More than ever before, companies are hiring marketing consulting businesses with one important criterion in mind: “How can this marketing consultant help me get the most out of my marketing dollars?”

With increasing pressure to maximize the return on their clients’ marketing investment, marketing consultants are all too aware that campaigns that miss the mark cost their clients time and money. And at times, clients will seek compensation for those losses with a lawsuit.

Although marketing consultant liability insurance will protect your consultancy, a lawsuit can still deal a stinging blow to a marketing business’ professional reputation and take away valuable time from client service to focus on defending the lawsuit. To manage this risk, it is important to understand and correctly translate a client’s needs into a successful campaign.

Measuring Success

Most marketing consulting projects are focused on one of two outcomes: building brand awareness or generating leads. Each situation calls for similar assessment tactics, but involve very different execution strategies.

A brand-awareness campaign focuses on building a company’s reputation within a market and growing corporate or product name recognition among a targeted demographic. Because brand awareness can be hard to quantify, this type of project creates unique challenges for a marketing consulting business seeking to justify a customer’s marketing investment. Clearly discussing the project objectives with the client will aid in minimizing marketing consulting risk and liability.

Results for lead-generation campaigns are generally easier to track, as these projects produce tangible, traceable results. These marketing campaigns are designed to generate leads that will in turn help the company to sell a product or service, whether it’s an immediate buy such as a soft drink or book, or a longer-term commitment such as a technology system or membership. But new sales aren’t the only measure of success. Many companies also have business objectives to grow their customer base; convert prospects to buyers; or turn existing buyers into high-volume, loyal customers.

Where Does the Client Stand?

Before a marketing consultant can develop an effective strategy to achieve the desired results, he or she must first develop a comprehensive understanding of the client’s industry and customer base. Most importantly, any marketing strategy must be tied to a company’s strategic objectives to ensure greater success and reduce risk for marketing firms.

To translate a customer’s needs into a viable marketing project, the first step is to achieve the deepest possible understanding of what a client’s business objectives are. In assessing a client’s needs, a marketing consultant must consider numerous factors that will affect the company, long after the marketing campaign has finished. Smart marketing consultants employ an interview process to better define potential opportunities and ensure agreement on the campaign’s objectives. Questions may include:

o What is the client’s business goal and strategy to achieve it?

o Who and where are the client’s customers? What are they buying, and why?

o What markets would the client like to move into?

o What is the goal of this campaign? (Increase revenue? New customers? Market penetration? Repeat business? Customer loyalty?)

o What marketing efforts has the client made in the past, and what were the results?

o What is the client’s marketing budget, or acceptable cost per lead? (This is a key question.)

o What IT systems and personnel does the client have in place to track campaign results and return on investment?

o Who are the client’s competitors, and what are they doing right or wrong?

o What differentiates the client company from its competitors and makes it the best choice for customers?

Typically, gathering the answers to these and other questions can start with an initial meeting with the client. However, to gain more in-depth insight as a project begins, a marketing consultant can interview both internal client contacts and the company’s customers, and assess the market space in which the company operates. Customer surveys, case studies and testimonials are all useful sources for customer perspective into what makes a company stand out.

With all of this information as a foundation, a marketing consultant should be well-prepared to define the vision and scope of a project, research options, develop success measures, create an internal approval process, and formulate tactics to achieve the client’s marketing and business objectives. A good tip to reduce marketing liability is to ensure your project plans include milestone checkpoints and defined success measures.