Whether you are starting out, starting over, or somewhere in between, the decision to hire a marketing consulting firm is huge. The decision deals with emotions, money, time, and trust. It is that moment when there is a profound realization that partnering with an expert is needed to take you and your product, service, or knowledge to the next level for your business. Deciding, researching, and moving forward with an expert marketing firm is half the battle, the other half is determining the fit, working together, and seeing results that are valuable to you and the marketing company. To help you determine the fit, here are three interview questions to ask your prospective marketing consulting firm.
- What is your company’s experience? Get specific. In today’s market anybody and their brother can enter the
marketing consulting market. There are experts, and then there are people that claim to be experts. You need to know what the consulting firm’s specialties include and the experience that the company brings to the table that aligns with the needs of your business. The ability to precisely define this experience and specialization are critical. If you are looking for a market research partner but are sitting down with a social media firm, there is going to be a disconnect between what you want and what they can do. This is not to say that some companies can grow with the challenge of expanding marketing niches – they certainly can, and often do, however, if what you’re looking for is market research studies for your firm today, don’t set unrealistic expectations with a firm in which that is not their specialty. Ask the question. The representative should be able to clearly and precisely identify what it is they do, what their experience is, and how that is relevant to your firm. If there is a lack of clarity or a one-size fits all approach to marketing, which may be a prospective “red flag” and should weigh heavily on your decision to move forward or not.
- What services do you provide to your clients and how do you measure the progress? Get specific. There can be a brief introduction of services, similar to your catch line of service(s) or value your product(s) that you may say to your prospective customers, but that introduction leaves quite a bit of information that is imperative to a decision to partner unknown. This is where you need to get specific with questions that help you to understand what it is that the firm does. Furthermore, get clear if that is across the board with all clients or in general. If it is, in general, identify how they go about determining the right services for their customers. This is not to question their ability or to illustrate concern for delivery, but understand the functions and processes in providing services. One of the biggest issues that can occur is the assumption of services rendered. Get clear, get specific, and ask as many questions as you need to ask to ensure understanding of services that firm can provide, and what they would be providing should they be selected as a marketing partner. The clearer you are from the get-go, the happier and more productive the marketing journey will be.
- How much does it cost for your services? Don’t be scared of the initial cost, be cautious of the firm that cannot or will not provide you with that information. Be wary of the company that spouts out a figure without knowing your actual needs – in fact, run! Each business has different needs and to provide a cookie cutter cost bid to all prospective customers is not only presumptuous, but also an indicator of a lack of experience. Here, the representative can offer a ballpark of costs based on a variety of services and needs, but the most respectful and efficient response would be a deeper investigation into the actual needs of your firm, and the representative using that information to customize a bid in writing. It shouldn’t take more than two to three business days to create a proposal based on that information. Furthermore, if you receive the bid via email with little to no information supporting it, that is a “red flag”. Professional marketing firms will make sure you understand exactly what the costs entail and what will be gained from the services. By the time you’re done with the bidding process, you should be able to clearly communicate what services are going to be provided, at what frequency, how the communication will be throughout the process, the performance metrics, checkpoints for measuring progress, and the costs associated with the project (one-time to ongoing marketing partnership). If this information is not clear, there is a disconnect somewhere. Ask more questions to get clear – a professional marketing firm will appreciate those questions because it is just as important to the company as it is to you to be clear on expectations, services to provide, and costs.
Making the decision to outsource or partner with a marketing consulting company is a big decision. The decision to do so matters and the selection of the firm will make or break the performance and attitude associated with the experience. Asking the right questions from the -get-go will help you to be clear, precise, and informed. The interview questions will help you to identify the strongest fit with your needs and budget. Take the time to ask, listen, and confirm responses. Doing so, will aid you in deterring the best fit and help to build a positive relationship with the marketing consulting firm that will help you throughout the process and years to come. This is not seen as an annoyance, but as due diligence in deterring the best strategic fit, which is paramount.
by Christine Kelly
CEO and Queen Bee | Viral Solutions LLC
Copyright 2015 Viral Solutions LLC