How to Hire and Succeed With a Top-Notch Growth Marketing Consultant
Hiring a growth marketing consultant can be a highly effective option for startups that face the constraints of money and experience in the early growth phase.
Even if yours is a funded startup, finding a great growth marketer to work with you full time is plain difficult when you are just gaining traction. An experienced growth marketing consultant can serve as a solid interim solution that fast-tracks your scaling process and may eventually turn into a permanent hire.
But how do you find the right person and how do you work with them to achieve your growth goals? In this post, we share our thoughts on how to hire and manage a top-notch growth marketing consultant who will actually get the job done.
Prepare a compelling brief
Even in the consulting market, you need to market your opportunity in order to attract high-quality growth experts. An effective job brief requires care and attention. It doesn’t just set out your needs but also creates a first impression of your company.
How do you make your job post stand out? Make it thorough and detailed and write it from the expert’s perspective.
Give the job post a clear title that is representative of what you need – Growth Marketing Consultant, Demand Generation Expert, SEO Expert, PPC Specialist, and so on.
Notice we didn’t use the word “freelancer” in the description. The truth is that most growth marketing experts avoid being called that because it devalues their skills and expertise. From a client’s perspective, a freelancer is often viewed as someone who is cheaper, less serious, and potentially unreliable.
So, if you want to attract the caliber of talent to whom you can entrust the growth of your business, your brief needs to set the expectation of a solid, professional relationship starting with the role title.
Think through whether you need someone onsite or you can work with a remote expert. Adding an onsite requirement to your job post significantly shrinks your talent pool.
While there is an argument to be made for the benefit of a growth marketer being in the same location with you, we would argue that making a remote growth expert work is mostly a matter of putting in an extra effort into communication, and we have seen the remote option work well time and time again.
As David Heinemeier Hansson, co-founder of Basecamp, put it:
The primary role [of face time] these days is to occasionally make humans feel good about who they work with remotely on a daily basis. It’s far less important as a tool of getting things done.
Introduce your company and describe your traction to date. This context is important for the expert to understand at what stage he will be coming in and how he can impact your business.
Scope of work
Before you go out and look for an expert, clearly define what you are trying to achieve. A job post, which shows a well-researched understanding of your needs, makes your opportunity more compelling for top-notch growth professionals.
Sometimes, a company has identified a channel that’s working for them and needs an expert to squeeze the most out of it, but more often than not companies are looking for an expert to help them develop a growth playbook. In this case, define what outcome you are looking for and ask the growth marketer to outline how they plan to solve this challenge.
Being as specific as possible with your objectives in the brief helps the expert craft a better proposal and avoid misunderstandings down the road.
What the candidate needs to bring to the table
Startup founders who haven’t had previous experience with growth oftentimes don’t know what to look for in a growth marketer. Here we highlighted some of the most important attributes to look for in a high-impact growth professional.
You have to look through the lens of your own business to define the technical acumen, soft skills, personality traits, and values that you want to see in the expert. Unlike a short-term coding or design gig, your engagement with the growth expert may last several months, so you want to look beyond just the technical qualifications to make sure you are comfortable working together.
Whatever characteristics you emphasize, make your priorities clear in order to attract the right expert to help you achieve your goals.
Before you start looking for a growth marketing expert, you need to have a good idea of your budget. This number, together with the scope, will help the expert determine whether they can put forth a realistic proposal.
If you are having trouble calibrating the budget number, think about the growth you want to achieve and how much that outcome would bring to the business in terms of revenue. Your project scope will help you here.
You can then use the estimate of how much this growth would be worth to your business as a basis for what you are willing to pay the expert.
Also, be prepared to disclose the amount of additional marketing spend you are targeting, so that the growth marketer can evaluate whether she can realistically help you reach your growth objectives.
If you have hired consultants before, you have probably worked with either an hourly-rate or a fixed-fee pricing model. The former works well when you know exactly what you want and how you want it done, while the latter is effective when you are looking for some creativity but the deliverable is well-defined and project length can be properly estimated.
Growth marketing engagements, on the other hand, involve a lot of discovery, experimentation, and pivoting, and their duration can be difficult to estimate, so a fixed fee approach doesn’t work well here.
And unless you are hiring an expert for a brief, high-level growth advice, we advise against using an hourly rate-based pricing. Even if you are looking for a growth marketing specialist in a narrow area, such as SEO or PPC, hourly-rate pricing approach will attract commodity-type talent, and it quickly becomes a rate race to the bottom.
