How many times have you heard, “We don't hire consultants?”
I’ve recently met a few prospects that simply “don’t” work with consultants. They started out asking about my services, but then turned the conversation around and emphatically stated that, as a hard and fast rule, they never hire consultants, and would rather hire me outright to join their company as a full-time marketing and sales lead.
One prospect even added they “would never outsource their company culture” -- and I completely agree. But I also think everyone hires consultants. They just might know them by a different name.
Think about it: Do you hire a doctor? Do you hire a lawyer? A dentist? These professionals function as consultants, and they’re an integral part of our great specialist economy. The world is built on thousands and thousands of consultants -- experts who have spent thousands of hours diving in deep into a topic (medicine, law, dentistry, etc.) to help you fast-track your path to success in a particular area of your life.
The same principle applies when you hire a consultant for your business. It might be a specialist in content marketing, SEO, advertising, real estate, accounting, or legal compliance. Yes, you could hire full-time, W2 employees to fill these roles internally, but having a network of great consultants or 1099 contractors could be a great asset for your company. It's all about how you utilize your resources and what your strategic position and tactical execution look like.
Doing it cheap versus doing it right: The value of expertise and speed to market
I’ve met several business owners who think they are being thrifty or clever by hiring unpaid interns or kids right out of school for pennies on the dollar. They try to sell these opportunities as “resume-builders,” promising real-world experience for these industry newbies in exchange for free or dirt-cheap labor. But business owners are often too busy to truly train and teach these short-term interns. So they hand over key tasks with little direction and oversight, then wonder why their marketing strategy looks askew.
This is what happens when you try to hire inexperienced, entry-level talent to do something that someone else has mastered. According to data from Consulting Success, nearly half of all consultants (46.2%) have been doing this type of work for five-plus years, with 23.5% consulting for more than a decade. When you consider the fact that good consultants often worked directly in the field for at least several years before offering their services, you can hire someone with as much experience as a C-level executive (if not more), for a fraction of that position’s annual salary.
As someone who offers consulting and coaching expertise to time-strapped executives, I’ve seen firsthand how much work there is to be done in a typical business. Take it from me: Hiring a master of a particular discipline, like marketing, can get you where you want to go faster than an intern without a map.
Contractors are a shortcut. It's all about time to market. If you can afford to wait and are patient with a few wrong turns from entry-level employees, then sure, hire fantastic people, train them on your process and systems, and build your company’s capacity -- especially in primary areas of your business. But if you want to grow quickly and build your business faster, an experienced consultant is likely the better way to go.
Is ‘owning’ your talent really better?
Not every business understands how to work with consultants, and it can be a pain point. When selling my consulting services, some companies insist that they want to “own” their knowledge, systems, and processes in-house. They want me to function as a full-time employee and have the expectation of availability and readiness at their beck and call.
There’s a perception that owning your talent in-house will ensure that they’ll be more dedicated than an outsourced expert. After all, consultants operate on their own schedule and work for multiple clients. You’ll never be their sole focus and priority, the way you would be for a proper W2 employee.
If you hold this perspective, the extra time and money spent on payroll taxes, benefits, training programs, etc. is worth it to build a team devoted to your business. You're investing in somebody who is going to be there day in, day out is going to shape the culture of the way you do things. They’re going to walk the walk as well as develop the work.
It’s true that a cohesive culture can be advantageous, but consider this: That employee you’ve invested in can pick up and leave any time if they get a better offer. Unemployment is historically low and there is a lot of opportunity out there. A 2018 report by Work Institute estimated that 1 in 4 employees would leave their jobs that year, costing employers $600 billion in turnover expenses. The same report also found that about 40% of employees surveyed left their jobs within 12 months of being hired.
In this job seekers’ market, why do companies still believe that a W2 employee is any more dedicated than a 1099 contractor? In fact, I will argue that many W2 employees get complacent and lazy, and can become part of the problem. Depending on your management acumen, some employees are able to sit back and wait for the next quarterly meeting without any sense of urgency, because they feel a false sense of job security.
