Saturday, June 30, 2007

Having it Both Ways

This popped up on a site with listings of freelance/consulting gigs (sort of a Craigslist for marketing consulting):

I'm looking for a reputable marketing company, on and off line to construct a marketing campaign with the intentions to recruit clients for a two day seminar which I'm holding.

That sounds reasonable, right? But then...

This job is based on commission only. So a specific percentage of the totally clients recruited will be allocated to the marketing company.

I'd love to see who responds to this, because I can't believe that a "reputable marketing company" will be inclined to throw their hat in the ring for this.

And not just because reputable marketers tend to have clients who are willing to pay for work.

Many of us who have done consulting and freelancing have done this kind of work when starting out, because we want clients. Or we come across certain potential clients we'll work for at bargain prices because we want to add them to our client roster.

But there's a whole other problem here. It's one thing to ask someone to put their payment on the line for things that they can control - the marketing program itself.

But there are factors here beyond the marketer's control. Is the seminar any good? What the reputation of the presenter? Is it priced correctly? Is there really a market for it? All the smart marketing in the world won't work if those things are wrong.

The desired response to that ad is a bid - not questions about all of that, but a price. Even if you started freelancing yesterday, this is a bad gig. If you don't have other clients taking up your time, you might be willing to take a pay-per-performance deal... but only it it's your performance determining payment, not the performance of your client.

This is an issue that comes up even in traditional pay-for-effort consulting; you discover that the client has some issue that is going to make you look bad, even though you can't fix it. The problems aren't your fault, and fixing them is beyond your scope, but they are going to make you look bad, and since you're the consultant, you're an ideal scapegoat.

Has this ever happened to you? How have you handled it?


Mark Cahill said...

Coming from the web design side, I can tell you we see it all the time. I recently got a full blown 45 page specification for a web 2.0/social networking style site - all to be designed and implemented for $15 per hour. I think I'd rather work at McDonalds...

This is one of the things I rail against...if you want professional results, hire professionals and pay a professional price. If the job's done right, it ought to pay for itself.

Mary Schmidt said...


There's not much you can really do if the client is bound and determined to shoot themselves in the foot or head. You're going to get hit with some blowback no matter what you do.

As for what Mark notes, I can relate. Once, when collaborating with a web designer, we got a six-page RFP that included, among other things, an e-commerce area. What did they want to pay? Um, a whole $500! Part of the problem was that the small biz was working with a coach who had decided she could coach on marketing, without any experience or real knowledge of marketing in general, much less web marketing and specifics.

In such cases, I politely decline to even bid and include a sentence or two re typical fees for such services as described, along with a tip or two of what to look for, do. So, if they do find someone who'll do it for a ridiculously low price, they may remember I gave them the straight news - and might even call and ask for some real help (if they still have any money.)

I also make it clear I don't guarantee results and why.

Last, but certainly not least, I'm continueing to work on clients self-qualifying themselves. That helps head off a lot of clients who can make me look bad even though I've given them my best work.