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4 Common Concerns Before Bringing in a Marketing Consultancy: Hear From Our Customers

 

If you’re considering bringing in a marketing consultant, you’ll likely be wondering: Will you actually get the results they’re promising? Is what they offer the right fit for your team? And will you get a good return on your investment?

There are four concerns we often hear from people in our pipeline - including many companies that go on to become customers (in some cases, several times over):

  1. Will a consultant really add value?
  2. How well will they work with my team?
  3. Will this reflect negatively on my marketing department?
  4. Can I justify spending on a consulting engagement?

 

Below, we’ll take a closer look at each of those questions and explain our approach to these challenges, plus you’ll hear from some of our customers about their experiences in each area.

If you’d like to learn more about how How To SaaS engagements work, you can read all about our process and perspective here

 

1. “Our marketing is already doing pretty well. I’m not sure a consultant will actually add value."


If your business already has a mature marketing function that delivers a steady flow of leads, it's tempting to let Marketing continue on autopilot while you focus on improving other functions. But even when Marketing is doing well, there's always room for it do better.

Could you be getting better ROI? Lower CAC? Higher LTV?

The answer is almost always ‘Yes’. And these improvements could be easily within reach. 

The right marketing consultant won’t get you to overhaul all your strategies that are delivering results. Instead, they’ll uncover ways you can make your existing marketing more effective and find complementary strategies that will support continued scaling.

As security and automation software company HelpSystems discovered, businesses with established marketing functions are in an ideal position to make low-effort, high-ROI adjustments to existing campaigns and processes: 

 


When HelpSystems began an engagement with How To SaaS, "I was really intrigued what they could do to tighten and scale our demand gen," says Mike Devine, Vice President of Marketing at HelpSystems. 
To test How To SaaS's capabilities, Mike set the team a challenge: He started off the engagement by setting us to work on a HelpSystems product line that was already performing well. “We gave them what I thought was the ultimate test," Mike says, "and they just crushed it."

Although HelpSystems already had an effective marketing engine in place, they wanted to further increase the number of quality leads they were generating. “While we were continuously patting ourselves on the back for all the great things we were doing, we wondered what else we could be doing,” recalls Mike 

How To SaaS's analysis confirmed that many marketing activities were producing great results and didn't need to be changed. However, it also uncovered some key opportunities that could improve the number of quality leads and, as a result, deliver more wins for HelpSystems.

For example, rather than pushing HelpSystems to reinvent the wheel in the areas of SEO that were already working, How To SaaS highlighted specific technical SEO opportunities and ways to steal traffic by developing particular keywords. In paid media, the How To SaaS team recommended removing certain campaigns while doubling down on others to use the spend more effectively.  

 

 

Every business can benefit from a fresh set of eyes and some direction on how to grow the marketing function. "No matter where you are in your journey, it's really good to get someone else's perspective," Mike says. “Don't have that big of an ego that you think you've got it all figured out." 

Even if that external perspective does say that you don't need to change a thing, at least you'll know for sure. "But they won't," Mike says. "More than likely, they'll find some zingers for you, and we're all looking to make the best use of our time and our budget." 

 

2. “I’m concerned a third-party organization won’t sync well with my team.” 

As anyone who's worked as part of a team will likely have experienced, when the various function areas aren't in sync, you risk having some tasks fall between the cracks while others run inefficiently, wasting time and resources.

Particularly for businesses that already have a full marketing team on board, having respect and rapport between the in-house and consulting teams is essential to avoid slow implementation and limited results. 

From our experience, the most important factor to a good working relationship between internal teams and marketing consultants is credibility

There are a few key ways marketing consultants earn that credibility with your team:

  • By being experts in your field - they should have proven experience within your vertical. 
  • By being relatable - they should have been in the position of your marketing team, experiencing their challenges first-hand.
  • By putting in the work to understand your business - they should be willing to get to know the particulars of your situation so they can give specific, valuable recommendations. 
  • By proving their advice works - they should deliver some quick wins that demonstrate the value they can bring with longer-term plays.

If you work with a consultant who ticks these boxes, the chances of having a productive internal-external team relationship drastically increases.

Below, you can hear some of our customers talk about the experience of having How To SaaS work closely with their marketing teams, and what allowed the internal and external teams to collaborate.

 

The CEO’s Perspective


Mike Lipps, CEO at Intelerad, has been working with private equity-backed companies for years. When Mike and private equity investors Hg came to Intelerad in 2020, they decided to bring in a consulting firm to work on the demand generation process. And they knew they needed to ensure the consultants they brought in were a good fit for their business model and team. 
 

“With any kind of third party or vendor or consultant, what you don't want is an organ rejection,” Mike explains, “when the core organization looks at this new voice coming in and keeps them at arm’s length. They don’t believe they'll create value because they don't think they understand our market and our space.”  

