The Problem with Marketing Consultants: You Are Being Lied To

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The other day I had a very interesting discussion over LinkedIn – one that got me worrying about small businesses trying to market themselves online.

It began when I received a message to my LinkedIn inbox. I don’t want to disclose any names here, so we’ll call the person JD (Jane Doe).

It started innocently enough. JD had taken notice of the fact that I run my own business. She wanted to “connect with like-minded people” and was curious about what type of marketing I do to promote it.

Naturally I was excited to connect with someone new. I responded with a laundry list of things that I do and mentioned that I do have social media accounts, but they are not a main priority.

JD’s response almost floored me. Here it is verbatim: “Social media is huge. Its the number 1 way to market. Why don’t you use it?”

The Problem with Marketers

You may think that “floored” might be an exaggeration here. But it’s not. I didn’t literally end up on the floor, but I was left very unhappy, almost angered.

The number 1 way to market? Really?

To whom? What am I marketing? Who am I trying to connect with? What am I trying to sell? What are my goals?

How can someone who hasn’t spoken to me about what I am trying to accomplish with my business blindly tell me that social media is the #1 way to market?

And what does “#1 way to market” even mean?

You see, I don’t believe in generalities. Even if something works for 99.9% of businesses, I don’t want someone telling me that its right for me without talking to me about needs first. And if someone tries to do the same thing to you – you should run the other way…fast.

Heck, I even wrote an article about why you should ignore social media!

The Madness Continues…

I knew exactly where this conversation was going to go. JD was going to try and pitch her social media consulting to me. But I didn’t want it.

Being stubborn, I decided to probe further. I asked what “#1 way to market” really means and told her I disagree with the notion. The fact is, marketing methods depend on each business’ unique situation.

To claim that anything is the “#1 way to market” is to essentially call every business identical. (Tweet This).

To my surprise JD’s counterargument included a statistic. I like statistics. They often lie. But I still like them.

Her response:

“[...]89% of business are on a social media platform. It doesn’t matter what you product, service or idea is social media is the leading source for marketing in todays eco. ”

Marketers are Liars

89%?

89 percent??!!?

89 per-f’n-cent?!?!?!!?!?

Seriously?

I’m often shocked at how many businesses don’t even have a website in today’s day and age. And websites are far more established than social media. They’ve been around ages compared to social media.

There are lies, damn lies and then there are statistics. But this is just ridiculous. The only thing that 89% of all businesses do is try to make money (and even then I’m not so sure :) ).

And what’s more…apparently it doesn’t matter what your product or service is! I can tell you one thing for sure. If you’re trying to market to my grandmother, you have no business doing anything on a computer (much less social media).

You Are Being Lied To…

The reason that this interaction bothered me is that it gives all marketers a bad name. Social media may not be right for you. And if you are convinced by extreme statistics to try it, and it doesn’t work, you are probably going to stay away from working with another marketing consultant.

I know I’d be weary. Bad experiences condition us to be more cautious.

And that’s a shame. Because there are plenty of people that can actually help you. Like my friend Dov Gordon, or Danny Iny. Or even me :) .

Picking the Right Tool

While I focus a lot on content marketing on this blog, I’m not going to make the claim that it’s necessarily right for you. It’s not the only form of marketing I use either – it’s just the focus of this blog.

I’ve mentioned here before that it is a tool; a method.

But before you pick your tools you have to evaluate your situation so that you can pick the right ones. Jumping aboard the social media train because someone blindly tells you its right for you won’t do you much good (unless you get lucky).

If you’re still looking for the right tool, feel free to contact me. If you do, I promise to do the following…

  • I won’t blindly tell you that a tool is right for you (yes, even content marketing)
  • I won’t throw any statistics in your face
  • If I feel that I am incapable of helping you, I will do my best to point you in the direction of someone who can. 

Your Two Cents: 

Am I over-reacting and taking this to heart? Or am I right to feel this way?

Have you had a bad experience with bad marketers before? If so, how did it effect your future interaction with consultants?

21 Responses to The Problem with Marketing Consultants: You Are Being Lied To
  1. Robin Hardman

    Thank you, Eugene. I still haven’t figured out if social media is the right way for my business to go, but I do know I find Twitter to be completely irritating, so anyone trying to market to ME through Twitter is going to fail miserably. And I know plenty of people who feel that way about Facebook, LinkedIn, etc. And I’m sure your grandmother feels the same!

    • Eugene

      Doing irritating things usually isn’t good for your health :) .

      I’m not going to deny that some people have found success through the use of social media. But to call it the #1 way to market is a joke. And that “statistic” is insane.

  2. Mark

    Eugene,

    I fully agree with you. Anyone that speaks in generalities I do not want to deal with either. The tone of the marketer would have upset me also. Some people just don’t get it. Thanks for sharing.

    • Eugene

      My pleasure Mark. Speaking in generalities like that doesn’t help anyone…except the person trying to sell you the service.

  3. Dov Gordon

    Zombies. And zealots. That’s what they are. They’re more interested in rubbing shoulders with “gurus” and “A-list bloggers” than actually getting results.

