Consultants in general have a negative rep (street talk for reputation). There is a stereotype of the consultant waltzing into a business, charging a fortune to stir shit up and then walking out leaving a trail of internal confusion and conflict. That is one generalisation that I personally have not witnessed. Luckily the consultants I have had the pleasure of dealing with have tended to be:
- Effective communicators
- Knowledgeable about a particular topic or area
- Well-connected within the industry
But why do companies hire consultants? I know this is a little bit self promotional but I thought it would be useful to highlight some situations where Digital Consultants can be a real asset to a business or agency.
#1 Staff Come & Go
Perhaps the most obvious benefit of consultants in general. Companies, particularly after the recession, found themselves suddenly downsizing or expanding their work force. Consultants can come in and very easily plug a hole where perhaps an in-house employee isn’t required full time. Whilst this may cost more in the short term it allows that business to work flexibly without hiring an expensive full timer.
#2 Industry Best Practice & Benchmarking
A digital consultant has often had the privilege of working across several industries and many clients within a particular industry. This gives them a rare knowledge of the past & current digital marketing trends across industries. This also helps them share best practice for those wanting to market themselves online in that industry. An experienced digital consultant will have seen techniques come and go so should be able to guide you.
#3 Fresh (Digital) Perspective
There is nothing worse than when a business gets tunnel vision or complacent in their practices. This is where a digital consultant comes in. Traditional or direct marketing focussed businesses can really struggle adapting to the speed of change in the digital marketing landscape. It’s filled with ‘blink and you miss it’ opportunities and a constantly increasing list of new technologies. A digital consultant can be on hand to direct a business towards the niche ‘game changers’ and away from time wasting gimmicks.
#4 Analytical Manpower
With the amount of data available in today’s electronic internet fuelled world its not surprising when some businesses haven’t got the manpower to analyse it all. This is where the digital consultant comes in. With a select few analytical tools under their belts a digital consultant can feedback vital data on online user behaviour. They can also train up your current staff to utilise these tools on a daily or weekly basis.
#5 Training & Skillset
Again an obvious reason but businesses cant realistically expect their marketing staff to be ubiquitous in their knowledge of all mediums. At some point they are going to have to make the decision between agency, in house or consultant. Not an easy to make with many pros and cons to objectively consider for each. Training the staff up can be an expensive long term process. Bringing an agency on-board often involves complex tendering, due diligence & pitch process. Not to mention the contracts. Its fair to say dipping your toe in the water with a consultant or day or two is probably the logical decision (bias accepted).
#6 Stakeholder Conflict
Any business with more than one employee can experience it. The dreaded decision maker conflict. It may be members of a board, department heads, directors or a management team. At some point in a businesses life there comes a sticking point where one party decides to bring in a third party to help make a decision. This is happening more and more for the digital sector. Family run or legacy businesses who have got on fine without embracing online are being forced to sink or swim. This rush to create an online offering can lead to varied opinions on approach and direction. A digital consultant can offer an (hopefully) unbiased experienced opinion on the best steps to take.
And to end on an amusing note, I’ve created this: