A recent story in Inc. provides advice about how companies can avoid getting duped by consultants they hire. There are some good tips but, there is also more to consider. PR consultants should take steps to ensure they are not duped by companies just the same. In other words, duping is a two-way street.
The article seems focused more on retail but, is still highly relevant to tech PR and marketing… In the first advice from the article it discusses that companies should make sure a consultant’s professionalism is as promised and advertised. It states you should do some obvious chores, like seek out reviews and references. A company should also clarify what they mean by professionalism. In other words, if you are looking to develop a website that rivals say Apple’s website, this should be made clear to the consultant. Likewise, the consultant should be able to demonstrate past work that does so. Telling a consultant you want a website that looks good is one thing – vague. Telling them you want one that looks like Apple’s is an entirely different thing. This is true of any aspect of marketing and PR, not just a website. To provide another example, a PR consultant that has written hundreds of press releases about new executive hires is not the same as one who has written hundreds of product press releases or the same as someone who has done both thousands of times.
The next point made is to find a consultant that “gets” your product. It points out that hiring someone that doesn’t get it is likely a mistake. This seems obvious but, sometimes companies opt for a consultant because of location or price over relevant experience. Even relevant experience can be misleading. For example, if you provide a SaaS-based IT management app you might think to hire someone who has worked before with, well, a SaaS-based IT management company. The problem could be that maybe this consultant has had that experience once or twice but, the bulk of their experience has been working with, say, retail shoe designers. You’d be better off with someone who’s worked with all types of technologies rather than someone with a primary focus on shoes, despite the one specific experience. This is a must to determine. At the same time, consultants should ensure companies understand what they are all about. If the technology company doesn’t understand your process or PR – yes, many still do not get PR or social media – you are setting yourself on a difficult course to demonstrate value and results.
The article also states companies should make consultants understand why they are a strategic client for them. The point is made that if you get the consultant to believe in your strategic value to them that they’ll in turn make you more of a priority. This is true to a point. More important is the company’s ability to convince the consultant of their marketability – do they have a product that will be a success or is already a success. Consultants should not set themselves up for failure. Finding the right company to consult for is as important as the company finding the right consultant. When both are right for each other, the relationship and results take care of themselves.
Finally, the article points out that companies shouldn’t settle for less. It states some agencies end up overwhelmed and provide you with lower-level importance. This includes agencies sending in the owner and other higher-level executives to woo you for your business and then tasking the day-to-day work to junior associates once you’ve signed on. This is a classic move and happens often. Part of the time, it’s also because higher-level executives have hefty hourly rates that would eat your budget too fast. Other times it’s because these executives look to focus more on bringing in new clients, tasking junior folks to try and keep the ones they win happy. It’s unfortunate but, it happens. Tech companies do need to beware of this. Equally, consultants need to beware of companies asking for small budgets and then trying to push them to do far more than the budget has called for. This also happens. Companies that do this only cause two primary problems: you get a consultant that is put in a position to renegotiate with you and one that also gets to a point of disliking working with you. This dislike can lead to minimal efforts and lackluster results. It’s not a situation you want your consultant to be in for you. In other words, consultants should be fair in what team they promise to deliver and companies should be fair in what work they’re willing to pay for.
Consultant-company relationships can get complicated if not managed correctly. Managing expectations is everything – for both sides. If consultants present a specific team to win a business, it’s typically expected by the company that’s who they’ll work with day-to-day. Same with the results a consultant or agency promises. For companies, it’s important to tell your consultant what you clearly expect in results so they can provide an appropriate budget and team to meet them. Companies should understand consultants expect you to provide them the resources and information to do the job for you and to be fairly compensated for it. A company’s involvement in PR, social media and marketing is necessary – some company executives wish their consultant could do it all without bothering them. Then they want to change the things they see. It doesn’t work that way either. If both parties can fairly manage how they’ll work together, on what, and for how much, it sets up a long-lasting, results abundance relationship beneficial to both parties.