8 Reasons to Hire a Consultant before Hiring New Digital Direct Marketing Talent

This column is about why you should hire a consultant before hiring new digital direct marketing talent.

Over the years I’ve had the pleasure of working inside organizations to create new departments and marketing infrastructure. For those organizations, the business owners realized that it was less risky to hire me to consult for a few months before hiring full-time employees.

Here’s why: 

When new people are hired, there is risk of a cultural misfit. If a new hire doesn’t work out after a few months, there is a lot of lose-lose for the company and the new hire. 

The employer has made a costly mistake with the hire. The employee has possibly given up a good position and relocated (that happened to me over 20 years ago).

The employer gives up on new marketing approaches like digital initiatives, declaring that it’s conceptually not a fit with an organization’s structure, when it may actually have only been company cultural barriers, skills of the employee, or a lack of commitment to fund digital initiatives by the employer.

Consider, too, that there is the high demand these days for digital talent. Target Marketing’s recent article, 5 Trends in Direct Marketing Job-Hunting and Hiring, by Executive Recruiter Jerry Bernhart, raised excellent points about the state of human resource recruitment for direct marketing companies.

And its Bernhart’s article that prompted my recent column in Target Marketing Magazine titled 8 Recommendations Before Hiring New Digital Direct Marketing Talent.

In that column, I outline recommendations for organizations that are faced with the need to reinvent marketing approaches and are searching for the right talent for a new digital direct marketing position.

Here are those eight recommendations, based on my personal experience of having started new departments to lay the groundwork before hiring a new employee to start digital direct marketing initiatives.

1.    Retain a Consultant First. Bring on an independent consultant to work with your organization a few hours or days a week to create your new department, or your new digital direct marketing infrastructure. This individual should be expected to work with you for several months and be made responsible for several initiatives outlined in the following points. I've had a couple of occasions where I was retained to train new marketing staff.

2.    Create a Digital Direct Marketing Plan. Your consultant should be versed in more than basic Websites and email marketing. The plan probably includes development of a content marketing plan, using multiple cross-channel media, that is designed to bring in leads. Perhaps the role includes the introduction of customer relationship management (CRM) software such as Salesforce. The plan might also include acquisition of marketing automation system that enables sophisticated nurture marketing programs to integrate direct mail, email, personalized microsites, social, mobile, content marketing and more such as MindFire Studio. (The consultant should be at least acquainted with Salesforce and MindFire Studio – I’m happy to discuss with you what I know about these systems).

3.    Fund It. You must be ready to invest the money it will require to see results. Be prepared for this transition to take anywhere from six to twelve months of refinement before it’s clear how this can work for you. This can be challenging if your company is seeing slowly declining sales, but the alternative isn’t so rosy. If you wait too long, you won’t need to worry about funding it as your company slowly disappears into non-existence.

4.    Empower. As a business owner or senior manager, obviously you’re going to want to have input in the digital marketing plan and how your company’s money is invested. But you must accept that to be successful you’ll need to empower people to make decisions on your behalf. Of course, with empowerment comes accountability on the part of the consultant and your staff. Where I’ve been most successful for clients is where they have trusted my direction.

5.    Your Company Culture May Be Stressed. Chances are that if you’ve brought on a consultant (or full-time new hire) to make change, your staff will feel threatened. Budget dollars that went to fund existing traditional direct marketing initiatives are likely diverted to new initiatives. That will create anxiety and stress from current long-time staff. And it’s human nature for people to become hostile, passive-aggressive, and even work to discreetly sabotage new efforts. 

6.    The Org Chart May Change. The consultant you contract with should be able to objectively evaluate individual staff’s strengths so they are placed in a role where your current employees come out winners. The organizational chart will probably evolve during this process. I’ve had experiences where it took more than three months for the organizational chart to be discussed behind closed-doors before announcing the changes.

7.    Be Flexible and Agile. The future belongs to companies that are flexible and agile. If your culture is slow and overly methodical, ask yourself if you’re willing to leave your comfort zone. If not, reread the last sentence in #3 above.

8.    Your Plan to Transition from Consultant to Full-Time Staff. A consultant’s responsibility will be to create a transition plan to hand off the keys to new initiatives and processes that have been created (and proven) for your new full-time hire. Often, the consultant works with an Executive Recruiter to identify a replacement, and stays on for a few weeks after the new hire starts to ensure a smooth transition. 

Over the years I’ve been asked several times if I would take the full-time position with the client. So far I’ve always declined. I’ve been on my own now for 21 years, and truthfully, I’m more energized by “the chase,” so to speak, where I’m able to move on and help reinvent another company.

Besides, I’ve learned over the years that I’m a creator, not a maintainer. Best to turn over the keys to someone interested in taking my work to a whole new level. But if you need outside help for the transition, I’ve done it before and would enjoy the challenge to do it again.


Gary Hennerberg

After a lot of years in marketing and sales, this is what I know works:

Stories sell. Think unique. Stimulate emotion. Close deals. And here are a few other gems from my new book, “Crack the Customer Mind Code.” Know the persona, interpret your offer and let your prospect give themselves permission to buy. That’s how the brain is wired. It’s how people think.

What else? When I’m not breaking down complex topics (or ones marketers over-complicate) into easy-to-grasp stories that sell, I crunch numbers. Manage projects. Write. Teach. Lead.