The value of being an outsider
Every client engagement starts blind. There’s always a period in the beginning where the agency knows very little about the client. Maybe there is a remit for strategy, messaging, or a plan, but there is no history or shared knowledge. The agency asks questions and identifies gaps based on inquiries and logic. This exchange has tremendous value for the agency and the client and underscores the value of being an outsider.
Outsiders bring a different background and way of seeing the world. They have tried things before the client has not and have a slightly different approach. Helping clients turn a marketing challenge on its side and seeing it from a different angle helps clients expand their point of view.
Outsiders have knowledge that clients don’t. It may be technical, like programming in Python. It may be esoteric, like crisis management. Yes, you could Google it, but many times other people bring in knowledge clients didn’t even know was out there to search for. And the internet doesn’t have everything.
A seldom mentioned benefit of an outsider is that there is little political risk. A company executive can accept the advice of an outsider without conferring status or superiority on any department or group in the organization. The advice is accepted without disturbing internal dynamics. It’s a way for people in the organization to feel safe participating in a strategic exercise.
The value of the outsider is also the freedom of having almost nothing to lose. The outsider has other clients and can afford to take creative and strategic risks on behalf of a client. This freedom makes the outsider very different from the full time employee. Freedom, combined with insight and knowledge, bring tremendous value to the client and make the outsider indispensable.
There are more than 600,000 consultants in the U.S. They flourish because organizations need perspective, creativity and insight. They have nothing to lose so they stick their necks out. The value of being an outsider is being treated like an expert when your greatest expertise, in some cases, is being an outsider.