8 minute read · Published April 27, 2024

Don't go at it alone – how a product marketing consultant can unlock hyper-growth

Latest Update May 10, 2024

It’s a scary notion – to have your product team build a stellar product and place it on the shelf, only to have very few people take it off the shelf. It’s not good enough to build a ship – the ship needs to sail and reach its shores safely. It’s the same with SaaS products – unless users start using them and find value, none of your product ideas, no matter how noble or innovative, will result in outcomes that matter (think revenue, customer satisfaction, and investor happiness). 

It’s the responsibility of a product marketer to help their products be seen in the market and to drive action. They craft value propositions and messaging that “define” the product in a way that makes it invaluable for customers. They help enable sales folks with resources and training, so they can crack deals with confidence. They bring intel from customer success teams back for the product teams to digest – what makes users tick, what makes them happy, and what makes them unhappy. They work with other marketers to build and execute campaigns – both to appeal to prospects as well as to keep existing users engaged. And of course, they work with product managers to define the scope of their roadmaps, help out with beta testing, and orchestrate product launches

Image showing a list of product marketing responsibilities as per a Pproduct Marketing Alliance report

The 2023 State of Product Marketing Report by Product Marketing Alliance sheds light on the crucial skills product marketers bring to the table – and it’s a long list! For such a strategic functionn, the big question is, should you bring in a product market consultant from outside to help you achieve your product marketing goals or does it make sense to build a team in-house? 

Let’s find out. 

What does a product marketing consultant bring to the table?

A consultant is an expert in a specific area which means that if you’re chasing a particular goal or are struggling with certain challenges, a consultant can come in, quickly take stock of the situation, set up a battle brief, and get your soldiers, i.e., your teams into action. 

There are five reasons why bringing a product marketing consultant on board might make sense –

  1. You need strategic guidance. Perhaps you have a new product that you want to launch in the market. Or you want to take an existing product and tap into a new region. In either case, you need someone who is an expert in creating and executing GTM (go-to-market) strategies – something that a product marketing consultant can do. 
  2. You need expertise or a specific product marketing skill right now. Time is of great essence when you’re a SaaS business, especially if you’re a startup or in a growth stage. You may want to conduct an analysis of the competitors in the market to differentiate your product. Or you may want to find the right price point for a new product. These are just some examples of product marketing “needs” and they don’t always exist. More critically, they need to be attended to quickly. In cases like these, it’s a good idea to hire a product marketing consultant.
  3. You need fresh ideas. Consultants work with several clients – which means they have strong knowledge of best practices and industry standards. So when you need a fresh pair of eyes or wish to identify gaps and opportunities – whether in your product, processes, or people, from a product marketing perspective, an external consultant can prove to be a valuable partner.
  4. You want a cost-effective solution. Sure, the compensation of a consultant may seem to be more than the salary of say, a product marketing manager when compared upfront, but when it comes to short-term projects, consultants turn out to be more cost-effective. Building a team of experts or those with specialized knowledge (like a pricing expert or someone really good at conducting competitor analysis) takes time and training, not to mention all those “water-cooler” hours you will be paying them for. Consultants emerge as a more viable solution. 
  5. You want to strengthen your internal product marketing function. The best consultants don’t just come in and do all the work – they also help to set up your internal teams for success. So if you’ve already got product marketing folks internally or plan to scale the function in the future, you can have the consultant spend time training your people on specific skills, establishing processes and best practices. 

How does a product marketing consultant fit in a product marketing team?

Product marketing consultants don’t (and shouldn’t) work separately from your internal teams. They should complement the efforts of your product marketing managers and specialists. 

Your own team is an expert on your product and has strong relationships with other stakeholders throughout the company. They work in collaboration with product, sales, customer success, and other marketing people. This means that they are in a unique position to ensure that everyone is aligned on the product messaging and speaks the same language externally. They also maintain consistency of your brand everywhere – from content used on social media to the language used in sales collaterals to the concepts developed for marketing campaigns. 

 Image showing the pros of an in-house product marketer versus a product marketing consultant

Product marketing consultants sit on the other end of the spectrum – they are experts in a specific area, and their knowledge of working with other companies and partners in the same industry means they bring a wealth of knowledge. They are more feasible economically for short-term requirements and they also end up teaching your internal folks a trick or two. 

Clearly, an in-house product marketing team and a product marketing consultant can collaborate together to drive major outcomes for a business. 

