Riding a Merry-Go-Round Doesn’t Make You a Cowboy

merry-go-round cowboyIt doesn’t keep you from being one either.

There’s an ongoing conversation about what defines a social media guru. Occasionally I join in, but mostly I chuckle. The questions are legitimate, but I experience déjà vu every time I see a tweet or post debating the validity of other people’s claims.

Years ago, I submitted a proposal to conduct an efficiency audit on a company’s operations. I lost the contract. It happens, but this loss was particularly poignant. The winning firm specialized in marketing.

What did this marketing firm know about operations? One of the consultants and I became friendly competitors over time. When I asked why they went after the operations job, he said that it was their policy to expand their areas of expertise with on the job training.

I would say it differently. I would say that they expanded their areas of expertise at their client’s expense.

The same is true of social media merry-go-round cowboys (or girls) who think that because they know how to open a twitter account they are qualified to sell their service. They are, if they are offering clerical skills. But, if they promise to deliver anything more, they are misleading their suckers prospect/clients.

Delivering measurable results requires expertise, experience, and testing.

Of course, there will be times when theories become realities, but most of the times they become expensive failed projects. When I asked my friendly competitor how the project worked out, he said that they were able to provide a few tips that saved the company some money. He considered it successful. Maybe the client saw it that way too, but the reality is that the same amount of money could have bought better results.

Social media is so new there isn’t a viable business model that is repeatable and sustainable. Every project is a test to find the right mix of conversation and marketing that works (translation: generates revenue, loyalty, and/or reduces costs). The people who tell you differently are wrong.

Some cowboys ride the merry-go-round.

(Most likely with a toddler in tow, but they are still going round.)

Telling the difference between a consultant who can deliver measurable results and one who is seeking on the job training requires due diligence. Start with the following questions. If they are answered to your satisfaction, you significantly improve your chances for a successful implementation.

How much of your revenue is generated from speeches & how much is generated from projects?

A good percentage of the people presenting themselves as consultants make their living on the speakers’ circuit. There is a big difference between inspiring someone else to act and knowing how to roll your sleeves up to do it yourself.

Do you receive anything when you recommend a tool or service?

Most affiliate marketers are small fry when compared to consulting firms. Vendors desperately seeking new customers are willing to provide almost anything for a consultant who favorable influences his or her client. If you are hiring a consultancy for an independent opinion, make sure that they are working for you, not the vendors.

Will you explain how and why everything in your recommended actions works?

If your consultant can’t explain how things work, it means that he or she doesn’t know. Not knowing is okay when it is a test environment and the consultant is honest about it. Not knowing when you are hiring the person for specific expertise indicates that you need a different consultant.

How will success be measured?

What does successful completion of the project look like? What tools and benchmarks will be used? If they’re not measuring and documenting the results, you’re wasting your time and money.

Will you be taught how to do everything your consultant does for your business?

You don’t want your business held hostage by a third party. Knowing how to do what you need doesn’t mean that you’re going to terminate the relationship. It means that you’re protecting your business.

Who owns the rights to the analytics and results?

It’s your business, your numbers, and your future. Make sure that it stays that way.

Why should you work with his or her firm?

There has to be a differentiating factor that distinguishes this consultant from the other 41 million. For example, integration is the difference between my consultancy and other marketing or operations firm. We make everything work together. We know how websites, direct mail, email marketing, catalogs, and operations work. This allows us to find the right balance for the company.

What is your guarantee?

Every consultant should have a guarantee. After all, don’t you guarantee your service and/or products? It is good business practice.

Choose carefully when selecting a consultant. You want to find one that has the experience and expertise to deliver, understands your corporate culture, and is willing to share the risk.

31 Ways to Supercharge Your Email Marketing

How to Get More Customers, Sales, and Profits without Spending a Fortune

The guide is filled with actionable tips that increase sales, improve retention, and reduce costs. We are so confident they work we offer a 365 day money back guarantee.

Learn More

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Anna Barcelos

    Great qualifying questions for “gurus” Deb. I get a chuckle myself when everyone thinks they can do marketing, let alone social media. As you said, it takes years of living, doing and testing to really know what you’re talking about – in any profession.

    True professionals are honest with their clients and sometimes have to tell them No if it’s not within their expertise. Yes, you’re walking away from money, but in the end you will realize that the time invested in trying to provide a service you know nothing about and have to learn winds up costing more than the actual project itself.

    Walk away. Be honest. Recommend someone you may know that does have expertise in that service. Karma. It will come back to you.
    .-= Anna Barcelos´s last blog ..Five Confessions of an Integrated Marketing Communications Marketer =-.

  • Debra Ellis

    Thank you, Anna. You make an excellent point about the good karma of providing a quality recommendation as you walk away. It strengthens your relationship with your client and opens the door for reciprocal referrals.

Real Time Web Analytics