I recently sat in a meeting with potential clients, and during the discussion I had the feeling they expected something else… do you know the feeling? That can be a good thing…
It can be a good thing when it means that you didn’t surrender yourself to the temptation of promising things that you are not sure you will be able to deliver.
The Bad Habits Of Marketing Consultants
Many so called marketing consultants make promises when meeting potential new clients. They use words that they know their clients won’t understand completely (they don’t understand what they are saying themselves most of the time), and they promise to deliver in shorter periods than they will. They make promises without a decent understanding of the client’s current situation, and they try to convey the feeling of marketing being a simple process that can be implemented in no time at all.
This seems to have become the standard in selling marketing services, and it should not be (btw – this is not limited to the marketing space, I used to be a developer, and the same habits exist in that space).
It also leads to a situation where I sometimes sit down with potential clients and get the feeling they expect me to throw words and solutions at them. That they expect me to say things like “We will increase your social brand standing by implementing a social distribution strategy on the basis of curated content and influencer marketing tactics.”
Which would of course be total BS. But it would give them the feeling that I would have a perfect idea of what I need to do for them right from the start. To increase trust, I should probably add: “We will start this activity from day one, closely monitor the results and adapt the strategy over the coming weeks – we should therefore see results within the first couple of weeks.”
I would then have made a BS strategy proposition and even set a timeframe for it – without having given them a clue on actual tactics I’m thinking about.
The problem here is: It’s not just idiots and bad consultants who do this. Fake promises are made by good people. People who know what they are doing. For many of these, it is simply easier to sell their services by rather saying about anything in the first meeting, than saying the truth…
The Truth: Marketing Is A Process
Just because a company decided to implement marketing and hire someone to do it doesn’t mean that this is it. Because marketing is a process, because a marketing strategy needs to be developed with the company in mind and for the specific situation, goals, resources, employees/people, processes, location, target audience, timeframe, etc.
All of these need to be assessed, examined and implemented into the strategy. If you leave something out, you either need to have a good reason or you are not delivering the best possible solution.
In case of the client mentioned in the introduction, I could only state a few ideas about which direction I would probably work in, which processes may need optimisation, but as the situation is complicated, I cannot simply make a promise and believe in it myself.
So they asked “When will you have something we can implement?”
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The question is completely reasonable from the CEO’s point of view – especially when hiring consultants. I’ve been CEO of exploreB2B for almost 5 years now, and I would ask the same question. But modern marketing strategies go too deep – they need to be implemented into the company’s DNA to have longterm effect. And when you are hired to help evaluate a long term solution, not just a simple growth hack, you need to refrain from the easy answers and go for the long route.
That doesn’t mean there is nothing to do for them in the beginning – quite the contrary. It will be hard work. You will make assumptions, test assumptions, monitor the results, make new assumptions and test from the results, test these, derive strategic opportunities from these tests, form repeatable processes for your company, implement these, evaluate other processes in the company due to these results and possibly optimise these processes, …
You are in for a bumpy road. The CEO already knows that – and he wants the assurance that you will try to choose a road with few bumps. But the truth is, you should choose the harder route. The bumpy one. If you don’t you will face the same bumps later in your voyage. And they will be harder to overcome.
I can understand why marketing sometimes looks like a magic trick.
Why do some companies implement customer service and suddenly their sales team (which is cold calling all the time) has massive successes? Ok, when you look at it from the customer’s standpoint, that is easy to understand – the customer wants to be in good hands after all, but how does the customer even know that your customer service is good?
Why does one company have success with referral marketing and the other does not?
Why do content marketing strategies sometimes take years to establish and suddenly they reach a peak point and explode into massive success?
Why does the simple announcement of a new company slogan like “Think Different” (Apple Computers) lead to a massive change?
There are many more examples of marketing efforts looking like magic. But they are not.
Behind every single valid marketing decision, there is an assumption – and assumption of how it might be perceived and an assumption of how a customer/target group might react.
When you think about hiring a consultant/marketer and you have a meeting, and you get the feeling that he is promising you magic, then ask him how he is going to perform that magic. You don’t need to understand his answer completely, but he should be able to answer.
When the answer is a process or based on actual knowledge, then the magic trick becomes expertise, and the marketer might know what he is talking about. If not…
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I said it could be a good thing when the client meeting didn’t go so well. I know, it hurts when you don’t get the client. But for me, at least, its better I don’t close the client on false promises then make promises that I cannot deliver on. Sometimes you don’t get the client – simple as that. That’s life. That’s business.
It may seem that you won’t get the client without promising magic BS – but that is not necessarily the case. I’m still negotiating with the client mentioned above. And while the investment in the initial pre-sale process has increased a lot by being honest, the potential project volume also increased by far. Isn’t that worth much more.
So I will continue not to promise magic to clients – but I will always do my best to deliver it.