Avoid These Pitfalls to Get the Most Out of Your Marketing Consultant

As a founder, you have spent years working long hours to make your company a reality. You know the ins and outs better than anyone else. While it is tempting to think you can gain amazing insights on your own by reading 800-word articles online, you will eventually need to turn to experts to augment knowledge gaps. Engaging a consultant with thorough knowledge of his or her expertise area can help you achieve results.

However, it can be hard to fully rely on your newly hired consultant. It is natural to feel like it will take at least several months to get him or her up to speed before you can trust any input and advice. However, a lengthy waiting period can prove to be a detrimental mistake.

Avoid these four pitfalls to get the most out of your consultant:

  1. Driving in the Slow Lane
    It is common for clients to spend some time debating recommended strategies. However, there are risks to keeping all available strategies on the table for an extended time. A competitor can beat you to the punch, or you can end up losing valuable time. In some cases, you might completely miss the boat on a marketing opportunity. At some point, though, you will have to trust your consultant’s recommendation.

    In one instance, a client went overboard. In the time it took the client to think over our suggestions, the competition got a ton of media coverage and made waves while our client was left in the dust. Three years later, the competitor enjoyed a phenomenal exit. In the meantime, our client was in the process of pivoting to a new market.

  2. Missing the Boat
    Be ready when an opportunity is knocking. Keep in mind that opportunities are rarely perfect, so take the ones that come along and use them to their full extent. Dismissing an opportunity because it is not perfect can sabotage your big break.

    For example, we had a client prepped for an opportunity to appear in The Wall Street Journal. With the opportunity in hand, the business leaders stalled and decided to pivot the direction of the story to something that they thought would be “something more interesting.” Against our advice, they refused to answer questions they considered uninteresting and demanded a “better” reporter. Following a few interactions with our client, the reporter moved on to a different story. We lost the feature article.

  3. Blind Trust
    You made the decision to hire your consultant so trust him or her. However, blind trust can be just as harmful as a lack of trust. There is nothing wrong with thinking things over, and it is critical to fully understand how to implement the strategy.

    Consultants use their expertise to provide recommendations that best aligns with the goals of your company. Your job is not to question the value of recommended strategies; it is to determine whether they are feasible to undertake with your company’s resources. You know your company best. Ask for data and qualitative backup for their recommendations, and stay in the loop.

  4. Jumping to Conclusions
    In a particularly memorable instance, a client was not hitting its numbers. The company quickly decided to replace its SEO agency. When the client transitioned, traffic began to plummet, and the downward trend only continued as the remaining individuals spent more time on fire drills and finding ways to look busy and valuable.

    Afterward, we were able to use data to illustrate that the failure came from the affiliate program. The client needed to reallocate resources, and it took three months for us to regain the SEO losses. Initially, the company balked at our advice because we had not yet gained an understanding of the intricacies of their marketing programs. What the client failed to realize, though, was how to pinpoint the necessary data to make metrics-based business decisions.

Do not doubt yourself. If you are confident in your hiring decision, then the consultant will have valuable input and advice on day one. The ideal hire should come with an impressive pedigree and demonstrate the ability to spearhead marketing strategies that drive results. With your combined knowledge, you may be pleasantly surprised by what you can achieve together.

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Categories Leadership, StrategyTags , ,

Marketing Budgets: A Roadmap to Revenue

Research has shown that a majority of companies have increased budgets, with only roughly 9% experiencing a decreasing budget. With your budget laid out before you, you’ll have a roadmap of where your growing company is headed and how much luggage you can need for the next year.

It is essential that you create a plan to accompany your marketing budget in order to know exactly when and how to execute your specific strategies. List the tactics, costs and the results that the plan is expected to yield. Make sure to account for administrative costs, such as postage and subscriptions.

Just like when you drive a car cross-country, you have to think about the long haul. Determine how many miles you have to drive, so to speak, before you need to switch lanes or take an off-ramp. Otherwise, there’s a chance you might be lulled into a false sense of security while coasting and miss your turn. In the business world, this can have devastating long-term consequences.

