From Digital Strategist to Digital Marketer: What I learned and What Marketers Need from Consultants
"In 2012, after 6 years in strategic planning at various digital agencies, I switched coasts (East to West) and became a client-side digital marketer. Lately, I have been reflecting on the transition - and what other consultants and strategists could take away from that perspective to make clients (like me) more successful."
In 2012, after 6 years in strategic planning at various digital agencies, I switched coasts (East to West) and became a client-side digital marketer. Lately, I have been reflecting on the transition - and what other consultants and strategists could take away from that perspective to make clients (like me) more successful.
On landing, I initially tried to operate like a consultant, looking to identify and (helpfully) skewer inefficient and ineffective practices to turn them into best-in-class strategies. What I found, was that the painstaking deliberation and validation of recommendations was out the window. Also out the window: perfecting a creative brief, my army of copywriters, producers, and other support team members. If something was going to happen, I’d be the one to do it (or borrow the resources to do so), but I wouldn’t have time to write a 20-slide deck or a detailed SOW.
This was liberating and exhilarating – I stopped waiting for client approval and went and slayed dragons. I formed deeper relationships with some publishers, entered into beta programs, and tried to use our media budget as leverage. I learned over time to combine ideation, and execution/measurement into as compact a process as possible. Here’s a great idea, please buy it, now I’ll go do it, and tell you how it went. Then the deck gets written - after the project wraps up.
Over time, I’ve seen myself fall into the same patterns that used to terrify me as a consultant. The last-minute rescheduling’s, email sent at odd hours, the requests for impossibly precise case studies and benchmarks. I also pride myself on being as good a partner to my agencies and vendors as I wanted my former clients to be: transparent, open with metrics and strategies, constructively critical.
After nearly 3 years, I’ve seen some amazing things, and I have some suggestions to make my former peers more successful.
Reduce account manager turnover.
“Don’t find customers for your products; find products for your customers.”- Seth Godin
I subscribe my company to a variety of SaaS products for content marketing, social publishing, email, and analytics, and usually in the sales or onboarding process, I’ll be assigned an account manager (or my favorite euphemism – customer success manager). Depending on what they have to sell (let’s be honest), I might not want to engage in yet another sales call – and so there’s a delay, messages, and phone tag. Sometimes before I even get to meet my account manager face to face, somebody else has replaced him.
Client businesses are moving faster and faster- we have fewer people doing more work. I'm going to need more than just a 24-year-old with a script to justify getting on the phone. To be frank, coming to see me at the office, and bringing lunch, I'd vastly prefer to dozens of emails or voice mails asking about my digital strategy. You’ll learn more when I speak off the cuff over a sandwich – see above regarding the painstaking deck writing.
Senior relationships matter more than ever
“In the modern world of business, it is useless to be a creative, original thinker unless you can also sell what you create.” –David Ogilvy
I've never seen a vendor get turned out so fast as one where could not convince the CEO that a campaign was working. Having a sense of who in the organization is the executive sponsor of your precious turf is key- this is the person who will ensure you get more resources, but also be asked the tough questions at cost-savings o'clock. Know who it is for each of your clients. Want to keep your vendors? No matter how good the technology is, or how cool the Mashable article is, or how many case studies they have, or great product roadmap –be able to say why they saved the day.
Tests over case studies
"Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is I don't know which half." – John Wannamaker
With the price of impressions in free fall, and the cost of development largely one of soft vs. hard costs, a no-cost test was one of the best approaches I've seen to winning my business. A relevant case study that helps me learn about my competitors? Yes please. But a specific and relevant test? I’ve bought hundreds of thousands of dollars in services and products based on full and free testing. For me to be an advocate for your approach, think about what I can control most easily - my team's time. Let’s invest some together.
How bad would it have to go....
“One minute you’re up half a million in soybeans, the next minute your kids don’t go to college and they’ve repossessed your Bentley.” -Louis Winthorpe, Trading Places
How is the company doing? Before the company starts firing people, cutting discretionary budgets, changing direction? In the world of agency and consulting life, there are plenty of downturns in business - and just as much to be gained by acquiring new clients. Working across macro sectors has advantages – among them the ability to shift resources between clients. If you're thinking about taking off for the brand side, think about the growth in the sector and the likelihood that the firm can resist a bad year(s). How will you and your team ride that out? Client side challenges can be as diverse as having 20 clients: learn what the risks and pressures are for your clients internally, help them manage and succeed regardless – I’ll take that over a webinar any day.
And I’ll need that case study by EOD today, thanks.