The grand design dilemma – working with consultants and agencies

Don’t you just love the Channel 4 Grand Design programme? If you've never heard of it, here's the basic idea: people design their dream home and build it. I've sold it well – right?! As an entrepreneur, you are an architect too. You have a vision, you see a need, you have a solution or an idea, a way of doing things differently to others.

You have to ask yourself a similar question to those on the Grand Design show: how much of the building do you do yourself and how much do you bring in others to do it for you? In marketing terms at what point do we bring in an agency/consultant/freelancer/intern and which other bits do we just do ourselves as it is quicker and cheaper. As you know there is no quick answer. Many a time I have spoken to an entrepreneur who hears what I have to offer and says ‘I can do that and don’t need to pay for it, but thanks for your time’, only for them to return sheepishly saying ‘It’s a small project but I could use a hand’.

I remember working as Head of Marketing for one startup whose Commercial Director who greeted me on day one of the project with ‘Look I have got as much business out of the golf club that I can so that’s why you are here’. To an extent, there is a lot you can do on your own, you have a network so use it! But as another entrepreneur put it to me recently ‘I can do the PR and write the blogs but frankly I just don’t have the time’. And there, my friends, is the rub: time and ability. Ask yourself what is my priority, closing deals? Closing funding? Getting the solution/product/prototype ready to go? Building my profile? Only you know the answers to these and know how good you are at them.

Which leads to the next problem - if we decide to bring in people, who do we use? My advice is to use your network or, if you see other companies whose marketing you like the look of, find out who did it and bring them in. There is nothing wrong with ‘I’ll have what she’s having’ so as long as the results are unique and distinctive. You also need to work out what budget you have an exactly what you want done. Fixed price and payment by results are better where possible. Also make sure you get the people you like or want rather than the juniors who cost less and give the agency more margin.

You will also have to factor in some element of management and reporting. The less the better but it is something you can’t ignore. Left to their own devices, an agency or consultant may not deliver what you hoped especially if you didn’t ask for it specifically.

Consultants and agencies can really help but as with everything, handle with care!

NEW_OVAL.png Marc Duke is a consultant, with over fifteen years marketing experience, specialising in business-to-business marketing primarily with emerging technology companies. Marc is a member of the Connect London PBA team, Tech London Advocates, on the Board of Founders4Schools and blogs regularly about startup marketing and social media. Follow him on Twitter @marcduke.