It’s not where you want to end up because you need a high-quality growth marketer who can help you solve problems rather than someone who can hammer out schema markups or landing pages.
As a client, you naturally want to tie growth marketer compensation to the achievement of your growth goals. Yet, despite the appeal of such arrangement it doesn’t work well in practice. As we have argued earlier, unclear attribution and distorted incentives are some of the problems with this approach, further corroborated by scientific evidence of the ineffectiveness of performance-based pay in driving results for high-level tasks.
An alternative approach is to define a weekly or a monthly fee that you can pay a growth marketing consultant. Similar to the agency retainer model, such pricing mechanism provides transparency, saves you from having to review time logs, and affords the expert the necessary level of flexibility.
How do you ensure the money is well spent? On the one hand, you rely on the expert’s reputation and track record to perform conscientiously and put forth his best effort. On the other hand, you need to agree on a roadmap and communicate and review results with the expert frequently to make sure you are on track.
What you expect to receive
Specify what you expect to receive from candidates in a proposal. Be sure to ask them to include specific results they were able to achieve for companies in your or a related industry.
Where to look for growth marketing consultants
Ask your network
You can start your search by taking a look into your professional network and asking relevant connections if they can recommend any growth marketing consultants. Most of the time though, finding an expert who fits your exact requirements and has a track record of driving growth for companies in your space is a long shot, even with a strong network.
Large freelance platforms
Large freelance sites, such as Upwork and Freelancer, are great resources that have tons of freelancers from all over the world with a wide range of skills, but don’t rush to post your request for a growth marketing consultant there. Most job posts on these platforms offer low rates for executing very structured tasks, and while this might be great for those who are just starting out, true growth experts tend to avoid them for that very reason.
Dedicated growth marketing platforms
Dedicated platforms for growth marketers / growth hackers have a different level of talent and offer a more tailored approach. Instead of flooding you with bids from providers with inconsistent quality, they handpick for your consideration proven candidates from their network that best match your needs. Their services may cost you a bit more, but it will be worth it to find the right person.
Contacting growth marketing consultants or growth hacking consultants on LinkedIn is another possible option that has its own set of challenges. For one, the T-shaped talent you are looking for may go by a number of different titles and is distributed globally, making the search time-consuming. And you can’t always discern their skillset and availability from the LinkedIn profile, turning your search into a spray-and-pray spam campaign.
Social networking sites and communities
Apart from spreading the word among your followers on Twitter and Facebook, you can try hunting for consulting talent in various online growth marketer communities that exist on Slack, Reddit, and other platforms. Don’t expect a high response rate though, because these communities exist for a different purpose, and your message will get lost in the overall information flow.
You could also post a consultant job ad on sites like AngelList and Indeed. Though these sites aren’t geared specifically towards consultants, they’re not known for having job postings with low rates, so they can be a lot more appealing to the people you’re looking to hire. You will get some responses, but real in-demand growth marketers will likely not surface because they are simply too busy to search for project opportunities on job boards.
How to evaluate growth marketing consultants
If you have put together a strong brief and marketed it through the right channels, you will get a number of proposals from growth marketing consultants. Just like with the full-time hires, you need a systematic approach to sift through candidate profiles and decide which one is the right person for the job.
Review their track record
As the founder of an early stage startup, you are in no position to hire a consultant for potential and have him learn at your expense. You need an expert with a proven track record of driving growth for a business like yours.
Pay attention to two things in particular when you evaluate their track record. Have they been able to drive growth repeatedly at different companies? Consistency is the key indicator of a true expert vs. someone who hit a random home run.
Also, how much of their achievements was their individual contribution vs. team effort? If you are hiring a single expert, you want to make sure they have hands-on growth marketing experience in the startup phase and not the experience of managing a growth team.
Check client reviews
Just because you may not be hiring a consultant in the typical face-to-face scenario, does not mean you shouldn’t check references.
If you are using a freelancing platform, you can look into a freelancer’s reviews and feedback from previous clients to find out if any issues have come up. Beware though, that clients often fear leaving bad feedback because they worry the consultant will reciprocate with an unfavorable review.
Some growth marketing experts have their own websites with client testimonials. When online reviews are not available, you can ask for some other form of reference, or even contact a previous client with the expert’s permission.
