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Marketing Advice or Snake Oil: When to Walk Away (or Run)

I have worked in the management consulting/marketing/PR industry for a long time know.  I have seen many trends emerge and die.  I have seen the good, the bad and the ugly.  My colleagues and myself have also shaken our heads more than a few times when self-professed experts or gurus have emerged offering a one-sized solution.  This is the modern-day version of snake oil.  In fact, there are some signs that you need to watch for in order to know when to run away from the expert when he or she recommends the following:

Image owned by TaylorMade Solutions

Image owned by TaylorMade Solutions

Outsource All of Your Marketing

If a consultant recommends that you don’t need a marketing presence within your organization, this should be a red flag. If your business needs to understand and build an audience, have data and research to develop products or solutions, you need a marketing presence internally.  You might not be able to have an entire team based on your size and revenues, but you need at least one person who has the knowledge and real marketing experience to guide your organization.  You need someone who has a vested interested in the long-term success of the business and who thinks about the overall strategy versus just tactics and campaigns.

Metrics

If either your consultant or your marketing team informs you that it is not necessary to measure your marketing efforts, run!  Yes, run.  While there are many thoughts on how to measure marketing and just what metrics need to be in place, they are absolutely essential.  They key of course is to have a marketing leader who understands the fundamentals of marketing and also how to align those activities to the overall KPIs of the business.  Not connecting the two is a big miss.

Social Media

You Don’t Need To Be In Social Media

If a management consultant advises you that you don’t need to be in social media, first laugh and then run away.  In this day and age, to still hold this belief is like telling a business that they don’t need to answer the telephone when it rings.

The issue at hand with social media is that far too many consultants, including those that specialize in marketing still approach social media as a push tool.  They don’t understand social media and/or the power.

You Need To Have A Presence in ALL Social Channels

If you are told by your marketing team that you need to have a presence in all social channels (Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Google+, Instagram, etc. etc.) you need to evaluate your marketing leadership.  This approach will fail and fail miserably.  This is neither practical, nor strategic

Public/Customer Comments

You Should Turn OFF the Ability for the Public to Comment

If you are going to go this route I would recommend not bothering to venture into the world of social media.  Social media is intended to be social.  Your customers and prospects aren’t interested in push communications.  They want to engage.

You SHOULD Delete All Negative Comments

If you want to create a problem and possibly an online backlash, this would be good advice.  The only reason I would recommend deleting a comment would be if it was containing threats, profanity or a personal attack.  Before deleting any comment you should have a policy in place and publicly shared that outlines the reasons that a comment would be removed.

You Should ALWAYS Respond to Negative Comments

While we might all have the urge to respond to negative comments, stop and think about it first.  Will responding to the comment give the person a bigger audience than he or she already has?  Is this a justified negative comment?  Can you take the conversation offline?

You Should NEVER Respond to Negative Comments

Again you need to apply some logic and common sense.  If you never address the issues at hand, you need to question what your purpose and objectives are for social media.

Regardless of the situation, businesses need a social media playbook to be able to quickly, consistently and accurately navigate social business.  A good social media management consultant will be able to give you the skeleton of such a tool or develop one for you. Your budget will determine whether it is a skeleton or a full-fledged playbook.

Blogs

If your consultant and/or marketing team tell you that you need a blog, think about this carefully.  The same applies for if you are directed that you should not have a blog.  While blogs are all the rage, do you have a good understanding of content marketing?  Do you understand SEO, how to write a blog headline, or know which platform you should be using?  Do you have the time to do it properly?  If you say no or are not sure, do you have someone leading your marketing team that has this expertise?  If you say no or you don’t know, you need to engage the right person to lead you and your organization through this.

As you can see, there are many indicators that business leaders and owners should look for when getting marketing advice or hiring marketing leadership. It doesn’t need to be a frightening experience, but hiring the right people in the early stages is important.  Hire for experience and knowledge immediately. Hiring resources that you think will learn or gain experience as they go, is not the way to build and protect a brand.  What do you think?  What has been your experience in hiring the right marketing resources?

The #1 Way to Build Your Sales (Hint: Hire A CMO)

Great companies stack their C-suite with the best people they can find to support the CEO and the objectives of the company.  Great companies also realize that in order to build their brand and ultimately sales, they make marketing an integral part of the overall strategy. Entrepreneur.com said it best: many current business battles are marketing battles.  “The CMO owns the marketing strategy–and that often includes the sales strategy–and oversees its implementation. The CMO will know (or learn) your industry inside out and helps you position your product, differentiate it from your competitors’ products, enlist distributors, and make sure customers learn to crave your product….If your business’ success depends on marketing, you need to hire a CMO.”  So, let’s look at #1 way to build your sales:  Hire a Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) 

image courtesy of naturallyadvanced.wordpress.com

image courtesy of naturallyadvanced.wordpress.com

Many think that CMOs are for large enterprise organizations.  That thinking couldn’t be farther from the reality of today’s business world.  In fact, leading companies whether start-ups or small and medium businesses have realized that they need to have a CMO on the team as early as possible.  CMOs work with the rest of the C-suite to build the overall corporate strategy and then they lead the execution of that strategy.  CMOs understand how to establish an integrated marketing strategy and look at all pieces of the puzzle.  They look at everything from segmentation to pricing, packaging to audiences/channels, advertising to digital strategies and tactics.  A strategy that doesn’t include all aspects of traditional and digital marketing is a missed opportunity.

Still confused and uncertain?  If so, ask yourself the following questions:

  1. Have you ever confused your customers or prospects with inconsistent messaging/advertising?  For example, if you are selling a specific lifestyle does all collateral including website, social channels, advertising, wording and imagery reflect that lifestyle?  If not, then you have confused your customers and prospects.
  2. Is your marketing department staffed with great people, but with no real marketing experience?
  3. Are you having to spend more time mentoring and guiding the marketing team to stay on track?
  4. Is your organization shifting gears, but still gravitating to old markets and/or practices that are no longer your core business?
  5. Do you have a burning platform, but don’t have the marketing team to build and/or execute upon an integrated marketing strategy?
  6. Do you desperately need a strategic business plan?
  7. Have you been attacking your marketing at a tactical level hoping that something will “stick”?
  8. Do you have partnerships with third party brands that have stringent branding requirements and implementation?
  9. Do you have a senior marketing strategist/practitioner onboard who can talk the talk with your branding partners?
  10. Have you implemented the tools of the trade or your competitors, but just aren’t seeing results?
  11. Do you need to build your  brand and protect that brand?
  12. Are you marketing and communicating in both traditional and new digital channels?
  13. Do you need to reach the right audiences to sell to?
  14. Do you know what evergreen content is, or even if you need it?
  15. Do you know how to develop and execute inbound marketing?
  16. Do you know what metrics you need to focus on?
image courtesy of contentmarketingup.com

image courtesy of contentmarketingup.com

If you answered yes to more than one of these questions, you need a CMO.  The second biggest mistake after not hiring a CMO is waiting to hire the CMO.  It is important to note that CMOs are strategic by nature.  Developing a strategy without the CMO should be done only as a last case scenario.  Developing the strategy and then hiring a CMO will likely result in hiring someone who is tactical only. Alternatively you might only attract someone who has experience in the areas identified. An integrated strategy will not exist and some important components may be totally missed.

So, summarizing entrepreneur.com, if your business depends on marketing, don’t wait.  Hire a CMO.