Let’s consider a few examples of how this could happen. 

Example 1: Launching a competitive product

Let’s say you have been receiving intel on a fresh set of challenges that your target audience is facing. Your internal folks can conduct market research to understand why your audience is facing the problem, what their ideal life would look like and what kind of a solution can your technology and human expertise deliver. Based on this you develop a product.  

Now let’s say other solutions exist in the market that could do the same job as yours. You need to find ways to differentiate yourself. Perhaps others talk about convenience. Your differentiator could be price. Or perhaps they all talk about being economical and your differentiator could be to extend the benefits of a community to your customers. A product marketing consultant could step in at this point to analyze how other companies in the market are behaving or talking about themselves to come up with a USP (unique selling point) for you. 

Using this information, your internal messaging expert can now draft emotional, relevant, and concise statements that articulate the product’s value proposition and core messaging. 

Example 2: Improving customer acquisition

Say your product marketing manager has identified a bottleneck in the conversion funnel – users sign up for the product but there’s a significant drop-off after the first interaction. A product marketing consultant can review the UX of your platform or app and find areas of friction. 

Perhaps the color scheme of the UI is too jarring. Perhaps the signup process was easy but after the user landed on the home page they couldn’t figure out what to do next. Perhaps the user got some use out of the product on day one but then forgot about it and never bothered to return to it (in other words, your product is boring!). 

The product marketing consultant can recommend how to build better PLG growth loops as well as share insights from successful customer growth strategies in other companies or industries, so that once a user has signed in, not only do they get to the activation event faster, but are also highly engaged and keep coming back to the platform. 

Best practices for hiring and engaging with a product marketing consultant 

Product marketing consultants perform an important role for your business so you must spend some time evaluating their strengths, before bringing someone on board.

  • Look for someone who can solve the specific product marketing goals or challenges you’re facing. This goes without saying – don't settle for generic marketing knowledge. Match the consultant's expertise to your specific needs. It’s no use bringing a strong business storyteller who is adept at crafting messages, if want you need is someone who can help you figure out an optimal pricing model. If you need someone to make the user experience sticky instead, you want someone who can come up with  user engagement strategies people want to stick around for
  • Find someone who is culturally aligned with your company. You want your internal folks and the external consultant to be aligned – and that will never happen if your own people feel like someone from the “outside” is coming to tell them how to do their job. They’d feel threatened and perhaps be passive-aggressive. It also won’t work if a consultant is bent on speed and on rolling out a solution that is generic just because it is used by some other company, while your internal folks would like to take time to segment your users and develop more targeted campaigns. You want the two sides sharing high-fives, not awkward silences.
  • Bet on someone who emphasizes collaboration. The best product marketing consultants understand that collaboration is key for internal buy-in and for ensuring that everyone’s on the same page and in agreement. Devon O'Rourke, Founder and Managing Partner at Fluvio emphasizes the importance of 'stepping aside to see what's missing' rather than imposing a one-size-fits-all approach. Look for consultants who prioritize active listening, observation, and working alongside your internal team to identify and address their most pressing challenges.

Pro tips for seamless collaboration between your in-house team and product marketing consultant

Once you find that right-fit consultant, here's how you can ensure a smooth and successful collaboration:

Tips for setting up a collaboration between the in-house team and external consultant
  • Lock your project goals: Before diving in, it’s critical to map out your project’s goals – where are you today? Where do you need to be and by when? Once your internal teams and the external consultant are aligned on the outcomes and deliverables, the entire project becomes much easier to execute.
  • Conduct regular performance check-ins: Regularly assess the consultant's contribution. If something changes along the way, you can always adjust their role or the project scope. This ensures you're maximizing the value you get from your consultant and you ultimately get to the outcome you’re chasing.
  • Leverage and transfer knowledge: Structure the project to include knowledge-sharing sessions. This way, your internal team learns from the consultant's expertise, building a stronger product marketing foundation for the long run.

Supercharge your product marketing with confidence

The question of whether to build an in-house product marketing team or an external product marketing consultant doesn’t need to be an either-or question. 

Building a robust product marketing function takes time and strategic planning. But with the right mix of internal expertise and external support from a product marketing consultant, you can overcome scaling challenges. 

So, don't be afraid to embrace the hybrid approach, especially if you are a startup or at a growth stage as a company. You can leverage the advantages of both to get to market faster, help users realize value faster, and achieve your growth numbers – also much faster!

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