How To SaaS showed the Intelerad team some opportunities and approaches they could take advantage of quickly and inexpensively, giving the team confidence in their suggestions. As a result, “those barriers got broken down very, very quickly," Mike says, "And that obviously leads to a faster return on investment.” 

 

The Marketing Leader’s Perspective

 

After 14 acquisitions in the space of just a couple of years, "what we needed was to build the foundational elements to scale the business as quickly as possible,” explains Lacey Ford, former Senior VP of Marketing at insightsoftware.   

For the marketing team at insightsoftware, the transition to working with an external consultant was a smooth one. As a key marketing leader, Lacey worked closely with Shiv Narayanan, the founder and CEO of How To SaaS. “Shiv and I worked great together,” Lacey says. “He's very to the point and very quick. That was helpful because that's my style as well. We would touch base weekly and talk about what needed to be done that week. Then he would run in one direction, I would run in the other, and we would regroup when we needed to." 

“Because Shiv had the background experience of being in my shoes, knowing exactly how to operate and how to answer to the rest of the C-team and the board, he had credibility from day one in my book,” Lacey explains. "He was asking questions, I was giving him my ideas, and he was validating that or challenging them. It was just really easy to work together."

 

 



“Our organization hadn't really spent a lot of focus, time, energy, or money on marketing ourselves,” explains Nick Belenky, EVP Sales at 
Top of Mind Networks. Top of Mind had been so focused on giving a great product experience and helping customers market their businesses that they weren’t maximizing the marketing opportunities for their own solution.

To guide the next steps and identify areas for potential growth, How To SaaS started the engagement by working with Top of Mind to get a full picture of their activities and performance. This was a steep learning curve at the start of the engagement, and Nick admits that this transition had its challenges. "Starting the engagement was extremely helpful," Nick recalls, "But I wouldn't say it was easy."

However, the engagement quickly led to incremental improvements. Once Top of Mind started following How To SaaS’s recommendations for their website, “we got almost immediate results!” Nick says. Soon, the team was looking forward to their meetings with How To SaaS: “It was really pleasant to work with you guys," Nick says, "because, even as a third party (...) it was pretty seamless. You guys got to know our business well enough to where it was just like talking with someone else on our team.” 

Now, looking back on their engagement, Nick wishes his team had leant even further into How To SaaS's recommendations from the start. "If I had thought that in the beginning, and everyone on the team was convinced from the beginning (which they weren't, of course, at the beginning), we would have spent even more time, energy and focus on some of the initiatives that we were talking about."

 

Want to see if a How To SaaS consulting engagement is the right fit for your business? You can book a time to meet with us and chat about your particular needs.

 

3. “Bringing in a third-party team might reduce confidence in my existing marketing team.”

Some people have concerns that bringing in a marketing consultant might be seen as a sign that the internal marketing team isn't doing a good enough job. There are usually two main concerns here:

  1. If the C-suite and board think the marketing team isn't performing, they might fire and replace the existing members, or pull funding and resources from the department. 
  2. If the marketing team think their leaders aren't happy with their work, this might lead to lowered morale, and even some team members choosing to leave.

A key thing to note here (and to reinforce to your team) is that marketing consulting services aren't just a tool for underperforming departments.

Of course, a consultant can help marketing functions that are falling short of targets to identify the cause and possible solutions. But, as we discussed above, the external perspective and specific expertise of a consultant also benefit high-performing marketing teams. Even companies bringing in $100M+ in ARR and growing by sky-high percentages every year work with consultants to fine-tune their marketing.

That said, to make an engagement productive, Marketing does need to be honest about what's not working and the areas that aren't performing. These kinds of conversations aren't always easy, but they're often big opportunities for improvement. And, in our experience, consulting engagements actually increase confidence in Marketing, rather than undermining it - both within the team and from investors and CEOs. Acting on the feedback from an engagement shows your team's commitment to improving, and often quickly delivers green shoots of future success. 

 

HelpSystems had such a positive experience working with How To SaaS both in areas where they were excelling and areas where they were struggling that they have continued to work with How To SaaS on multiple product lines.

For Mike and his team, this offers a chance to run ideas by the How To SaaS team, gut-check their assumptions, and get an external perspective on the data. "Whether we were succeeding or not succeeding, we started to develop this mindset of 'let's get that outside view'," Mike explains.

In some situations, this relationship has allowed HelpSystems to validate increasing investment in successful channels to generate a better return. In other cases, HelpSystems have turned to How To SaaS for recommendations in situations where "we had tried everything, we pulled out all the stops and we just couldn't get the funnel to where we thought it needed to be to support the business," Mike says. "We'd look at each other and say ‘let's call How to SaaS and see if they can look at this—maybe we're missing something'."  

