I've worked with a lot of businesses who have worked with a consultant before me. But many tell me they've not been very impressed with the results. The reason is invariably because the consultant was thinking tactically and not strategically. For example, they were focusing only their area of expertise such as social media or PR.
Unless you know what to look for, this can be difficult to spot. The impact might not be felt until it's too late, when a lot time and money has been spent.
I'm writing this list in the hope that my clients will keep me accountable to it. If I'm doing one of these things then my standards are slipping and I don't want that to happen. So hold me to it!
Here are the signs to look for:
Your marketing must support your customers at every step in their buying decision. (Read my previous blog, "Marketing stepping stones: supporting every step of the sale" for more on this.) Promotion, or 'lead generation', is the expensive part of marketing. If you're spending a lot of money generating leads, but losing them because prospects are not being supported, then you are wasting money.
2. You tell them that your social media (for example) isn't working, and they only ask you about social media.
The reason your social media isn't leading to sales might not be down to the way you're using it. It might be that you aren't nurturing the leads generated by your social media activity. It could be because you're not measuring success in the right way across the right timescales. Or it could be because you're not using social media effectively. Yet, if you assume it's the latter when it isn't then you'll never find and fix the root cause.
3. They ask you for the demographic of your ideal customer but nothing else.
Demographics is probably the least important information you need in a customer avatar. Don't get me wrong – it's useful to know so that you can identify where they're likely to hang out so you can reach them. But you also need to understand your customer's deep-rooted challenges, attitudes and beliefs. You need this information to craft meaningful marketing messages that will resonate. Demographics alone won't tell you this.
4. They never ask to see your business plan.
Marketing needs to support business growth and achieve your business objectives. Even if you don't have a business plan, your consultant needs to know what your vision and business goals are. Otherwise how can they know if the activities they're planning will help you get there?
5. They don't explain how their proposed activities will result in sales
If marketing doesn't support sales then there is no point to it. Sales and marketing need to work hand in hand. If your consultant is not looking at how activities will result in sales then they are missing the point.
6. They don't measure what they are doing
If a marketing activity is not being measured then how do you know if it's working? A strategic marketer will make sure that all activities are being measured. They should also be clear about whether a measurement is an indicator or an outcome. An indicator is a check to see whether individual activities are working as they should. An outcome looks at the return on your investment across the whole buying journey. You need both.
7. They never challenge you to reconsider things you've done for a long time.
A good strategic marketer will question whether "the way we've always done things" is the best way. It might be... but it might not, and shouldn't be assumed. As the old adage goes, "if you always do what you've always done then you'll always get what you've always got." If you want to step up your business then getting strategic will pay off.
8. They never ask you difficult or awkward questions.
If strategic marketing was easy then you could do it by yourself. But it isn't and it requires more than an understanding of marketing tools and processes. It also requires perspective (I explain why in this blog) and critical thinking. If your consultant only ever asks questions that you know the answers to, then you probably would've worked out the solution for yourself by now.
One of my favourite testimonials is from my lovely client Edward Morris at EPM. He said, "Ros doesn’t let anyone settle too much. She’s always pushing us to keep improving. She’s given us a sense of direction and a structure to work from. She’s shown us how it should be done. It’s taken away a stress and a doubt."
If you're finding your marketing stressful and you're not sure if it's working, give me a call. I'll warn you, I'll almost certainly ask you some difficult questions! But I promise I'll help you work out the answers. By getting strategic you will feel confident that the marketing you are doing is going to work.