I recently sat down with a good friend and marketing expert, Jude Brown, the CEO and Founder of Pikosocial. Jude sponsored Social Media Camp 2012 and is one of the most knowledgeable people that I know when it comes to getting real results from your marketing efforts.
Jude has been working with local Victoria startups such as Rewards Den, ForkJoy and Kiind so I thought it would be appropriate to talk with him about the best time for startups to hire a marketing consultant.
Note: My audio recording for this interview didn’t work so the following responses are paraphrased with the permission of Jude.
What homework should a startup do before hiring a marketing consultant?
It is important that a startup knows what their core message is before they speak to a marketing consultant or hire a dedicated marketing person inside their company.
If you don’t know why people should care about your company and product or service then no amount of “marketing” can help. You need to do the ground work and figure out what it is about your company that really connects with people. This is the hard part that the founders need to do.
Far too often startups spend 6 months – 1 year working on a new product idea only to lift their head up at the end and say “lets market this”. This approach can lead to a product that no one wants because you haven’t figured out why your customers will care about it first. This typically requires picking up the phone and talking to customers. By the way, a (phone) conversation is the most profitable form of communication for any business.
There has to be an exception to this rule, right?
It’s true that sometimes you can get a little too inundated by your own story and it can become stale. In these situations you may just need an external set of eyes, at which point it may be helpful to bring a marketing consultant. This meeting should only take 2 – 3 hours and shouldn’t be a big expense. If a marketing consultant wants to jump in and starts by proposing a huge contract you should probably just walk away.
So what should startups do when they complete their homework?
Finding a marketing consultant is a lot like dating. You are going to want to meet with a bunch of different marketing consultants. On the first meeting, you are both really just trying to find out if you like each other. This should take about 30 minutes – 1 hour.
During this meeting you will want to see how they understand your business and you should get an understanding of their business.
What if we want to move on to the “Second Date”?
If the first date went well and you want to continue dating, remember, you shouldn’t sign anything yet. You are still evaluating if this is going to turn into a marriage.
A good marketing consultant will start by getting to know you. If they don’t get to know you, how can they help represent you to the world? Now it is time to move on to the second date.
This date will take time. A typical first meeting could take 3 – 5 hours and then be followed up with a multiple page questionnaire designed to get an even deeper understanding of your business and objectives. Remember, this whole process should cost you nothing. You still don’t know if you want to marry this consultant.
After this interview process you should expect to see a summary of your startup returned to you for your approval. If you decide to approve the summary of your startup then the marketing consultant should then put a plan together of what the marriage would look like and what you can expect.
Only if you like the final proposal should you sign on as a customer and start the marriage.
Do you have any final tips for startups when hiring a marketing consultant?
- Don’t Pay a Retainer - Retainers are going the way of the dodo bird. There are some very high-end marketing firms that still request retainers but these are groups that are typically working with major household brands. If you are working with one of these firms, then paying a retainer means that you will be paying someone to play Pac Man at their desk until you call, and then they will jump into action.Smaller marketing firms that request a retainer are just using the retainer as a way to pay their bills. They will load their staff up to 125% capacity so that when you call, you aren’t at the front of the line, and your project is going to take longer than it should to get out the door.
- No Contracts - There is no reason that you should be signing a long term contract with a marketing consultant. If they aren’t producing the results that you want and/or need, you need to end the marriage and move on. It’s nothing personal and a professional will understand that it just wasn’t the right fit.
- Think in Cost Per Acquisition - Brand marketing is a long play. It can lead to big results but most startups can’t afford the luxury of the long game up front. Before you start, ask yourself what will this marketing campaign will result in and is it worth it to you?If you are looking for webpage visitors or paying customers think about how much you would pay for that and then be sure it makes sense to move forward with a marketing consultant.
If you have any other advice for startups looking to hiring a marketing consultant or just have a comment please feel free to chime in below!