August 22, 2019
Great marketers do not create campaigns in a vacuum. As a marketing and branding firm, we often work with founders who have technology backgrounds rather than business backgrounds. These founders typically do not understand why a marketer would need financial metrics or the specifics of the product. Sometimes, they get defensive when we dig deeper.
Marketing is much more than coming up with slogans and campaigns. With the right information, we can drive business strategies. If you want full value from hiring a marketing consultant, ask yourself, “How can I help you help me?”
For instance, we had a client whose core product was becoming a commodity. The business had substantial growth targets, so the client worked with us to launch a business line that would cross-pollinate with the existing client base. We were generating a ton of leads, but our client struggled to close them. We later discovered that the company was not equipped to serve the sophisticated client base in this new business line and had not established a product-market fit before the launch.
When you are working with a marketing consultant, be sure to ask the following questions to make the relationship a successful one:
What are my goals?
One of the first steps to creating a marketing budget, according to a Forbes.com article, is to understand what your revenue goals are. Are you aiming for 2% growth? Is your target market made up of Fortune 500 companies?
In the case of our client’s new business line, it was not recurring. And when we asked, the client thought we were being nosy. But once we understood, we changed the marketing strategies and moved much of the marketing dollars into the core business, which was recurring revenue. We also increased investment in the client’s consulting business, which funneled new clients into the recurring revenue stream. These were all strategies that we would have deployed had the client shared more background.
Who will be the marketer’s contact?
Marketers help generate revenue, but that’s difficult to do if no one in the company will divulge how the business makes money. An article in The Business Journals shows that internal sales teams and external marketing teams can flourish when they cooperate.
In our example, departments were competing against one another for resources. It was hard to actually talk about revenue and margin goals with the leader of each function for fear that each would lose shared service support. Eventually, I had to go to the CEO, which wasted about six weeks of valuable time. Delayed discussions on revenue generation, revenue mix, and contribution margins could have been avoided if I had been given a knowledgeable contact who was willing to share information.
What is our focus?
This might surprise you, but when I first sit down with a client, we do not talk about marketing. We focus on the business. According to Entrepreneur, if you don’t have your business goals set, your marketing plan will never be focused either. Immediately after asking about goals, I ask: “What is your team focusing on? How are you allocating resources to meet your objectives?”
When we start digging, the client’s capacity to achieve goals emerges. We see, for example, that marketing and product development might not talk to each other. Even worse, marketing and sales are not aligned. And that is invaluable information.
What are my expectations?
As soon as you find something you are not happy with, let your partners and consultants know. They might change their processes to work with you. It’s important to understand early that you might have to adjust your expectations. As noted by digital innovation studio Venture Harbour: “Outputs can be guaranteed. Outcomes can’t.” And if you are not willing to adjust your expectations, why waste time?
Marketing is a vital component of any business, so it is only natural that businesses take their relationship with marketing consultants seriously. The four questions above can help you work with these consultants successfully.