David Burn wrote a piece over at AdPulp yesterday, where he featured a conversation we had earlier in the week. He was eloquent in dealing with the subject of why we are so reluctant to outwardly promote our consulting businesses in our respective mediums. I recommend you read it if you're struggling to prospect for new leads as an independent.
But for me, this also highlights a problem that all agencies and independent ad-types seem to face. We're all eager to push a client into creating the perfect balance between identity and promotion, but in our own prospecting efforts we show reticence for best practices. We either bludgeon people to death with "asks" or play it too soft. We're like the living example of that latest series of Bud Light ads.
And you know what all this reveals to me? It shows me why every business (even agencies) NEED to work with an outside consultant or agency on their marketing.
The Little, Extra Push
I know, I know — it's rather disingenuous of me, a consultant, saying that every brand should work with a consultant. But let's be realistic about doing things yourself. The best of us find self-promotion the most difficult of tasks. Even companies with so-called "internal" agencies, usually end up making those groups separate entities that pitch to their "clients."
It's just common sense. It comes down to focus and perspective. We're too close to the efforts. We're too close to the day to day of the operation of the business. So when we go to promote ourselves, we find ourselves unable to see what the customer sees. And so we endlessly debate and self-doubt direction.
The main value of a good agency or consultant relationship goes beyond the ideas and gets into energy and enthusiasm. The consultant doesn't have to deal with the warts of the day to day. They just have to deal with what "rocks" about your company. There's something to be said for that. That's one of the reasons I do The BeanCast in the first place. It's all about getting me out of the feedback loop and engaging with new perspectives that motivate me forward as a business. (I guess I just take you all along for the ride. ;)
Never Underestimate Outside Perspective
And speaking of perspective, that's another important reason to go outside the organization for marketing help.
From best practices within your industry vertical to market perceptions to just plain common sense, a good consultant or agency will help you see the true value that hides within your brand and promotions. I know this first hand on my own brand. One of the first things I did was hire 93 Octane when the show started growing in popularity. It's not because I'm not a capable marketer who can create an awesome brand identity and sell the heck out of it. It's because I know better than to drink my own bath water.
What they gave me was insight and perspective that I can't see being so close to my business. And frankly I'd hire them again to market me now if I could afford it. (Hey, this podcast thing isn't exactly a cash cow.) Because they would remind me that my site has no strong call-to-actions for my business and is not leading people effectively from the content to my consultancy.
Like I said, it happens to the best of us. We all need a little perspective.
Remember, Your "Picker" Is Broken
Finally, and probably most important, I get back to something I've talked about before. It's the fact that our collective "picker" is broken.
Picking the right promotion or creative idea is far too susceptible to subjective predilections. Think about the last promotion you picked from a line-up of creative work. Did you go back to the brief and measure the work against the strategy? A good consultant is there to make sure that happens. Because all of us are predisposed to choose the work that makes us feel the best or that we appreciate the most, regardless of whether it makes sense to our market. That's why I had that conversation with David in the first place this week. I wanted to know what I was doing wrong with prospecting. And with his perspective (and my perspective to him) we were able to ask the right questions and focus each of our efforts a little better. We were able to make better choices because we weren't locked into self-talk.
So a word to the wise to all businesses, whether corporate monoliths, big dumb agencies or small independents: Don't discount the value of a little outside help when it comes to your marketing. Because perspective is everything in this business.