What to Look for in a Marketing Consultant Fee

In all marketing strategies or services, business owners and decision makers want to know how cost-effective it will be.

You want to ensure that you get a positive rate of return on your investment. You don’t want to spend more on your marketing than you’re going to make from the clients and customers you get because of investing in it.

Here, we will look at the different marketing consultant fees you can expect when scanning the market, how to choose the right rate for you, and why cheaper does not always mean better. In fact, it often means worse results.

How much does a marketing consultant cost?

Marketing consultants usually charge by the hour, but that’s the only consistent you can expect to truly find in the market. Their rates can vary, depending on the services offered, the size of the team, the size of the market you’re trying to reach, and how experienced or well-known the consultant is.

Marketing consultant rates fall within the $40 to $300 per hour range, but you will find exceptions to those rules. Consultants that work in highly competitive fields or bring more experience and expertise with them will charge close to $120 on average, if not slightly more.

Meanwhile, if you’re working with solo consultants doing freelance work, you might find prices closer to $50 or $60 an hour. The biggest marketing firms, working with larger corporations, can charge up to and beyond $300.

The benefits of low rates

As a business owner or decision maker, your first thought will probably be to look at the rates on the lower end of the scale above. The good news is that there are plenty of newly minted marketing consultants looking for work, so you will find some within that price range.

However, there may be some drawbacks to dipping too low that we will explore a little further later.

For now, here are some advantages of working with marketing consultants charging low rates:

  • Naturally, these are the most affordable services you can find. If you don’t have a sizeable marketing budget, then these are the services you would use to keep costs low enough you can invest in other marketing efforts, too.
  • If you’re looking for someone to get the work done, then you may not need to pay much more. If you’re not looking for innovation or creativity, but someone who can do the work of setting up your digital presence, sticking with the more affordable option might be the way to go.
  • If you’re just getting the business started and you don’t have the know-how, you need to set up your digital marketing, a cheaper marketing consultant can at least help you build the bones of a strategy you can later go back to and refine.

To say that cheaper is never better wouldn’t be strictly true. If your budget is tight and you only need the help of someone who can set up a basic marketing strategy, then cheaper might work for you.

The drawbacks of low rates

You might think “if such low rates are available, why would I ever go for those charging higher rates?”

However, if you’re not able to pay for the top quality services, you shouldn’t expect the best results. Working with low rate marketing consultants has its drawbacks, including:

  • When you’re not paying for more than just a barebones consultancy, you’re not likely to get the quality of work that will get you the best results.
  • Most consultants charging on the lower side of things will not be the most experienced or qualified. They may have a fundamental knowledge of marketing to help you get set up, but they will not have the money or time to invest in innovating their services, so you will get nothing particularly inventive from them.
  • Since these marketing consultants aren’t getting paid as much per hour, they’re likely to increase their earnings by getting you to spend more time working with them, even when it’s not strictly necessary. That’s not to say that all consultants charging lower fees will use these tactics but, for many, it’s the only way they can stay profitable.
  • There’s little room for negotiation on what type of services you receive. This might be because the consultant is only experienced enough to provide a limited range of services or because they can’t afford to do more work for the time, they spend with you.

Cost-effectiveness is important, but when you’re paying too little, you can only expect services of a certain quality. They might be enough to help establish a marketing campaign, but there’s little room for innovation or expanding your scope.

The benefits of higher rates

When you pay more, expect more in return. That’s the primary benefit of working with marketing consultants who charge higher rates. But here, we will look at some other advantages that are worth considering:

