Tips for Working with a Marketing Consultant
Hiring an outside consultant can seem like a daunting task even when you know you need the extra help. It can take time to coordinate the process and communicate throughout the relationship. However, in my experience, bringing in consultants has always made a difference and ultimately saved the company time and resources.
As someone who has worked on both sides of the consultant equation—consultant and manager—these are my tips for working with an outside marketing consultant:
1. Bring everyone on board:
- All levels of management - Make sure that the team understands the purpose for bringing in outside help and the goals being set, especially the person in charge of managing the consultant.
- IT department - Depending on the work that you are tasking your consultant with, you may need extra support from IT. This might include server access or an email address to manage proposals. IT involvement will also vary based on your consultant working remotely or in-office.
- The entire team - Consultants can affect the morale of your permanent employees. Your current staff might resent someone coming in to fix a problem that they couldn’t or if they feel that it was easily something that they could have done. Bringing the team into the loop can help make everyone feel good about outside help.
2. Get clear on service expectations:
- Make sure that you and your consultant have the same understanding about what projects they will be helping with. Your consultant may have a narrow set of services that they provide for their contracts and you don’t want to be surprised when something is outside of their scope or that they do not know how to do.
3. Establish deliverables and a timeline up front:
- Be very clear with your consultant about what items you need and when you need them by so that nothing is assumed or lost in translation.
4. Communicate clearly:
- One point person - Avoid sending a consultant through multiple chains of command regardless if they work in the office or are location independent. There will always be multiple levels of staff with differing opinions and styles but it is best to try and communicate one clear direction and message to your consultant.
- Avoid micromanagement - Your consultant is there to help you but they likely do not spend all of their work day solely on your projects. While frequent communication is important, this is where a clear timeline is critical so that you do not feel the need to constantly check-in and over manage them. Focus on quality of communication rather than quantity.
5. Utilize their strengths:
- Singular focus - consultants are free from the many distractions that can pop up throughout the day for someone on you internal team. Allow your consultant to stay focused on one or a few distinct tasks at a time.
- Fresh set of eyes - Your consultant brings to your team an outside interpretation of the way your business presents itself. Tap into that fresh perspective when you can.
6. Start small:
- If possible, acclimate your consultant to your firm culture, managing style, communication preferences, and expectations through a small project to begin with. Test the working relationship this way to see if you would like to bring the consultant on board for larger, more complex projects or a wider array of tasks.
7. Maintain the relationship:
- Even if you have brought on a consultant for a one time project or short-term needs, it is a good idea to keep in touch with your consultant. You have invested time in developing a rapport with that person and acclimating them to your culture, and unless the experience was negative, you will want to maintain that relationship for future needs that arise.