Over the last few weeks I’ve been on my soap box ranting about the term ‘marketing consultant’. There’s the inexperienced marketer whose medical peer would be the student or junior doctor rather than the consultant. And, then there’s the distinction between the implementor and the strategist. Today, I want to distinguish between breadth and depth.
After posting the ‘Three Types of Marketing Consultant’ piece, a trusted partner that I’ve worked with on a number of joint client engagements dropped me a line to ask where she fitted in this picture. The fact is, she wasn’t in that picture at all. She’s the depth to a marketing consultant’s breadth.
Breadth: knowing enough to know you don’t know
I see ‘marketing consultants’ as covering three roles: Marketing Strategist, Project Manager and Implementor. These people are (and I use this term as a compliment) generalists. That is to say that they have a broad view of marketing. They’re not an expert in a specific technique or medium, they’re an expert in the understanding the market and knowing what mix of marketing techniques to bring together to support the whole buying decision. In fact, being an expert in a specific area can seriously skew their advice.
A really good marketing generalist, knows when they don’t know – and who to call!
Depth: knowing a discipline inside out
This is where my trusted collaborator comes into the picture. She’s a content marketing specialist. Now, many people might call her a ‘marketing consultant’ – but, I think it would be much more useful to call her an ‘expert marketing supplier’. These are people with deep and specific expertise in a particular field. Be it, copywriting, telemarketing, visual communication, events management, public relations, SEO, marketing automation, etc. There are people who know this stuff intimately.
As a marketing strategist, I might know that PR is key for a particular market – that does not mean I can craft a press release or have a little black book bursting with journalist details.
It’s an in-source / out-source thing
The broad marketing knowledge is what a larger business would in-source. These are the skills you need in a functioning marketing operation. In a smaller business, these skills are often out-sourced to reduce overall costs when you don’t need someone full-time, or whilst you’re in transition to employing a marketing team. The depth expertise is something you’d almost certainly out-source, even if you had all the money in the world. Because, the expert marketing supplier is always honing their skills, learning on projects for other clients, keeping up with the trends, etc.
And, with every will in the world, a ‘marketing consultant’ or in-house marketer can’t ever hope master every theory, concept, nuance or development in every field of marketing.
What does this mean for the entrepreneurial business owner? It means taking care to balance the breadth and depth of the marketing counsel you seek. You need both. But in the right order. The generalist (or marketing consultant) comes first, because they are the ones who can identify the mix of specific expertise (or expert marketing suppliers) you need. Miss this step and you may find that you’re going (deeply) down the wrong path.
© Bryony Thomas
Author & Founder, Watertight Marketing
Bryony Thomas is the creator of the multi-award winning Watertight Marketing methodology, captured in her best-selling book of the same name. She is one of the UK's foremost marketing thinkers, featured by the likes of Forbes, The Guardian, Business Insider and many more, and in-demand speaker for business conferences, in-house sales days and high-level Board strategy days.