The term Marketing Consultant may generate questions in some people’s minds. What does a Marketing Consultant do? What special skills do Marketing Consultants possess? Perhaps the most important question about a Marketing Consultant is: does my business need one? This article will attempt to answer all of those questions and more about the role of the Marketing Consultant.
When did the term Marketing Consultant originate?
To understand the role of the Marketing Consultant in today’s modern world, it is interesting and informative to go back to the very beginning, to the roots of the Marketing Consultant. The term marketing was first note in print in the 1500’s, when it began to appear in dictionaries of the time. The word comes from the Latin mercatus, meaning marketplace or merchant. This is in reference to the process of buying or making products and selling those products at a market.
Contrast that simple 500-year-old definition with the recent definition of marketing put forth by the American Marketing Association. They define marketing as “the activity, set of institutions, and processes for creating, communicating, delivering, and exchanging offerings that have value for customers, clients, partners, and society at large.” A bit more complicated than the original definition, but if you look closely at the essence, the definitions are the same: buying and selling products. The difference comes in with the deliberate nuance with which marketing can target specific audiences today, and the tremendously increased complexity of the modern marketplace. This complexity is exactly why businesses need marketing consultants. The world is too complex, and marketing is too important to your business, not to have a trained professional that specializes in marketing in this multi-faced, online world. So now you know you would benefit from a Marketing Consultant. But what exactly does a Marketing Consultant do?
What a Marketing Consultant does
To begin to understand what a Marketing Consultant does, let’s start with a quote from the pen of the business guru Peter F. Drucker himself. Drucker wrote that “The aim of marketing is to know and understand the customer so well the product or service fits him and sells itself.”
This definition fits the essence of marketing and the Marketing Consultant. The main job of the Marketing Consultant is as simple, and as complex, as understanding the customer. Understanding the customer, the business, the values, the drive behind the business is a necessary first step any Marketing Consultant should attempt. This may seem counter-intuitive. Why not just pay the Marketing Consultant, have them look around the website and the office, and create a marketing campaign to help with sales? Why not put some stuff online too–maybe an add on Facebook? Maybe you get them popping up all the time when you are browsing around. If a Marketing Consultant jumped right in like that, I would recommend running in the other direction. That would be like a doctor prescribing medication before they have had a chance to diagnose what is going on with you. Just like a doctor getting to know you before helping, a good Marketing Consultant must first listen. That is correct. Listen. They should sit down with you, the client, and get to know you. What do you value? What gets you up early and has you stay up late? What are you passionate about? What is the value that customers get out of buying their product or service. To help explain why listening is a vital first step in the consulting process, let us take a look at one of the ten most influential business books ever written, Stephen Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. If you haven’t read it in a while, rest assured that Franklin-Covey does brisk business with training of organizations of all sizes and types, to get this inspired wisdom out to the business community. If you have never read the book, the 7 habits are:
- Be Proactive
- Begin with the End in Mind
- Put First Things First
- Think Win Win
- Seek First to Understand, Then be Understood,
- Sharpen the Saw.
These are all noble habits to incorporate into one’s life, but for this article, let us focus in on Habit 5, Seek First to Understand, Then be Understood. If a Marketing Consultant wants to be successful, this is the beginning of every client interaction. A competent Marketing Consultant would start with telling the client about the research they have conducted on their business model, and then offer suggestions, perhaps even a fully realized marketing plan, to help the customer with their bottom line. In contrast, a wise Marketing Consultant would not start by telling the customer anything. The successful Marketing Consultant would start by asking the customer a question, such as “How are you doing today”?
The secret all Marketing Consultants should know
Seeking First to Understand can be frustrating for someone not in the habit of listening. Many people appear to be listening when they are in a conversation, but what is really happening inside their head is not listening to the speaker, but simply waiting until the speaker is done, so that they can tell the listener what their own thoughts are on the topic. If a Marketing Consultant truly wants to be of service to the customer, they must understand the secret of Habit 5, Seek First to Understand, Then be Understood. That secret is this. Everyone sees the world differently. However, everyone thinks that everyone else sees the world the same way they do. Nothing could be further from the truth. It is only through intense listening, conscious questioning and thoughtful reflection that another person can understand the viewpoint of another. Once the Marketing Consultant understands and can see the world, the business and the products or service as the client sees them, only then can the Marketing Consultant begin to serve the client in any meaningful way.
