Gary Kullberg: What to Look For in a Marketing Consultant

Online and digital marketing consultants rhode island, Hub Digital

Sometimes, at Hub Digital we like to connect with other marketing professionals to get their take on how they help small businesses grow. We believe that by sharing our ideas and strategies we can all help businesses better. Today, we've brought in Gary Kullberg of The Kullberg Consulting Group who breaks down why hiring a marketing consultant is important, and what you should be looking for in one.

If you’re an early stage or established small company seeking to profitably grow, you’re probably wondering whether you need a marketing consultant, much less how to select one.  Relax, you’re not alone!

Having spent many years working with small B2B, B2C, and nonprofit organizations on their marketing and marketing communications strategies and plans, I believe I’ve got a good sense of the issues facing them. Generally, at the top of the list, is the lack of a real marketing plan.  I’ve found that, despite possessing the skill sets that drive their organization’s success, founders and/or management simply do not have:

  • Time to think about marketing at all, because there is always something “more important” or urgent that needs their attention;
  • A real understanding of the power of marketing and how it can significantly improve profits and return on investment (ROI);
  • The resources, budgets and people available – marketing and marketing communications is “unfamiliar and scary,” and there are always other areas that need support first;
  • The knowledge of how to seek out and evaluate professional marketing help.

Yet, without real professional marketing planning, many brands are operating with a “Ready, Fire, Aim” reaction to the marketplace.   

So, what can a marketing or marketing communications professional do for you? In order to accomplish short and long-term objectives, you need to develop a meaningful marketing strategy and an integrated marketing communications plan and tactics. At its core, having a professional marketing program will improve your profitability and ROI. This task is often outsourced, frequently with a part-time Chief Marketing Officer.

The process starts with the outside consultant learning about your brand – its strengths and weaknesses, competition, distribution, business plan objectives, existing communication materials, employee involvement.  During this learning period, the consultant also avails himself of any pertinent primary or secondary research.  Most important, this period is also the time for establishing trust between the organization and the consultant.  You both must trust one another.

While some tasks may be completed directly during this learning period, an outside professional would use this knowledge to prepare:

  1. A marketing and marketing communications strategy, along with a positioning statement.  The positioning statement is a succinct description of the core target audience to whom the brand is directed, and a compelling picture of how the marketer wants the audience to view the brand.

Sound simple?  Take a minute and try to answer these four questions about your brand:

  • The target audience, in very specific detail
  • The category in which the brand competes, and its relevance to customers
  • The brand’s benefit and point of difference
  • A reason for the customer to believe – the most compelling proof

The positioning statement should be the credo for your brand to live by.  All marketing and marketing communications should flow from this positioning and be understood by all employees, agents, partners and management.

  1. An integrated and holistic plan with tactical expressions – media programs; creative executions, including new and/or traditional advertising; public relations; content marketing (social media, articles, blogs, white papers, video); packaging; point of purchase; employee engagement; and, events. The use of internal or external staff to create the above will be directed and evaluated by the consultant or, if necessary, specialists may be recommended to create various aspects of the plan.
  2. Recommendations for primary or secondary research when clear cut answers don’t exist on specific subjects.  Marketing depends on a complete understanding of the customers’ “wants and needs” as well as how they relate to your brand and competition.  Not just what your staff thinks; rather, information.  Facts beat opinion every time.  Look before you leap.
  3. A procedure of measurement and evaluation of the objectives of the agreed upon plan, as well as the established objectives to be accomplished with each target audience and marketing communication task.  Benchmarking and on-going analysis is key to successful marketing programs, allowing for change or refinement as you continue to improve operating efficiency.
  4. A format for informing and discussing the reasoning behind the marketing planning, so that everyone in the organization understands why the specific strategies, plans and tactics were developed and implemented.  The consultant should be a “teacher” to you and the entire organization becomes brand advocates.

If this makes sense to you, the next logical question is what talents should a marketing consultant have?  I believe you should look for a consultant, full or part-time, who is:

  1. Willing to learn your business from the ground up and doesn’t have a “one size fits all” mentality;
  2. An established professional, with extensive experience across industries and brands in B2B, B2C and nonprofit organizations, large and small.  Expand your horizons and don’t settle for experience in only your niche or industry;
  3. Media neutral and willing to embrace analytics to develop a variety of programs as well as to measure them.  In today’s complicated marketplace, a consultant must understand new and traditional media, the difference between efficiency and effectiveness, “likes” vs. “sales”, the dangers of digital ad fraud, etc., etc.;
  4. Apolitical and willing to tell it like it is, so candor will flourish in your relationship.  Having your consultant free to demonstrate the discipline of marketing and marketing communications will build trust and a meaningful partnership;
  5. Has an established network of marketing communications specialists who can be called in to provide solutions when necessary.

The marketing and marketing communications strategic and tactical challenges of today are growing exponentially.  But, as with our uncertain economic and political environment, putting your head in the sand isn’t a viable response.  As Will Rogers said, “Even if you’re on the right track, you’ll get run over if you just sit there.” 

Gary Kullberg founded The Kullberg Consulting Group in 1994 to provide companies and nonprofits with impactful and cost-efficient methods for improving their marketing and marketing communications.  I enjoy analyzing and developing strategies, tactics, executions and measurements for small and midsized organizations.  My experience working with a variety of organizations in the B2B, B2C and nonprofit arenas has given me a deep understanding of branding and marketing ROI. Further, knowing when and how to employ traditional and new media is an outgrowth of my passion for being media neutral. I can be reached at