Choosing a Marketing Partner - look Beyond Cultural Fit, Attitude & Skill set
Picking teams, whether it’s in school, sports or business, evaluates some common elements for a winning combination. Forget the popularity contest of grade school years; picking the right team member should look at:
- cultural fit,
- attitude (i.e. their the ability to learn), and
- the skill set required to make a contribution.
When selecting a marketing partner, those 3 items are important, but there are 6 additional questions to consider:
- Do they have relevant marketing experience?
- Do they collaborate with a vision to innovate?
- Do they understand business?
- Do you trust them as a knowledgeable and reliable resource?
- Do they have a network of business partners to leverage?
- Do they have a genuine interest in helping you grow your marketing knowledge?
A Marketing Thought Partner is a person who challenges and provokes divergent thinking and action for an organization. Their goal is to stretch your thinking and help you innovate using their breadth of experiences. They focus on teaching you and your team to be active participants, rather than a passive observers. They are there to help you ‘WIN’.
6 questions to ask when selecting your next marketing consultant:
1. Do they have relevant marketing experience?
Experience matters. Offline and Online. Today, marketing spans digital and traditional mediums and there is experience across the spectrum. How do you decide which experience is the right fit for your company? Relevant experience is subjective. Do you need a specialist or a generalist? How big is their toolbox? Do they know how to solve problems or is it a one size fits all approach? Do they have marketing experience in the areas that matter for your business (e.g. customer journey mapping, tradeshows, inbound marketing, adwords, SEO?)
Consider the way your buyers shop. What percentage of their sales journey is online vs. offline? Are you looking for specific experience in your industry?
If yes, perhaps a team member familiar with your business is the way to go. But it also comes with some tradeoffs. For example, if your industry is small, and/or has non-compete agreements – what is the opportunity for innovation?
If you consider a marketing partner without specific industry experience, do they have a demonstrated ability to connect dots and implement in a variety of arenas?
With the latter, you probably won’t get a ‘me too’ approach. A marketing partner like this will bring an objective lens to the table and challenge assumptions you believe to be the norm.
The result? Learnings from across industries and more creativity.
2. Do they collaborate with a vision to innovate?
Do they know how to collaborate with others? Will your marketing consultant be able to effectively work with you and your team? Have they worked in a breadth of industries and companies so they can bring different perspectives to the table?
How have they worked with previous clients? Is there a personality ‘fit’? Be sure to collaborate with a marketing partner you can learn from. One who is focused on getting the right marketing solutions for your business vs. just “being right”.
3. Do they understand business?
Do they understand business in general and the economy? Are they genuinely interested in helping your business grow? Do they ask the questions that provide them with a solid understanding of how you make money and the challenges you face? Do they understand your strengths and weaknesses? And if they don’t at the onset, do they exhibit the capacity to understand your business quickly?
Marketing strategy is the intersection of:
- your company (your business’ strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats),
- your competitors (who are your direct and indirect competitors and what position should you hold in the marketplace) and
- your customers (the who, what, where, when, why, and how of your customers).
A great marketing partner understands this and asks business strategy questions to inform appropriate marketing strategy.
And finally, do they understand the metrics that matter, not just for marketing, but for your industry as a whole?
4. Do you trust them as a knowledgeable and reliable resource?
A marketing partner might be knowledgeable, work well with others and understand your business, but without trust, your working relationship will suffer. When you discuss your business goals and budget are they able to give it to you straight? Are they comfortable disagreeing because they want to do what’s right for you? Is everything you say the gospel or is there a good amount of debate?
Anyone can be a ‘yes’ man (or woman). But, saying ‘yes’ all the time often ends up costing your business more money than they might make for your business.
Ultimately, do you trust that their recommendations are in the best interest of you and your company? Or do you find yourself questioning their moral compass? Marketing partners should know how to collaborate well and positively embrace conflict to create better strategy for you.
5. Do they have a network of business partners to leverage?
A (marketing thought) partner helps you build your business, not just by the work they do for you, but by the power and influence of their network. More than ever, business today is built through relationships, recommendations, and referrals. Are they a connector? Do they have a network of trusted partners to recommend?
6. Do they have a genuine interest in helping you grow your marketing knowledge?
Do they look for opportunities to educate you or do they withhold information? That old proverb about teaching a man to ‘fish’ is relevant in this final area. Do they want to “teach you to fish” or do they want be your continuous fish supplier? Knowledge is power – but collaboration is a competitive advantage.
A marketing partner is more than just another company you do business with. It’s an entity that has some skin in the game. Traditionally, consultants and agencies wouldn’t have been considered thought partners, because the notion of teaching you a skill so that you no longer need their services did not make good business sense. But that too is changing.
There is a need for skilled, on-demand marketers.
With the new transitional workforce, thought partners are the bridge to helping organizations ramp up and compete quickly.
Marketing partners come in different forms and sizes, and they are here to stay. Are you ready to select your next one?