My experience as a marketing consultant of over 35 years has allowed me to work with highly opinionated clients. I believe they have misplaced their true calling as a marketing professional. Although their credentials are impressive (executives, lawyers, doctors), most of them have no experience in marketing. But they treat the marketing task like a job for which they are the experts. Even after 35 years of experience, I don’t claim to be that lucky. Marketing is a lot like investing. You can’t predict the outcome. There are many variables, and markets can be fickle. Strategies that work well for one product/service may not be applicable to another. Diversification has been proven to be one of the most secure strategies. Diversify your investments.
It may seem cowardly to say this, but it is from a seasoned marketer. Is my conviction lacking? Where is my conviction? They were both simmering until the bulls return, so I put them aside when the economy collapsed. I recommend to all my clients, no matter how “certain” their strategy is, that they practice prudence.
It is cowardly for a client to “bully me” into implementing his marketing plan, often using unproven concepts or worse, his offspring. Here are some possible answers to this question:
• 1. He is the client and it is his money we are spending.
• 2. I have advised him of my opinion and he has chosen to dismiss it.
• 3. If the effort fails, he can’t blame me.
• 4. The customer is always right.
Let’s go over these points more. How can a marketing professional allow a client to spend his hard-earned cash on something that may not work? This business practice is ethical or moral. First of all, we don’t know if the strategy and/or concepts are worthwhile as marketing efforts. Despite how amateurish they might appear to first-time professionals, I’m aware of numerous successful DIY marketing campaigns. Marketing often depends on creativity. It requires new, unique and innovative ideas. In an industry that is rife with supercilious, obnoxious marketing “gurus”, I am unique in that I don’t insist on my way being the best. In all modesty I don’t believe that and will never insist on anything.
I believe that both he and I, the successful business client, approach our marketing goals as equal competent, intelligent humans – business owners, in fact – with common objectives. We want to both emerge from this experience with positive outcomes, hopefully a profit, and winning teamwork.
However, I’m not ignorant. This may be my opinion, but it is not the truth with certain clients. I often don’t understand why these clients want my help. I find that clients need someone to help them with the visual “dirty” work while they do the directing. My experience is that the “dirty” work usually involves the marketing package or graphic design. Many clients find this useless, perhaps because they don’t have the expertise to do it. Ironically, this is my favorite piece of the puzzle. If the presentation was not professional and attractive, the whole effort could have ended up on the back burner.
It is quite funny (and peculiar) that clients such as this don’t seem able to tell the difference between a great presentation and one that is flawed. So they seldom object to the part I take pride in. I find this fortunate because, even though their strategy or concept may not be ideal, when combined with my winning presentation, it has a good chance of succeeding.
As I have said, this client enjoys dominance over the people with whom he works, which makes it difficult to see the benefits of collaboration. It doesn’t matter to me how much a client values my input, as I don’t take ownership of the work I do. My business is open to all clients. I value their ideas, goals, and opinions. No matter what obstacles they may face, I will work hard to help them achieve their goals. Although I prefer to have clients who trust my experience and advise, and I luxuriate when they give me complete control over the job, I will work with any client, despite any humiliation or insult. It is important that clients feel satisfied working with me and pay me accordingly. This is what matters in business.
Let’s rephrase the question: Which is more qualified to determine marketing strategy? Marketing expert or client? It would appear that the expert is better qualified from an experience standpoint. The changes in the economy have made it seem that the client is more qualified than the expert. However, the client may still be valid if he accepts that the expert’s talents and insights are more valuable than his client as a player. Both. Both the client and his customers know his business intimately, while the marketing expert understands marketing (which is his company) and the behaviour of the markets. The client and the marketing expert form a formidable team. Their success will depend on how they work together.