Increase The Value Your Internet Consultant Delivers


February 9, 2007

Those of you who have Internet consultants working for you – do you ever wonder if you are getting the most out of them?

Here are six ways you can get your Internet (or other) consultant to work harder for you:

1. Leave some money on the table

Yup, you read that right. It’s hard to love clients who negotiate too hard. If you have negotiated to get less work for less money/time, that’s pretty reasonable. It’s when you’ve pushed really hard to get the same amount of work for less money that you’ve started a relationship where they love you less. (And on the supplier side: Never ask for a higher price with the assumption that “that’ll give the client room to negotiate.” The client will just feel like you were ripping them off to start with, and you’ve begun a relationship where everything is negotiable.)

2. Don’t ask for five different rewrites of the proposal.

You aren’t turning your consultant into your business partner by doing this — you’ve made him do a lot of work for free, and it wasn’t even work that you can use to improve your bottom line. If you have to ask for one rewrite, be sure that you are very specific in what you need (so that there won’t be a third!) One might argue that if the proposal isn’t meeting your needs, the consultant isn’t asking the right questions — what kills me is when I do multiple rewrites and they all say basically the same thing, and finally the client is happy with the adjectives or verbs in the nth rewrite.

3. Stay involved.

You may feel like you want a consultant so that you don’t have to be involved. But the more involved you are, the better the quality of work will be. Any way you look at it, you know so much more about your business than your consultant ever will or can afford to learn. Furthermore, if you are involved, you create a stronger bond with the consultant – they know that you care. And let’s face it, if you’re involved, you see what they’re doing. (If I only got to make one point, it would be this one. Clients who are involved get so much more value that the ones who are hands off.)

The best-loved are the clients who invite us to their marketing meetings (and pay for our time there.) They’ve signaled loud and clear, “You’re a member of our marketing team.”

4.Don’t ask for free work.

Andy Beal wrote the most wonderful post on the power of saying no. Soon after I read it, a client wrote me and asked if I would take a two day trip to another state to attend her all-day meeting. She offered to pay for my flight and hotel. Empowered by Andy, I wrote her back and gave her a couple of different ways we could do this (in person, by phone) and I attached prices to each. She didn’t answer that email but business went on as usual until she wrote again, asking for more free work. This one was an easier request (no travel required) but I didn’t want to stick her with another price tag and I didn’t want to do the work for free, so I just ignored it. The work was incredibly important and time-sensitive (I eventually learned), and if she hadn’t started the pattern of asking for free work, I would have stepped up to the plate immediately with a reasonable price.

5. Think twice before you tell your consultant that she’s wrong, and then think one more time.

Most of my company’s clients hire us because we know a lot more about the Internet than they do or want to. So I’m often baffled when they turn around and tell me, or someone from my company, that they aren’t going to do it our way. It sometimes makes sense (they don’t have the resources, for example), but often, the answer is “I just don’t like it.” “It’s not me.” “I really don’t care what the numbers say, this is what makes me feel comfortable.” I walk away thinking, “But wasn’t the idea to improve your website? — what happened to that notion?”

6. Don’t insult your consultant.

I was worked with a client who wanted me to consider his way of doing things. It was an interesting idea, he had. But still, I was absolutely shocked when one of his lieutenants sent me an email, musing that rational people don’t like to be open minded. “Right,” I thought cynically before deleting it without replying, “That’s absolutely the way to get your consultant to work hard for you — insult them.”

Many thanks to the brilliant mind who suggested this topic.