Don’t be a Sheep or You may be Fleeced

How to Avoid Wasting Money with Marketing and Consulting Firms

This article will appeal equally to consultants and to their clients or prospective clients so why are you reading this right now?

  • You want to avoid being fleeced;
  • You think you are being fleeced;
  • You are a consultant and want to know how the article may affect you.

Having been involved in Marketing for many years, we take all marketing spiel with a pinch of salt. We’ve written it ourselves, in all honesty, because we believed in what we were selling. That isn’t always the case as there are finite ways of using a finite set of words to say the same thing: “We can help you”.

According to the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB), there were almost five million businesses in the UK last year, 99.9% of which were small businesses. Of these, 1.4million were limited companies and 3.7million were sole traders. Of course, a number of these are consultants with complementary skills for the business sector.

This year, there are most likely more businesses and, although some will have perished along the way (not totally the fault of unscrupulous, money-grabbing consultancy firms), there is an ever growing need for professional services such as branding, marketing and financial advice.

If you are a new business, you are likely to need expertise with:

  • Logo design
  • Website design
  • Business plan
  • Finance/Investment/cashflow
  • Marketing strategy
  • Sales strategy
  • Social Media management

So… how do you find the right people to help you?

1. Don’t be Intimidated

Be certain that you know what you want before being told what is on offer. Of course you can listen but don’t ever think that just because one person says it’s what you want, then it must be true. Do some research and decide for yourself.

It’s also a fact that sometimes men can be more gullible than women because it’s harder for them to admit that they don’t understand something. Marketing people, in particular, often use a completely different language from the rest of the world. Make them speak to you in clear, everyday English.

2. Research & Question

Whether you prefer to snoop around the internet or fraternise with your peers, find a similar business  that you respect and consider their providers. If there are no recommendations (really?) then approach the situation from another direction: find out who should you avoid.

Meanwhile, if you have researched and approached potential consultants or companies, ensure that they will allow you to contact at least a couple of their clients.

3. Expert or Experience?

Experience makes the expert therefore take a little time to establish the credentials of those ‘experts’. Did they do something once or several times? If they can’t admit to any mistakes, then they didn’t learn from them.

Someone who really knows their stuff will freely advise – up to a point. It comes naturally to the expert to talk about what they know and this should help gain your trust. Expertise evolves therefore your advisor should not be afraid to change direction in light of some new information further along the road but… the true expert will not just change on a whim, even if it means risking your continued business.

Something we see all too often is the baited hook – give me your money before I tell you something. No matter how tempting this may be, with promises of secrets and success, avoid at all costs. Where is the mutual respect in that scenario?

4. Value for Money & Horses for Courses

“If someone charges £900 per day, they are twice as good as someone who charges £450 per day.” Well, it could be true or there could be a number of other reasons, including location, industry, ambition, overheads, client base, etc. What matters is which consultant is right for your needs.

You have quotes for Social Media Management services, which you estimate will save approximately 30 minutes per week of your time:

  • BasicServiceGuy’s quarterly fees are £250
  • LoveMyJobGuy charges a monthly fee of £150
  • Bells&WhistlesPLC minimum package is £300 per month

You’ve asked what that will give you:

  • BasicServiceGuy will post to your FaceBook and Twitter accounts every day, as requested.
  • LoveMyJobGuy does the same but will add value with discretionary retweets and +1s. Each month, with your invoice, you will receive a status update along with analysis, comments and suggestions.
  • Bells&WhistlesPLC will post to your FaceBook and Twitter accounts every day, as requested, and will add value using methods developed in-house to boost your following. Each month, there will be analytics and RoI reports, administration of social media competitions plus telephone support for your Social Media questions.

Now, depending on your budget and how you like to work, you might choose one of these or continue to do it yourself but it is a matter balancing your time and deciding your business priorities. Make your decision and review the situation every two or three months.

5. Are You in Control?

If you already have a domain name and a website, do you know the answers to the following?

  • Is the domain name registered to you at your current address?
  • If you lost contact with the person who handles this aspect of your business, would you lose your domain name at renewal?
  • Where is your website hosted?
  • If you lost contact with your webmaster, would you have access to your website code?

If you haven’t already got a domain name and a website, what do you do? How do you know you’re getting good advice? It’s the usual: ask for recommendations and do your internet research. You will discover conflicting advice, including advice that has the audacity to conflict with what you are reading here!! For example, one article suggested that to be in control of your website, you need to use a service such as GoDaddy. No, no, no, not true! Trying to move away from GoDaddy is a long, drawn-out process.

Eventually, you will have a shortlist of experienced website designers; ask their advice and always understand the implications of their answers. If you don’t ‘click’ with one that you feel has the integrity, openness and expertise that is right for you, start again.

Final points…

You don’t have to know everything yourself but you need to take responsibility for your own success or failure. Do your research and trust your instincts. Don’t be put off asking questions and, most of all, be in control.

You will have to spend money but investing wisely will deliver good value. For starters, take a look at