By Mario Peshev
Starting a business is a challenging endeavor that requires a lot of industry knowledge combined with know-how in marketing, web design and development, sales, accounting, legal activities (to name a few). As a solopreneur or a small team, covering the most out of all areas is expensive, if not impossible to focus on in the early days.
The role of a digital consultant is underappreciated by business owners trying to reverse-engineer the strategies incorporated by competitors and large enterprises.
First-time entrepreneurs and company owners with no practical expertise online have to cover all areas of the digital landscape in order to generate traffic and sales. They have to consider whether a Squarespace website would suffice for their brand or hiring a web developer is the right path forward. Sifting through thousands of low-cost marketing agencies or Fiverr profiles builds the profile of the “Promised Land” and $10 ebooks claim that they teach the full spectrum of B2B sales within a matter of hours.
Digital Consulting is on the rise. Falguni Desai has covered the inception of digital consultancies in various companies in his Forbes article saying:
These acquisitions have given rise to new practices focused on digital transformation, interactive design, customer experience and product innovation. Under the common banner of “digital” these new services are being aimed at marketing, IT, finance and innovation leaders at corporate clients.
Working with digital consultants is an efficient way to grow your business by following a proven strategy in less time and on a budget.
What is a Digital Consultant?
Digital consultants are the link between the business plan and implementation. Established experts profile in different digital fields such as design, web development, marketing, sales, advertising.
A well-versed and experienced digital consultant is in charge of the global digital strategy for a business. This often incorporates different areas such as:
- Unifying the corporate identity of the brand
- Advising on design assets for internal products and the public digital landscape
- Identifying the right development platform for the web solution
- Consulting on eCommerce or Membership solutions for different monetization strategies
- Building a short-term and long-term marketing strategy
- Reviewing the existing inbound marketing efforts and improving the process accordingly
- Suggesting tools, services, and solutions that would automate internal processes and increase efficiency
- Providing support and guidance during PR and networking activities
- Supporting the implementation activities in-house and optimizing the current processes
This is not an extensive list and digital consultants are more experienced in certain areas. Some businesses partner up with 2 or 3 consultants with focus on various areas of the business – like branding and creative, web and technical infrastructure, and sales/business development.
Why Are Digital Consultants Paramount for Small Businesses?
There are many reasons why digital consultants may be the best solution for small businesses looking to build the best online presence out there. Here are some of the main benefits of working with one in your organization.
1. Broad Industry Expertise
Digital consultants are well-versed in all things digital. They are familiar with different platforms and systems for eCommerce, building websites, ERPs, CRMs and more. They have a creative flair for the look and feel of your brand. They know how to sell and can conduct a market analysis. They can identify monetization opportunities and leaks in your business processes that need attention.
The broad business experience is invaluable as they can act on behalf of several different roles in your team. Sure, they have a core specialty or two and won’t be able to build everything for you but digital consultants will translate business to tech for you and prepare the best strategy for your business needs.
2. Cost-Effective Business Mentorship
When you need to tap into the endless digital pool, the alternative is organizing a long meeting with a brand manager, a senior developer, a creative lead, a front-end engineer, a marketing expert, a sales director – and probably a few more industry professionals at the same time.
Let alone hiring all of them for a startup with 2-5 people working on the core of the business.
Working with a digital consultant will give you the right insight on all areas of expertise that the consultant provides.
Most consultants have worked with hundreds of organizations – both as consultants and as representatives, managers, business analysts for various companies over the years. They have been in charge of one or two verticals during the first years and can even help you implement some areas to a T. But they have also worked numerous times with industry leaders with decades of experience in other tangible verticals.
They have experimented and tested different strategies. Some have worked while others have failed. This is a normal part of the learning process and a natural continuation of the R&D flow of most service providers out there.
As a result, you get access to all of that experiential knowledge and can save a ton of money from investing in the wrong strategy or infrastructure.
3. High-End Digital Strategy
Given their broad industry experience, digital consultants can help you nail down the right digital strategy for your business.
Depending on the stage of your business growth, the digital strategy will encompass the right strategy tailored to your goals and targets.You can work together and define the technical roadmap for your product or service business, what are the key selling benefits that your brand will focus on, and how to convey them to your target audience.
While implementation would require a lot of time and work, you will likely have to work with external teams or your staff on implementing the roadmap accordingly. But having a uniform solution that focuses on the same pillars is paramount for consistency and amplification.
4. Web Design and Development Advice
Most digital consultants are familiar with website development and design. Some have former technical experience or a design background. Even marketers have been in charge of website growth, designing landing pages, or incorporating third-party services that increase conversion rates, grow email lists, and boost traffic.
Either way, you can discuss the web design and development strategy with your consultant as well. Ask them about their expertise and suggest bringing in a niche expert accordingly. Talk about the challenges of your growth online, what would be required in terms of maintenance, what type of growth curve you are targeting and what is the most reasonable solution to get there.
Tech-savvy consultants can recommend the right tools or services that would save you the time and provide you with the right growth stack at first. Finding the right hosting vendor for your business is crucial, too – don’t forget covering that with your mentor.
5. Marketing Growth
One of the key aspects of growing a successful business online is investing in the right marketing strategy.
There are different ways to position a company on the map. Depending on your business and your marketing success to date, your digital consultant can suggest one or two different strategies that you can focus on over the next 6-9 months in order to generate some traction.
Marketing has two separate divisions – inbound and outbound. Some consultants are more proficient and see more value in outbound activities such as PR, paid advertising, outreach and calls. Others invest in content marketing, guest posts, SEO, influencer outreach, or community building.
The best synergy is found when both factions are combined together. As you start, you may focus on a limited set of activities and expand further in order to enrich your marketing funnel accordingly.
6. Ongoing Strategy Review
While the initial strategy is important and gives you the growth framework, it’s not set in stone. There are numerous variables that come into play and experienced digital strategists focus on data and KPIs.
Identifying the right key performance indicators before implementing the strategy is crucial. This allows your digital consultant to oversee your strategy, monitor the activity across your website and different social channels, and adjust the strategy on a monthly basis.Over time, the strategy would become more consistent and focused and generate higher conversion rates for your business.
7. Guidance During Growth
Implementing the right strategy is just as complicated as writing the business and growth plan itself. The technical development requires top-notch skills in programming. Design should be consistent and compliant with the brand voice. The content production should incorporate SEO, valuable advice, a consistent tone, great grammar, engaging stories and more.
Digital consultants may manage the process and coordinate the various activities among contractors and company employees. They may serve as an external manager on your end navigating the strategy and refining the deliverables for higher conversions as well.
8. Amplified Influence
While some consulting agreements are signed under NDAs, many startups and organizations prefer to build an open and transparent relationship with a digital consultant.
This allows the consultant to further amplify the marketing and growth efforts through internal activities. Consultants are often positioned as influencers and have their own community. They have connections with other influencers, journalists, and industry experts.
Building an open and honest relationship with a consultant may let them promote you during conference calls, webinar appearances, or guest posts in industry journals. This would bring additional traffic and build trust in your target audience.
Hiring digital consultants and even consulting agencies is a common approach for large businesses. While the scope of work may certainly vary, small businesses can definitely take advantage of working with established digital consultants and focus their limited time and budget on the right growth plan which would optimize their expenses and increase their exposure – leading to more deals and higher revenue.