Why should you hire small business consultants, where should you find them, and how should you engage them? I’ve got 4 answers to the why, 4 to the where, and 8 on the how.

Let’s start with the why.

They’re normally better at research and strategy, not emotionally wedded to your strategy, tactics or your people, and can make tough calls. They do provide additional bandwidth and the potential for you to scale, and they’re usually better at execution and at measurement than you are.

Where to find them?

  • Referrals
  • Databases
  • Google
  • Review sites

What should you ask them to do?

  • Define the whole roadmap for their engagement – including how they quit,
  • Research,
  • Strategy stress testing,
  • Capture or build the plan,
  • Offer scaled execution.

(When you’re small, they really should be doing everything. As you get bigger, they should remain on as your specialist provider, but regardless, they should be doing QA of every tactic, even if you’re doing it.)

  • Measurement and benchmarking.
  • They should drive improvements, rather than respond to your requests, and
  • Own the exit.  I’ll come back to how I think they should own the exit.

We Googled for small business marketing consultant, and the first we found was this from Dan Kraus. It is a pretty self-serving piece, essentially arguing why you need him.

Blog 2, this is from Donovan Dillon. He’s the president of Ad Giants and it’s on MODsocket. It’s stronger on why you need a consultant. Basically, because they’re objective. They’re flexible. They don’t get sucked into politics. The pitch was kept subtle and left to the end. First regards, good on you for that. I think it’s a well-written article.

Next is from Charles Drengberg, CEO and founder of Big Presence. If I jump to the very end of it, he will say to you, “Is this self serving? Yes, of course it is. It’s their blog”. He’s dead right. He’s allowed to do that, but read it. It’s a good article. It’s well written. If you’re going to write a self serving article that leads to a, “Call us, we’re really cool,” make it a really compelling one. I think they’ve done a good job of that.

They don’t just educate us, but they also shape expectations around what kind of engagement you should consider and at what budget. In that regard, I think it’s a well written sales piece. It includes what we should be doing and it finishes with some specific advice on how to find a marketing consultant. That’s pretty selfless. All up, really good article, well written. I think it would make people actually want to ring these guys because they didn’t just go to the, “This is why you should ring us”.

Finally, not so much because it was found on Google, but because it was shared an awful lot. According to BuzzSumo, 113 times on Twitter and 60 times on Facebook, so somebody liked it. It’s made up like a press release, but frankly it’s the most pitchy of the 5. I’ve got no idea why everybody shared it. It sucks. Read number four. The links are in the show notes.

I’ll give you my spin on that shortly, but let me first honour those 5 contributors and synthesize what I think they’ve said. Consultants should:

  • Be objective.
  • Do the heavy lifting on research and strategy.
  • Let you focus on running your own business.
  • Give you additional bandwidth and often with flexible hours
  • Scale with you.
  • Bring specific execution expertise, particularly with some of the newer things.
  • They’re cost effective under the right circumstances

Here’s what a typical small business marketing strategy consultant will offer you:

  • Research strategy
  • Positioning
  • Demand gen
  • Channel readiness … By that I mean everything that is related to getting your sales force ready to do battle
  • Measure effectiveness of marketing and of sales.

You can find them from:

  • Referrals
  • Databases
  • Google
  • Review sites

That’s their take. Let me give you mine. I’m going to reorder that a little bit, add a couple of elements, remove a couple of elements. Here’s basically why you should use them, where you should find them, and how to engage them.

Let’s start with the why. They’re usually better at research and strategy than you are. They’re not emotionally wedded to your strategy, tactics or people so they can make the tough calls. They can provide bandwidth and scale and they should be better at execution and at measurement of the tactics. Where do you find them? I didn’t have any original thoughts here so I’m going to stick with the suggestions that we had from one of the articles: referrals, databases, Google and review sites.

What to ask them to do? If you engage a small business marketing consultant, they should define the whole road map. By that I specifically mean how are they going to start, what are they going to do next. Give me a 12-month, 24-month window, and include in that the exit. When I’m done with you, how will you help me sustain when you’re gone? That’s the important part. Get that agreed up front. By that, I don’t mean the normal stuff you do in a negotiation, what will we do when we stop loving each other? I mean specifically how will they manage the exit so that your schools can be improved and you can keep going after they’re gone.

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Get into the research. They’re normally less partial. Strategy stress testing because, as I said at the top, you have to own your own strategy. They can facilitate, but they should not be building your strategy. You should. Capture or build the plan to execute on the strategy. Scaled execution, if you’re little, they should do everything. As you get a bit bigger, keep them round to do the specialist stuff, that’s just not smart for you to skill up for. They should be measuring and benchmarking you against other measures. They should be driving the improvements, not you. I know you’ll have things that you want them to do, but they should be driving that dialog and, as I’ve already hinted, they should own the exit.

Frankly, I think the first thing that any consultant should be doing for you or you should be asking your consultant to do, is to put it all down onto a single-page plan. If they can’t say on one page, you and they probably don’t understand it. If it takes 20 pages to say something, then you’re both unclear. Get it on the one page. Of course I’m going to suggest that you use Funnel Plan to do that because that’s what we do, we provider Funnel Plan. If you’re the client, you should get your consultant to put it all together in a Funnel Plan for you. If you’re the consultant watching this show, then that’s what you should be using to help your client understand the objectives, the strategy, the tactics, the measures, everything, on a single page.

Go to FunnelPlan.com. Get a free one. If you want more, upgrade to the paid version. It’s all at FunnelPlan.com.