An increasing number of brands have turned to consultants to help them through the uncertainty of the pandemic. The year 2020 proved to be a wild ride for CPG brands. Brands faced unforeseen changes like the disappearance of food service channels and the loss of in-store samples, on top of pandemic-specific problems like out-of-stocks, cardboard shortages, and canceled trade shows. We’ll see more of the same throughout 2021, so here’s a helpful guide on how to think about working with and choosing a consultant to help your brand grow during uncertain times.

Solving your challenges
As a CPG brand leader, you’re always facing the choice of whether to learn, build, or buy. You can either learn to do something yourself, build out your team through full-time hires, or buy third-party resources to help your brand grow. Each of these choices has different short-term and long-term implications on your money and time — your two most valuable resources.

Why consultants?
So, how does working with a consultant benefit your brand?

• Consultants are experts. Bringing on an expert to help build out an area where you don’t have internal expertise enables you to make smart and efficient business decisions without a trial and error period.
• Consultants require less commitment. If the new initiative isn’t working out, it’s much faster to part ways with a consultant than a full-time hire. I’ve also seen brands hire consultants, have a successful partnership, and hire that consultant in a full-time role.
• Consultants typically cost less and take less time. There’s a tacit requirement to provide career development and learning opportunities to a full-time employee that isn’t required for consultants. Working with a part-time consultant instead of a full-time hire is often more affordable, too.

How to work with consultants
There are many ways that you can work with a consultant, so it’s essential to know your goals and your budget before hiring outside resources. These include:

• The Part-Time C-Suite Executive: This consultant is involved in your day-to-day business decisions and is an excellent option for brands that don’t have the budget for a full-time executive but still need strategic help. This team player will work closely with you to help you launch and grow your brand.

• The Coach: Coaches provide brands with an invaluable outside perspective and expertise to help guide brands as they identify their unique selling proposition (USP) and go-to-market plan. Because coaches provide guidance while the brand’s team does the heavy lifting, this is a less costly engagement.

• Done For You Services: Consultants offer “done for you” services to complete a specific workstream. This is best for brands who don’t have the time or expertise to complete this workstream but are not ready for the commitment of a part-time C-suite executive.

Choosing the right consultant for your brand
There are so many ways to work with consultants and so many types of consultants, so how do you choose the right consultant for your brand? There’s no simple answer, but there are some things to take into consideration when selecting a consultant. These include:

• What is their area of expertise?
• What is the scope of work you’re looking to bring a consultant in on?
• Do they have experience and knowledge for brands at your specific stage of growth and your specific growth path?

Consultants provide the benefits of industry knowledge and expertise to help your brand move quickly and make the right choices to grow your brand and move into new markets. As with all things, it’s essential to do your research to make the best business decision for your brand.