Manifesto From A Marketing Agency Consultant
Dec 6, 2014
Marketing agency consultants (this, to us, includes digital transformists and strategists) often get a bad rap—sometimes for good reason. We’ve worked with, next-to, alongside and across from many consultants in our careers and as a result, we wrote this manifesto to represent some of the things we have learned and come to believe.
The greatest challenge has been to stay true to these principles in the face of tradition, economics and flat out fear of change both on our part and the part of our clients and their organizations.
This is what we believe and how we work:
1. Consultants (e.g. Management Consultants) are often perceived as arrogant, hiding in the fog of ambiguity and lacking in accountability. Don’t be a consultant. Be, instead, a liberator and a visualizer of amazing possibilities grounded in equal parts data, facts and creativity.
2. Examine more work product, interactions and then data, because it’s most likely a human problem you’re addressing that’s masquerading in a technology costume.
3. Don’t harp on the importance of “strategy.” Your clients know that strategy is important. You don’t have to sell that notion to them. They know this better than you ever will.
4. Your client needs tools to help them confront a future they can only guess at. Your value is giving them options that provide directional confidence.
5. When you engage with clients, use compassion to gain context. Understand that shit is coming at them from all angles—relentlessly.
6. If you assume your client understands your value—you have none. Show them over time through smart work that illustrates you understand their business and what they need it to do. You can only earn it.
7. Respect the weight of your client’s decisions. They have to deal with the fallout should your ideas fail. Find creative ways to share that weight.
8. If your clients lean toward solutions with precedent—you’re not visualizing their own possibility clearly. Every client’s possibility is different. Find it.
9. Know that you have signed up for a hard job. Walking powerful people through the dark with no guarantees or net is not an enviable role. But also know that this is the only way to find your client’s unique advantage.
10. Doing again what you just did for someone else isn’t how you make strategy. It’s how you cope with fear.
11. Increasing your client’s odds of success ALWAYS trumps risk management. Help your client understand that the most valuable strategy isn’t always the risk mitigation stuff the big guys sell, it’s the fast, but mitigated, fail stuff rapid prototyping brings to increase the odds of success.
12. Value is NOT commensurate with time or exertion. Great ideas come faster to those who’ve seen more and think about it more diligently. For that reason, don’t structure process or compensation on time or exertion.
13. Your client’s dominant logic is short-term affordability—not long-term value creation.
14. If your strategy stretches beyond one year, you’ve made a wrong turn. Help your client wrap their mind around the right initial steps they can budget for and sell in through shorter time horizons. Wrap ideas in client’s timeframes.
15. Your client rarely feels comfortable making unilateral decisions and thus, most likely wants you to sell ideas into their organization with them or for them. Yes, that is part of your job.
16. It’s easier to control costs than to make future bets. Your job is to help those comforted by the precision and predictability of controlling costs to also envision their future.
17. Keep your strategy brief and simple.
18. There is a correlation between your ability to explicitly visualize your client’s strategy and that strategy’s likely success.
19. Share powerful insights freely and regularly.
20. Don’t be a persistently infallible dick. Humbly own your mistakes with grace and poise. It may feel counter-intuitive but errors in approach are more forgivable than you think and they increase your humility and credibility.
21. It’s understandable to feel the need to sound smart—it’s part of how you deliver your value. But you have to understand that it’s not why you deliver value. If you feel the need to sound smart, words and jargon aren’t the way to get there. Simple and well-articulated messages that get understood are what make you smart, and successful.