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The Product Consultant


What is a Product Consultant?


A Product Consultant is a specialist who understands products and services and can help you to develop your business by supporting your team to examine, explore and understand both the products that you create and the customers that you are trying to reach.


The ultimate objective of any Product Consultant is to help ensure that you are able to offer the best possible products and generate sales by ensuring that they can be marketed effectively.


The advantage of hiring a product consultant comes at a cost, but it enables you to benefit from expert knowledge and the advantage that your product or service will be analyzed from the perspective of someone from outside of the business. This provides a much clearer perspective of how your product is seen and allows for a more impartial approach to how products and features are seen by potential buyers.


When you take on a Product Consultant it is important that you allow them to engage with the people who create, design, and deliver products to market to enable them to gather as much information as possible about your products or potential products as possible. This will then allow them to take away this information and carry out research that will inform potential ways to improve what it is that you do.


Depending on what your long-term objectives are, a Product Consultant can be used as a one-off measure to help you change direction or evolve your offering. However, if you are looking at a longer-term investment that will continue to help your business grow, many Product Consultants will be able to help provide insights and training for your internal team to lay some guidelines to be more self-sufficient, and effective in the way you operate in relation to your product development and marketing. This can be done over a number of projects or a fixed period, with the goal being to help train your internal staff to engage more critical thinking in their processes and help them put in place improved procedures and methods. The Consultant can then be called on as and when required to come and help ensure that everything remains productive and maintains momentum.


A Product Consultant should have a good amount of experience working with product teams and understanding of sales and marketing to help you with your business. There is a very wide raft of methods they will use to help your business and they should discuss these with you during the early stages of any project so you can understand which might provide the best results for you. This will vary depending on what outcomes you are aiming to achieve. Some of these methods might include…


  • Broad market research, looking at both your competitors and your own current or proposed products to provide insights on ways to elevate what you do.

  • Researching and creating product or project briefs.

  • Develop and help implement processes and procedures relating to products.

  • Assess and provide action points for product improvement from market and consumer perspectives.

  • Research and create strategic documents to provide direction for products and projects.

  • Generate product roadmaps based on market priorities and opportunities.



What does working with a product consultant look like?


Of course every business is different, and the way a Product Consultant will approach their work will vary, for example, from a startup who have yet to release their first product to an established brand with years of business behind them. Regardless of where you are in your brands journey the method that a Product Consultant will usually take to help you will be similar and can be broken into 4 main stages.


1. Discovery phase.

In this phase the consultant will likely have a brief meeting with you (between 30 minutes to an hour). During this meeting they will try to establish the key things you want to resolve or need help with. The discovery phase is usually closed by providing you with a proposal for what the consultant will aim to achieve for you when they work with you.


2. Research and development phase.

Once you have agreed to working with the consultant, they will most likely spend the first period of time with you researching and developing questions for you and your team. This may also involve looking at and testing products and competitors’ products as well as talking with stakeholders with your brand from designers to sales. For the most in-depth projects this may also involve a product forum to gain deeper insight into product perceptions.


3. Presentation and refinement.

Once the consultant has gained enough research and been able to ask enough questions to generate presentations and documents, they will likely provide you with a presentation of the information and proposals that will help you move your brand and products forward. Depending on the direction of the business and resources that can be applied, the presentation and its supporting documents will then be adapted to ensure that its recommendations are workable and effective solutions.


4. Preparation and execution.

With everything agreed between you and the consultant the execution of all the work is ready to be put in place. It may be that you will decide to delegate the outcomes to internal staff to execute with the consultant on hand to help them. Or for some things, you might want the consultant to be more hands on. Whatever you decide you remain in control which is the big advantage of working with a consultant.


What happens next?


For most businesses the use of a Product Consultant is something that is used for a single project or a fixed 6 or 12 month period.

However most consultants will be happy to remain on hand to provide further support as your brand implements anything that has been created while they worked with your business.


Depending on their availability these additional services will often be charged at a day rate, alternatively some consultants operate on a retainer basis where you pay them a fixed monthly fee to be available for a fixed amount of time. This is often more cost effective if you know you will need their support as retainers can be cheaper.


Retainers have both positives and negatives. Some retainers can be put in place with non-compete clauses which will prevent the consultant from working with your competitors, these are more expensive but can prove a worthwhile investment. It is worth noting that if you do not use the consultant while they are under retainer you will lose the time you have paid for, but the benefit is that if they are on a retainer they will make sure they are available at reasonable notice to jump in and support you.



When is it a good idea to engage with a product consultant?


There are a variety of reasons to engage with a product consultant, these include.

  • Getting a firm handle on your product roadmap and setting a clear path forward.

  • Exploring product lines which sit outside your normal core market.

  • Introducing new ideas and thought processes to stagnant design teams.

  • Providing independent product or project briefs that can be easily executed.

  • Validating internal product ideas before development.

  • Testing product ideas against perceived competition to improve features and performance.

  • Training and setting up in-house product teams when transitioning for using 3rd party only services.

So how much does a product consultant cost?


The price you will expect to pay for a Product Consultant can vary depending on their experience and the size of the project they are undertaking. Depending on the size of the project expect to either pay a day rate for shorter projects or a fixed project cost depending on the complexity of the project and field of specialism. Typically, a consultant will also recommend or provide some services via creative agencies or 3rd parties where required so check if these are included in the quoted cost for a project. Also expect to pay justifiable expenses such as travel costs or hotel rooms if the consultant must travel long distances to work with you onsite.


In the USA research indicates that independent product consultants typically command between $150-$250 per hour. In the UK rates can vary between £80 to in excess of £300 per hour and more. Remember when you hire a consultant you are not paying for their time, you are paying for their experience and ability to think from a perspective that someone inside your organization will not be able to.

While hiring a consultant might initially seem expensive, product consultants will generally be able to provide exceptional value for money, and because they are a contracted 3rd party it means you get the resources and experience of a highly experienced specialist without the long-term burden of employing a permanent member of staff.



About the Author


My name is Luke Green and I have spent over 2 decades working with some amazing brands, during that time I have worked with designers and manufacturers across a wide variety of market segments.


I founded Ballistica as a Product and Brand Consulting company to enable me to provide support and advice to companies around the world. I enjoy nothing more than helping founders and executives unlock the power of their brands by working with their teams to help provide insight and direction to unlock their potential.


I own and run Ballistica as well as provide my support to multiple businesses as a Non-Executive Director to help them deliver better products, services, and brands.


If you want help in brand building, are looking for a brand or product strategy for launch, or simply want access to an experienced product and brand specialist to help you with a specific project I would love to hear from you.


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