Below you will learn the key steps to starting a marketing consulting firm.
11 Steps to Starting a Marketing Consulting Business
1. Conduct Market Research To Determine Demand
An important step to starting a marketing consulting business is conducting market research. To begin, you must learn what services your clients want and how much they are willing to pay for them. There are two ways you can go about conducting this research:
- Ask your target market directly. This can be done through surveys, focus groups, or interviews.
- Look at industry trends. You can find this information online, in trade magazines, or by talking to other marketing professionals.
Once you have analyzed the survey data, determine which types of businesses are likely to hire you and how much they are willing to pay. Use this information to set your consulting prices.
2. Name Your Marketing Consulting Business
Once you have analyzed your market and determined what services clients want, it’s time to name your marketing consulting business. While naming a business can be difficult, there are a few rules of thumb to keep in mind:
- Keep it Short: Your business name needs to be short enough for clients to remember and say.
- Keep it Relevant: Your business name should be relevant to the marketing services you offer and your target market’s needs.
- Keep it Memorable: Using clever ideas and words, help your audience connect with your business.
- Focus on Your Target Market: Make sure that whoever sees or hears your company name understands who you are targeting as clients.
Read our article about choosing the right business name.
3. Determine Your Consulting Business Model
There are four main types of business models for marketing consulting firms:
- Consulting Firm Model: This is the most common type of business model and it involves hiring other consultants and employees to provide services to clients.
- Independent Consultant Model: This is when a consultant offers their services to clients on their own.
- Productized Model: This is when a consultant offers a fixed set of products to their clients.
- Hybrid Consulting Model: This type of consulting firm offers a selection of marketing consulting services and products.
No matter which model you choose, make sure that it aligns with your business goals and the services you offer.
Read more about choosing the right business model for your consulting firm.
4. Choose Your Business Structure and Set-Up Your Company’s Legal Entity
As with any business, the type of legal entity you set up is critical. After all, you want your company to be treated as a separate entity, not just an extension of yourself. There are several types of structures in which you can start your marketing consulting company. Three popular options are sole proprietorship, S-corporation and LLC (limited liability company).
- Sole Proprietorship: A sole proprietorship is one in which the business and the owner are considered to be one entity. Therefore, you are personally responsible for all debts and liabilities your marketing consulting firm may incur. One benefit of this type of structure is that it’s easy to set up and there are no formal filings required.
- S-Corporation: An S corporation is a type of C Corporation that was designed by the IRS to help small corporations minimize their paperwork while still gaining many of the tax benefits of incorporating. It also offers protection for business owners in case of lawsuits and other liabilities.
- Limited Liability Company (LLC): An LLC is a structure in which the company is considered a separate legal entity from its owners. This means that the company is responsible for its own debts and liabilities. This type of structure offers protection for business owners in case of lawsuits.
Read our article comparing the most common consulting business structures.
5. Write a Marketing Consulting Business Plan
A business plan is a document that outlines your business goals, strategies, and how you plan to achieve them. For a marketing consulting company, your plan should include the following:
- Business Description: Describe what your company does, who your target market is, and how you will differentiate yourself from the competition.
- Industry & Market Analysis: Detail your research on the industry and what services clients are most likely to want.
- Competitive Analysis: Research and analyze your competitors including their strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats.
- Financial Plan: Outline your estimated income and expenses for the next three to five years.
Other sections of your plan will answer other key questions such as the following:
- What are your areas of expertise?
- What services can you offer your clients?
- Who is your target audience?
- How will you differentiate yourself from the competition?
Your plan should also include several sections that detail your company’s history, current financial situation, and future goals. These sections will allow an investor to learn more about your company before they commit to investing in it.
Read our article about how to write a consulting business plan.
6. Apply for the Necessary Permits and Licenses
You must register your marketing consulting business as a legal entity with the state in which you plan to do business.
To file your business with the state, obtain the necessary forms from the Secretary of State’s website or local County Clerk’s office. You will be required to pay a small fee for filing your business with the state.
Registering with the federal government may or may not be required. You can register your business on the federal level by obtaining an Employer Identification Number (EIN) from the IRS.
Read our article about obtaining the proper consulting business licenses.
7. Determine Your Budget & Apply for Funding as Needed
As with any business, you will need to use your own capital to finance the initial stages of your marketing consulting company. Your budget may also include several other costs including marketing expenses and the salary you wish to pay yourself.
After determining how much money you will invest in starting your business, review some options for financing your business. Here are several financing options that may be available to you:
- SBA Loans: The Small Business Administration (SBA) is a government agency that provides financial assistance to small businesses in the U.S.
- Bank Loans: Many small business owners are able to secure loans from their local banks. Often, you can borrow money for any purpose that relates to the growth of your company.
- Friends and Family: You can consider getting loans and/or equity investments from friends and family members..
- Angel investors: Angel investors may provide debt or equity funding to you.
Read our article about the costs associated with starting a consulting business to help you determine if funding is needed.
