More than one prospective client has asked me to write a report. I understand the need to see a summation of the work that’s been done and the progress we’ve made even though I don’t want to believe that I’m in the business of writing reports. I’m in the business of delivering results: enhancing brand positioning and growing revenue.
But I also understand that the person who makes the recommendation to hire me as a consultant will need to justify that decision at some point down the road. So in a sense, I am also in the business of writing reports.
One recent consulting prospect asked me to write a report upfront. I told this person that I will gladly write a report as we progress (I had already proposed weekly reviews and monthly reporting) but this did not satisfy the client’s needs and we quickly found ourselves in a negotiating stalemate. I explained to the client that I had already laid out our goals for the duration of our engagement based on a series of meetings with her and her staff: We all agreed on the course of action and the deliverables. She still wanted a report upfront.
I wasn’t objecting on principle (maybe a little), I simply had no idea what would go into a report that was not already stated in the Goals section of the proposal which included a brief analysis of their current marketing performance metrics.
I waited a week and called her back, reiterated that we had already set up some lofty goals to work towards, designed the framework of a number of initiatives that would serve those goals and clearly defined the metrics that would measure our progress. The client agreed and then said something that I will never forget, “We’ve never hired a consultant before.” Got it.
This client provides complex, technical solutions within their industry, they have traditionally found new business through referrals. When they take on a new client, there is always a report written upfront along with a proposal. I was being asked to help them expand their business and their brand into new markets, activities that are foreign concepts within the four walls of their offices. I said, “Let me think about that and I’ll call you back tomorrow.” She agreed reluctantly, “I’ll speak to you tomorrow, Aron.” Their intuition about expanding into new markets was well-founded, I could see the kernels of a campaign in my minds’ eye, this was a fit and we all had something to gain from working together. But we couldn’t get past the vetting.
As any good marketer would, I tried to empathize with my prospect, see the situation from her perspective. I called her the next day and proposed the following: Pay me an increased rate for one month instead of the previously proposed six months. Two weeks later (that would bring us to the six week mark) you will receive the report and I’ll come in and present it to the team. Half of the money upfront and half of the money upon delivery of the report.
So began the One Month Intensive
Technically, it’s a six week process but that doesn’t have the same ring to it… I now offer this service as a starting point to new clients. I get to know my clients quicker and they get to know me quickly too. There is minimal risk on both sides. I can suss out most of their issues in a month. I can assess their capabilities and where they are lacking. And I can still get a good sense of what their improved marketing costs will be. It takes a real commitment on behalf of the client to respond to my emails, phone calls, et cetera during that month. I can be very demanding. I sit in on meetings. I call meetings with key staff. We cull data. We review processes and decisions. Everybody needs to know who I am and why I am there. It can be intense. As long as everybody knows upfront that this is going to be a tough month, they should be onboard and it will be over quickly.
So far so good. Clients take comfort in knowing they are getting a lot of my attention upfront and the whole of my analysis at once. This is somewhat flawed in the sense that marketing does not work this way. Marketing is more fluid than observe-and-report. As I hinted above, the analysis is somewhat secondary to the work of improving a company’s marketing performance but getting started is always a little rough and this way we get over the rough stuff quicker.
The report itself is very detailed. We will have a thorough understanding of the company’s marketing performance to date and a very clear understanding of how we should proceed if we decide to continue working together. Depending on the company’s in-house capabilities, we will also have a clearer sense of the cost of moving forward.