Red on Marketing Blog

Picking a Marketing Consultant: Get What You Pay For

Fig 1 - Picking a marketing consultant decision treeBy Rebekah E. Donaldson

We’ve all heard the phrase, “You get what you pay for.” The truth is, sometimes you get a lot less than you pay for.

This is the first in a seven-part series of articles to help you get what you pay for when you choose a marketing agency. I’ll start today with a decision tree that shows the five key decision points. As the series progresses, I’ll show you a framework that CEOs can use to sort out the answers.  In later articles I touch on the various types of marketers in the industry. You’ll also find 11 questions to ask an agency – with an example of what counts as a good answer (“pass”), and what counts as baloney (“fail”), for each. And in my seventh article in this series I’ll give five warnings, each of which begins, “Why to watch out if you hear…

Outsourcing marketing – opportunities and threats

On the one hand, you need effective marketing because of competition and economic conditions; on the other hand, you risk:

  • Wasting money
  • Wasting time
  • Making a bad impression on customers and internal stakeholders if marketing poorly represents the company

The real risk of taking the wrong path

A lot of marketing-related companies are vying for your attention — and your money. Cash vacuums like Google Adwords. Thousands of marketers with consulting practices. Marketing automation software companies, web hosts, email marketing tools, graphic designers, online directories, multimedia companies, social media sites and dozens of other types of vendors.


Fig 1 - Picking a marketing consultant decision tree


Fig 1 - Picking a marketing consultant decision tree 

Five key decision points – overview

After you resolve to do more effective marketing, you need to decide:

1. Do we need professional marketing help?

This decision is easy to overlook. After all, vendors like Google Adwords include campaign set-up and support, so why not take their free advice? Or, why not redouble your efforts with mailers and telemarketing, which produce a trickle of leads? That just requires bigger lists and more investment in the same types of marketing as before.

In this series I outline why not. And if you do need professional marketing help, you need to decide:

2. Do we need to outsource marketing or should we keep this in-house?

In 2009-2010, talent of all kinds can be had at bargain prices. But maybe you feel ambitious. Perhaps you’re up to managing marketing directly?

If you are interested in outsourcing, you may wonder:

3. Do we need a formal RFP process to look for a consultant?

There are some benefits to doing a traditional request for proposals. But that process can take months to complete.

If you can arrive at a short list more quickly and easily on your own using search engines, social media and referrals, what sort of professional marketers should make the list?

4. What kind of agency do we need — specialists or an all-in-one firm?

Specialists in marketing subdisciplines are critical to overall marketing success — but it’s risky to grasp at individual tactics (see also our Six Marketing Gotchas CEOs Can Avoid ebook). If you decide you need a firm to be accountable for helping you move the needle for your firm (not just hit marketing-centric numbers), you’ll need to decide:

5. Who should we pick — what do we ask to ensure we get the best agency?

Some folks grapple with what I think of as “early” decisions, like whether to outsource. Others skip the early decisions and go straight to weighing one resource over another.

Now that you see the path we’ll be following, we’ll start looking at the individual elements in more detail. If you haven’t already, please subscribe by email.

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Topics: Performance Lead Generation