Beware the shortcomings of one-man-band marketing consultants

When I started TrinityP3, or P3 as it was in 2000, I was a one-man band. A scientist and a copywriter / creative director, I started with the vision of “helping people, achieve commercial purpose, through the creative process”

  • People being marketers, advertisers and their agencies.
  • Purpose being the objectives of the marketers, advertisers and their brands.
  • Process being the advertising and marketing communications process used to deliver these objectives.

Initially much of the work we were engaged in was focused on production process and assessment. This included working with a number of major advertisers. But it was clear that many of the more technical details and requirements were beyond my expertise and experience.

I had a choice. I could pretend that I knew what I was talking about, or I could recruit the assistance of people with expertise in this area. This was late in 2000 and it was a significant turning point for the business. Personally, it seems logical now, but I remember at the time, with a fledgling business and some industry resistance to what I was trying to do, it seemed like a huge step.

Increasing diversity

In the past 15 years the marketing and advertising category has become more diverse and more challenging than ever before. Technology is creating new channels and new opportunities for marketers. Marketers themselves are challenged simply with staying abreast of these changes, before even considering which to incorporate in their marketing strategy and how to incorporate them.

This is exacerbated by economic and business challenges, which see increasing pressure on marketing to justify their budgets and prove a return on their marketing investment. With these increased demands, tighter budgets and increased choice, marketers are often looking to consultants for assistance.

Types of consultants

In the early days P3 was definitely a Process consultancy. At 39 I was way too young to consider Grey Hair as an option and considered what we were doing as more common sense than rocket science.

It was interesting that as a category, if there was one, most of the existing consultants were definitely Grey Hair. Typically they were people, usually from agency account management and agency management, that had at some point left the agency world late in their careers to set up a business to employ themselves. What they were selling was their experience and expertise. But the issue for these types of consultants today, is how do you stay abreast of the changes and across the increasing diversification in the market place?

In 2008, in the face of increased complexity in marketing, we decided to move the TrinityP3 consultancy from Process to Rocket Science. In fact this is when the business changed its name from P3 to TrinityP3. Rather then bury our heads in the sand hoping that the complexity would go away, we embraced the growing complexity of the market to provide our clients with thought leadership and next practice solutions to the growing complex problems they were facing.

Staying relevant

TrinityP3 needed to stay relevant and we actively do this in three ways.

  1. We recruit consultants with expertise in a wide range of important disciplines. In the past eight years we have increased our depth of consultant expertise in digital, data, analytics and technology.
  2. We invest in developing and using much of the latest marketing technology. Albeit on a smaller scale than many of our global clients, but it means we have hands on experience and not simply an arms distance advising role. We were the first consultancy to develop our own mobile phone app, invest time and resources in social media, content marketing, responsive design, content management systems, direct and automated marketing.
  3. We actively engaged with thought leaders in the various industries, driven by our natural creative curiosity to understand not only how a new technology works, but how it can be applied to either solve a particular marketing problem or provide a marketing advantage.

While other consultants were advising on the growing challenges of digital, we were embracing this in its many and continuously growing and diversifying platforms. While others were sticking with the creative beauty parade, having agencies undertake speculative creativity, we introduced the strategy workshops as a more hands on approach for marketers to assess an agency’s ability to understand and deal with the marketplace, beyond simply providing ‘token digital’ recommendations.

Depth and breadth

When we talk about our consultant base, many are surprised that TrinityP3 can draw on around thirty industry professionals across the major agency disciplines. You can read about many of these TrinityP3 consultants here. It is fascinating to see the depth and diversity of the talent we can draw on. In many ways our strategy is to be as broad as it is relevant and yet still allows us to be as deep as is necessary.

What does that mean? It means that going back to our P3 positioning of “helping people, achieve commercial purpose, through the creative process” we develop expertise in increasingly many and varied disciplines of marketing and communications, but only when we can offer a depth of knowledge and resource that means we are confident we are advising our clients professionally and capably.

Beware the one-man band

When I look around the market place there are many consultants operating in this category. Some are Grey Hair, some Process and some even Rocket Science. And I encourage the competition. It is only with competition, locally, regionally and globally that we are able to measure ourselves and our performance.

But as I know from personal experience, the easiest thing in the world is to hang up a shingle that says “Consultant for hire”. I did it more than fourteen years ago. I also know it is very tempting to exaggerate your expertise and experience to be a jack-of-all-trades and master of none. And in many ways that is the place I found myself in. But I was also honest enough with myself to know that I needed to support this with people much cleverer than me in each of the disciplines we consult.

Or the one size fits all

At the other end of the scale are the very large management consulting companies that have identified marketing as the next big consulting opportunity and have broadened their offering into the marketing space, often at the expense of depth.

Or they offer a proprietary process that is simply designed to sell you additional services from their extensive range of consulting services.

My only advice is that before you choose a consultant make sure either that Rocket Science is actually the science that will solve your problem or propel your brand or business. Or that the Grey Hair is there because of the many sleepless nights they have faced solving the problems that you are facing and not just because they have gone past their use-by-date.

2 thoughts on “Beware the shortcomings of one-man-band marketing consultants

    1. Michael, I think we can both agree that creativity is rocket science. After all, everyone would love to be an astronaut, and everyone can be an astronaut with the right training and aptitude, but not everyone goes into orbit, do they?

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