Marketing Expert

How Do You Know when It’s Time to Bring in a Marketing Expert

Note: Click here to hear an audio version of this article.

Do you know when it’s time to bring in an outside Marketing expert? Maybe this story helps illustrate the point.

Not very long ago, Mark, my husband, started limping. When I asked him what was wrong, he said his knees were bothering him.  For immediate relief, he applied some BenGay and took some Advil. The next day he said he felt better. A few days later, I found him sitting in his chair with a heating pad on his knees. “It looks like your knees are still bothering you,” I pointed out. He hadn’t had any knee problems before and claimed he hadn’t done anything to strain them, so we decided it wasn’t anything serious and would see how things would go.

A few days later, when Mark and I had planned to go on a hike, he said he didn’t think he would be able to go. His knees were in just too much pain. At this point, I’m thinking, “maybe it’s time to go to the doctor”.  Mark met with his primary care physician who prescribed him some oral corticosteroids. These seemed to work and he felt better. However, within a week or so of activity, the pain returned with a vengeance and we were off to the “doc in a box” who gave him an injection which eased the pain along with a referral for an orthopedic specialist.

This scenario reminds me of the performance management journey many Marketing organizations travel. Many of these marketers feel some pain. Maybe it’s a result of increased scrutiny by the Finance organization. Maybe it’s the increased requests from the leadership team for better information about the value of a program or investment. Or, maybe the Marketing team is developing their annual plan and trying to determine the best course of action. Regardless of the reason, a common response to the pain is like the above approach – try to fix it with some inexpensive over-the-counter remedies, such as free or inexpensive analytics tools or dashboard templates, or how-to articles/white papers. And, sometimes, that may be all that’s needed.

When DIY is not Enough – It May Be Time for an External Expert

When DIY isn’t working, bring in an expert.

What happens if that’s not enough?  Often the next step is to call an existing resource, such as an “agency.” Like a primary care physician, they may be able to give you some relief. Or maybe you decide to deploy a new technology. That too may be all you need.  However, when you’ve attempted to solve a problem and it persists, it may be time to call in an expert with a specific focus.

Yes, some general practitioners are trained to diagnose and treat ailments in any part of your body, but for a tricky condition you may need someone  who specializes in one area, such as knees. These specialists have additional training and experience that make them experts in their field. They are working on solving your type of problem every day: It’s what they do. They have more in-depth of knowledge in the area than their generalist colleagues.

There are many external Marketing experts out there – you may be using some for SEO or ABM. There are also specialists in Marketing OperationsMarketing accountability, and Marketing Performance Management (MPM) and related fields.

Follow This Six Step Process to Bring on an External Marketing Expert

When seeking an external Marketing expert, odds are you will follow a similar 6 step buying process used by your customers:

