Smart People. Stupid Marketing.

Why do smart business people sometimes make stupid marketing decisions? Simple, they get sold.

I am an independent marketing consultant. “Big deal,” you may be saying, “I know a bunch of ‘marketing consultants.’” Ask yourself this question: Do they work for an independent firm with nothing to gain financially if you decide to purchase whatever marketing pitch they are giving you? If they work for a radio company, just because their title is “marketing consultant,” that doesn’t mean they really care what you do with your money. Sure they may be telling you that if what they are selling doesn’t make sense, then they don’t want you to buy it. Think about that for a minute, though. Do you honestly believe that the person who earns a commission (and therefore puts food on their plate) when you buy what they are selling doesn’t want you to buy something? If so, you should probably look up the definition of naïve.

A true marketing consultant has nothing to gain financially from you purchasing those radio spots, or that banner ad on the local newspapers website. They should make their money from the success that they bring to your marketing program, regardless of where they inform you to spend your marketing budget.

A common misconception in this industry lies with advertising agencies. Many think this is the way that they do business. After all, you do have to pay them for their creative time, right? What they may not be telling you, though, is that they are actually making more money from your media placement purchases. 10 – 15% actually. So for every $1,000 you spend on radio, $100 – $150 is actually going to your ad agency. Do you think they are ever going to full-heartedly recommend that you stop an ad from running, even if it is an obvious loser? Of course not, they would lose that commission. They’ll give you what seems to be a logical response: “Advertising messages must be heard 16 times before they work. Just wait it out, you have to let your message be delivered multiple times before you’ll see a response.”

Don’t fall into this trap. If your marketing consultant is doing the right thing, they’ll see very early if the idea they came up with isn’t working, and the first thing they’ll say is, “hey, we thought this would work, but it’s not working, so we need to pull this now, and re-allocate the budget to something else that we think will work better.” That’s what a consultant is supposed to do.

If you have someone call on you to tell you about a new marketing concept, and their title has anything related to consultant in it, one of the firs questions you should ask that person is: “How are you compensated for telling me about this program?” If they tell you they are paid a commission on sales, run. If they hesitate to tell you, run. If they tell you they aren’t compensated one way or another, they just think it would be good for your business (and you believe them), listen to the idea, and discuss the pros and cons.

I stand behind my belief that most people in business are of at least average or above average intelligence. It takes that to run even a marginally successful business. These people get overwhelmed by all of the available options when it comes to marketing their business. There are people calling every day with new ideas, and they all sound good. This is where the otherwise intelligent business person ends up making stupid marketing decisions. They think with their emotions, not asking for and analyzing the hard facts.

Find a consultant that you can trust to tell you the hard truth when you’re making a poor marketing decision. Find someone that is not afraid to tell you that you screwed up. And find a marketing consultant that gets paid for their efforts to help you make the right decisions, not one that gets paid based on what you decide to spend your money on.