I (John) was a consultant for years, first with a software company then later with an online marketing agency while at the same time doing freelance consulting on the side. Now I have been inhouse for over a year and a half, and have seen what it takes to get things done for growth

Across these years I have come across a lot of businesses looking for help from a consultant to grow. Many of these have been great companies with a clear vision of success and where they are going over the coming years. However, I have also seen too many companies that have no clue where they are going, what their goals are, and even why they are talking to us. When doing strictly SEO consulting, we frequently heard some of the following:

  • We want to increase our Domain Authority (do you pay your rent in Moz metrics? Me either.)
  • We need more links (mmm, links)
  • We want to rank #1 for [term] even though it’s not our core business (I’m sorry, what?)
  • We were told by [trusted friend/dog/psychiatrist] that we should talk to you, so tell us why we need SEO (Umm, no.)

Here are some of the reasons why your business might not be ready for a consultant.

You haven’t set goals for revenue and traffic

Before engaging with a consultant to get work done, you must know where your business is going. Have you set revenue goals, and put some thought into figuring out how to get there? Do you know your current traffic, your conversion rates, your signup velocity, or product strategy to increase revenue even without more traffic?

The most common issue I see in businesses wanting an SEO consultant is their success KPIs are “I want more links” or “I need to rank #1 for (keyword)”. This is missing the forest for the trees and jumping straight to tactics before putting together the strategy or knowing the direction of your company.

If you have not yet figured out your traffic and revenue goals, then you should probably work with a business consultant (many marketers are also solid business people) who can help you figure out the important metrics to care about, and then craft a strategy to get you to your goals. Remember, though, that this will mean an upfront investment before you even start making changes to your site or company. Patience is paramount here.

You haven’t set aside budget to get marketing work completed

The second most common problem I see with companies who are not yet ready to hire a consultant is no plan or budget to actually get the work done. Unless you are able to hire someone who is able to do both the audit and strategy work as well as the execution (and these companies are very rare, and expensive), then you must plan for how you will get the technical work done onsite.

Engineers are not cheap but they are invaluable when you find the right one. But if you have not even considered yet how the work will get implemented, the audit and strategy work done will likely be wasted, because implementation is hard.

You are unwilling to invest the time to manage the consultant

We’d all love to think that it’s possible to hire someone, let them go to work in a silo, and then come out the other end with a perfect strategy and implementation plan.

The reality is that this doesn’t happen. You are the master of your domain and the person who knows your company best, so you must be willing to invest time upfront to help the consultant get up to speed about your vertical and business, and then be willing to do regular check-ins and status meetings to help prioritize work.

You think you are always right

Most entrepreneurs think that they are always right. This is a strength when you must persevere through thick and thin, but thinking you are always right becomes a liability when you are hiring someone to do something outside of your core responsibility.

Imagine if I brought on a head of sales, having never done sales before other than as a summer job in college, and expected them to execute on a sales strategy I happened to read about a bit on the Internet. I’d be wasting my money, their time, and I wouldn’t retain them or grow the business, right?

Your budget is too small

Like with most things in business, you get what you pay for. I recently heard a stat that the vast majority of people who start an a/b testing platform 30-day trial cancel it before the end of the trial so as to avoid the $59 charge. Yet, their test hasn’t even reached statistical significance so really all they did is avoid spending money, instead of growing their business.

Sometimes you need to start small. I get that. Just remember that if you want work done fast, it will cost you more in the longterm. If you want it done well, it will cost more and take a little longer. If you want great work done cheaply, it will take a long time and likely end up costing you the same amount as a higher priced yet shorter engagement.

The best way to value a consulting agreement is to approach it from a business opportunity cost with goals you need to hit. “Growth” is not a goal. A goal is “We make an average of $50 per customer, so we need 20 customers extra a month through this work to break even at $1000 per month to the consultant.”

Want to grow your business?

If you want to grow your business through hiring a consultant or agency, first:

  1. Set goals for revenue
  2. Set aside budget to execute on a marketing strategy
  3. Set aside time to manage the consultant
  4. Learn that you are not always right
  5. Set aside large enough of a budget to hire a quality consultant by using solid business practices.

Are you ready to grow your business? Then get in touch today.

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