  1. Identify the problem and its causes. There’s nothing worse than treating a problem with the wrong solution because you’re unsure of, or misunderstand, what the problem is. It won’t work to treat arthritis as if it were a pulled muscle.
  2. Identify solutions and investigate the preferred solution options. Determine the best methods for treating the problem – would physical therapy or surgery be a better option.
    • In some instances, all you need is a tactician, additional arms and legs who can solve a specific short-term problem, such as managing event details, writing copy, or creating graphics. In other situations, you may need someone for a longer period to serve in a more strategic capacity, for example developing a new product launch strategy and all it entails.
    • For other situations, such as executing a multi-touch campaign, you may be able to rely on a generalist, that is, a marketer with a broad base of experience.  Your scenario may call for a specialist, such as the special expertise needed for designing and conducting market research, building marketing models, or developing a dashboard.
    • As you consider what kind of expert you need, you will want to decide whether they need industry expertise or what you really need is a skilled craftsman, such as a data scientist.
    • Ask colleagues, associations, and check publications to identify the best methods. Methods evolve. There may be newer treatments that are more effective than what was used in the past.
  3. Establish your criteria. Create and prioritize a list of criteria to help with choosing your external Marketing experts. Criteria might include background, years of experience, industry expertise, and so on. Here’s a starting point. When you have all of the necessary time, tools, and skills, you may be able to do it yourself with just a little coaching. When your team is in reactive mode, missing deadlines or important details, focused on the urgent at the sake of the important, or attempting a task without the necessary skills or tools, consider seeking outside expertise.   There three questions can help you decide whether to tackle the effort on your own or seek outside help.
    • Knowledge/Skills: Do I/we know what I’m/we’re doing and have the skills for the task? Time-sensitive and mission critical tasks are not ideal for trying to learn new skills. Benefit from a specialist or skilled craftsman as a way to both achieve the task and facilitate skills development.
    • Complexity: Will I/we achieve a better result with help? It is a good time to take advantage of external expertise, particularly a tactician or generalist, when a task become complicated and there are a large number of moving parts.
    • Time: Is doing this task the best use of my/our time? Time is a perishable resource. You cannot store or save it, making it far more valuable than money. Leverage outside help when the task will consume too much of yours and the company’s time at the expense of other efforts.
  4. Select the solution and identify potential solution providers. Once you’ve selected your treatment plan, you are ready to identify the specialists to work with. Different needs will require different levels of investment. Will a walk-in clinic suffice or is it time to bite the bullet for a more in-depth exam and solution?  These questions prior will help define the scope and type of expert you require.
    • What task(s) need to be completed, and why and how they fit into the big picture?
    • What are the top three benefits of using an external expert?
    • How quickly does the work need to be completed and why is the timing important?
    • Why do you need outside expertise and what if anything have you completed or attempted, and what were the results?
    • How will the success of the task and the project be measured?
    • What challenges do you anticipate, such as availability of people needed to support the work, working across multiple time zones or geographic facilities, etc.?
    • What internal requirements or processes are needed to bring someone in, how long will this take, and who within your organization and from other organizations need to be included in the selection process?
    • Who on your team will need to work with the person/firm and what is their level of expertise?
    • What is important to you about the person or firm you will hire? Does it matter where they are located, their existing projects, and/or their industry experience? Make a list of what is important in priority order and then using a 1-5 or other scale, rate how important each item is to your final hiring decision.
  5. Evaluate potential providers and create your shortlist. Vet your top candidates. Visit their website, read their content, talk with customers and other industry leaders.
  6. Engage with your shortlist. Once you have identified the potential experts, set an initial consultation appointment. Be clear about your problem, what you’ve tried, what’s worked, what hasn’t worked, and your ideal outcome. Just as you would bring your test results and updated list of your medications to a meeting with a medical specialist, for a performance management meeting, you should bring a list of your current systems, data, metrics, performance management processes, tracking, and reporting.

Make your selection and start to work. Problems rarely just “go away.” Some symptoms might dissipate even though the problem is getting worse. It is generally less expensive and more effective to start treatment before the problem worsens, causes complications, or spreads.

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The field of Marketing is becoming more and more complex. As Marketing becomes more data-driven and metrics-oriented, specialties have emerged, across all the Marketing disciplines. Whether you’re in a large or small Marketing organization, external Marketing experts are becoming necessary.  External experts are an investment both in the result and the relationship.  Having a repeatable process for evaluating external experts and bringing them on-board helps ensure both a quality outcome and experience.

Budget for an external Marketing experts along with your programs. Rather than find yourself in an emergency where you may not have a choice about your help, take a strategic approach. This is especially true when it comes to the work associated with performance management and measurement. These are the people who have experience and expertise in using data, analytics, process, and metrics. We are not saying this is and easy job. If it were easy, we wouldn’t continue to see results from our research and studies such as the Kantar study claiming, “Marketers Struggle to Assess Their Marketing Performance.” Need more advice on when and how to choose a specialist? We’d love to chat with you.

Hope you found this episode of What’s Your Edge? Helpful. What’s Your Edge? Is the creation of VisionEdge Marketing.  VisionEdge Marketing, founded in 1999, helps our customers solve the most difficult problems when it comes to using data, analytics, process and measurement to accelerate growth, create customer value, and improve performance. We always welcome hearing from you.

Laura Patterson

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