Creating a Sound Plan

The first thing you need to know about creating a sound marketing plan is that they take time to prepare, which is why it’s good to get started on them early. Specifically, you’ll want your plan to include:

  • A set of dates to examine the progress you’ve made
  • A list of financial goals
  • A brand strategy
  • A revenue generation strategy
  • A positioning plan
  • A general overview of your products and/or services

Including employees in the planning process so that they can help you generate new ideas and goals. They should know which goals they need to set for themselves so that they can start making plans of their own. When everyone is on the same page, you and your company stand a better chance of success.

Central Concepts of Your Budget

Creating marketing budgets involves setting annual objectives, which include both strategic and quantitative goals. To simplify the process, I like to split the budget between brand awareness, lead generation, partner marketing, and administrative activities.

At the beginning stages of drawing up your budget, it’s good to revisit your brand strategy, product roadmap, pricing strategy and distribution channels. How does your current position in your industry influence your overall budget? What is it that sets you apart from all other companies in the marketplace, and how do you plan on conveying that to your target audience?

Take a long and honest look at your line of products and services and ask yourself if you’ll need to devote space on your budget to make your products or services stronger. Will you need to hire more marketing support, sales representatives, or specialists to help you move your products or services?

Your next step should be to map out your top three marketing campaigns. Even if you have several campaigns, it’s best to focus on your top three. Always set aside a testing budget for new tactics, new products, and unforeseen competitive situations.   Once you’re done with your marketing budget and your written plan, regularly revisit your plan throughout the year to make sure you’re on track.

Categories Marketing, StrategyTags ,

Five Marketing Myths

With the wealth of articles and how-to guides available online, it would seem that almost anyone with a modest budget could run a successful marketing campaign. Unfortunately, many of these resources repeat outdated—and sometimes just plain misguided—information. Familiarize yourself with these five marketing myths to make sure you avoid these common missteps.

  1. “Just make it pretty.”
    Visual aesthetics should enhance your marketing efforts, not define them. After all, you can design the world’s most beautiful advertisement—which may capture the attention of potential clients—but if you do not deliver clear information identifying the value of your products and services, customers will be quick to move on to competitors who can demonstrate these benefits.
  2. “We don’t need a marketing plan.”
    You wouldn’t drive blindfolded, would you? Launching a marketing campaign without a plan can be just as reckless. Too often, companies invest significant sums of money into campaigns that miss the mark. Perhaps they failed to reach their target demographic or did not realize that the competition was offering comparable products at a fraction of the cost. A solid marketing plan contains all the information you need to understand the factors affecting your business’s ability to operate effectively in the marketplace and to maximize ROI.
  3. “Let’s just build the product (or service) first.”
    If you build it, they will come. Or will they? Startups are prone to the misconception that all they need is a great idea and a consumer base will develop all on its own. Once again, we’re back to driving blind. Market research needs to happen before a product hits the production room floor. The alternative—assuming there is a market for your latest goods and that you already have an innate understanding of this market’s desires—can lead to disappointing returns.
  4. “Don’t waste time on messaging.  Let’s just get out there.”
    Your message is the bridge between your product and your customers. Without it, the two will have a hard time reaching each other. In inbound marketing, your message provides an opportunity to appeal to your target market’s particular wants and needs. It helps potential customers answer the question, “What’s in it for me?”
  5. “We have to include every feature and benefit in our materials.”
    Sometimes, less is more. Your customers are busy and already bombarded with a flood of advertisements. If you want to make a lasting impression, you’ll have to be clear and concise. Highlight only the most important features of your product or service. Design your sales pitch so it can be absorbed in a split-second. Chances are, that’s as much time as you’ll have to convince a prospective buyer. You can provide more information after you’ve generated the lead.
Categories Branding, MarketingTags , , , , , , , ,