So you have determined that you need to hire a marketing consultant. Below are questions you will want to ask before you make your decision. First, establish the project objectives and desired outcome.
Once you have established the parameters for the engagement, you will want to ask the following questions:
1. How long have you been a consultant? How did you get started and how long have you been in business? The answer you are looking for depends entirely on the type of project and skill set you need. Do you need a formally trained consultant, or are you looking for a highly skilled marketer with specific experience? There are thousands of displaced marketers out there who have decided to hang up a sign and call themselves marketing consultant. This is actually how I got my start. My first major consulting assignment came from a former client in my corporate job. I worked on their business for five years – and they wanted someone who new their business, culture, people and how to navigate around the organization. In this case, I was a perfect fit based on their specific needs.
2. What suggestions do you have for our business? The answer should be an insightful opinion that shows that they know your business and have done their homework. A frank assessment that shows that they understand the problem you are trying to solve is a signal that this could be a great fit.
3. Who else have you worked for? You will want to probe on the what other clients the consultant has worked for and they types of projects they have worked on. The consultant can provide high level information without sharing details. Remember, you expect them to do the same for you should you hire them. If they offer up too many details, this may be a signal that they are not discreet. Ask for a reference and / or a testimonial.
4. What makes the consultancy unique? The recession has created a massive pool of marketing talent who are now "marketing consultants" What "proof" do they have to their claims and how is it unique? For example, "100% of our clients have hired us for additional engagements" provides much stronger "proof" than does "Extensive marketing experience". "98% Customer Satisfaction Rating" is more convincing than is "Excellent Customer Service"
5. What is their marketing niche? Most consultants have a specialty. While you want an all-around marketer who has experience with many marketing strategies and tactics, being jack of all marketing trades may not a good sign. If your project requires a specific skill, be sure that the consultant has adequate experience to be able to manage your project.
6. Do they have an Industry Focus? Depending on your needs, industry focus may or may not be critical. If you are seeking a consultant who has SEO expertise, the industry may not be as important. However, if you industry requires specific knowledge (ie medical or technical knowledge) industry experience may be a prerequisite.
7. What Industry Events Organizations do you belong to? If their answers match organizations your company and people in your industry belong to, this may be another sign of a good fit. If you are hiring someone for their expertise on a topic of subject matter, attendance a key industry Conferences shows that they are committed to staying on top of the latest industry trends and information.
8. Have you published any articles or written a book? Depending on your needs, you may want to hire someone who has follows key industry publications and has published their thoughts. What were the topics? This again is a signal that the consultant may be a SME (subject matter expert) and keep abreast of new industry developments and news. This may not a requirement for your project and could lead to higher consulting fees depending on how well know the consultant is.
These are some basic questions you may want to ask potential marketing consultants. How you make your final decision is up to you. One major factor to consider is "fit".