8 Things you definitely don't want in your marketing consultant

Updated: Jul 28, 2020

Do you need to supercharge your business’s marketing without adding any extra headcount? In today’s world, more and more companies are exploring the notion of outsourcing certain functions of their business to professionals. Rather than adding costly headcount for a function that often isn’t even required full time, business managers are increasingly looking for experts to provide more cost-efficient solutions to meet the needs of their organisation.

Marketing is one such area where an external consultant can provide invaluable guidance and advice based on years of experience and specialist knowledge. A great marketing consultant can provide the insight, resource and understanding of modern communication platforms to help your business reach new heights. A poor one can end up wasting a lot of your time and money. But as a non-marketing person yourself, how do you tell the difference?

To help you avoid the wrong kind of marketing help, we’ve put together a list of 8 things you definitely don't want to see in your marketing consultant.

8 Things you definitely don't want in your marketing consultant:

1) Talk, talk, talk - As someone who has been approached to help a company with their marketing activities, a marketing consultant should always be doing more listening than talking so that they can become familiar with your business. If you have arranged a meeting and find yourself waiting for the person to take a breath so you can actually start telling them about how your business works and what you want to achieve, then it’s not a good sign.

Genuine, skilled marketers are always more interested in what business managers have to say, as they are gathering data and information to help them formulate a plan to take the business forward. Market research starts from the very first meeting and they’ll immediately want to tap into your knowledge.

Granted the marketing consultant will need to explain their approach, range of services and engagement model, however if your overall impression was that they were into their own business more than they were yours, then you need to find another provider.

2) Inflexibility - Each business is unique and will be situated at different points of the organisational lifecycle, so why should a marketing consultant only offer one engagement model? Consultants who are client-centric will tailor their engagement specifically to suit where a business currently is, the challenges it faces and the budget that’s appropriate. Your consultant should meet your business needs and not the other way around.

If the marketing consultant you are meeting with seems to be pushing you down a certain path of engagement, without having taken the time to understand exactly where you are at, you may be dealing with someone who wants you to fit into their view of the world. Far better to find someone who has a range of engagement options and works with you on selecting the most appropriate one for your company.

The type of engagement may change over time as the business evolves and that’s okay – it’s all about flexibility!

3) Immediate solutions - Although it can be alluring to be told that your marketing challenges can be solved easily and relatively quickly, be wary of any consultant who claims to have all the answers to your problems early in the relationship. Genuine marketing consultants know that it takes time to form a clear view on how to address a company’s marketing challenges at a fundamental level.

Will there be quick wins that an experienced consultant can fix promptly? Sure. But most business challenges have a level of complexity to them that can only be fully understood and addressed with research and time spent thinking through the issues.

Once the consultant has taken the time to understand your business, only then can they start to recommend appropriate options that are business-specific.

4) A long-distance relationship - Technology is a wonderful thing, and video conferencing tools such as Zoom and Skype have added another dimension to modern business communications. That said, a video call still can’t replace the quality of exchange that takes place when you’re in the same room as someone.*

If you meet with a marketing consultant who suggests catching up with you more on video conferencing than face to face, you need to decide whether a long-distance relationship is right for your business.

Whilst you don’t expect a consultant to be inside your physical premises all of the time, the ability to regularly engage with what’s happening in the company and make connections with a variety of team members will have a direct impact on a marketing consultant’s effectiveness.

The most successful relationships are likely to be with a consultant who lives in the same area as your business and can get to your offices easily at short notice. Supplement meetings with phone calls, emails and texts, with video conferencing used for dedicated purposes rather than a replacement for face to face interaction.

*Update July 2020:

The world has changed significantly since I originally wrote this. Since the start of the global COVID-19 pandemic remote working has become normalised through necessity and video conferencing has become an invaluable tool that has kept us connected. See this blog post I wrote titled "Digital technology is the key to keep your business moving".

5) Product peddling - Separate from the service of marketing consultancy, there are many different marketing ‘products’ out there that almost sound too good to be true. Often subscription based, these products make all kinds of claims around things like lead generation, customer engagement and inbound sales from their slick looking websites.

If you are speaking with a marketing consultant who has an evangelistic enthusiasm for a certain product, question whether they know enough about your business and its customers yet to be making recommendations on how you spend a significant part of your marketing budget. Ensure the consultant is clear about their relationship with the product. Are they an affiliated provider, a reseller, or is there some type of financial arrangement between them?

Crucially, does this activity fit into a broader marketing plan and is ‘on strategy’ or is it a hail mary / let’s hope this works approach? As a rule of thumb, if you prefer independent, unbiased advice, work with marketing consultants who are more interested in the methodologies behind the marketing products over the products themselves.

6) Contract lock-ins - Marketing consultants who are good at what they do won't ask you to sign any type of contract that is hard to get out of. This is simply because they know if they do a good job and help you achieve your business goals, you’re going to continue using them.

Standard service agreements with short termination notice periods are sufficient for the experienced consultant. If the contract locks you in to a set period of time regardless of whether the consultant is making a positive impact or not, you may have reason to question how confident the marketer is in what they can do for your firm.

7) 360 degree capability - Given that marketing is such a broad discipline with many specialist disciplines within it, it is very unlikely that a marketing consultancy will genuinely be able to offer adequate capability across the spectrum of marketing services.

The wise marketing consultant knows this and works in collaboration with specialist partners who can provide deep expertise in their specialist field (SEO, Video Production, Media planning and Website Design for example).

Avoid the marketer who claims they can do it all. It would be like visiting a GP who insists they don't need the advice of specialists regardless of how serious your health issue is.

8) Actionless advice - As the saying goes, actions speak louder than words and this is no different in the world of marketing. Identifying aspects of marketing within your business that require improvement is close to worthless if no-one is going to drive any change.

The best marketing consultants not only point out areas of improvement and opportunity, but they offer to action or assist with implementation of the changes required. Whether that be owning the marketing programme of your business fully or supporting existing staff that can pick the ball up and run with it, look for a consultant who isn't afraid to roll up their sleeves, get stuck in and live the journey of change with you.

About Xennial Marketing

Xennial is a marketing consultancy firm located in Auckland, with over 30 years combined experience in marketing across various industries.

Xennial is ideally suited to businesses who are either:

  • Looking to grow sales through sound planning and effective tactical marketing

  • Wanting to clarify their brand positioning

  • Needing creative services to refresh their branding and marketing materials

  • Looking for senior marketing advice and strategy direction

  • Wanting an ongoing marketing partner to support the businessNeeding help with a marketing-related project

If you are looking to partner with a leading marketing consultancy contact us today and arrange an obligation free consultation.