How to become a Digital Marketing Consultant?

Twice in the last ten years, that I took a break from what they call a “stable job” mindset and opted for full time digital marketing consulting career . I had little clue about what digital marketing consultant does? 

Consulting for me was not about making money but to give myself a chance to think differently. Nevertheless, life is very difficult for any digital marketing consultant in India and there are many reasons to re-consider before you take a plunge into this rabbit hole.

Here are few suggestions from my side if you are planning to leave your cushy job for starting as a digital marketing consultant in India:

Identify your core skills

Ideally it should not be more than 2-3 skills that’ll get you some quick projects, in sales they call it as “low hanging fruits” and easy to sell services which are no brainer for any client. You can’t start your consulting in India with just strategy as your key focus. Strategy is always considered as a default skill. I doubt if there is anyone in India who pays to an independent marketing consultant for strategy. They simply don’t (exceptions might be there). 

A digital marketing consultant should always have a specialised skill at the back of his hand like Social media, SEO + SEM + Analytics, Content Writing, Programming etc. The biggest benefit of having these skills is that you can sell them like a product because the output is measurable and the scope of work can be defined much easily (which I would touch a little later in this post).

Consider this as an advice, even before you think about leaving your current job for a “not so fancy” consulting career, think about your current established credentials. What are you known for? What is market’s perception about you? What is it that people would recommend you for on your LinkedIn? Do people look at you as a subject matter expert? Is your thought leadership truly established?

Blogging is no longer optional

Continuous creation of content to establish your skills, knowledge and thought process is absolutely vital in a world which is dominated by mediocre people and companies. I’ve seen people who were absolutely brilliant in their jobs, but when they started their own marketing consulting practice, they had to re-establish their thought leadership and skills in the market.

Fortunately, you have the benefit of blogs and social media which is an awesome “free publicity” tool for anyone who wants to build their credentials in the market.

Today, clients discover you in two ways, either through the personal referrals or through social media. I agree that relationships matters in almost every type of consulting but in case of Digital Marketing, you need to build a strong knowledge portfolio for which there is no better tactic than blogging.

Focus on lowest customer 

It looks fancy to put a logo of any Fortune 500 company in your sales kit, but for most of the marketing consultants it is a pipe dream. Most importantly, it is painful and less rewarding to pick up projects for big brands as they are extremely demanding and often force you bend backwards during the project.

If you are starting new as a digital marketing consultant in India, you should always aim at small business customers first as they’ll value your work a lot more than big corporations.

Fortunately, there are plenty of aspiring startup entrepreneurs around who are looking for all kind of support, right from building the website, writing their content, preparing investor pack, managing their digital marketing and lead generation, setting up their email marketing & CRM.

You would find a great connect with the early stage startups as they are sailing in the same boat as you are.

Define your scope of your services

It all depends upon what you are trying to pitch. It is not so much of a problem if you have a tangible skill set like coding / designing / search marketing / SEO / affiliate marketing etc. But if you are a digital generalist, then it can become a huge problem for you during client meetings.

Clients often have this habit of creating an open ended project scope which would kill you once you start working on the project. It is absolutely vital to define the scope of the project till the last word. Make sure you’ve taken the client through the process of execution with clearly defined expectations, timelines and deliverables.

Pricing your marketing consulting services in India

Needless to say that Indian clients do not pay enough to marketing consultants. You really need to spend over a decade to build your quality stamp and may be eventually, put a “non negotiable” tag on yourself. The problem is that when it comes to marketing in India, everyone consider themselves “an expert” so very few people would value the services of a consultant.

Often, the term consultant is associated with “low cost services”. This is one of the major reason as to why some of the best professionals work on projects from outside India when there is plenty of work available in India.

And the worst part is the payment cycles. India is the worst possible place for an individual to start his consulting practice because payments here take forever to land in your account. Unless your work is indispensable to the client’s success or the organisation is extremely ethical, you would never be able to get your payments on time.

Lets do a quick recap on the top marketing consulting priorities:

  1. Identify your core skills
  2. Build your thought leadership through blogs
  3. Try winning small customers and startups
  4. Define your scope of services
  5. Pricing your marketing consulting services

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