A recent post focused on pros and cons of insourcing and outsourcing Pardot work.
The TL;DR of that one: there are great reasons for and against either approach.
But if you’re sitting here comparing your internal resources against your ever-growing to-do list, and decide you’re in the “outsource it” camp… here are a few ways to successfully leverage consultants.
1) Be clear on your goals, not just your deliverables
Sure, you could find an agency to write you 3 blog posts a month and 10X social posts. But is that really what you’re after?
Look for a consultant that gets WHY you’re pursuing certain projects – not just the WHAT involved in execution.
If you find a consultant who takes the time to get to know your business and your objectives, they can advise you on the best way to get from point A to point B.
Some consultants are wired like this by nature, others are not. IMO, this is the #1 thing that separates the good and the awesomesauce.
2) Look for cultural fit
Personality and work style are as important as experience. Finding someone who is responsive, communicative, and who gels with your team is critical.
Equally critical is finding someone who is willing to challenge your status quo. It’s easy to meet with a potential client and tell them they’re doing a great job. But that’s not what will help you grow your business.
3) Have them train your team
Found someone with the expertise, consultative nature, and cultural fit you need? Great. Now make sure they’re willing to pass that value along to your team.
Ask them to walk your team through what they’ve built and document decisions for future team members. Good consultants are willing to do this and aren’t afraid of sharing their “secrets” with you – they retain clients by demonstrating results, not hoarding information.
4) Hold them accountable for investments of time
I generally like to price projects based on value or output, not on time.
Many consultants bill by the hour, which is fine and dandy. As you look to hold them accountable for more than just running up the clock, consider asking them things like:
- What deliverables can we expect for X amount of hours?
- How long does it typically take to do XYZ task?
- What results should we expect from the campaigns we’re building?
These are really hard questions to answer. For all marketers.
Your prospective consultants may squirm a bit… because as you’ve likely experienced, there are no guarantees in digital marketing and it’s hard to commit to firm numbers.
But they should be able to share benchmark performance rates, look at your historical performance, or at the very least share anecdotal evidence of what they’ve seen work for other companies like yours.
5) Be open to the “good kind” of scope creep
“This should only take a minute.”
…famous last words before discovering 5 other things that should be addressed before finishing the initial project that you set out to do.
Consultants are notorious for quoting one thing and going way over budget. If this is done to trick you into signing a contract or because of shoddy requirements gathering — that’s not cool.
But in some cases, when you’re working with a consultant you will uncover some problems you didn’t even know you had. When that happens, consider the issue that’s been uncovered… and if it merits it, take the time to address it.
Be open to the good kind of scope creep that helps you get the right foundation in place for successful execution.
6) Evaluate the resources, not just the firm
Find out which actual team members will be working on your account. What is their experience, and do you have confidence in it.
It’s shocking to me how some big-name consulting firms will bill crazy-high hourly rates, and then promptly turn around and hand a new project to their 22-year old new hire who can count on one hand the number of times they’ve logged into Pardot.
7) Set communications expectations upfront
Sense of urgency and speed of response to communications vary. Rather than make assumptions, consider asking direct questions about the type of turnaround time and communication cadence you can expect, such as:
- What is your typical response time to questions and requests? (Or if you have a specific expectation, like 48 hours, ask if they can meet that).
- How do you keep your clients updated on your work?
- What tools and processes do you have in place for collaborating on projects?
8) Treat them like an extension of your team
Keep your consultants in the loop on your overall marketing plan and business goals. Invite them to your team meetings, get them involved in planning, share the reports and communications you give to your execs and internal team members.
The more information you share, the more empowered they will be to give your strategic guidance and set you up for success.
[Side note: this is another great reason to price by deliverables/output vs. time — because who wants to pay for consultants sitting in a bunch of meetings?]
Over to You: How Do You Successfully Bring in Outside Partners?
How have you successfully onboarded partners, agencies, and consultants? Any key tips or lessons learned you might share?
Let fellow readers know in the comments!