A 1099 contractor or consultant is built to hustle. They’re actively trying to earn your business every time you speak with them and assign them a project. They’ll work harder to build a relationship and deliver results, so you’ll hire them back for the next project.
Ultimately, consultants are there to please. Their reputation is on the line. If they don't succeed, you're not going to recommend them. Their business is built on referrals and they need to improve the client’s worksphere in order to get those referrals.
This is how I’ve always approached consulting. In my business, I pride myself on being flexible to the client’s needs and delivering excellence. Happy clients happen when I surpass expectations, not when they have me on their W2 payroll.
If you’re still unsure of whether you can trust a consultant with important business functions, ask yourself whether you truly need to own all your company’s capabilities exclusively. Do you need exclusive access to your content strategy and all the processes and ideas used to build it?
This is where a consultant’s work with multiple clients can actually serve you better than a “dedicated” full-timer. Consultants work with a variety of businesses on a daily basis. They have a much broader view of what’s working for successful companies right now, both inside and outside your industry. They can mix and match paradigms, strategies and tactics based on what they've seen to find the best strategy for your specific business. It’s hard for any full-time hire to have a broad perspective when they’re working every hour solely for your company.
Consultants can also be a better option if you’re not sure whether you truly need a full-time person dedicated to a specific discipline. When you work with a consultant, you are renting expertise when you need it, rather than keeping someone employed on staff who is only occasionally utilized to the fullest extent of their role.
Consultant or full-timer? How to decide
While there are a lot of clear advantages to hiring a consultant for your marketing and sales needs, it’s definitely not the right path for every business.
You should hire a consultant if...
You need to rent expertise for a new initiative.
You’re stuck in a rut creatively or strategically.
You aren’t sure how to lead marketing and sales and need to build a process.
You want to build the right team.
You want to grow your current team’s abilities.
However, a full-time marketing and sales leader may be right for you if...
You have all the marketing and sales expertise you need.
You know how to lead, manage and measure marketing and sales performance.
You have a strict “no consultant” policy.
You are patiently building for the future.
You know how to develop marketing and sales teams.
How can a marketing and sales consultant work for me?
If you feel like you can relate more to the list of reasons to work with a consultant, here are a couple of examples that better illustrate the advantage of hiring one:
Supplementing your existing marketing staff’s growth
A software company just raised Series B funding and is now ready to scale their business. They install their former intern-turned-marketing manager as the new Director of Marketing. She works hard and is dedicated to her job, but she’s still very green in terms of learning what needs to happen when and how to best communicate her plans. The CEO and board are pained by watching her marketing “experiment,” as they don’t know what good marketing and sales process looks like. They are pretty sure this isn’t it, but heck, she got us this far -- let’s hang in there.
Now add Go 2 Market Coach: Both the CEO and Director of Marketing have an objective view from someone who’s seen a lot of these types of situations. The coach is adept at communicating at the right level and helps the Director with her path to growth.
Revamping a marketing strategy that no longer works
A healthcare company is launching a new product in the B2B space. They have launched many products before but unfortunately, after celebrating the “spike of hope,” they have watched the product slip into near obscurity. Their whole product launch formula seems to be lacking something important and the current team (while very talented), seems to need a new approach and a little leadership wouldn’t hurt either.
Enter Go 2 Market Coach: The consultant can help analyze the market objectively and bring in new proven strategies from similar or even completely different industries. The new plan will have X, Y and Z that the company didn’t have before. And best yet, the coach will ride shotgun the entire way; they aren’t leaving midway through the launch.
So you think you’re ready to hire a consultant…
If you’re pretty sure a marketing and sales consultant can help your business but need a little more clarity on how they might integrate into your existing team and operations, let’s chat. During our discovery call, we’ll talk about your marketing goals and how Go 2 Market Coach can help you reach them.