The role of the Marketing or Advertising Agency is changing. Tomorrow’s Marketing Service providers will be Consultative Marketers.Many operators will tell you they’ve been providing Consultative Marketing Services for years but any buyer of marketing will tell you that’s simply not true.
Consultative Marketing is Not Consultative Selling…
I got my first sales gig in about 1990 and consultative selling was the big thing in sales at the time. Sadly, the art of selling marketing is so far behind the sales process. Advertisers have argued that advertising is the magic fix all for business. This is not the case. An ad will do more damage if it ends up promoting a problem that should have been addressed before an advertisment was ever considered.
The penny dropped for me while in the corporate world and as a big buyer of advertising. All too often it just didn’t achieve what I was expecting. I pushed my agencies to quantify how this advertisement would solve the problem and invariably the reply was waffle or a blank stare.
I left the corporate world and started my own agency, never having worked in an agency in my life. My mantra was… “Advertising is a component of marketing and marketing is solving business problems in order to grow business…” That has been the cornerstone of Macrison’s existence.
So it was exciting for me to visit a number of leading independent agencies in the UK recently and learn that the model of consultative marketing is catching on.
What is Consultative Marketing?
It’s a process. It’s about understanding the real challenges a business is facing and using all the elements of marketing to come up with the best and most affordable solution. Hopefully, you’re familiar with the ‘P’s of Marketing. If you studied marketing you are probably most familiar with the 4 ‘P’s.
These day’s there are many further interpretations of the ‘P’s of Marketing. Macrison’s model is this…
When we engage in a consultative marketing relationship with a client, we are assessing all these elements and any negative impact any function may be having on business growth.
Let me demonstrate our ‘P’s as a consultative marketing process.
As the process implies, all the core marketing elements are part of the consultative marketing process. It is the responsibility of management and marketing to assess and identify where the business problems lie. Solutions development should then involve the functional areas of the business.
If the marketplace or physical environment is part of the problem then management and marketing might consider questions like; are we in the right business? It may come down to a revision of goals and strategies. Similarly, if the product is the problem then engaging operations in solutions development is very important. Management and marketing might also choose to invite sales into this study. Whenever money, budgets or pricing are an issue then your finance people must be involved in developing the solution. However, I argue they should never be developing solutions independent of the marketing specialists.
Promotion is deliberately listed last:
Promotions are the last element to be assessed. In a consultative marketing model, all elements of the business are studied for impact on business growth. A business considers its promotional plans only after all of the marketing issues are understood and plans and solutions for these are in place.
How do You Sell that you’re a Consultative Marketer?
It is no longer acceptable to simply market how great you are at what you do. This shows a lack of respect for your buyer. The internet has changed buying power significantly. In almost 90% of cases, a purchaser has researched their problem and the potential solutions well before they ever talk to a possible supplier. Therefore, the content you are sharing online needs to demonstrate competency, authenticity and a willingness to solve problems.
For example, your content should provide useful market insights. Case studies are a great way to show how you’ve provided marketing solutions in other instances. Another example would be Educational content.
Joe Sullivan of Gorilla 76 provides this insight…
“Instead of printing a fancy capabilities brochure, build a knowledge centre filled with helpful articles on your website that address common questions. Instead of cluttering your prospects’ inboxes with another braggadocious e-newsletter, send an email filled with insights and helpful tips catered to their needs. Don’t run a costly print ad, instead reach out to an industry journal and offer to write an educational guest article about a topic that will pique the interest of both your audience and theirs.
And when leads result from this kind helpful marketing, you’ve already begun to earn trust – before that potential customer has even met you. You’ve already distinguished yourself from your competitor that’s done nothing but talk about how great their company is. Thanks to your consultative marketing approach, your consultative sale is already underway.”
It’s about what the client needs, not what you think you do well!
Remember, business today can’t justify spending money on marketing proposals with no quantifiable value. They make purchases based on solving problems. When it comes to marketing, sometimes the solution is a moving beast. Solving a problem requires more than an advertisement in that situation. Get to know your clients business. Look beyond the short-term fix. What is the end game and what is the most direct and affordable path to the solution? Being able to implement that solution on time and on a budget is paramount.
The Consultative Marketer Client Relationship Model
In a consultative marketing client relationship, the journey to business success is a partnership. Be aware of what is keeping your client awake at night. Solutions that address real business concerns should be the focus. Be sure to be communicating value to your client at all times.
Offering a consultation is the first phase of the process. Client value is high so position the consult as such with your client. Unlike the days of the pitch, you don’t necessarily give this away for free. However, it must serve as a positioning exercise. Our approach is to demonstrate our expertise, build trust and provide the client with the confidence of our fixed priced services. When a client engages Macrison, they have the confidence they can to talk to us like an employee without ever having to be worried that the clock is on and they are incurring hidden charges.
Once problems have been identified the solutions must be developed. Engage the various stakeholders in solutions development. Cost out the solutions and work with management to align solutions to budgets. Allocate a time for delivery, KPI’s and an implementation schedule.
The process then becomes one of monitoring progress against plans and staying on top of deliverables.
For one client a key measurable for us is consumer engagement. We deliver by managing an agreed content plan that includes organic social media, paid social media and regular e-news content.
For another client, we plan, manage and promote sales campaigns.
In both these instances we are able to keep costs down. For example, advertising doesn’t need to be broad for maximum impact. It can be highly targeted and delivered through different mediums and as a result more effective and affordable.
Marketing has an Exciting Future!
In the past many advertising agencies have been afraid to go too deep into the client for fear that they won’t be able to deliver a solution. The marketers of the future will acknowledge that being a part of the solution development process of a client will lead to better, long-term, mutually beneficial relationships. From where I sit, that’s good for all business!
About The Author:
Joan MacDougal is the founder and owner of Macrison Co Pty Ltd. Prior to Macrison, Joan held senior roles at both American Express and Telstra. With 30 years of front-line marketing, advertising and communications experience, Joan brings honesty and perspective to her views on better marketing, communications and advertising. Visit Joan’s website www.joanmacdougal.com to get to know Joan a little better. For more information on our Services click here Macrison Services
- Joe Sullivan – Translating Consultative Sales to Consultative Marketing
- UK Based Independent Agencies
- Client Case study – Your Local Greengrocer
- Fast Company – Bill Carper Transactional V’s Consultative Marketing
- James Ohocla – The Consulatative Approach to Marketing Strategy
- Luck Collective – Consultative Aprroach to Business Growth