1. Don’t clarify your objectives.
Take any challenge to any good consultant and the first thing they’ll ask you is “why”? Not in a Simon Sinek, change-the-world, all-you-need-is-love kind of way. It’s a question of business objectives. Are you driving sales? Are you building your brand? Is it one of those ‘just gotta do it, slide it away with minimum fuss’ kind of jobs? If you’re clear about why you’re solving a problem you’ll get much better advice on how to go about it.
2. Don’t set a budget.
“How much will it cost?” “Well, what’s your budget?” It’s a circular conversation that oozes lack of trust. But budget is essential. Most marketing is a numbers game of diminishing returns. The more you spend, the more you’ll get. To a point. It’s an agency’s job to maximise your budget and get the best possible return on investment. But if you don’t size up the ballpark, no-one can hit the ball out of it.
3. Don’t trust the advice.
They say consultants are like colons. Pretty much everyone’s got one and they’re usually full of crap. And if that gag made you think of someone you know, don’t ask them for advice. Because the most valuable part of any advice is your capacity to make use of it. Great advice is helpful or eye-opening or challenging. And if you regularly find yourself ignoring the advice you’re getting, it’s probably not the best advice for you.
4. Don’t pay for advice.
It goes without saying. If you don’t value advice, don’t pay for it. But there’s more to it than that. Everyone needs to get paid somehow. So if you’re taking advice without paying for it, chances are it’s conflicted advice. “We think you need a multi-channel engagement campaign” Why? Because we can monetise the execution of a multi-channel engagement campaign to off-set the business cost of giving you the advice. Surely it’s better to pay up front so everyone’s clear the advice is in the best interest of your business.
5. Don’t commit.
This is most important of all. Apparently, a consultant is someone who could tell you a hundred different ways to make love but doesn’t have a partner. It’s a bit sad. And it doesn’t have to be that way. No consultant can solve all your problems in one day. How could they? They don’t know your business. But click-in and stay committed and they’ll learn the road blocks and the challenges and the short-cuts to success. And by sitting outside your business they can also help you out of the echo-chamber to genuinely push your business forward. That’s how partnership works.
Get better advice without the don’t.
So those are the easy ways to get bad advice. And we all know it. But sometimes in the day to day of juggling stakeholders and workloads and budgets we all do it. So all we need to do is dump the ‘don’ts’. And if only everything was that simple.
Luckily, some things are. Here’s three to remember. Firstly, no one is in business to give bad advice. So if things aren’t working it’s worth wondering why. Secondly, the more your partners know about your challenges and your business, the better their advice will be. And most important of all, long-standing, trusted, properly remunerated partnerships will always give you the best advice you can get.
- Michael Goldthorpe is the managing partner of Hunch.