8. Get the Technology & Software Needed to Run Your Marketing Consulting Company Efficiently
As a marketing consulting company, you will need different types of technology to complete projects and keep track of your company’s operations. To simplify the process of starting a consulting business, we’ve provided a list below detailing some items that you’ll need:
Computers: Even if most of your work is done remotely with clients on the other side of the country or world, you will need at least one computer that is dedicated to your marketing consulting company.
Software: Software is an essential component of any consulting business. The right software can help you manage projects, track expenses, and communicate with clients more effectively.
Here are some popular software platforms that may be beneficial to your business:
- Microsoft Office: This software suite includes a variety of applications that can help you manage your company, including Word, Excel, and PowerPoint.
- QuickBooks: This software is designed for small businesses and can help you track income and expenses, create invoices, and manage payroll.
- Basecamp: This project management software can help you manage multiple projects simultaneously and keep track of deadlines and milestones.
- Gmail: Google’s email platform offers several features that can be helpful for businesses, including the ability to access the same email from multiple devices.
- CRM: Customer relationship management software can help you track customer communication, manage leads, and create reports that detail your sales activities.
Marketing consultants may also invest in other software, such as video conferencing, design software, or social media management tools.
Read our article about the technology and software you need to run a consulting business.
9. Market Your Marketing Consulting Business to Potential Clients
Once you’ve established your marketing consulting company, the next step is to market it to prospective businesses.
Here are some common marketing strategies used for marketing consulting firms:
- Networking: Meeting people in person and developing relationships is one of the most effective ways to market your business. Attend industry events, meet-ups, and other networking opportunities to get your name out there.
- Referrals: Word-of-mouth marketing is still one of the most powerful tools available to businesses. Ask clients to refer you to their contacts, and reward them for doing so.
- Online marketing: Marketing your business online, such as through a business website and pay-per-click and/or social media marketing, can help you reach a larger audience looking for your services.
- Public Relations: PR can be a powerful tool for marketing your business. By developing relationships with journalists and writing press releases, you can generate positive press for your company.
You should also consider ways to incentivize prospective businesses to choose you over another marketing consulting business. Some incentives that work well include:
- Lower rates: Many consulting businesses offer lower consulting fees on their services to attract new clients.
- Discounts on services: Offering discounts on certain projects may help you win bids against other companies.
- Free consultation: Providing prospective business owners with a free consultation can help them determine if your company is the best one for their needs.
Learn more about how to market your consulting business.
10. Establish a Price Structure and Billing System
There are a few factors to consider when establishing your price structure:
- Hourly rates: Charging by the hour is a common way to price consulting services. This allows clients to budget for your services and gives you the flexibility to charge more for complex projects.
- Project rates: Charging a flat fee for a project can be beneficial for both the client and the consultant. It ensures that the client knows what they are paying up front, and it allows the consultant to charge more for more complex projects.
- Retainers: A retainer is a set amount of money that the client pays upfront for services. This can be a good option for clients who need regular consulting services.
No matter which pricing structure you choose, be sure to clearly communicate it to your clients. Additionally, have a detailed invoice template that includes all the marketing services you provided so the client knows exactly what they are paying for.
11. Manage Client Relationships and Deliver Projects
After finding new clients and marketing your marketing consulting business, you should begin delivering the projects and getting paid. This means managing client relationships and making sure that clients are happy with your work. Some of the ways to manage relationships with your marketing clients include:
- Regular communication: Keep in touch with your clients on a regular basis, either through email, phone calls, or face-to-face meetings. This will help them feel connected to your company and ensure that they are happy with the services you are providing.
- Project updates: Send project updates to your clients on a regular basis, letting them know how the project is going and how much progress has been made.
- Client feedback: Ask your clients for feedback on your services, both positive and negative. This will help you improve your services and ensure that your clients are happy with the work you are doing.
- Delivering projects on time: Make sure that you always deliver projects on time, or even early, so that your clients are happy with the results.
Managing client relationships can be difficult, but it is important to make sure that you are doing everything you can to keep them happy. By following these tips, you can ensure that your marketing consulting business thrives.
Learn more about how to effectively manage client relationships.
Starting a Marketing Consulting Business FAQs
A marketing consulting business is a great way to help businesses improve their marketing efforts. You can provide a variety of services, such as strategy development, campaign creation, and website design. You can also help businesses with their overall branding and marketing communications.
To start a marketing consulting business, you will need some basic equipment and supplies, such as a computer, printer, and internet access. Additionally, you will need to have some marketing experience and knowledge so that you can provide valuable services to your clients.
The following tips can help you to start a marketing consulting business:
- Start by developing a business strategy and marketing plan. This will help you to outline your goals and how you plan to achieve them.
- Create a portfolio of your work to show prospective business owners and other clients in need of marketing services. This will help you to demonstrate your skills and experience.
- Network with other professionals in the marketing industry. This can help you to build relationships and find new clients.
- Set your rates competitively and clearly communicate them to your clients.
- Manage client relationships effectively and deliver projects on time.