True story – I once had a marketing consultant tell me that she took a “monkey-see, monkey-do” approach in directing her clients. In other words, she looked at what other consultants or companies were doing and just copied those strategies for her clients.
I had many reactions to this; but after I picked my jaw off the floor and regained my ability to speak, my first question was, “And they pay you for that?”
Well, of course they do because they don’t know any better.
So consider this a cautionary tale from which all organizations can learn. When it’s time to work with a marketing consultant, please, please, please ask them about their educational background as well as their experience in marketing.
Probably more than any other profession, marketing seems to come with a general perception that “anyone” can do it. Over the course of my career, I’ve seen many an intelligent, high-level manager hire or promote someone to the ranks of marketing who didn’t have even one day of formal training in it. But, of course, they did like to write, or worked in your particular industry for a long time in another capacity, or had a bubbly personality; or maybe it just saved the company money to hire someone without this direct experience. Of course they’re going to charge less than someone who is actually a proven, smart marketer!
But let’s be clear: That person is not qualified to direct or advise you on your marketing effort. And guess what? You didn’t save one penny in hiring them – in fact, you just lost a boatload of money.
Think about it. Marketing is amongst the most crucially important functions in your organization. It drives sales, it is the entire face of your organization, and everyone – literally, everyone – in your organization either interacts with marketing, or are somehow involved in marketing (whether they realize it or not).
Not having someone at the helm who is educated and trained in marketing is like having the inmates run the asylum. I can guarantee that at the very least, you’re losing a mountain of opportunity. And at the very most, those who operate marketing with a “monkey-see, monkey-do” mentality have little understanding of how important differentiation is. If you’re being led into doing what everyone else is doing, that’s the kiss of death for your competitive standing.
A good marketer never does what everyone else is doing. They conduct their homework and do the complete opposite of what competitors are doing – and they measure results each and every step of the way and adjust strategies as necessary.
So if you’re in a position to hire a marketing consultant or fill a marketing role within your organization, here are three questions you should ask (in this order):
- Where did you earn your marketing degree?
- HINT: If they don’t have a marketing degree, they aren’t qualified to advise you on marketing.
- Can you give me three specific examples of ways you’ve helped previous organizations position themselves effectively from competitors?
- HINT: If they can’t answer this question, they’re simply not good marketers.
- Show me how this differentiation played out in your marketing execution and the results you achieved.
- HINT: Telling is one thing, showing is another. You deserve to see how their strategies were executed (this shows innovation and creativity) and what the results were (this shows that they know what they’re doing, and why).
If your consultant or candidate gives you the “deer in the headlights” look to any or all of these questions, then it’s time to move on. You deserve better than monkey-see, monkey do marketing. And you sure as heck don’t want to pay for it – even if you think it’s cheaper in the short-term, you’re going to end-up paying sorely in the long run. You can’t say you haven’t been warned.