Friday, February 10, 2017

How to Use a Marketing Consultant

It has been my experience as a marketing consultant that clients vary significantly in their ability to use marketing consultants effectively. The the success of a marketing consulting project is largely dependent on the ability of those inside the organization to use the marketing consultants wisely.

Here are the things organizations should do to maximize the potential for success of marketing consulting projects:

  • Don't waste the consultants' time if you are already committed to a certain path regardless of the findings, that is, if the findings will not make any difference in what you intend to do or how you intend to do it.
  • Carefully vet the chosen consultants to confirm that they have successfully completed similar projects.
  • Top-notch consultants should ask lots of questions and dig deeply to understand your unique problems. They should then be able to articulate those problems clearly and succinctly back to you.
  • Be very clear on the project objectives, the issues to be addressed and the deliverables expected from the project.
  • Insist upon findings that are actionable.
  • Provide the consultants with an abundance of background information and reports.
  • Allow for upfront interviews of key stakeholders to confirm the project objectives, issues and scope.
  • Allow for unbiased research with objective reporting of findings.
  • Trust the process.
  • Learn as much as you can from the consultants about what they are doing and why they are doing it.
  • Do not micro-manage the consultants or the project steps.
  • Allow for project modifications if interim findings warrant it.
  • Accept the findings and the implications without being defensive.
  • The other factor that affects the success of marketing consulting project is the organization's culture and the leader's leadership style. A sure way to diminish the impact of a consulting project is for the organizational leader to promise a consensus-building process and to hire a consultant to lead that process but then to impose his or her will on everyone, especially if it goes against the group consensus. 

I have found that the more sophisticated the client, the more they get out of a consulting project. They appreciate the consultants' expertise and can accept and address the findings. Less sophisticated clients may not fully understand the findings or the implications. Some don't want to hear bad news so they bury the findings rather than address them. And some accept the findings but then never take action against them due to budget or time constraints. There are several things consultants can do to mitigate these problems, but it helps if the client is a willing partner in the process.

The success of a marketing consulting project is the result of competent consultants with a proven process and clients who know how to best use those consultants. 


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