By Bernard Wainaina
CEO,Profarms Consultants®

It is almost always easy to do the hard work of setting up your agribusiness,and then hand over the marketing part to a third party so that you can concentrate on the day to day running of your business.

But watch out. You may be risking all your investment by handing over the most important aspect of your business to an outsider who will antagonise your prospective customers.

As a consultant with a full plate, I once outsourced the marketing of some of my programmes.

I was sold on the idea because I was not required to pay any upfront fees: It was
purely on success commissions.

I handed over all the required marketing material and also had product knowledge training sessions over several days for my marketers.

The results were disappointing.

The marketing firm went out of its way to compete with my products using many of the
contacts that I had given them as business leads.

The same company was freelancing its services to many other customers and hence could not maintain progressive focus on expected

I knew that things were not right when the key man kept avoiding scheduled meetings and all-together stopped e-mail communication.

My plans were now in disarray and I needed to do something drastic.

So I played the fool and never contacted my supposed marketer.

I went door to door on my own and got a pleasant surprise.

Consultancy services such as training and strategy are best sold by the principal and not an intermediary.

Everywhere I went, I got a warm welcome and in some instances, I was able to customise some of my offerings instantly at the client’s

When you set out to do business while still employed, there is this temptation to outsource the marketing of your product or services to third parties.

This happens mostly so as to disguises your activities from your employer’s roving eyes.

However, marketing companies can make or break you.

Producer-driven I now call this type of Owner marketing producer-driven.

The intermediary-dependent one, I call non-producer driven.

The results are divergent.

The former lets you understand your market first hand while the latter denies you the same

An in-house sales force is better than an outsourced one any time.

The newspaper and bread distribution models heavily rely on commissioned networks that only augment the main company’s efforts to reach customers.

In both cases, the products will be transported by their own distribution staff to locations convenient for the local intermediaries to effectively reach desired markets.

So, in this case the newspaper and bread companies keep a high level of control.

Many marketing companies prefer less supervision but at their own peril.

To be fair to firms that market services on behalf of others, there is a sifting process that one can use to ensure that quality is experienced.

First, be absolutely sure that engaging a marketing outfit is a value-add to your business from a time, money and energy perspective.

Second, never be the guinea pig.

Do not enlist the services of a greenhorn that has no references for you to enquire from
about their services.

You have passed the stage of experiments.

Before anything happens, sign a contract that protects both parties while stating everyone’s obligations.

Your lawyer comes in handy and what you pay him is far less than what you may lose in the absence of an agreement.

Ensure that your service provider has a fixed abode, for it is difficult to keep up with briefcase traders.

Tie your agreement around productivity benchmarks so that ambiguities on performance are eliminated.

It is preferable to have a firm that specialises in specific sectors so that the freelance concept is eliminated.

Specialisation also ensures that you benefit from their sectoral knowledge and hence get faster results.

East Africa is quickly becoming an economic hotbed for people fleeing winter economies and with this, come all manner of “consultants” that we must be wary of.

“The African Story as told by Africans”.©African News Digest®