Most of my entrepreneurial clients come straight out of corporate jobs where they relied on marketing departments to bring business in. They never had to think about this critical role before and therefore, took it for granted.
Once on their own, they thought ‘Hey, I can do this‘ but then realize they don’t really know how. They try and try, wasting precious time and budget but making no headway; lying awake in the middle of the night wondering what the heck they’re doing wrong.
Working with a marketing consultant gets you well on your way to getting it right, the first time without wasting time or budget.
And, you’ll sleep better too.
This role is akin to that of a Conductor or General Contractor. Someone with the specific expertise and creative leadership skills who acts as your advocate to help you take your vision from concept to reality — a ‘connect the dots’ kind of role. Someone who has built partnerships with proven professionals so that you don’t become someone’s guinea pig.
Connecting the dots and seeing the big picture takes expertise to get right.
There are more marketing tools and techniques than ever before. This makes for both good and bad marketing decisions: Good because there are so many marketing tools now; bad because, well there are more marketing tools than ever before!
Here’s why you should consider working with a marketing consultant:
Advocacy — I am firmly planted by your side. I will not let you do something that will hurt your business. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve saved a client from a bad marketing decision. Here’s an example: My client was about to open a storefront business and, of course, he was bombarded with offers from all kinds of media, new programs, software sellers, and more. He had no idea the questions to ask to vet each opportunity’s value. I stepped in to help him make those decisions wisely within the context of the bigger picture that only he and I understood.
Network of Proven Professionals — You can waste your time searching around for just the right graphic designer, web developer, social media pro, printer, email service, etc. or you can spend your time with your own clients running your business. It would take an outsider years to build the relationships that a consultant has access to. Here’s another example: Not understanding the nuanced differences in skill sets of website developers, a client engaged a developer that was not the right fit for her needs. Why? His skill set was better suited to large-scale eCommerce sites and my client was a work-from-home PR consultant. She did this outside the project I was doing for her and I found out afterwards. Website developers are not created equal. Some have very specific technical expertise suited to large-scale sites where a database must be built, some focus on the design of the site, some on the usability experience, some on the SEO, some on the…well, you get the idea. Had she consulted me she would have paid much less and had a better outcome.
Having a plan — Without specific expertise in marketing, business owners sometimes engage in what I call the “Spaghetti Method of Marketing” — they cobble together a haphazard jumble of tactical steps without considering the big picture then throw it up on the wall to see what sticks. Here’s a story that showcases this point well: During the depths of the recession a few years ago a client had tried and tried to keep her customers coming back to her. The problem was that her business — a day spa — is one of those personal treats that are the first things to get cut when money is tight. She bought a few inconsistent ads in the local newspaper that ate up a big chunk of her budget and weren’t performing. Out of money and ideas, and very frustrated — she called me. This seasoned business had been operating for almost a dozen years so she had a customer list of hundreds of mailing addresses, phone numbers routinely used to confirm appointments, and some emails (never used). I put together a communications plan for her to follow which included opening up an email account for her to inexpensively communicate with those customers whose email addresses she had, and then I created a plan to contact those whose emails were either no longer valid or were missing either by phone or mailing an inexpensive postcard. As a side benefit of this, she had a firm handle on any company’s most valuable asset – the customer and prospect database.
Having a budget — A direct benefit of having a good plan is that it creates a budget. Having a well-thought-out detailed marketing budget means you can plan for expenses, get a better handle on choosing the right suppliers, and not get taken by the urge to try every sexy new tech solution. Here’s a big ouch story: A construction company secretary meant well when she told the owner that a coupon company salesperson kept calling her with all these great deals, so the owner spent a couple of thousand dollars to participate in their next mailing to 50,000 households. Sounded promising, but the problem was that these coupons were mailed to apartment, condo, and townhome households NOT exclusively single-family homes — the company’s target market. So, most of his money was wasted and because he was pressured not simply to advertise, but to offer a discount, he got a lot of tire-kickers looking to beat him up for the lowest price. The whole effort bombed. Then, he called me. I used that same money, purchased a list of single-family homeowners then used his existing stationery, envelopes, and business cards and wrote a direct mail letter that brought in business.
Understanding the Phases of Marketing — The Acquisition, Retention, and Reactivation phases guide the strategy for which marketing methods to use at any given time. Not understanding these phases lead to very expensive mistakes. Here’s what I mean: A telecommunications company purchased an email list. They spent a significant portion of their marketing budget on the list purchase and the effort failed. Why? Email acquisition in the B2B segment often fails because email filters are often set so tight at larger companies, that your message may not get through. And, because B2B email lists are more expensive than a standard mailing list, the break-even point can be unattainable. Had they consulted with me beforehand, I would have advised them that email marketing is most appropriate for Retention or Reactivation strategies and would have recommended they purchase the standard mailing + phone number list.
Connecting all the dots — Sometimes I see a situation where a client has a sales function and has a technical function, but no marketing to connect them. This leads to missed opportunities, mixed messages, and other problematic roadblocks to generating more revenue. This last story is a perfect example: A custom software company has a large pool of tech coders writing software to continually better their product. The owner (a software engineer) and his in-house tech team built the website but the sales team was never asked for their input. This resulted in a website filled with technical jargon causing each salesperson to create their own stories on the fly while out in the field meeting with prospects. When a prospect visited the company website they got a completely different message resulting in friction, frustration, and lost sales. I worked with both sides to develop a benefit-driven website as well as marketing collateral materials to use in the field. Everyone was now on the same page with the same branding and messaging.
Ah…marketing nirvana at last.