Three Guidelines For Choosing Your Marketing & Branding Team Wisely

by blackwoodimpact

Small businesses know that effective marketing is the key to sustaining and growing their company.  Often, smaller enterprises are not able to fully staff an internal “dream team” so they seek the help of outside marketing firms or consultants.

But when it is time to contract the help, how do you know if you are hiring the right firm or consultant?  Making the wrong choice will cost precious time that your brand could be using to gain market share.  And, of course, the wrong choice is financially costly when you have to invest in correcting the missteps.

Having been on both sides of the table (part of an internal marketing team and being the outside consultant) I have a few guidelines that you can follow to help you make the best possible choice the first time around.

Guideline #1 – Start With An Internal Audit

Before you would invite someone over to your house, you would clean up a little, right?  

You would make sure that everything you needed to serve your guest was handy, yes?

So my recommendation is that before you invite a guest (an outside marketing consultant or a firm) to come into your house (your business), you should “clean up” a little and have key pieces of information ready for them.

First, you should confer with your team and get a consensus on what your goals are.  What would you like your marketing to accomplish? What benchmarks do you desire to hit? For example: how many leads do you want to generate per month?  How many new customers do you want to board each year?

Be sure to analyze what marketing tactics have worked for you in the past and what you are doing now.  You should also be prepared to share which strategies you tried but didn’t seem to work.  

When you are clear about what you want and where you want to go, it will help your new consultant and give them a great springboard to dive off from.  It also helps you to be self-aware during the evaluation process.  

If your goals and your potential provider’s experiences or skills are not a match, you can avoid working with them.  Conversely, if you find a provider who has helped a company with a similar profile to yours, you are more likely to be on the right road towards accomplishing your goals.

Guideline #2 – Stay Open

Now, I’m going to seemingly contradict some of my above advice!

While it is important to know the goals you’d like to accomplish, you should, by the same token, remain open to new ideas and recommendations your consultant might make. 

Sometimes, the best results are the unexpected ones.  A good consultant will help you achieve your stated goals.  A great consultant will help you achieve goals you haven’t dreamed of yet or ones you didn’t think were possible for yourself.  They should ask you thought-provoking questions that make you say, “Hmmm! I’ve never thought of that before.”

Be open to change or new directions.  Just remember: if you could have taken the marketing helm and steered your proverbial ship into sales glory by yourself, you would have.  

You are hiring an “expert” for a reason.  They will likely have information, suggestions and “bright ideas” that can help you truly move the needle on your brand’s attractiveness and revenue-generating power.  

So how do you know if you are about to hire the right maverick strategist for your business?

Follow the next guideline. 

Guideline #3 – Get Proof

Marketing firms and consultants are in the business of marketing.  So you should expect that their website, materials, and brand presence will be beautiful, unified, and convincing.

(If they are not, run!)

Case studies and client testimonials are great starting points, as are online reviews and LinkedIn recommendations.  But it is hard to make a thorough evaluation on these external factors alone. 

So request to speak with a past or current client.  If possible, do so without the consultant or firm listening in on the conversation. Like job references, you can anticipate that you will be offered a reference that will generally say nice things about the consultant or firm you are vetting.  But an honest conversation can give you the opportunity to get great insights into how they work.  

Also, during the vetting process, you should pay close attention to the level of details that they put into their presentations to you.  Examine the types of questions that they ask you and the suggestions they offer:  

  • Are they seeking to understand your business, your processes, and your culture? 

  • Do they seem interested in helping you meet your revenue goals?  

  • Have they asked you questions that made you go back and do a little homework?  

  • Did they ever make you pause and say, “Hmmm” in a good way?   

My theory is if your potential consultant is not asking you thought-provoking questions or helping you to think differently, then you are probably talking to what I call an “order taker.” 

Order takers are service providers who will give you exactly what you ask for as if you were ordering a burger and fries from your local fast food place.  And similarly, the solutions they provide are likely to be just like everybody else’s.  

The type of consultant you want should help you to think bigger, bring you new ideas, and offer you customized solutions.  They typically ask in-depth questions, conduct analysis, and are concerned about your conversions as it relates to your business’ big picture.

You can tell a lot about the caliber of strategy and effort that your potential provider will put into your branding and marking by the process with which they gather your information and the methodologies they will use to execute on the strategies.

Finally, never ignore any “gut checks” or intuition signals you may have.  If they are supported by the various facts you’ve gathered in guideline number three, they are usually correct. 

So what should you do when everything checks out on your front-runner?  

Hug them and sign on the dotted line!

Are you currently in the market for a consultant?  I’d love to connect with you.

CLICK HERE to start the conversation.