As an entrepreneur you will have a number of people approach you to “help you grow” your company. Far too often these local “experts” are really “marketing tools” who are like the terrible boy friends on the popular show Tool Academy focused on themselves and not aligning to your objectives and are not trying to solve your problems. So how do you know if you are dealing with a strategic partner or a tool? In this post I will share how to discern the “marketing tools” from strategic partners.
I was sitting in my favorite coffee shop reading before my first appointment and off to my left, …the pitch was on. First of all the meeting I was listening to should have occurred in private and not in a public place, this young entrepreneur needs to learn to… police his rounds.
It was painful for me to listen and not walk over to the table and tell this young entrepreneur to quickly dismiss this person posing as a thought leader and strategic partner but who was obviously a marketing tool. Some of the lessons we must learn in the bootstrapping phase build our future leadership muscles, so I hoped this experience would not be a too expensive lesson.
How did I quickly know this guy pitching was a marketing tool and not a key strategic partner? Maybe it’s from personally being taken advantage of by fast talking marketing tools early in my career, or maybe it’s a by product of what my daughter used to call “ sparkly’s” in my hair now. Maybe it’s from knowing what I know as well as what I do not know?
As an entrepreneur cash management should be your top priority. Investments must accelerate the achievement of your objectives and align with your flight plan. They should be tied closely to a measurable goal that is in alignment with one of your key initiatives.
Back to the conversation…the pitch was on. From what I gathered the entrepreneur’s sales were down over 30% and felt his problem was marketing or the lack there of. The person pitching worked for a marketing firm, and from what I could gather the only tool they had any real experience with was print ads and direct mail. Therefore the solution to this entrepreneur’s problem was direct mail and print ads. I have lived this “marketing play “many times over the past 25 years with various actors (vendors) pitching me and the companies I was serving. Sometimes it’s a new website, search engine optimization, PR, social media, media buys, email marketing, new brochures…and the list goes on.
How do I discern the “marketing tools” from strategic outsource partners?
Below are the things I look for to quickly dismiss tools …
Tools talk more than they listen
Tools talk about their solution as a “cure all” for all my needs
Tools can not produce a list of past customer referrals as they often only have one transaction with clients and move on
Tools argue with you and keep coming back to their solution as if it were the only way to solve your problem
Tools lack an understanding for integrated marketing and dismiss other strategies they do not understand ( but as proposed thought leaders, marketing experts,… they should)
Tools cloud the discussion with industry terminology they do not explain (they try to baffle you with BS)
Tools do not listen to your goals; they are focused on their goal: getting your money
Tools do not ask a lot of questions
Tools do not share the downside, the risk, or the expected return on investing in their tool(s)
Tools take cell phone calls and text messages when they are supposed to be focused on your needs during your meeting
Tools avoid ROI discussions, and when you bring it up, they change the subject
Tools do not ask about how your buyers buy, nor have an intimate understanding of this process themselves
When (if) Tools follow up, they will be connected to getting your money and not in alignment with your goals ( they can’t because they were not listening)
It was pretty easy to make the above list as I sit here listening to the pitch as within 20 minutes this marketing tool violated most of them. I hear the tool discussing; the need to “merge, purge and perform list hygiene” as well as the need for a 12 month commitment for various ads they will test, and how the 12 month commitment will help the entrepreneur with the media buy… What is the problem the entrepreneur has? Shouldn’t you know this prior to pitching your solution?
It makes me want to scream: RUN AWAY!
As an entrepreneur your main focus is now on building your business and not working in it.
A proven strategy to grow your business is to align yourself with market leading strategic partners who are thought leaders in their space.
Too often entrepreneurs try to become experts in areas that are far from their core competency and instead of growing their business they dilute their effectiveness.
I am a big advocate of strategically aligning yourself with outsourced partners that provide solutions that align with your objectives. I am not an advocate of hiring marketing tools with one tool that fixes everything they feel is broken.
When you look for a strategic partner with knowledge and skills to compliment your core competencies, you must quickly dismiss the marketing tools as their work will only deplete your cash and not produce your desired ROI.
How about your organization….
Do you want to share any experiences you have had with tools?
Has your organization ever hired a tool? How did that work for you?
What are some other ways to quickly discern tools from strategic partners who can help you achieve your objectives?