by Chris Shugart
Clients will sometimes ask me, “What do you think I should do? Do you have any recommendations or suggestions?” On the face of it, that may sound like a prudent question. However it’s not all that incisive if you consider that I often get that question during a first meeting in which I’ve just met the client. At that point I don’t know much about the individual, and even less about the particular business involved. I want to be helpful and I really want to sound knowledgeable, but I usually don’t know what to say.
As a marketing consultant, I’ve always used the analogy of the medical doctor to explain how I approach my work. I’m either bringing an ailing business back to health, or providing marketing support to keep an existing enterprise fit and sound. Asking for advice right out of the gate is a bit like asking for a prescription without a diagnosis. Providing answers without specific knowledge of any given company will usually be a poor solution.
Every business is unique. Even within a single industry, each company is going to be different in some significant way—each has its own set of problems, issues, successes and failures. There’s no one-size-fits-all marketing strategy that you can apply from one organization to the next in quite the same way. In order to be effective, the marketing consultant must first and foremost consult. That requires—to use the medical analogy—a thorough check-up.
Of course, there are fundamentals that remain consistent in most marketing plans, but those kinds of basics cannot by themselves produce a creative and compelling strategy. Like the writer who uses words, the musician who plays notes, and the painter who combines shapes and colors, the marketing consultant uses the basic tools of marketing to achieve a one-of-a-kind work of memorable advertising.
I think I might try something new the next time a potential client asks me what sort of marketing strategy or tactic I’d recommend. Perhaps I’ll say, “Get up on the table, open your mouth and say ‘aahh.”