One of the most difficult parts of being a marketing consultant…is the turn-around factor. You think you’ve got a client who gets it. And they give signals that indicate they do indeed get it. And then, one day, they leave you a note in an email saying that they’ve lost their committment to finish even the foundation of what would have been a best practices marketing plan and direction using proven methods. Or even worse, they’ve decided to give up this morning over coffee. Not just with your agency, but to give up on their product, their business. They’re packing it in.
The signs were all there. The slow uncovering of dodgy search results that seem to trail off into the distance and whisper: SPAM. The asides about the few marketers who did this or that best practices must-have for the client, to which they had only a “but they ripped me off”. Or how putting the right pieces of the puzzle into place “didn’t get me sales” right away. But you thought “I can change them!”. And they seem to be listening each time you dare to share a bit of truth. But are they?
I think we marketers really ought to be trying to do that more with clients, as difficult and fruitless as that most often seems to be. Good marketing is not unmarketing, it’s just responsible marketing…
As a marketer, one has to realize “You can’t change them. They have a marketing problem!” The roots are beyond your grasp. Well beyond.
It can be difficult when you take on a client not to feel responsible for their own shortsighted actions and decisions, their unrealistic self-delusions they keep inventing about how instantaneous marketing is supposed to be. I actually wrote another marketing post on LinkedIn about that (btw, feel free to comment or share it, or connect there).
Of course, marketing is not the same as advertising, any more than it is the same as the sales function that marketing makes possible. And even PPC ads require substantial streamlining and optimization to begin to convert and achieve true ROI. Much of the marketing I do, in fact, is not advertising: SEO, social media marketing, inbound marketing, PR, strategy. These services are far less expensive, and though not instantaneous, they are long-lasting and achieve cumulative ROI in the longer term. And yet too many clients think that these things, though cheaper, should work like a well-aged, constantly tweaked advertising campaign. Desperation takes many forms and wears many masks, but it usually behaves the same.
Most marketers today just accept that turnover for marketing clients tends to be rather high, especially for smaller agencies, because there is simply not enough people to try charming the client back into the fold. In fact, most often the bigger agencies don’t call back client who is “difficult” And let’s be honest, many agencies out there, perhaps even most, don’t actually care about what happens to the client’s business, whether they are “good clients” or not. They’ve seen too much already. How can I not sympathize with that position. Of course, I do. And yet, I understand marketing as helping–coaching, guiding, and thinking problems through on behalf of a client. That is what a consultant is supposed to do.
All that said, there are simply WAY too many consultants out there making promises to clients about utterly useless crap: can’t-miss Facebook marketing for B2B, black hat SEO, fake social media profile links, “tricks”, pixie dust, mirages. These consultants are demolishing small businesses by the tens of thousands every day by poisoning the minds of their owners and decision-makers on the subject of marketing and preventing those businesses from growing due to a wildly unrealistic outlook on how marketing today actually works.
This post may not go viral, or make me or my agency any money, but at least it says what’s on my mind. I think we marketers really ought to be trying to do that more with clients, as difficult and fruitless as that most often seems to be. Good marketing is not unmarketing, it’s just responsible marketing, or put more simply, it’s simply being responsible.
- Mark Brimm is founder and Marketing Director @ 123interface.com and author of AdWords University and The SEO Instinct.