How Much Should a Marketing Consultant or Agency Cost?
Your business is your baby; you pour your soul into growing it. But—much like raising a literal, human baby—you can’t do it alone. It takes a village.
There’s no question that marketing is an essential part of that village; the right partner will nurture your brand and help realize its full potential. But how much is your marketing worth?
In other words, what can you reasonably expect to pay for quality marketing?
Well, quite honestly, that depends. The size of your business, your industry, what type of marketing support you need (i.e., branding, digital, creative content or a combination of services) and your growth stage will dictate your specific budget. At the same time, you may be looking for someone specific to execute a marketing strategy or provide creative work, like website development, content, social media and designing branded collateral. This is when many businesses reach out to marketing consultants or an agency that can provide full-service marketing. Just like your accounting, it’s smart to keep your marketing in one spot.
Generally speaking, according to the U.S. Small Business Administration, many businesses allocate a percentage of actual or projected gross revenues—usually between 2-3 percent for run-rate marketing and up to 3-5 percent for start-up marketing. I know, as a start-up or small business that sounds like a lot, but it’s necessary.
But no matter where your business lies in relation to these factors, one thing is certain: You have a much greater likelihood of demonstrating a return on investment if marketing is integrated with your daily strategic initiatives—and not treated as an “add on” service.
This is why you should always partner with experienced marketers who understand business operations; marketing your brand is no less consequential than financial management or ensuring product quality, and should be an integral part of your business plan from day one. Beware agencies that lack this foundational knowledge; they will waste your hard-earned money.
OK, now let’s talk specifics.
Marketing consultants typically structure billing in one of two ways: hourly rates or a set project fee. Project fees are calculated by multiplying the anticipated number of hours for a project by the consultant’s hourly rate. Typical hourly rates can range anywhere from $100-250 per hour, depending on the consultant’s expertise, the geographical market and state of the economy.
That might sound like a lot of money, but keep in mind you’re only paying your marketer when you need them and not to just sit and do nothing.
Besides, paying a marketing consultant by the hour—even if they spend 20 hours on one project—is much less expensive than hiring an in-house employee, who will require a salary and benefits.
If you’re balking at the idea of paying $100+ per hour and think you can find a cheaper alternative for, say, $30 per hour on a freelance website, ask yourself this: What is the quality of work you’re getting for that price? How much guidance will they need? How much project management will you have to provide? Where is the ROI?
Full disclosure, we are a branding and consulting agency, so of course, we think that you should pay top dollar.
OK, small joke (comedy is our backup plan) – but this is where we like to really drive home that you truly do get what you pay for. And at the end of the day, you are paying for experience.
You want a marketing agency staffed with seasoned professionals who approach your business like it’s their baby, too. Agencies that tout experience over flashy bells and whistles are your best bet; skillful marketers work more efficiently (which, when dealing with hourly billing, can save you money in the long run), and are more apt to understand the “big picture.”
Trust us, we know what we’re talking about! Everyone on our team is senior level with over 15 years of experience; we’ve seen it all and can assure you experience matters more than anything.
So when you’re contemplating where you’ll get the most bang for your marketing buck, go with the pros who have a comprehensive, integrated view of marketing and business operations. You won’t regret it.