Q&A with a Marketing Consultant (10yrs experience) - Industry Advice from Marketing Professionals #1
Updated: Jul 19
Mr Smith (who chose to remain anonymous) is currently the CEO of his own Direct Response marketing agency in New York, US. Direct Response marketing aims to elicit immediate responses by triggering immediate action from a target audience. The main channels he uses are Facebook Ads and Google SEO.
His path from unpaid internship to CEO took 8 years:
Unpaid internship (3 months)
Assistant marketing role (1.5 years)
Entry-level marketing role (1.5 years)
Associate marketing role after being recruited on Linkedin (8 months)
Intermediate marketing role handling much larger budgets with lots of opportunity to learn (1.5 years)
Promoted from the role above (2 years)
Became a consultant and started his own agency
The first three steps were undertaken while studying at college. In total, he has over 10 years of experience in the field of marketing consultancy.
Question: As a consultant, how do you find consulting gigs and what platforms do you use?
Answer: 70% of my gigs were from client referrals, and 30% from cold outreach such as messaging people that interacted with my job postings (e.g. by posting ads that say “hiring a marketing expert? Why not try a consultant with tons of experience?”).
I only work with clients that have existing companies with substantial funding or revenue. If you as a consultant don't have a network and can't sell cold, you probably need more time working under an employer to get experience.
Question: What helped you attain your entry level positions?
Answer: Looking back at my email history, I had spent a lot of time on cover letters emphasizing a history of entrepreneurship, can-do attitude and really highlighted the few achievements I had. (I did SEO for a local pizza place to rank for "my town pizza" which didn't bring them any business but I really played up that experience).
Question: What are 3-5 soft skills that are important to cultivate when moving into consulting?
Communication skills: know how to explain things well to a variety of clients
Seeing the big picture: be able to put things in context
Data analysis: being able to understand and draw conclusions from quantitative data
Question: Do you think someone could get to a substantial salary starting on their own, or is it too hard to gain relevant experience without a company in the beginning?
Answer: You need experience working as an employee first. No one will trust you to run their ads remotely without you having a lot of experience and references. You also won't be good at it until you have a lot of experience. Three years ago, I couldn’t have done what I can do for clients today.
Question: How did you jump from entry-level to being recruited into an associate-level role?
Answer: I recommend looking at the LinkedIn profiles of people in positions you want. You can also do a resume search on employment sites. Note what keywords/accomplishments they put, and try to get your resume to look like theirs by emphasizing your own skills while remaining truthful. Then update your own LinkedIn profile and apply to places. I did this and ended up getting a recruiter reaching out to me on LinkedIn.
Question: How would I be able to start my own small agency?
Answer: Starting one is not easy. The general path is to:
Work in other ad businesses, get really good at it, get contacts and connections
Become a freelancer, make money with your skills and contacts
Start an agency to multiply your outputs by hiring people to help you.
Written by Kelli Liu and Christopher Tong.