Two sides to the agency-consultant engagement coin

When companies engage marketing consultants, companies often cross a very thin line where they treat them as employees. However, taking the single-sided “who is fooling who” perspective may not be the answer. There are two sides to a coin, so let’s explore.

When a company opts to engage a marketing consultant, very often this is done to fulfil marketing plans aligned to company strategic objectives. This is where internal teams require both support and assistance from external service providers to execute these plans. Being the creatives that they are, when canvassing for business to lock that client, marketers are full of ideas and enthusiasm. In some cases, they may even over promise to secure the client and ultimately under-deliver, but that’s a story for another day!

Full of ideas with much enthusiasm, marketing consultants conduct their due diligence on companies before pitching. With their natural charisma, consultants will, in most cases, awe their bait and get that foot in the door to start the real work. However, in some cases, we find that the natural charisma that wins clients becomes a downfall in the initial stages. Once the pitch is done, and the potential client is amazed, a step is quite often missed, and that is the contracting of services.

We have seen cases where companies are reluctant to sign on agencies as service providers in the initial stages, but will not hesitate to request work using words such as “draft a campaign for management to approve by the end of the week.”  Or seek consultation as in; “what can we do to enhance our activities?” All too often, companies forget the time consultants spend conceptualising these activities. 

They take for granted the creative processes by demanding the service as a means of the agency “proving themselves worthy of the business” as if, oddly enough, the initial pitch was not enough. Bear in mind in most cases, the agency is not contracted for the job but continues to comply with the requests that are more internal and sharing an intellectual property that will be used internally without the agency. It can take years of back and forth before a contract is issued.

So why do marketing agencies/consultants do this? 

Well, in most cases and especially Botswana’s saturated market, it is to “secure the business and sign on the client.” Very often, marketers do not realise that this undermines their work. Continuously bending over backwards for a potential client with nothing protecting their intellectual property and taking up a lot of their precious time is detrimental to the business. What’s more,  it also creates an environment that allows the companies to treat the consultants like employees on their payroll, at their beck and call doing their bidding at the drop of the hat.

It is important to acknowledge a pitch as exactly that, “a pitch.” Consultants, whether they are a start-up or have been in the game for a while, must realise the intellectual value they bring to the table as much as they place value on the client’s monetary value to engage services.

Consultants must realise they elevate brands. In some cases, they develop strategies and in most cases, execute marketing plans. On top of all that, performance is measured and recommendations made to elevate the brand value proposition and market share.

My final word

To the marketers, when you go to that next pitch, remember the value of what you bring and your desired objective to be contracted (this is your first KPI). Be sure to sign on the deliverables before receiving further instructions, because the last thing you want is to be treated like an employee.

To the companies, these service providers, as the name suggests, are “service providers,” not employees to fulfil internal administrative work. Rather, their role is to act as your business partner to simplify the process, help achieve Key Performance Indicators (for the much-anticipated performance appraisal). And most importantly, the role is to elevate your brand with your direction and their continuous monitoring/evaluation recommendations.

So back to the two sides of the coin:

Heads: Marketers – understand the value you bring and don’t undermine your worth.

Tails: Companies – understand that just as much as time is money the same applies to marketing consultants.

We need each other.

By Onê Oreeng

Onê is Founder and Managing Director of Addisson & Western, a marketing consultancy based in Gaborone, Botswana. She has over 10 years of experience within marketing and communication, having worked in insurance, public sector and the entertainment industry. Onê’s expertise extends to development and implementation of marketing strategies, development of communication policies, managing public relations, brand management, corporate event coordination and media relations. Onê holds a Post Graduate Diploma in Business Administration, a Degree in Public Relations Management and is a Botswana Qualifications Authority (BQA) accredited Trainer. 

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  • Corrine

    November 14, 2020 at 8:32 pm

    Appreciate this great post.

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