Everyone’s a “Marketing Consultant”
I was speaking to someone the other day who told me he’d never imagined how many marketing companies there are. He also went on to say that, having met with many of them, he’d come out of the meetings with a clear understanding of what they’d cost him but no idea of what they proposed to do for him.
We stepped back, of course; and I explained to him that anyone who tried to impress him with a blizzard of jargon probably couldn’t help him get real-world solutions to his real-world issues. Jargon does not equal knowledge, and it certainly doesn’t equal practical expertise. We discussed what market research could provide, what marketing strategy is, and how implementation tactics should be designed to drive sales.
His relief was palpable.
So here’s the point:
It seems as though everyone and his pet Chihuahuas set himself up as a “marketing consultant.” (I found 36,800,000 results for “marketing consulting” on Google in 0.29 seconds.) People who have never been responsible for a product, a campaign, implementing a strategy, or growing a bottom-line have set themselves up as marketing gurus.
Part of the problem, of course, is that there are virtually no barriers to entry in the field.
Part of the problem is that marketing concepts, at the core, are pretty straight-forward; and so they seem simple. Effective implementation is difficult, but these “consultants” don’t concern themselves with that kind of petty detail.
Part of the problem is that too many people have learned to “talk the talk” without bothering to “walk the walk.” And self-absorbed pundits and academics have focused the conversation on angels on the head of a pin, hair-splitting discussions of the proper use and true meaning of each piece of jargon.
Part of the problem is that fewer and fewer people look at marketing as a whole anymore. Over-specialization is becoming endemic. If you look, for example, at the myriad “marketing” discussion groups on LinkedIn, the vast majority of people posting or participating are trying to explain why their part of the tail is wagging the dog. (I even came across someone the other day who was trying to get a discussion going based on the premise that what you need to be a marketer is a database.)
Yes, it is true. I find this nonsense upsetting. But I am also bored to tears with the pontificating, positioning, self-promoting, and just plain silliness that passes for a marketing discussion.
Marketing has a place – and I believe an important place – in creating a successful product and profitable enterprises.
But for the average businessperson, searching for someone to help with his/her marketing questions and issues has become a true case of “buyer beware.” There are hundreds of so-called marketing firms, consultants, and practitioners out there.
There really aren’t all that many who can produce results on the ground. But they stand out from the crowd because:
- They can explain simply (in language you can understand) what they can – and cannot – do for you.
- They can draw a straight line between their services and your profitability.
- And they can show you they’ve done it for others.
It’s really not much more complicated than that.
So, Practical Business Rule #1: If you don’t understand how someone who says he’s a marketing consultant can help you, he probably can’t. Don’t hire him.