    Thanks for the mention, Eugene. I’m glad I came to read your post. Pleasant surprise. :)

    Dov

    • Eugene

      Just telling it like it is Dov :) .

      And that’s a fairly accurate description I’d say. I actually found a HubSpot article shortly after I wrote this post that cites a study that shows just how little people engage on Facebook with brands (I realize Facebook is not the end all, be all of social media, but that’s what people go crazy for).

  4. Geraldq

    I loved this article, I see these offers all the time. My company has a marketing department. I use social media to sell ME. I find an interesting use is to develop a strategy that improves your online reputation. Google your name…..you will see what I mean. Thanks for the article. I will surely share it!

    • Eugene

      Thanks!

      Yeah these do come up quite often. I didn’t really let this conversation get to the “offer” phase though :) .

  5. Nicole Fende

    As a numbers geek I completely agree that statistics can be incredibly misleading unless you understand all the data and analysis behind that final number.

    While I agree with your assessment of this person’s ahem marketing? approach, I view her as doing you a favor. By using this approach you know you wouldn’t want to use her services.

    P.S. I too am doubtful 89% of biz owners are trying to make a profit!

    • Eugene

      That’s a good way to look at it :) . Unfortunately I’m not sure that everyone she approaches in this manner will have the same reaction that I did.

  6. Tea Silvestre

    You already know what I think (cuz we talked about this before you wrote the post), but it bears repeating: probably only about 20% of businesses that are “on” social media channels actually interact with folks. So trying to reach those who “need” your social media services (like JD) is probably kinda stoopid. Go hang out where your clients hang out, yes. But don’t assume that because someone has an account there, that they’re really and truly there.

    • Eugene

      And even then, “active” doesn’t necessarily mean its going to be good for business. Like Facebook for example…I think most people are on there for personal communication, not to follow and interact with brands.

      And this HubSpot post supports just that:

      http://blog.hubspot.com/blog/tabid/6307/bid/33328/21-Internet-Marketing-Stats-That-Will-Blow-Your-Mind.aspx

      “In any given week, less than 0.5% of Facebook fans engage with the brand they are fans of”

  7. Durango Photographer

    I definitely don’t agree that social media is the number one way to market. I think it’s just another avenue to pursue along with many other marketing avenues.

    • Eugene

      That’s a more proper way to look at things :) . I wouldn’t call anything the “#1 way to market” – at least not until you start getting into specifics.

  8. Annie Sisk (Stage Presence)

    Yep, this person has no business trying to sell anyone on any kind of marketing consulting work. Every business is different – every potential prospect is, too. That’s one reason we work so hard to identify our ideal client demo/psychographic profiles, which only sounds counterintuitive to the uninformed. If your prospects are on Twitter, and are responsive to brands on Twitter, then yes, you should be on Twitter, too. But if they’re not, you’re wasting your time. And that 89% “statistic” just makes me laugh.

    • Eugene

      Yeah, I wasn’t sure whether to laugh or to cry when that number came out. After the claim of social media being the “#1 way to market” I decided to probe further – but didn’t realize that things would only get worse :) .

  9. Danny @ Firepole Marketing

    Hey Eugene, thanks for the mention!

    I couldn’t agree with you more – people like JD give us all a bad name. But to be fair, there are a lot of people on the client side who are asking for it – I can’t count how many emails I get from people saying “I just started my business, now what should I do to market?” (without any details at all about the business, as if that stuff doesn’t matter)

    I think the real issue is that there’s a huge lack of education about what marketing is and how it really works, in general. And when that’s the case, it’s easy for wannabe-consultants like JD to buy the pitch of some social media consultancy MLM that they just need to walk into a client’s office, spout some statistics, and they’ll land a contract that’ll create value for the client.

    (Note that JDs very rarely seem to stick around in business for very long – I’m willing to bet that if you ask how long she’s been doing it, or who her clients are, she’d say under six months, and have no names to speak of, other than one project that she did for someone as a favor.)

    Sigh.

    On the other hand, you, Dov, myself and other pros can celebrate that this is what our competitive landscape looks like… ;-)

    • Eugene

      Always the optimist :) .

      I actually just had someone that was dead set on creating an iPhone app for their business. And I tried to explain to them that it’s a pretty big investment that probably won’t have a very big impact on their bottom line (if it has one at all). And a simple mobile site would be much cheaper (and more versatile for that matter).

      But people always want the shiny new thing. Which social media happens to be I suppose – so its an easy sell for a lot of people.

      Maybe I should have stuck with it and quoted them for a nice expensive app after all :) .

      • Danny @ Firepole Marketing

        Nah, doing the right thing is always more profitable in the long run. Just be patient, you’ll see! ;-)

        • Eugene

          I know :) . I pointed them to someone who has a lot more experience with apps than I do. If they’re dead set on it then they should go to an expert.

  10. Clare Price

    Great post and so true. Total turn off as are the dozens of marketers and others who tell you that you need to “follow my ten steps to quantum leap your business” or whatever. My goal is to give my clients a firm foundation based on knowledge so THEY can make the right decision for their business, which BTW, they know better than I do.

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