The Marketing Consultant understands that this is not a one time only endeavor. Understanding the customer is a continuous process. Talking and understanding the client is an essential first step, but it is not a one-off task. The wise Marketing Consultant uses a plethora of tools, including customer surveys, collecting online user data from social media sites and using focus groups are a few of the ways that Marketing Consultants continuously work to deeply understand the client and the customer base.
Is there a difference between selling and marketing?
The terms selling and marketing have often been used in the literature as interchangeable, synonyms for the same type of service. This is far from the truth. Selling is simply the exchange of cash for the purchase of a product. The end result of marketing should be sales however marketing is, at its heart, understanding, meeting and satisfying the customer needs.
Many experts agree that there are distinct concepts in marketing. These concepts can be organized into five broad categories: Production concept, product, selling concept marketing concept, and societal marketing concept. A Marketing Consultant can help with every one of these steps, from bring a new product to life, to marketing to specific niches in society. With the advice and assistance from a Marketing Consultant, a business can create and maintain lasting relationships with their customers. This customer loyalty can increase the visibility of the brand and keep current customers, and can also help attract new clients to the product or service. This in turn will help generate traffic to your business, whether it is foot traffic to a brick and mortar store, or online traffic for an e-commerce site.
What are marketing strategies?
When discussing marketing strategies, it is helpful to think of them in two broad categories: offline and online. Offline strategies are the more traditional methods of marketing such as print adds, radio and television spots, and even attending conferences and trade shows in person.
Online marketing strategies can be an essential component to any successful marketing campaign. These can be a part, but are not a necessary part of every marketing campaign. The underlying reason for this is the concept of Generational Marketing. There are five distinct generations currently in our workforce and in the marketplace, and each generation has distinct needs, desires, preferences and motivations. What works with one generation may not appeal to another. To learn more about this, check out my blogs on the topic of Generational Marketing, such as
- GENERATIONAL MARKETING CONSULTANT: HOW CAN IT HELP MY BUSINESS
- GENERATIONAL ISSUES IN THE WORKPLACE: HOW THEY WORK TOGETHER
To find out more about marketing to specific generations, such as the Baby Boomers, read Boomer Consumer Part 3: Buying Habits of the Baby Boomers for some fascinating information that can help your business grow.
Online marketing strategies are becoming more and more important to businesses.When it comes to online marketing strategies, content is king. Specifically, new content that is informative and engaging to the consumer. There are many ways to engage customers online now, including blogs, social media posts, and even videos about your product or service. Having new content is important for something called Search Engine Optimization, or SEO. If you haven’t heard about this concept, you need to look into a company that can optimize your SEO. Research has shown that most people who do a search for a product, business or service almost always exclusively look at the first page of search results. So you want to find ways to optimize that search so that when your business, product or service is being searched for, your business comes up on the first page of search results. There is an entire science behind SEO, so it is suggested that you engage the service of professionals to help you create this optimization of your website.
Ideally then, a Marketing Consultant will work with you, your clients and your business to understand what you value personally, and what you value as a company and why you believe in your product or service. The Marketing Consultant will then be able to help you understand exactly how to market your product or service best to fulfill a need in any of the five generations currently in the workplace. The Marketing Consultant will know which generations will respond better to print adds, radio and tv spots or Facebook ads, and which would respond to social media posts, blogs and informative videos.
Marketing has been around for more than five hundred years. While the tools of marketing have changed, the essence of marketing has not. Marketing is still about buying or producing products and selling those on the market. The market is much more multi-layered and complex than it was 500 years ago. With several generations of consumers in play, along with the vast array of online and off line marketing strategies, the hiring of a competent, experience marketing consultant, especially one who specializes in Generational Marketing