I’m dating again. Oh, not because my marriage to the Lovely Mrs. McKay is in trouble, far from it. I’m “dating” in that I’m ready for a new consulting relationship. I’ll be taking my time to find the right fit for the long term.
You see, marketing isn’t art. It’s not science. Its a series of decisions based on relevant case studies and historical examples. Those decisions may, or may not, predict results. So, truthfully, marketing is a gamble. A good relationship requires the client to understand, and accept, that the consultant’s function is risk management.
A good consultant stacks the odds in the client’s favor by having a broad knowledge of proven marketing techniques. By knowing what has worked for other businesses. By seeing the parallels between the client’s issues and similar problems that other industries have solved. By recognizing not only the factors which can derail business, but also the opportunities that can help the client leapfrog over his competitors.
Yeah, I’ve been called an “expert.” But don’t expect me, or any other consultant, to show up and give you the magic formula for endless wealth. Instead, expect me to be your business B.S. meter.
You see, I love speaking and writing, but I have little respect for those speakers who have been talking for twenty years about the things they accomplished twenty-five years ago. I work with a select group of clients in order to stay current, and relevant, and focused on the real problems faced by businesspeople every day. As a speaker, it provides an edge that just can’t be faked.
Some consultants look for opportunities to run the clock, and bill the client for more hours. Instead, I charge a flat fee, which changes each year at the same proportions as my client’s top-line revenue. This isn’t called a relationship by accident. When the client does well, so do I. When the client doesn’t, I don’t, either.
And I don’t profit from the traditional 15 percent commission that the media pays to advertising agencies who place advertising for a client. Oh, the media still provides that commission, but my client pockets the cash. Some clients get back more in those commissions than the fees I charge, and thus actually make money by using my services.
But, past the mechanics, the primary values any consultant provides are perspective, and advice, which brings us to the point of this writing.
Sometimes the client doesn’t wish to follow that advice.
I once heard this dilemma compared to a duffer on the golf course refusing to accept the help of the club pro. When the pro advises a three iron, and the duffer insists on using a wood, the pro’s choices are to tell the duffer he’s on his own, or to help him to get the best shot possible with his own choice of club. “Get a good stance, keep your left arm stiff, keep your head down, be sure to follow through.”
A client I’ve been working with, however, will not use any club I recommend. As much as I’ve tried to help him get distance on his shots, he insists that I do things his way. It appears he’s hoping I can execute his marketing strategy better than he did. But, even a brilliant execution of a flawed strategy still leaves a flawed strategy.
Since I don’t believe that our professional relationship is benefiting his business, I can’t in good conscience continue to charge him for my services. I hope we can stay friends, because I truly enjoy his company, but I have resigned the account.
So now, I’m dating again. I’m looking for a new relationship. I’m meeting some new business owners for the first time, to see if there’s any chemistry, not for a quick project, but rather for the long-term. My most recent client and I have worked together for a year and a half, now. Others go back as much as eleven years. The best fit is likely to be a professional practice or owner-operated company, whose owner is ready to take that company to the next level.
Do you know someone like this? Would you care to introduce us?