  • To charge more, you usually have to have clout. This means that higher-rated consultants are likely to be much more experienced and have extra qualifications that can improve not just the quality of their work, but their services.
  • When you’re paying more, you’re usually paying for the expertise that can produce high-quality deliverables. Your marketing materials and strategies are a lot more likely to work, building brand awareness, speeding your lead nurturing process up and increasing the rate of successful conversions.
  • Those who charge more often have both the experience and the systemized standards of working to not need as much supervision to help you achieve the results you want. They will not have to constantly come to you for input and approvals, they can work mostly autonomously, only seeking final approval or revisions before they get your campaign to work. Meaning you get more time to focus on your work, not theirs.
  • Since they’re charging more, consultants in this range can invest more back into their business. This means they can experiment and innovate their strategies even when they’re not working with you. Their services are always improving.
  • If you’re paying more, you can expect a lot more in terms of bespoke services. Consultants charging higher rates will not want you to go to a competitor, you’re too valuable for that. You get a little more wiggle room to negotiate more in return for your money. However, this doesn’t mean you should nickel and dime them as this may just mean they find clients willing to pay as much.
  • All the factors above mean that when you spend more on a marketing consultant, you will see an exponential return on investment, not just a linear return. You’re not paying a buck more to get two bucks more. The better their work, the much higher than the rate of return will be.

If a marketing consultant fee is higher, it’s usually because business owners will pay higher rates. Good business owners are not known for spending freely, so to charge more, marketing consultants have to earn trust and reputation. Therefore you rarely see brand new consultants with minimal experience charging as much as those that have earned their stripes, so to speak.

The drawbacks of higher rates

With all the drawbacks of marketing consultants that charge higher rates, there’s only one that’s worth mentioning: the cost. Naturally, not every business will have the marketing budget to spend $140/hr or more on a consultant, even if they can help deliver a significant return on investment.

Besides the fact it might not be affordable for everyone, there aren’t any real drawbacks to working with someone that charges a higher fee. Some consultants charge more than they should and don’t provide a return on investment to justify that cost, but the market is growing, so those kinds of consultants will not sustain their business model for long.

Finding the rate that’s right for you

Deciding how much you should pay is all about deciding how much you want out of your marketing consultant. If you want to get a simple, functional marketing campaign up and running if you don’t have a big budget or are a new business, then starting at a lower rate might work for some time.

Regardless of what you’re looking for, however, make sure you’re getting cost-effective services. Cost-effective doesn’t mean cheap, either. Higher rates can be just as economically efficient.

To figure out you’re paying the rate that’s right for you, look at the services you want from the team you want. Check out their services, their experience, and any accolades they might have won. Compare them to consultants who provide the same services with the same pedigree.

Comparing different providers can help you understand what the average rate is for meeting your expectations and can help you gauge who is charging too much, and who might charge too little and might not provide what they’re saying.

Just make sure you’re making fair comparisons. Comparing a new, solo freelancer against a huge, multi-award-winning consultancy team will not give you any valuable insight.

If you’re working in a competitive industry with a larger market, expect to pay more. There may be many others competing with you hiring their own marketing consultants, so they’re not only able to charge more. Pay more to make sure you can keep up with them.

Whatever the rate, know what you can expect

Before you make your final decision, it’s important to ensure you understand what you will get for the money you pay.

Ensure that you have a full understanding of what services the consultant will provide, and how they charge you. Most charge by the hour, but some charge a flat fee for specific services.

Also, many consultants will charge different rates for different service levels. Make sure you fully understand what you can expect for the rate you’re willing to pay. Make sure you’re paying for services you can trust.

Looking at reviews and testimonials can help you with that. A consultant can brand themselves any way they like, but it’s often the past clients that can help you see whether they’re a high-tier marketing authority as they suggest or someone who’s charging too much for a lower quality service.

As mentioned, however, charging more for less isn’t a sustainable business model in an industry where reputation and experience are so important, so most marketing consultants don’t charge too much more than they should.

So, what should you choose?

If you’re investing in your marketing, then you should invest in a marketing consultant able to provide real results and innovation.

Those who charge too little for their services will not make enough to produce high-quality deliverables or to invest in their own business enough to provide inventive and creative solutions.

If you have no other options, then a cheaper marketing consultant might be the right move. Otherwise, be willing to pay more and you will see services that are magnitudes better, not just a little better, in most cases.

Just make sure you do your research and ensure you know what you’re getting in return.