If you're looking into hiring a marketing consultant, you're taking an important step towards advancing your visibility and potential client base. Your business can be the best in the marketplace, but if you're not being seen by potential customers and are relying primarily on word-of-mouth advertising, your sales growth is going to fall flat in no time.
A good marketing consultant can help you in ways that you likely have not even conceived. They should be able to help you examine your business and suggest various options for increasing your visibility.
That said, there are some red flags to look out for which can be a sign of trouble.
1) They seem to know everything
A good marketing consultant should be able to speak intelligently about potential avenues for your efforts, but the first meeting should be more about he or she listening than speaking.
Any consultant should begin the process with one intention - requirements gathering. Period. If they come in with a portfolio of work saying "we're going to do this" and "we're going to do that" and hasn't paid any attention to your individual needs, you're likely to get a final product that's more one-size-fits-all than tailor-made.
2) They under charge
Wait, what? Why would paying less money be a red flag?
In marketing, just like most things in life, you get what you pay for. It's easy for someone to promise you the moon, but to deliver that actually takes a huge amount of time, energy and skill. Time, energy and skill all cost money so if they're charging you a suspiciously low rate, chances are they're cutting corners on one of those three elements... if not all of them.
While we don't advocate always hiring the most expensive candidate, you should vet them and their previous work very carefully. This is the only way of getting a true sense of the services they will provide.
3) They're not communicative
Marketing work is an iterative process with a lot of back-and-forth between client and consultant. Or, at least it should be.
During the beginning of the process there should be plenty of requirements gathering and towards the end during the delivery phase, there should be refining and tweaking so if you don't hear from him or her during this process or worse yet, you can't get them on the phone or over email, there might be cause for concern.
Now, that's not to say that this person doesn't need his or her time and space to work. To that end, you need to ensure that you're allowing your consultant to do what they do best... get creative! But you should always be able to communicate with him or her at any point during the process.