Richard Stephens, managing director, DirectionGroup
Richard Stephens, managing director, DirectionGroup
A view from Richard Stephens

Think BR: Brand managers beware the consultant panacea

Consultancy requires a versatile and varied skillset to be truly effective, writes Richard Stephens, managing director, DirectionGroup.

Traditional design-based agencies are now being replaced by marketing-led consultancies, which provide a more strategic service aimed at developing brands and enhancing their value, identity and market share. 

These agencies are increasingly producing more in depth work for clients, namely building brands and helping them to grow their business. 

Therefore in order for this new kind of integrated service to work as well as it should, it is essential that clients and agencies create deeper relationships.

The best partnerships are those in which clients share information so that agencies can use their expertise to accurately assess business situations. Marketing planning is seen as less sexy but is absolutely crucial to any campaign.

There have been examples of brilliantly creative initiatives that are not successful, simply because the agency has been unable to apply the strategy, stick to deadlines or target the right audience.

Moreover, in the current economic climate, agencies have been tasked with producing high quality work on a smaller budget.

However, ‘consultancy’ has too often been seen as an add on service; an extension of agencies’ existing disciplines that has not always equated to an experienced, independent assessment of what is best for the client.

Unsurprisingly, many agencies have added consultancy services to retain and gain viable projects.

While they can advise and steer clients into better brand ideas and strategies, consultancy requires a versatile and varied skillset to be truly effective.

This includes solid knowledge and marketing experience, particularly in the client’s sector or industry, astute financial awareness, an ability to analyse and evaluate issues and a good dose of integrity.

In addition, marketing experts must keep up to date with industry changes, emerging news and competitor activity, so that the context of any client approach can be judged against the market environment within that industry.

Consultants should add value as a proven specialist by giving senior executives the means to effectively communicate with customers.

Furthermore, consultants should also be able to provide astute recommendations on planning, marketing services and the reporting back of ROI.

Ultimately, when planning a marketing programme or advertising campaign, clients must search for and secure honest, independent advice from those with the right skills, experience and industry knowledge most likely to increase market share and save them money.

Richard Stephens, managing director, DirectionGroup