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Thanks to Nicole Terborg of Awesome Dynamic for contributing this guest post on finding an e-commerce consultant.

E-commerce consultants are experts in the world of online marketing, often specializing in specific tools or platforms. They have the skillset and knowledge to help you thrive in an ever-changing digital world.

Hiring a reliable, professional e-commerce consultant is one of the best things you can do for your online business. Anyone who has ever sold online, through Amazon, eBay, their own website or another e-commerce platform knows that the internet is a competitive, fast-paced environment; one that is tricky for most businesses to navigate on their own. 

That being said, there are some important considerations as you think about how to work with a trusted e-commerce consultant.

How do I find the right e-commerce consultant?

When you start the process of vetting potential partners, you should ask yourself these questions to ensure that you’re setting yourself up for success:

  • How do I expect my business to grow?
  • What problems am I trying to solve?
  • What am I looking for from an e-commerce consultant?
  • What can I afford in consulting fees?
  • What kind of partnership do I want?
  • How big of a budget can I give my e-commerce consultant to work with?

The answers to these questions will help you determine which consultant is right for you and give you some benchmarks to assess the partnership moving forward. Let’s dive a little bit further into each consideration.

How do I expect my business to grow?

Knowing your growth goals will help you find a consultant who is on the same page. Let’s say you think you can double your growth throughout the next year, but the consultant you’re considering expects to deliver just 50% of that growth. What should you do?

Start by reassessing your growth expectations to ensure they are achievable. If you set your sights on an unrealistic growth rate, you will have a difficult time finding any consultant that can hit your goal. If you are unsure how to assess your growth expectations, take a look at your industry average.

If you still feel confident that you can achieve your desired growth, consider looking for a different consultant. It is likely that the firm you are interviewing simply does not have the capacity to meet your goals. Shop around until you find a company that can. The last thing you want to do is commit yourself to a partner that could slow the growth of your business.

What problems am I trying to solve?

Know your problems, but be flexible about the solutions. This is key to a healthy relationship between you and your consultant. Consultants will know more about where improvements can be made, but no one knows your business – the good, the bad and the ugly – better than you. 

When speaking with a consultant, come prepared with the problems you’re hoping to solve. This way, you can find out 1) if the consultant has the resources to fix your problems, and 2) how much time and money it will take to solve them. 

What am I looking for from an e-commerce consultant?

Problems most often arise between clients and consultants when expectations do not match reality. Before you make anything official, both parties should clearly define the consultant’s role, goals, and timelines for achieving these goals. Set regular check-ins to assess progress. This will help you determine whether or not you want to continue working with this consultant in the future. 

What can I afford in consulting fees?

Determine how much you are willing to spend, then shop around. Ask for estimates from each of the consultants you speak with and remember that rates are usually negotiable. If you find a consultant you feel is the perfect fit for your business, but they are out of your price range, see if you can come to a creative solution that works for both parties. If the partnership seems like a good fit, consultants are often willing to bend a bit. 

What kind of partnership do I want? 

Many clients go searching for a consultant with a good idea of the role they want the consultant to play, but they don’t stop to consider what they want their own role to be. The partnership between a client and a consultant is just that: a partnership. This means that both sides have a part to play and responsibilities to uphold. 

To set these expectations, you need to know your role in the partnership. Do you want to hand over the reins to your consultant completely? Or are you simply looking for guidance to help you execute your own plan? These are important questions to answer as you’re searching for the right consultant. 

How big of a budget can I give my e-commerce consultant to work with?

Costs are an all-too-common point of tension between clients and consultants. Clients are hesitant to spend money, while consultants enjoy working with a robust budget. The important thing to remember is that consultants need money to spend in order to make you successful. 

If you are at all nervous about the additional costs and associated risks of working with a consultant, you’re not alone. A good consultant understands these pain points and, as a result, is more than happy to discuss how your investment is being used to support your business. If a consultant isn’t willing to be transparent about how they are spending your money, that is a big red flag. 

Finding a consultant you trust will help negate some of this anxiety, but so will knowing how willing you are to take risks. Are you willing to spend a few extra dollars to get the return you’re looking for? Or are you looking for a more conservative approach? Whichever you decide, make sure your consultant knows where you stand. 

A final note

Answering the above questions will give you a good idea of what you want out of a consultant and help you find the perfect partner. As you conduct your search, look for companies that can answer all of these questions before you make things official. 

For example, Awesome Dynamic, a professional Amazon consulting firm, schedules free consultations with all its potential clients. This helps ensure that the partnership is a good fit before any contracts are signed or agreements are made. Any e-commerce consulting firm you’re considering should do the same. 

If you are speaking with a firm that asks you to sign on the dotted line before these critical discussions take place, this is a sign that the company is more interested in taking your money than being a good partner to you and your business.

Learn more: Optimize your product listings by testing design concepts, photos, and descriptions with a target audience of likely buyers.

Kim Kohatsu

Kim Kohatsu is the founder of Charles Ave Marketing — Madison Ave for small businesses and startups. She loves SEM, business, writing, presidential history, and pandas.

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