1. Objective Advice. Consultants who are paid fees are more likely to give you unbiased advice than consultants who earn commissions based on the amount of money you spend. If the consultant profits from ad agency commissions, he has an inherent conflict of interest because the more you spend, the more he makes. Naturally, a person who profits from agency commissions may not have any interest in producing efficient marketing because the less efficient your program, the more advertising you must buy to produce the desired results.
2. Experience. Marketing today is so specialized and complex that I recommend you hire someone who has provided marketing services for a minimum of 15 years. But, don’t make the assumption that just because the person has been in business 15 years, he has the knowledge, skill, judgment and experience you need. He may be competent — and he may not. Make sure you thoroughly interview all consultants you are considering.
3. Service. Do you feel that the consultant wants to provide you with the help you need to make your program succeed? Or do you get the impression that he is looking for bigger fish to fry and that you’re just a small fish in the ocean?
4. Access. Is the consultant hidden behind a wall of secretaries, account executives and administrative assistants? Or is he readily available to you by phone, fax, and e-mail. Does the consultant have a direct line to his desk so you can reach him anytime you wish?
5. Stability. Has the consultant been providing marketing services for some years? Or is he new to marketing — or new to lawyer marketing — and just waiting for the opportunity to move on to something else?
6. Marketing Focus. Is the consultant a full-time marketing professional? Or is he a part-timer who spreads himself over a number of different disciplines, such as management, human resources, training and accounting?
7. Authority. Does the consultant have enough experience that he is a recognized authority in his field? Or is he still a relative unknown?
8. Size and Efficiency. Does the consultant have a large staff and/or a penthouse office that his clients pay for? Or does he operate a “lean and mean” operation with minimum overhead to keep his fees affordable? In other words, when you write a check, are you paying for his high level of knowledge, skill, judgment and experience? Or are you paying for his expensive office?
9. Travel. Does the consultant travel around the country from one client to next, running up airline bills? Or does the consultant keep costs down by working efficiently with you by telephone, fax, mail, and e-mail?
10. Coverage. Does the consultant have a competent marketing specialist who covers for him when he is out of town? Or are you relegated to an account executive or administrative assistant who only takes messages and tries to relay them to the consultant while he is on the road.
11. Attention. Does the consultant have so many clients he can’t provide you with the personal care and attention you deserve? Or does he limit his services to a few select clients who receive the best he has to offer?
12. Work. Does the consultant himself — or a qualified colleague — perform all the work on your behalf? Or does the consultant bring in the work, delegate it to a junior associate, and then bill you at the consultant’s higher rate?
13. Marketing Specialization. Is the consultant a marketing professional who works only with one type of marketing? Or does he spread himself too thin by trying to be a “jack of all trades” so he can provide whatever marketing services you want to buy?
14. Writing Skills. Nothing is more important in marketing than for your consultant to have superior writing skills. (Don’t expect the consultant’s writing to follow the rules of what you and I learned in school because marketing writing is different from academic writing.) Even so, make sure you read published articles and marketing materials that were written by your consultant. You’ll know right away whether they come across as warm and friendly — or if the writing seems cold, stiff and impersonal. The way the consultant writes for himself will be similar to the way he writes for you. So make sure the consultant you choose has a writing style you admire.