I am sorry that you had a bad experience with the marketing firm you hired Rob. If your answers and questions on this board are any indication of the intellectual capital that your firm applies to it's client, and your concern is a reflection of the attitude your bring to your client -- then I would happily move to Australian to be your Director of Marketing.
If I decided to be my own plumber after having a bad experience with a plumber I would be taking cold showers. If I decided to be my own lawyer because of the bad experiences I have had with lawyers, well I am fairly certain that I would be sitting in prison.
If you find that your marketing consultant doesn't understand your business-- fire them. Period. No questions. No explanation needed. I don't providing marketing support for B2C companies -- because I don't get it and I respect my clients enough to know that there is someone better.
I do provide marketing support and services to high tech companies, companies that develop software, companies that sell services to other companies because those are spaces that I understand. (That isn’t all I or our companies do -- but I was trying to illustrate the point!)
The Role of Marketing
The most important role is understanding the scope of responsibility of a marketing team.
Traditionally marketing produces the leads, sales converts them. In a dysfunctional system marketing complains that sales can’t close and sales responds that the marketing doesn’t provide qualified leads. In a functional system marketing works effectively with sales. (And fundamentally marketing and sales should be working very closely with the production team.)
Marketing is not creating a website, ghost writing some blog posts, and sponsoring some webinars. That might be tacticsw of an overall marketing plan. Marketing includes branding, market segmentation, targeting, competitors research, CRM systems, customer/client feedback/satisfaction, pricing, and participation in core strategy and direction of the company.
Different Skill Sets
Different marketing consultants have different backgrounds which lead to different skill sets. Like different programming languages --the approach and skills will lead to a focuses or emphasis on different goals, strategies and tactics.
Some marketing professionals are really production managers that want to create collateral. Maybe they came out of the print or design industry. Maybe they are web programmers looking to add additional value to their websites. Other marketing consultants are organizational development specialist that like well developed processes and systems.
The carpenter sees woods and nails. The painter a canvass. An engineer a system to design.
Understanding the scope of your need will allow you to choose a marketing partner that will drive your success. If you are looking for someone who can support you in coordinating the marketing function of your company -- including but not limited to one of the specific areas above I recommend that you look for someone with a “Marketing Operations” background.
Combined with the different skills are different approaches. Once again, strongly influenced by the path to which the individual arrived at their current role, the approach of a specific marketing team will have a huge impact on your experience -- and their effectiveness in working with you. Over the years our team has developed and matured an approach to marketing operation which we call market-centric. It provides us great counsel in knowing what clients with whom we are more or less likely to be effective and successful.
Finding the Right One
So, now -- with that background we get to the issue at hand -- how to choose one which will “get” your business and help you grow. Here are four little pointers that I hope will help:
Know your outcomes: Don’t restrict yourself to specific strategies or tactics -- even if you have an inclining of what you want. Define the outcome you want. An outcome is measurable. Allow your marketing consultant to define a path.
Beware of prepackaged proposals: Throw away the template crap in the proposal. You are in a B2B space. Demand a customized personalize proposal that addresses your unique situation and concerns. If you don’t get it at the beginning of the relationship-- you certainly wont get it later.
Honor Intellectual Capital: A good proposal from a marketing consultant doesn’t just lay out what to do. That is their intellectual capital. They give that out for free and it becomes worthless. If you want to see a defined plan before you jump -- as you should -- pay for the intellectual capital by paying for the planning process. A good planning process will generate a good plan which you would have the capacity to implement with or without the consultant. Give yourself that option. Date before marrying.
Call References: No references? Then it’s probably not a good fit. No references in your space? Then it’s probably not a good fit. Don’t just get the list. Call them. Ask questions. Probe on issues of how they work. Do they partner? Do they learn? Do they change? To be successful the answer to all three should be yes.
B2B marketing and sales is challenging. Each market segment has a culture of rules, expectations and networks of relationships that need to be respected in the development and implementation of a plan. Successfully navigating this is essential in today’s world where the landscape is littered with failed companies that had superior technology, superior products, breakthrough ideas -- because they were unable to connect with their customer and develop a sustainable relationship.
Don’t let yours become one of them.