An interactive Asia B2B marketing and growth strategy blog from www.solidiance.com to discuss ideas, thoughts and spread the "Growth & Innovation Gospel" across Asia
I am often asked to recommend marketing strategy consultants in Asia. Beyond the obvious criteria we are all reviewing (brand, years in business, services, client, pricing, positioning, reputation, experience, etc.) here are a few more success factors from within to help you to make the right choice.
Check the project consultants’ experience, not the company’s
When engaging a marketing strategy consultant, clients acquire experience and know-how from a consultant team. Past projects handled by the company 5 years ago are irrelevant. Most of the team that has worked on projects 5 years ago are likely to be gone and the learning with it. Flashing experience and long client list earned a long time ago by different team members is misleading. The know-how is no longer there. Expect a steep learning curve from the team and you will actually pay your consultant to learn.
Do they have any staff at all?
Many marketing strategy consulting firms in Asia have flashy websites. However when you click the “about us” section you are more likely to find uninteresting verbiage just to fill page content or the profile of the most senior staff. This is too often because this is not a proper company with staff on payroll staff but a sole freelancer, or a “suitcase company” with indeed no staff. Google is full of these firms in Asia.
Full time staff versus interns and contract staff
Who will do the work is the key question? Most marketing strategy consultants in Asia are poorly staffed. You will be presented with one or two senior staff engaged in the sales process but who will disappear during project execution. So ask yourself who will really work on my project. Most small marketing strategy consultancy will then engage interns and contract staff to work on your project. Remember you are buying experience and specific know-how: wrinkles, and some white hair as opposed to green university crowd. Check on Google if your preferred marketing strategy consultant is recruiting interns and contract staff all the time. This is a clear sign of poor staffing from which your project will likely suffer.
Stay away from marketing strategy consulting firms using freelancers in Asia
Levering on previous point… Some marketing strategy consulting firms even borderline lie about their own internal staffing with claims of armies of consultants available at a snap. These are freelancers; that’s all. In Asia, no one with skills and local knowledge aspires to be a freelancer in the medium to long term. Sadly, to be freelancer is perceived to be like being unemployed and a strong social circle outcasting factor pushing freelancers back to the job market. Sure, there are some outstanding personalities who will bridge personal situations with some side-line freelancing but overall the crowd of freelancers in Asia is made of people who are unable to get a full time job (which differs a bit from the Western “free / rebel without a cause” freelancer mindset). In this optic, do you really want to have your corporate strategy project executed by freelancers? Freelancers are no employed by your marketing strategy consultant partner but are just outsourcers. There is no legal control possible on freelancers. NDA are not enforceable, confidentiality breaches cannot be brought to court, late delivery can only be apologized for. Beyond confidentiality, quality is also an issue. You will usually not be able to speak to the freelancer directly which you will agree, puts some serious reliability clouds on the findings.
Check the consultant’s Asia Pacific coverage
Many marketing strategy consulting firms will claim to have offices all over Asia. This is not true. Either little dots on the maps are placed to mislead you, were part of a failed grand plant, or the company forgot to remove them after closing its offices. Red dots in Korea or in Thailand? Check again, and you will possibly see that there are no local offices and no local team, an outsourcing “partner” at best. Leveraging on someone else’s presence is not going to deliver any value to you. Integrity is absolutely key in consulting. If the website and brochure are misleading you can assume the rest will be of the very same standards.
Check the staffing turnover rate
Marketing strategy consulting firms with a high staff turnover are indicative of something wrong at the core. You do not want to allocate a large part of your budget to a firm trying to fix its own problems. Ask around, word of mouth is usually a pretty good indicator of the firm’s ability to retain its talent. Has the company lost half of its team recently or repeatedly over time? Again, if it can’t retain talent, you are likely to be faced by a young, inexperienced team which you will have to guide throughout the engagement at your own expenses. Have a quick Google and Linkedin search and discover reality behind the curtain. Companies with a turbulent history do not offer the best alternative.
I have good connections…
Have you ever heard a consultant in Asia claiming anything else but to be “very well-connected in the business community and the political arena”? Well these are just claims and will remain claims. Don’t be fooled by the connection claim. To be well-connected in Asia is no different than to be well-connected in US. you are typically from a top-tier US business School, you have family members in politics, you seat on the board of a few large companies, you have a lot of white hair, you have been interviewed multiple times on TV, you are socially engaged through charity circles, you are very wealthy and drive a big black car. In Asia when you are indeed “well-connected” you are not a marketing consultant with staff of five to ten.
You have been warned. Enjoy!
Managing Director Asia Pacific