Pay attention to how they communicate
You want an expert who is serious, reliable, and responsive. The way they communicate with you as a prospective client is a good indicator of how they will liaise when doing the work. And proper communication is an absolute key to ensuring that your growth efforts stay on track.
So, if you’re going to pay a growth marketing consultant thousands of dollars a month, think about whether you want to hire someone who takes several days to reply to an email or is reluctant to get on the phone or someone who answers emails promptly and can hop on a call right away.
Assess their proposal
The best growth marketing consultants don’t just provide a fee estimate, but create a proposal, no matter how big or small an engagement is. A good proposal is designed to help you understand their process and exactly what you are paying for. It typically includes:
- Expert’s understanding of your situation, scope of work, and the outcomes you are looking for
- A proposed approach
- Phases/milestones and rough timeline
- Payment terms
Picking the cheapest option when selecting a growth marketing consultant can more often than not lead to problems, but the most expensive option is not necessarily the best either. While pricing is an important consideration, you are better off choosing a provider who has the relevant track record, believes in your product, and will be willing to work with you for the best possible outcome.
Even if you think the growth marketing consultant has the right expertise to do the job, you want to make sure he is the right person for you and your team and that you can click on a professional level.
If a meeting in person is not possible, a quick video chat via Skype or Google Hangouts can help you get a read on the expert and figure out if you can work with this person.
This conversation is an opportunity to clarify their proposal, probe more deeply into their track record, and let them ask questions.
Arrange a short trial
Hiring a growth marketing consultant shouldn’t be a gamble, especially when you are thinking of putting them on retainer. The best way to verify how they perform is to get them to do some real work before you make a final decision.
You can either carve out a small piece of the overall job or give them an independent task. You can find some ideas here or use a service such as Headlight to help you create a short take-home assignment.
Whatever you do, don’t ask the expert to do work for free because it’s disrespectful of their time.
Signing an agreement
Once you have made a decision on who to work with, you need to agree on terms and enter into a contract that covers the following:
- Scope of work
- Timeline / milestones
- Payment and billing terms, including advance payments and late fees
- Ownership of intellectual property rights
- Termination conditions
- Dispute resolution
How to onboard a growth marketing consultant
After you’ve reeled the growth marketing expert in, your attention should turn to onboarding. Proper onboarding ensures the expert can start contributing quickly and stays engaged for the long haul.
Immerse the consultant into your business. The founder needs to provide the growth marketing expert with insights into the company’s mission, product, and customers to establish a strong foundation of understanding upon which the expert will build his work.
Establish ground rules for communication. Whether it’s Skype, email, phone, or something else, you need to agree with the expert on the communication medium and frequency prior to the start of the engagement.
Set performance expectations upfront. Go over again what’s expected of the growth marketer and over what timeframe. If you’re hiring for growth, then you should measure the effectiveness of your expert on their ability to affect your top and bottom lines. Having well-defined objectives and milestones avoids misunderstanding and makes performance evaluation much easier down the road.
How to manage a growth marketing consultant
When you hire a top-notch growth marketing professional, you typically don’t have to deal with the management issues that come up with low-cost freelancers. Nevertheless, here are a few things to keep in mind to make sure your collaboration goes smoothly.
The key to making your growth marketing consultant work out is frequent communication. If you are working with the expert remotely, information sharing will be more efficient via online channels, such as Slack, email, and Google Docs, to name a few. Weekly video or phone check-ins are also necessary to make sure you and the consultant stay on the same page and can correct the course early, if needed.
According to tax authorities in many jurisdictions, you change the nature of the relationship if you dictate how the work is done. You may only define the outcome of the job, not how the outcome is achieved; otherwise, a consultant may be viewed as a de facto employee. If you want to have a high level of control over the process, you’re better off hiring an employee from the get-go.
Pay on time
As a client, one of your most important responsibilities is to make sure the consultant gets paid according to the terms of the agreement. Once you start delaying payments, relationship unravels and the expert is no longer committed to your success. You’ve spent a lot of time finding the right talent, so make sure you keep them motivated and focused by holding up your end of the bargain.
Hiring the right growth marketing consultant can be the difference between achieving your goals and wasting time, money, and market opportunity.
A growth marketing consultant brings expertise and experience when you need them and affords the early-stage startup much needed flexibility. To reap the rewards of using flexible growth talent, you need to invest the time into hiring and managing them properly.
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