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Raise your hand if you've ever had a conversation with a marketing consultant that goes something like this:
Consultant: You should do X.
Client: Ok, why?
Consultant: Because I say so.
Client: Why do you say that?
Consultant: Because that's the way I've always done it. It worked for (other client in vaguely similar niche, but not really).
Client: We did that last time and it didn't work very well…
I actually was on a call not too long ago that went almost exactly like this. There were no data points to validate the recommendation. There was no discussion about how to test the consultant's recommendation or even a sense of open-mindedness about trying something new. In this circumstance, all I could do was cringe for my client who had already signed up to work with this consultant for several months.
As a client, you have the right to ask questions about your marketing strategy. You should understand how your consultant is spending their time (and your money). And at the end of the conversation, you should feel confident in your decision to work with them.
The reason I bring this up isn't to make you feel bad if you've had these discussions, or worked with these consultants. Maybe you even are one of these consultants. My point is that one of the wonderful things about marketing is that every business is different, and every marketing plan should be too. What works well for one may not work well for another. That's why testing and data are so important.
Here's what to look for in a good marketing consultant:
- A data-driven starting point for your strategy. Even though you should both know this will evolve and change, a good consultant should provide you with a starting strategy that has some sort of data behind it (even if it's just general industry performance data).
- A testing plan. Going beyond the starting point, your consultant should be able to provide you with a testing plan to help you achieve your goals, whether it's to increase your Facebook followers or increase sales directly.
- An open mind. You chose to go into your business because you have some level of expertise or passion for it. Your marketing consultant should have passion and expertise in marketing. They should be willing to listen to your ideas and work them into the testing plan.
- The ability to answer questions. Remember that conversation from the beginning of this post, where the consultant's answers sounded much like an exasperated parent answering “because I said so!”? Your consultant is your partner in growing your business; they should be willing and able to answer your questions about anything you're discussing. If they don't know the answer, they should be willing and able to say that too.
- Communication skills. Ideally, you'll be working with your consultant a lot on developing and refining your strategy, especially if the goal is for you to take over the day-to-day work yourself at some point. Make sure that your idea of good communication and your consultants are on the same page.
Have a nightmare or awesome marketing consultant story to share? Let me know in the comments! Or, if you're looking for a new consultant, you can always contact me.