How to hire a consultant to help you with social media and marketing

Mary Fletcher Jones

If you were going to buy a new car, you would research your options before going to the dealer, right?  Well, purchasing marketing services for your business or nonprofit is an investment, as well, and doing preliminary research on your own is the best way to find the right match for your business or nonprofit.  A little research can save you a great deal of time and money.

Here are our recommendations for what you should do before you ask for an estimate.

Think about your business goals and challenges, and the needs of your customers or clients.  How will investing in this marketing project meet your goals?  Is this a short-term or long-term strategy?  Where can you economize?  Where should you invest?  Is this the right time to undertake this project?  What are your competitors doing?

Have a budget in mind for your project.  Depending on your business, you may want to dedicate between 7% and 10% of your projected or actual annual revenues to marketing expenses.  But this can vary widely, depending on the type of business you operate.

Tap into your network to investigate the rates for the type of services you are contemplating. Check multiple sources to obtain an idea of the market rates charged by reputable area firms and consultants.  For free information, ask your bank officer, Chamber of Commerce, business associates, vendors, or a SCORE counselor.  Be sure to ask for recommendations.

Research the company thoroughly. Now that you have a good idea of what you may expect to pay, and have determined that the amount is within your budget, it’s time to investigate companies that can meet your needs.

But don’t pick up the phone just yet!  Before you call a company, read the information on their website, Facebook Page, Twitter account, and YouTube Channel.  Google the owners, and check out their LinkedIn profiles.

We try to make it easy for prospective clients to get to know us and our work.  On our website, we provide testimonials from our clients, information about our expertise, examples of our work, and case studies.  If you read this information about a company or consultant, you would be able to get a fair idea of whether to  include them on your short list of options.

Reading the information on the company website can be a huge time-saver for you.  Also, any contractor will be more disposed to work with you if they feel you have done your homework about their company and what they have to offer before you call.

Request a meeting. When you have thought about your project in detail, obtained a good idea of what to expect to pay, and have researched the work and reputation of some companies that meet your criteria, narrow down your choices to a short list of two or three companies.  Hopefully, Fletcher Prince will be one of them!

Then, make the call.  Request a short meeting to discuss your needs, but also be prepared to answer on the phone any screening questions the consultant may have for you, such as budget, timing, and other factors.  Most consultants will ask you how you found out about their company, and will be more inclined to talk to you if you come to them with a personal recommendation.

At the meeting, respect the consultant’s time.  Remember, he or she will be assessing whether you are the type of client he or she wants to work with, as well!  Sometimes, the fit is right, and sometimes, it just isn’t.  Don’t take this personally.  Be prepared to provide references from contacts with whom you have done business, if requested.

If you both appear interested, now is the time to ask for an estimate. Understand that the consultant may not be able to give you a firm price on the services you need at this meeting.  He or she may need time to put that information together.

When you receive the estimate, you’ll be in a great position to make a decision.  If the estimate is within your budget, and you have done your research, you should be 90% certain about hiring the company at this point.

If there is a final step I would recommend, it would be to call two or three of the references provided to you by the company.

This approach involves more effort from you but the pay-off will be worth it to you and your business or nonprofit.  You will have approached the process intelligently, with respect for the consultant’s time, and built the foundation for a successful business relationship.

Good luck to you!

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About Mary Fletcher Jones

Mary Fletcher Jones is a public relations and marketing consultant, and owns Fletcher Prince (www.FletcherPrince.com). Follow Mary on Twitter @FletcherPrince.

Posted on March 28, 2011, in Client/Agency Relationship and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

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