you had employees on staff who are there explicitly to learn how to handle your content marketing for you - a trainer can only train if there's someone to teach. You should expect to have somebody managing your social media accounts, a blog writer, a graphic designer, an editor, an email marketing manager, and an SEO professional. This strategy increases the cost of hiring a consultant over an agency; remember that you're also paying the salaries of your marketing team.
3. Third, and related to the second point, consultants don't handle implementation. At least, most of them don't. They might handle some initial implementation to show you what they can do, but their primary purpose is to teach you how to optimize and run your blog yourself.
- They teach you how to make an inbound marketing strategy, rather than making one for you.
- They teach you some important search engine factors to optimize, such as site speed and internal linking, rather than implementing that SEO optimization for you.
- They teach you how to perform topic ideation, rather than giving you topic ideas.
- They teach you how the basics of content creation, rather than writing your blog posts for you.
- They teach you some best practices of sharing your content to your social media profiles.
- They teach you the different types of content, such as evergreen content, infographics, social content, and skyscraper content.
If you want someone to come in and do everything for you, you hire a content marketing agency like myself. If you want to learn how to handle your content marketing strategy, you hire a consultant to train you to do it.
4. There's also the risk that your consultant might have a different vision than you for the direction of your company. To be successful, a content marketing consultant needs to understand your business, your audience, and your scope. If you have different ideas of how to progress and grow, that disconnect can undo the benefits of having a consultant in the first place.
5. Finally, of course, there's the risk that your team might not internalize what they learn. Like any student, the success of the teaching depends on how well the student learns. If your team doesn't internalize the processes, knowledge, and advice the consultant gives you, then it's money wasted.
What is a Content Marketing Consultant's Salary?
I've mentioned the cost of a consultant a few times, but how much do they cost?
It's difficult to say directly because different consultants at different levels charge different prices.
- At the low end, a freelance content marketing consultant might cost you $30-$50 per hour, with a minimum of 10 hours per month. These consultants come in and give you advice, but they will largely rely on self-teaching. They'll give you resources like eBooks, training documents, social media tips, blogs to read, and templates to follow. They might have a list of recommended tools for you to buy access to, which adds to the cost, but that's not what you're paying the consultant.
- A mid-range content marketing consultant might charge double or triple the rates above, something around $100 to $200 per hour for their services. These consultants tend to be a bit more hands-on, with direct training, one-on-one meetings with your staff, guidance, and more customized tools and plans.
- At the high end, you may be looking at agencies rather than individual freelancers. Hiring an agency that gives you a highly-trained consultant, or a small team of several consultants, will be correspondingly more expensive. You could be paying $300 per hour for access, or $500, or even more. Some of the largest firms in the world hire consultants who command seven-figure salaries for a year of consulting. The sky – and your budget – is the limit.
Of course, all of this can be highly variable. There are consultants out there who do the bare minimum and charge mid-range prices. There are consultants out there who could triple their rates if they wore a suit and built a little self-confidence. Consultants are a land of contrasts. Finding a good consultant within your price range is, in fact, the largest challenge of working with a content marketing consultant in the first place.
The Final Question
So, there you have it; a comprehensive idea of what a content marketing consultant can do for you. You're left with just one question: is it worth it?
If hiring an agency to handle your content marketing strategy for you is more cost-effective to you than doing it all yourself, then great! There's no shame in outsourcing to a quality company like mine; thousands of businesses do it, from the smallest of the small to many of the largest firms on the planet.
If you would rather build up that knowledge in-house, and double or triple your blogging effectiveness through training, great! A consultant is almost always going to be shorter-term, more expensive, but more valuable to your institution after they've gone. The building of that institutional knowledge can be a powerful benefit. If it's worth it to you, and you can justify an in-house content marketing team of your own, then that may be a good route for you.
You just need to make the choice. Determine whether or not you're willing to have an in-house marketing team. Determine if you're going to hire highly-skilled marketers for your team, those who already know what they're doing, or if you'd rather hire less expensive (and less skilled) team members to train yourself. Then decide if you're willing to do that training, or if you want to hire a consultant to do it for you.
If you're not willing to create a full-time in-house marketing team for your startup, well, that's fine too. There are plenty of agencies out there you can hire to work for you and assemble your content strategy. If you don't want to build an in-house marketing team, then don't build one. It's a complicated industry, and poorly managing your content marketing strategy will always be worse and potentially more costly than outsourcing it.
March 26, 2021 at 11:47 am
Great advice here. I'd love to find a consultant that knows what they are talking about, but it's hard to find a consultant who claims to be an expert and actually has a blog themselves.
March 26, 2021 at 3:51 pm
Hey Elizabeth! They are out there if you look hard enough.
Feel free to drop me a line if you have any questions - I'll see if I can save you a few bucks by answering any questions you might have.
We provide free consulting to our clients all the time. I'm happy to help!
February 18, 2022 at 7:06 pm
Great read. We've considered creating our own content marketing strategy team but ended up with the conclusion that it's too costly for us. I think we're better off investing in outsourcing help on this. It makes sense to get professional opinion before we shell out thousands on content. It's like building a house with the wrong materials - better to measure three times and cut once.
February 21, 2022 at 1:35 pm
Great analogy. That's a situation I see all too often - if you continue building for years and then find out that you were doing it all wrong, it can become a costly mistake. In that case, an hour or two with a professional content marketer could have saved you a ton of time and money.
It's hard to find consultants worth their salt, though. It may not be a bad idea for somebody in this position to speak with two or three consultants and see what each of them has to say.
Hopefully, they touch on topic research, competitive research, evergreen content, long-form content, and on-site optimization. If not, I'd find somebody else who does cover those things in detail 🙂