At the onset, let me say that I do intend to address what clients look for when working with consultants. But since a lot of writing already exists on this subject, this article deals with what a professional marketing consultant looks when seeking new client relationships.
The client qualities consultants look for probably resemble those characteristics employees seek from their employers.
The most important characteristic consultants look for with their clients is loyalty. In other words, consultants expect the reward of loyalty for achieving agreed to benchmarks.
This usually translates into either new assignments or ongoing participation in the growth of successful programs the consultant creates.
There is nothing worse than introducing a client to a major moneymaking opportunity that the consultant delivers at great personal risk (to his reputation) only to watch the client expand the program by cutting out the consultant to save a few dollars (usually with less capable suppliers).
Consultants cannot charge enough up front for the problem solving ideas they create for clients based on consulting expertise and brain power without participating fully in the program's expansion.
No contract will protect consultants from this type of abuse just as employment contracts mean nothing when employers demonstrate lukewarm commitment to their people or written promises.
Charging for time alone guarantees the poorhouse for independent consultants.
That is why freelancers who know what they are doing charge by the project to get somewhat better compensation.
In the absence of adequate up front revenues, most consultants expect to be rewarded by ongoing work they are qualified to perform.
2. Freedom from nickel and dimeing behavior
If a client asks for an estimate, then we create one for them. It is usually a lump sum with a full description of deliverables.
Please do not ask us to break down the estimate in detail. This usually ends up in a bidding war for each step with the client. This is unproductive, does not save the client money, and costs many unbillable hours for the consultant.
For example, give us a cost per sale or a cost per lead allowable along with the detailed results of your previous efforts and we will come back with a plan to beat your previous results.
We can agree on a flat fee plus compensation for increased performance over an extended period of time or go for a strait fee.
Clients ask us not to nickel and dime them with our invoices. All we as consultants ask for is treatment in kind.
3. Do not use us as a bank
We ask the client to pay for services in advance on an agreed to schedule regardless of their high credit ratings. We are not in a position to offer services on credit. And our high quality suppliers also require payment in advance before producing custom products for clients.
We have tried the 30 days net. But companies rarely honor this even though we must pay our suppliers within 30 days or in advance. All companies are tightening up their accounts receivable due to client abuse.
If we agree on 30 days net, then we get paid 60-90 days later. We just don't have to work with clients who don't pay promptly. So our simple solution is to work with clients on a pay-as-you-go basis.
We have only lost one new client in the last 17 years when insisting upon our payment arrangement. This also means that we have never suffered a loss due to non payment of any invoice. We either get paid as we progress and we stop the work when the money runs out.
4. Share your marketing and other work problems with us
We enjoy what we believe is an unusual friendship with our clients over time. They know that we can provide better strategies and recommendations when we understand their internal and external challenges.
And when giving us assignments, our best clients speak with us at the strategic level so we have the big picture.
This approach gets the most reward and energy for the client. Trust goes a long way in stimulating everyone's creative juices.
Conclusion: Our long term clients possess these 4 qualities. But the best clients also refer business to us. This is the best way for consultants to build their practices. Referrals attract clients with these same qualities almost without fail.
What other qualities do you look for in your clients if you are a consultant. What did I miss?