Do you have hidden marketing expectations? It’s very likely.
I recently went out to dinner and couldn’t decide what I wanted to eat. So I asked the server to make a recommendation. (They are the menu experts, right?) I happily took the server’s recommendation and when my dinner arrived…it wasn’t exactly what I wanted (or at least it didn’t meet my expectations).
See I wasn’t being honest with myself when I ordered. I might not have been totally sure what I wanted but I also kind of did.
Because I had ‘hidden’ expectations for what I wanted from my meal. I just didn’t, or maybe couldn’t, express them, thinking that I could rely 100% on the server’s input to influence my decision and help me make the right choice.
But it turns out my assumption was wrong. I didn’t share my thoughts with the server, she didn’t have all the facts when she made her recommendation, and I ended up with an unsatisfying dining experience which is frustrating for everyone.
Has anyone else done this or just me?
But more importantly, how many of you have done this with your marketing?
Do you have hidden marketing expectations?
I often hear the following phrases from new founders I work with, “I know nothing about marketing!” or “we have no idea what we need/want!” stated emphatically with hands moving about.
I get it.
And this might be true to an extent. Maybe you have no formal marketing training or have never worked with a marketing team before. But every client I’ve ever worked with, and all of the clients I have yet to work with, have been exposed to some level of marketing: i.e. digital advertising, television advertising, email, social media, print materials, conferences etc, etc. etc.
As you move through the world you will see and experience marketing that you like or don’t like. Maybe you'll even start to wonder if that idea would work for your startup. Or maybe you'll think that it would never work for your startup and you tuck those ideas away, never to bring them up again.
Until one day you need marketing help. And you hire a consultant or bring on a head of marketing and you begin to discuss goals and strategy. And as your marketing plan comes to life, you see no mention of the xyz tactic you saw while driving down the highway 3 years ago or on your competitor’s social media feed two months ago. And you’re upset because you expected it to be part of the plan ...but it isn't.
The reality is that until you have discussed all your options with a marketer, nothing should be off the table, despite your best efforts to hide secret expectations. But to be clear, some options will not make it to the menu or the table for various reasons including your startup's size, industry, or budget.
So what can you do if you don’t realize you are harboring secret marketing expectations?
Here are three ways to begin your marketing conversations with a consultant to make the process go more smoothly and ensure expectations are met.
Think about your business goals. Marketing goals need business goals as their foundation. It’s hard to make recommendations for your marketing strategy if you don’t know where the company is going. And determining the right tactics for that strategy will be a total shot in the dark as well. Start big before you go small.
Be honest and open. A good consultant will want to know the areas you find confusing about marketing. Maybe you don’t understand what a certain tactic is or maybe you've always wanted to try something in particular. I would rather know upfront if there is something you want to try or are just curious about. Not expressing your needs, and then being disappointed later never works for anyone.
Don’t be surprised by a code of expectations. There are some areas of marketing that can be ‘set it and forget it.’ But for the most part, you should expect to dedicate some time to your marketing efforts every month. (And I don't mean writing copy for Facebook ads.) I mean providing insight as to what's happening with the business, sharing ideas, and reviewing results. Marketing your business cannot and should not be 100% outsourced. If that is what you are looking for, you will be sorely unsatisfied with the results. This is why your consultant will likely have requirements for you to ensure the collaboration process goes smoothly and so that you know what you are responsible for.
So what’s the moral of this story?
A marketing consultant can only make recommendations based on the facts you present and the knowledge they bring to the table. If you don’t tell them the whole story, they can’t write you your best ending.
Don’t let hidden marketing expectations ruin your experience with marketing. Discuss the ideas you come across (even the crazy ones), align them to your goals, and be ready to be an active participant in the marketing process.
Anne Laffin is the founder of Fin Marketing Management. She created this consultancy out of her experience watching startups try to navigate marketing during their foundational years. She understands the pitfalls of complicated marketing vernacular while starting a business and created a solution that calms the chaos.
Have questions? I would love to discuss them with you. Even the questions about crazy, hidden ideas.