What Will Your Marketing Consultant Deliver?

Will Your Marketing Consultant Deliver?I’ve heard many stories about executives that hire a marketing consultant to execute projects, yet only receive a simple report or partial deliverables for their five-figure engagement. That might not be a big issue for the Fortune 1000, but it can sour an SMB business leader’s view of the entire marketing consulting field.

“Consultants” is already an amorphous term, used by coaches, service firms, great consultants, weak consultants and front-line workers looking for a contract job. As the economy continues to slow, more and more displaced workers will surface as consultants.

How do you make sure you get what you’re expecting?

More importantly, how do you avoid the consultants that embody these sad industry adages?

“Know just enough about everything to sound like an expert.”

“If you can’t solve the problem, there’s money to be made in prolonging it.”

The key to consistently get good results from your consultants is to clearly define your project, thoroughly screen your candidates, ask detailed questions to clearly understand deliverables and agree to a deliverable schedule.

Marketing Requires More Due Diligence

Since “marketing” isn’t a standardized field, spend extra time discussing deliverables so you understand exactly what you’re getting. For example, there are many web designers that will deliver a new design template that is deployed on their test servers, leaving clients to create the site architecture and content, secure the hosting and handle the DNS changes. That’s quite a surprise for a client that was expecting a “turnkey” website.

It’s up to you to determine this beforehand. To start, research marketing vendors and create your list for your vendor selection process.

Then, narrow your field of candidates to weed out those that don’t fit.

  1. Within which discipline(s) does she specialize?
  2. Ask about training and accreditations.
  3. What’s her specific area of expertise?
  4. What tools does she use to complete the work?
  5. What’s her current client load?

Determine your final candidates by picking out the consultants with the greatest track record for success.

  1. Ask for references from the past 6 months and the past 3 years. Contact both recent and not-so-recent clients to identify those consultants with a long-history of success.
  2. How many long-term relationships/clients does the consultant have? Clients who are truly happy come back for more! Hire the consultant that you can grow with.
  3. Ask both the consultant and references why they were successful. It’s easy to say, “She did a great job,” but “why the job was great” determines if your expectations will align well with the consultant’s style. 

Before you make your final selection, have an honest conversation with your top candidates about expectations. Discuss deliverables so you have a clear understanding of the end product you’ll receive.

  1. What will the consultant deliver? Differentiate between coaching (giving high-level advice and success tips), consulting (taking responsibility for specific recommendations and completing some work), and execution (creating and delivering a completed work product).
  2. Who will be responsible for what? Determine who will manage the project and who will execute the work.
  3. How will you measure success? Ask your consultant for her goals for the project. Together, decide how you will measure the success or failure of your working relationship together. If possible, tie these measurable objectives into your contract for services. 

A lack of planning often causes failure. Plan for success: Clearly define and communicate your needs and expectations up front. It eliminates surprises and gives you peace of mind that your consultant will deliver.

And if you’re a consultant, make it easy for your client to understand what you’ll deliver. It’ll lead to happy clients and longer engagements.

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