There are lots of consultants in the world of marketing, just search "marketing consultant" on Google to see how many. What is clear though, is it could be easy to make the wrong choice and not achieve the right results.
Making the right choice is not rocket science. Common sense should prevail but there are some obvious and not so obvious signs to consider before you sign on the dotted line and engage your marketing consultant.
Here are five key points you should always consider when you need a Marketing Consultant:
1. Finding the right skills
The term "Marketing Consultant" covers a very broad church of disciplines from people who create websites, those that major in SEO and search marketing techniques, content creators and the big catch all term "digital", to those that can cover your day-to-day marketing activity and social media "experts". The Consultants portfolio is a good starting point to measure their output to your requirements.
A simple and usually quick solution to finding good talent is to approach the local trade association or business support body like Menta. There are lots that could point you in the right direction.
2. Time frames
Give consideration to when you want to do the work. Because you will need to factor in time to do the research and the interviews and make the appointment. If the Consultant is good they may already be busy which could delay getting started. A sensible view would be to give two months to prepare and make the right appointment. It could be longer at certain times of the year like the summer months when people are on holiday.
The best advice is don't rush things if at all possible and don't make the appointment just because you have passed or are close to your deadline.
3. What will it cost and what will the return on this investment be?
This is possibly the most important factor you will need to consider. It's number 3 because I am following a logical approach to the considerations but lets be frank here. Value for money and measurement is something many Consultants don't do well. And it's why many businesses don't get the results they had hoped for.
Now lets remove "hope" from the process for a moment. What can you afford to pay for this project? It's a big question because you might not have the right budget to afford the level of support you will need. Marketing Consultants can start at around £200 per day and go up to over £600 depending on their experience and skill set. Don't forget these people are not salaried so you don't pay NI, holiday or pension contributions so this is factored in to their day rate.
Often businesses negotiate a fixed fee for the work. This can be advantageous if it has a possibility to go on longer than first expected. Payment on results is also a good option and can be negotiated during the process.
Next look at the potential total cost of the work. What is the main result the work will give you? Like all things the investment has to give a return. If your Marketing Consultant is unable to calculate the return on investment (ROI) for the project don't use them. ROI is a simple calculation of the cost versus the total return in revenue to your business. If the total cost of the Consultant is £3,000 and the project has the opportunity to provide £30,000 in additional revenue that is a 10 times return. Now this is over simplyfing it but all work undertaken should provide some positive impact on your sales line. And ALL costs should be included in the calculations.
4. Who will be responsible for the appointment?
Appointing a responsible manager or director is an important step in the use of a Marketing Consultant. If you are a partnership or sole trader will you have time to work with and liaise with your newly appointed Marketing Consultant?
For some businesses the management of this process should be easy enough. You may have a Marketing Manager in post who can step-up and work with the consultant. All to often businesses leave consultants to their own devices. Do not fall in to this obvious trap. Like a big old, falling down house it could prove to be a money pit.
5. Dig a little deeper
As with all things researching the right Marketing Consultant is vitally important. Much of the above is about research. But by digging a little deeper you will uncover lots of smaller facts that could underline a persons suitability to work with your business.
Take a look at their website (how does it look?) and go further than the home and about us pages. Look at who is endorsing them, who they have worked with. Are the companies of a similar size to yours? What work did this consultant do for them and importantly can you see evidence of this work online? Portfolio examples are always good as a snapshot but can appear dated if done some time ago. So be realistic.
Look for spelling mistakes as a tell tale sign of a lack of attention to detail. Do they have a blog and make contributions to publications and websites on their key skill set? Try LinkedIn and see who is in their network. Have their network contacts endorsed them for key sills and left testimonials?
Are they listed on Google My Business? Do they have a Google review rating? Read the reviews.
Once you have a rounded view of the consultants digital footprint you can make decisions about your shortlist. I would suggest keeping your shortlist short. 3 candidates should do it. The next stage is a meeting either in person or via Skype. Obviously a face to face meeting is always better!
The Bottom Line
When you have given consideration to all these points think about the cultural fit with your business and remember that there must be the opportunity to build a workable business relationship where the outputs can be measured and the financial benefit is calculated. Otherwise don't bother. You will be wasting your valuable time and your money.
RESOURCES FOR THIS ARTICLE
Here is a comprehensive review checklist for selecting the perfect Marketing Consultant for your business. DOWNLOAD IT HERE.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
I'm Stephen Moore FCIM, a Strategic Marketing Consultant and part-time Marketing Director living in beautiful Suffolk. I support businesses large and small in Suffolk, Norfolk, Essex, Cambridgeshire and London. I have been writing about marketing developments for 20 years with articles in The Metro, City AM, Fresh Business Thinking, AllWork, The Marketer and Marketing Week.