When you’re a solopreneur, freelancer or small business owner, your marketing budget will naturally be tight. So how do you find the right person to help you reach your goals?  I’ve certainly got my opinions on the matter. But I thought I’d ask some of my esteemed colleagues to share their points of view (my 2 cents are included at the end):

Maria MarsalaMaria Marsala of Elevating Your Business has these tips for hiring the right marketing coach:

  1. Get a contract outlining what the coach is offering in the way of phone, email and urgent help each month.
  2. Write a list – prior to speaking to a coach of what you hope to accomplish and in what time frame.
  3. Make a list of the attributes you want your coach to have (task master, hand holder, generous, etc. )
  4. Ask about what happens if you want to cancel your contract because you’re realized that the “fit” with the coach isn’t right.
  5. Any marketing plan starts with an ideal client profile – make sure they are starting you there, too.
  6. Make sure that you’ll have a written plan, with benchmarks, when you’re done.

A coach does not have to specialize in your specific niche. On the plus side, if they don’t, they can bring you different ideas that could make what you’re doing really stand out. That’s a good thing.

However, if someone is hiring a coach in a field that has a lot of very specific regulation — like financial advisors, insurance brokers, or accountants, you’ll want to hire someone who knows that you’re at least dealing with FINRA, Compliance and the SEC when it comes to marketing, advertising, networking, and social networking. Because “marketing” can’t be done in a vacuum. It has to be leveraged with a variety of consistent in-person and online marketing.

Allison Tibbs of Marquise Marketing recommends you ask them to explain their process in detail:

Allison TibbsAs a small business marketing coach, I have many clients who had marketing and business coaches before me, but had a bad experience because their ‘coach’ had no true plan of how they could get their client from point A to point B.

As a coach, it is our job to help you to assess where you currently are and then formulate a plan to help you get to where you want to be. If you are looking for a coach and they do not have a solid method or plan that they use to help you to reach your goals, chances are your coaching sessions will be unorganized and unproductive.

When looking for a new coach, ask them for a solid example of how they help their clients, ask for testimonials and find out specifically how they have helped their clients reach success. If they cannot give you a clear vision of what you will encounter on your journey, session by session, they may not be the person will be able to get you to where you want to go and what you want achieve.

Annie Sisk of Pajama Productivity says, “know what coaching is, and what you expect from it.”

Annie Sisk of PJ ProductivitySome time ago I spoke with a solo professional who, when I told her what I did, confessed she had hired a business coach and was convinced it had been a mistake. I asked her some questions about how this coach worked with her, trying to figure out what had gone wrong (any opportunity I can grab to learn how to be a better coach, I’ll take it, you know?).

Her coach, who was charging four figures a month, would start every call with “So, what do you want to work on this week?” No guidance, no input, no sense of accountability or continuity. Now, a good coach will let the client take the lead, but an effective coach knows that clients often don’t know where to start and can work with a client to set out a game plan at the beginning of the relationship.

That hadn’t been done in this case, so no wonder this person felt it was a waste of time and money. Moral of the story: know what effective coaching is, and insist on coming to a consensus in the beginning about where you are now, where you want to be, and how you’re going to get there.

Beyond that, look for a coach who’s willing to give you a free or reduced introductory session. I like to say I can coach anyone who’s willing to be coached, and I think that is true, but it’s also true that from the client’s perspective, the best coach will mesh well with the client’s personality and needs. That’s something you can’t always tell from a blog or a white paper.

You need to interact with the coach on a more personal level to be able to tell whether he or she is a good fit for your business. I always offer a free half-hour session to anyone who’s considering hiring me, so we can both decide whether this is the right fit, for both of us.

Tyler Suchman of Tribal Core asks, “Is a Marketing Coach Actually What You Need?”

Tyler SuchmanEvery small business has very limited time and resources. It’s easy enough to get a client excited about all that (social) media has to offer, but three weeks later, everyone’s busy, deadlines loom, and guess what gets pushed to the side first?

