Everything’s going right with your business — except this one, itty-bitty little thing.

Okay, maybe your marketing isn’t so little. But if you feel that your small business is taking off and only needs a marketing consultant to continue your pace of growth, there’s a real possibility that hiring one can be a major upgrade for the way you do business.

There’s also a chance that it won’t.

So how do you know whether your small business is ready to hire a marketing consultant — paying their hefty fee along the way — and actually get a lot of value from it? Let’s find out:

First Things First: “Are We There Yet?”

No, this isn’t a reference to the 2005 comedy starring Ice Cube. It’s a real question your business should ask itself. Consultants can be expensive, and if you aren’t successful enough to easily afford a small business marketing consultant, maybe you need a little bit more time to grow first.

After all, marketing consulting once held the title of second-best job in America. It’s a great gig: don’t just give it away. Not until you know you need a consultant.

As your business grows, there are some inevitable hires you’ll have to make along the way. No longer can you handle your own tax accounting; you have to outsource it. No longer do you deal with customer problems directly; you have to acquire customer service software.

Heck, maybe you don’t even get your own coffee anymore.

If this is all happening and you’re starting to feel like your marketing is lagging behind, the marketing consultant question starts to come up more and more.

Is it a legitimate question? Here are a few ways to tell if you’re ready to even consider it — whether or not you’re “there yet”:

Sound like you? If not, you might want to put the idea of hiring a marketing consultant on hold for a while. But if it does sound like you, keep reading:

Why You Shouldn’t Hire a Marketing Consultant

First, let’s apply the scientific method. Let’s take this idea (“I should hire a marketing consultant”) and try to disprove it.

You might find, to your surprise, that it’s a lot easier than you thought.

Neil Patel of QuickSprout, a top name in the world of online marketing, has no problem telling companies that they’re not ready to hire him. He pushes the idea that small businesses should be clear that their foundation is strong:

If this sounds like a marketing consultant is asking you to do the work yourself, consider this: a consultant is not a direct hire. They can add a tremendous amount of value to your business, true.

But they’re not there to become your outsourced marketing department.

If you expect a great marketer to be able to wave a magic wand and make your company profitable, slow down. You need to be sure that your products or services are resonating with a specific niche and that your main problem isn’t quality.

If you have deeper flaws than that, hiring a marketing consultant is going to be like putting a bow on a…well, you know what.

Make sure you have something worth marketing first.

Why You Should Hire a Marketing Consultant

If you read through that last section and found yourself mouthing “yeah, yeah, I’m already way past this part,” then maybe we’re ready to go somewhere.

A marketing consultant can be a tremendous value to a burgeoning business like yours — specifically if any of the following sound appealing to you:

A Marketing Consultant Clarifies Strategy

You’re too busy running things — you don’t have time to come up with a marketing strategy, let alone figure out what yours should look like. A proper marketing consultant, on the other hand, can deliver exactly that.

There’s a good chance that your business is already successful enough that you have an idea of what works and what doesn’t. You may even have an inkling on where you can find the right customers. You just don’t know the right way to go about it.

If that’s the case, a marketing consultant can come in and fill this need precisely. That’s what they’re there for.

You Need to Identify Your Blind Spots

Back in the 1960s, McDonald’s founder Ray Kroc was sitting on a potential goldmine as the new company expands all over the Midwest. But he still wasn’t making much money — certainly not as much as he should have been. He was hampered by a limiting contract with the original owners and unable to bring in the kind of income McDonald’s needed to reach its potential.

It wasn’t until an outside perspective — provided by Harry J. Sonneborn — approached Kroc and told him that he should really focused on real estate, not on burgers. You know the rest of the story.

The moral: an outside perspective provided by someone with a specific sort of expertise can take a good thing and turn it into a great thing — so long as the foundation is already in place. A foundation of customer demand and quality service was there with McDonald’s, but it wasn’t until Sonneborn entered the picture that the strategy finally took its proper focus. That’s where the real value of a consultant lies.

Now that you know why and how to hire a marketing consultant, there’s only one thing remaining: taking those first steps and filling in the “itty-bitty, little” giant thing that your business has been missing.