IT specialists often say that the best marketing people are normally to be found within the industry. It's true, but by the time our industry finds them they are immensely successful and rich and out of reach. Whether you intend to hire a freelancer from time to time or have your own marketing advisor full time, you are looking for a man or a woman with a particular set of skills and abilities.
Small ads for freelance consultants can be found in the trade press and via the Web. The fact that they need to advertise for work is no real ad for them. So speak to all your contacts who have had good experiences. Ask who they'd recommend. Another way is to call up the manufacturers of products that you feel have been well marketed (good marketing that sticks in your mind). Unless they are a direct competitor, they are usually delighted to give you tips. Your interest is a sincere compliment to their judgment.
One way or another you are likely to assemble a formidable list. In practice, marketing consultants tend to specialize, sometimes in particular media (television), at other times in product areas (pharmaceuticals). So your list can be rapidly whittled down.
Exceptional people are rare by definition and hard to come by. Yet good professional exponents have three qualities in abundance: penetrating powers of analysis, ability to synthesize in unfettered ways, and an exceptional ability to communicate. The first two are not surprising, as marketing is both a science and an art. Good marketers will have swathes of relevant figures at their disposal that guide them as to what is likely to be the most propitious solution for you. An ability to develop new patterns of solution is the rarest of these key qualities, yet it may also be the most critical when you need a David to beat Goliath, someone who can solve the problem without burying it under money.
You should look out for the following points:
♦ Excellent communicators. Make sure that their best spiel isn't the one they use to sell themselves.
♦ Ability to make insightful sense of statistics. They need to be respectful of facts and have intellectual integrity.
♦ Understand the concepts of your technology.
♦ Are deft at translating functions into end-user benefits.
♦ Can seize on market segments that fit the functionality proposed.
♦ Track record is useful but the past doesn't always predict the future. Note the quality of their training and experience. Check always with previous employees and clients.
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