A seasoned Marketing Consultant will weigh the needs of the company, the market they currently reach and want to reach, how they are already marketing, what budget they have, what internal resources they have and the skill-set of those people, what they can easily implement technologically and what might take more significant development, what the balance is between short-term wins and long-term strategic planning, and so much more.

To weed out the truly seasoned marketing professionals from a less-experienced circus of coaches, gurus and experts (assuming that this would lean towards internet marketing and social media), ask some of these questions:

  • Who are your clients and what specifically did you do for them?
  • What experience do you have in my market segment?
  • How do you measure success? What do you draw from metrics that is actionable?
  • How do you determine ROI (Return on Investment)? CPA (Cost per Acquisition)?
  • What has Twitter done for you? What’s it good at, what’s it not good at?
  • How do you do keyword research and how is it best used?
  • Is what I’m doing going to help in the short term or are we building a long-term foundation? Why?

(Read the rest of Tyler’s advice on this topic by clicking his link above.)

Clare Price of Find Your Online Voice recommends you ask for a ONE page proposal.

Clare PriceCompanies are moving too fast now to wade through detailed proposals filled with promises, potentials and inflated bios. Your ONE PAGE proposal should include the answers to three questions:

      • What (will be done)
      • Why (the reason this needs to be done)
      • Result (what tangible results can the company expect)
      • Time and budget

Nick Armstrong, the Creative Renegade has this 4 step process:

There are so many very well-camouflaged wolves out there these days that it’s really difficult to tell who is a good coach and who isn’t, so I’ve developed a quick and dirty flow to choosing a good one:
  1. Find someone who doesn’t offer an affiliate program – affiliate relationships are always fraught with ethical dilemmas.
  2. Find someone who will introduce you to former clients (without being present) and have them give you the straight skinny on what they went through and how effective it was.
  3. Find someone who is honest about a few failures — everybody has ’em. Having failed makes you more effective in the future, not less — and admitting it means you’ve owned up to that fact.
  4. Finally, find someone who is willing to sit down with you for at least 30 minutes for free before you decide to move forward — and someone who wants to work with you for at least 4 hours or more and gets paid per session or 50/50, not 100% up front.

These can all be potential sticking points, but more than anything, make sure you have a contract or service agreement. The point of a contract is to protect both sides, not just one or the other. If something stinks, bail immediately (but tell the coach your concerns so they can fix it in case they’re on the level but don’t have their ducks in a row yet.

And finally, here’s what I believe: 

My colleagues said it well. Yes, documentation and contracts are important.  (We’ve all played the game “telephone” as children. And you know what happens when people try to repeat what they think they heard.)
Beyond the contracts, it’s equally important to know what your end goal is. You’ve got to at least have clarity about that. Many times, though — you don’t know what you don’t know. And that’s okay – just say so when you’re meeting with a consultant for the first time. If they’re any good at all, they’ll be able to ask you clarifying questions and uncover the obvious gaps in your strategy or plan. (If you don’t have a plan, that’s where you should start!)

Often, I find that people fall into one of two categories:

  • Those who know what they need to do, but don’t know HOW to get it done; and
  • Those who don’t even know what the next step should be

Which one are you?

A coach is great for keeping you accountable to strategy and tactics (and brainstorming ways to get things done). And a consultant is usually better suited to helping you figure out what your marketing plan should be. If you don’t have the time or space to get things done on your own, then you’ll need to hire someone to actually DO the work for you.  In that case, you won’t be looking for a coach OR a consultant, but rather a particular type of marketing specialist (depending on your needs).

In any case, look for a person who:

  • Listens actively and communicates clearly and often
  • Understands your particular needs and goals
  • Has the technical knowledge to get you where you want to go
  • Is highly creative and great at problem solving
  • Has the space in their calendar to be available as promised
  • Will guarantee your satisfaction

If you find a person like that, and you’re truly committed to building your business, the two of you will be UNstoppable. And if you’d like to chat with me about what we might accomplish together, you can schedule something here.

What did we miss? Have you hired a marketing expert or business coach? Share your experiences or ask your questions below (scroll down to ‘Speak Your Mind’).