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How to spot a bad brand consultant

Lots of new or established companies like to hire a brand consultant in order to create a branding image and strategy. This sounds like a wonderful idea especially for people with little to no knowledge or who are just entering the world of business, right?

However, as delightful as this may sound, there are some red flags you need to be aware when choosing to work with a brand consultant.

1) Lack of data analysis

You must be aware of consultants who do not ask for a lot of data or do not use the data you provided them with. Usually, phrases such as "That's enough detail. I already have a good understanding of the requirements." Some consultants love unclarities because it offers a large pool of changing things along the journey. However, great consultants want to know as much as possible — the better they understand your expectations, the better they deliver the results. Put more simply, a consultant who will go the extra mile will manage to nail down the strategy to the smallest detail, while one who makes it seem easy might not deliver the best solution.

2) They don’t start with a clear and understandable message.

Unfortunately, most marketing efforts these days don’t necessarily convert to sales or more customers. The problem is that the consultants will dig into complex marketing strategies without assessing the important questions: What values are associated with your brand? How does your company benefit people and what added value can you offer? After all, knowing why your company matters is a crucial step in defining your brand positioning on the market.

Make sure your consultant starts by helping you craft a clear marketing message. That is the easiest, most inexpensive way to increase customer engagement and growth.

3) They don’t offer a plan that works.

In a lot of the cases, many consultants share a lot of knowledge, but then move straight to the next step. They might offer good ideas who sound attractive and costly, but never a plan to follow or how to put it in action. On the other side, good brand consultants know the importance of having a plan and sticking to it. Whether they or you are the ones executing it, they lay down a clear path to follow and how to get where you want to be. No gimmicks, short ways out, or financially impossible solutions, only the realistic way one should follow.

4) They use empty catchphrases.

Even though the expression “Fake it ‘till you make it” might sometimes work for some people or for some jobs, that is definitely not good advice for a brand consultant to offer. Throwing empty catch-phrases at customers to hype them up, but offering no value overall, is not what you would expect as a client. You can judge the quality of brand consulting advice by the number of concepts the consultant tries to sell you.

You can look out for certain trigger words, which, if your brand consultant proposes them, mean he or she is unworthy. Therefore, phrases such as the following might signal some red flags to you when considering to hire a brand consultant:

  • “We will make your product / service look innovative” - Words like “lifestyle” and “aspirational” mean absolutely nothing and should tell you volumes about your consultant’s abilities to guide your brand. “Innovation” is a product-orientated word and worthless as a result. Customers do not buy something simply because it’s “innovative”; they buy something because it solves their problems, and you must be specific about that. Saying that you offer an innovative solution does not tell the customer anything about their problem and the solution to that. Remember as well that thousands of brands, badly advised by an army of generic consultants, have already claimed innovation as their own differentiating value, so the only way to be innovative is not to use the word.

  • “Implementation will be easy and seamless” - Projects are usually not linear, changes are always being made. If the person you want to hire is downplaying the changing factor then he is either inexperienced or unsure. The thing to keep in mind is that sugar-coating the difficulties won’t make it easier for you when things start to shake.

  • “We have all the answers you need.” - A consultant should have the answers you need, after all, that is why you’re hiring them for. However, no one in this world will have all the answers you need from the first time. A good response would be “I don’t know, but we will figure it out”. How could someone have all the answers you need if they might not be aware of all the problems that would arise?

  • “You could handle that, but I don’t recommend you do it” - A good consultant will try to find ways on how their customers could save money. They try to operate exactly like your business model. They build a long-term relationship with you now and see losing a bit of revenue at this point as far better compared to losing clients later on due to poor branding and marketing.

  • “Look at how Apple does it” - This is again another red flag when it comes to your consultant’s advice. If you find yourself listening to a presentation about how Apple is the peak of excellence when it comes to marketing and business, but your company has little or nothing to do with it, you should run pretty fast.

Final thoughts

Finding a brand consultant can be a tough journey for a lot of small to medium companies. Making sure the person you hire is competent of delivering a clear message, well-thought plan, and realistic expectations should be on your list of priorities if you’re looking to obtain good results. Although it might seem like a good decision to not invest more capital in other aspects such as branding, a proficient branding advisor should increase your revenue and your customer base.

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