In one of those strange quirks of fate, last Saturday morning saw me deep in conversation over coffee in the living room of a consultant in the pharmaceutical industry. Very interesting it was too. Working for a top-end consultancy contracted by the major pharmaceutical brands, while pointing out to them what, how and why, and being the difference between their success and failure on a particular project? Fascinating! As was chatting to a guy who does just that.
Without giving too much away, he'd recently been in the Far East as part of a project for a multi-billion pound org, prepping for a launch for a new product in a massive market-place. You might think that an organisation of that size, with the experience, history and resources that most of us might kill for, would not have need for 'outside help' to do what they've done many times before. It turns out that they are not so arrogant. The big picture has so many aspects. So why leave anything to chance. They understand the need for acute specialisation and blunt, objective honesty. They call in the commercial geeks!
If your commercial strategy and tactics are absolutely perfect and cannot be improved at all whatsoever, then you have no need for an objective point-of-view from someone who does nothing else but spend all their time researching and understanding what you need to know.
This commercial geek was really interested to hear about the SaaS scene. I just love it when someone from another industry gets why I'm so excited about SaaS. As you might expect in this case, he very quickly got its benefits and what a game-changer it really is and consequently, its massive potential. He became quite envious when he realised that SaaS is at that stage in the cycle where there is so much scope for creativity and innovation in market-play. Such a rapidly shifting scene makes shaping a successful strategy particularly exciting.
Of course his industry is very different. He and his agency are often engaged for six-figure and even seven figures on occasions - for particularly long and involved contracts with a broad remit. On other occasions he can be just a sounding board for the many different ideas a management team already has, hired purely for industry knowledge or intelligence or he might draw up (many strands of) a strategy on a blank piece of paper and so on. Whatever the need, a level of trust is required and found before engaging your consultant. You want a stand-up guy or gets it, not a blagger or a yes man.
A final thought he left me with before I went on my merry way. Of course there'll be some reluctance in tech/SaaS start-ups to engage consultants. Some may view them as a luxury. But, a different (objective) perspective with a complimentary skill-set can be the difference between success or failure. It's simply another value proposition. Food for thought indeed.