 

 

For Top of Mind, "what we lacked was confidence, because we didn't have the experience and the repetitions," explains Nick. "It's very helpful to have somebody who's already been through several iterations of that journey to set your expectations appropriately because we didn't know what success would look like." How To SaaS helped Top of Mind identify promising results, determine whether they were dedicating enough resources, and figure out how much investment was the right amount. "Just getting a sense for that was worth the investment in How To SaaS," Nick says.

The engagement didn't just give the marketing team more confidence in their decisions and activities: It also gave the board more confidence in Marketing too. "I think what it did was it let us prove to our board that the investment in the marketing team - which had not existed in the past - can pay measurable dividends," Nick says. "I think that's the takeaway: As long as the dividends were measurable, the board was happy to invest in marketing. And they did, and they got their return very quickly."

 

4. “I’m not sure I can justify the expense of an engagement."

There’s no getting around it - working with an expert marketing consultancy who dedicates dozens of hours to your company will come with a substantial price tag. If you or your board is looking at Marketing as a cost center rather than a revenue driver, this kind of increase to your spend will be a hard sell.  

But there’s a critical change in mindset that needs to happen here. Unless you invest in Marketing, the company's chance of hitting targets is almost zero. To deliver revenue, you need closed-won deals, and to get those, you need quality leads to enter your pipeline. To deliver leads, Marketing may need to spend on paid media, events, agencies, headcount… the list goes on. 

Spending money on Marketing shouldn't be seen as a negative - done right, it generates money for the business. 

Take a look at the ROI of an engagement, as opposed to the dollar price tag. Spending $100k on an engagement that leads to you generate $5M in revenue is a no-brainer. If you present your board with the projected ROI of an engagement, that spend makes a lot more sense. 

You can assess the ROI from an engagement in a few different ways:  


Ramping up MQLs / Pipeline 

This is the end result every client wants to see, but it’s also worth remembering that this is a lagging indicator which can show up at different points for each business. If you have a long sales cycle or the changes you’re implementing are long-term plays, it would be unrealistic to expect an immediate increase in revenue.

 

Building the right marketing plan 

This is often the first outcome that Marketing needs to explain internally to secure buy-in. A lot of companies just do marketing tasks (and may do them well) but often don't focus on the right marketing tasks. In order to achieve the ramp-up of MQLs and pipeline, you need a deep analysis and planning phase. (This is a big part of what How To SaaS delivers.)

 

Time to marketing maturity / strategic execution

A lot of companies take a lot of time testing, experimenting, failing and pedalling in the wrong direction before they figure out the right marketing mix for their organization. A good marketing consultant should save a lot of time and resources here by guiding your implementation with experience and data.

At How To SaaS, our goal is to get you an answer on where and how to spend your marketing dollars and bandwidth within a 3-4 month engagement timeframe. Cutting out the trial and error rapidly decreases the time it takes to achieve marketing maturity, so you can soon ramp up marketing spend and hire more team members with confidence


For example, when the COVID-19 pandemic hit in the spring of 2020, Top of Mind — like many businesses — paused hiring. But, with How To SaaS’s support, Top of Mind had the data they needed to justify hiring business development representatives and inside sales reps again by the end of the summer. Plus, they could show a sustainable trajectory of leads to support this investment going forward.  

 

 

"If you only have one season of data, it's hard to make decisions off of that," says Nick. Having How To SaaS's experienced view saved Top of Mind a lot of experimentation: "We sort of skipped ahead to the part where we can be smart with our metrics instead of having to invent the baseline ourselves," Nick explains, so they could focus their resources on the projects that were going to move the needle.

"We also got the confidence to move through some diversified demand generation streams," Nick recalls. For example, How To SaaS supported Top of Mind in starting to use software review sites, "and, sure enough, just this month we've got leads coming in from Capterra - something that we never even considered at the beginning of the year."

 

 

For MailProtector, "the core expectation was that, firstly, we had to expand our marketing channels," explains David Setzer, Founder and CEO at Mailprotector, "but the next one right behind that is that we had to be able to put the systems and processes in place and run the experiments to know where we should be spending our marketing dollars."

Having just raised a substantial funding round, Mailprotector was poised to grow. They needed to leverage marketing to build pipeline in a data-driven, scalable way. "We're not big enough to spend marketing dollars on air cover," David says, "so knowing where the dollars should go, that we're producing results, and being able to double down in those areas was critical."

How To SaaS worked with MailProtector to build more robust marketing data and give guidance on the direction they should take with their demand gen expansion. "Our marketing dollars have to be completely revenue accountable. So just knowing where to spend marketing money is huge, and that's probably been the biggest takeaway there," David says.

 

Final Thoughts 


The dynamic can be different between every consultancy firm and every business. But hopefully hearing about the experiences of some of our customers helps you make a choice that’s right for your team and your business overall. 

Ready to learn more about how How To SaaS engagements work? You can read all about our process and approach here

If you want to discuss your particular requirements and see how we could help your business scale marketing,  book a time to chat with us.

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