I know many of you may be questioning the value of a digital marketing consultant.
You think, "I've been doing it for years; I don't need one." I've been in these shoes before.
You see, in the summer of 1996, when I was 15 years old, I got into a little bit of trouble, and my parents grounded me for the whole summer.
That’s when I first picked up my stepdad’s guitar and taught myself how to play.
I’ve been playing for over 20 years now, been in various bands, played a bunch of gigs all over the UK, and recorded and released a number of EPs.
But for the past five years or so, I've hit a wall.
As with most things in my life, I need to feel like I’m making progress to feel happy, and I wasn't really growing as a guitarist. I've been playing the same riffs and the same songs, and I actually considered selling all my gear.
It wasn't until the COVID-19 pandemic that I got so fed up that I decided that it was time to do something about it.
So I created what James Clear in Atomic Habits calls a "commitment device."
This is an action where you make a choice in the present that controls your actions in the future. In this case, I booked and paid in advance for a month of guitar lessons with a new teacher.
When I sat down with my teacher for my first lesson, I had a pretty good idea of why I was there — I want to become a better technical lead guitarist.
I imagined that this would mean learning guitar solos from some of my favorite artists, but after a month of lessons, I hadn’t learned a single new lick.
It turns out, I was missing a lot of basic foundations in both theory and technique, (which is the trouble with being self-taught).
I was holding my plectrum incorrectly and my playing hand wasn’t doing the right thing. I couldn’t play well to a metronome, and I didn’t know the major scales intimately.
My new teacher diagnosed these foundational gaps in our first lesson, and for the first month, this was all we worked on.
It was uncomfortable at first. I felt vulnerable, as I thought I was pretty good, however, it was my teacher’s job to point out what I was doing wrong. That's exactly what I was paying him for.
For most business people, hiring a consultant is relatively expensive — especially if your frame of reference is the hourly rate of your employees, your own salary, and perhaps how much you pay to other vendors and suppliers.
There’s also the perception that it’s more expensive to hire a consultant than to just do it yourself, but basing your decision to hire a consultant and judging the value simply based on the up-front price is not going to help you make the right decision.
There are many other factors to consider.
An outside consultant can look at your company with a critical eye and identify shortcomings.
We can challenge what's being done with an outside perspective and have difficult conversations for change, in turn, helping you save money and time in the long term.
Of course, hiring a consultant is an important decision, and the up-front costs should be seen as a long term investment in the future success of your organization, but the value you get in return is worth taking into account.
They Ask, You Answer is a philosophy developed by Marcus Sheridan, that asks you to obsess over your buyers' questions and answer them openly on your website.
It's a deeper, more precise step into digital marketing that many consultants may not be familiar with, but works and figuring out exactly how you should implement it into your day-to day practice takes some finesse.
Now, maybe you're just learning about They Ask, You Answer.
Regardless of your state, there’s always the option, just like me learning to be a better guitarist, of going ahead and figuring it out for yourself.
If you do this, however, you will likely end up like me.
You miss out on some fundamental factors that will hold you back from being successful because you simply don’t know what you don’t know.
IMPACT strategic consultants know it all when it comes to They Ask, You Answer. It's our expertise.
Should my consultant have specific industry experience?
The great thing about They Ask, You Answer is that it’s based on a set of universal underlying principles:
Buying behavior is changing
Buyers research before they contact a company for the first time
Buyers wants to be in control and have more confidence
That means the ideology is industry agnostic.
It doesn’t matter what industry you are in or what niche you have carved out for yourself.
The philosophy and methodology can be applied to all types of organizations in all types of industries. The principles do not change.
When you embrace it and its teacher mindset, your company will begin to address your buyers’ questions and objections in an honest and transparent way to help them make a more educated and confident buying decision.
Clients often get stuck looking for a consultant with specific industry experience, but, it’s actually our diverse experience and client base that allows our strategic consultants to bring a unique perspective to your company.
When you hire a consultant today, you are getting the very best version of that consultant that there has ever been.
The very nature of being a consultant means we are continuous and self-directed learners. We pull lessons and insights from every client we work with.
It’s that cumulative outsider's perspective that allows us to quickly assess your organization and spot the gaps and underlying problem areas that will hold your company back from being successful in the future, and we can quickly devise solutions on how to get ahead of and solve these problems.
Brendan and Chuck, two clients of ours, for example, operate a 125-year-old B2C luxury product company.
Here’s what they had to say about hiring an IMPACT consultant to help them become a world-class They Ask, You Answer company:
“We live in an insular company. Our industry is like an echo chamber. I want someone to have the guts to tell us that our marketing sucks! We want someone that has been down the road a little bit and can suss out some of the roadblocks that we're likely to trip into during this process. What I want to buy is a strategic direction for our digital sales and marketing. That’s what we don’t have, and that’s what we need.”
For them, finding someone who is an expert in their specific industry is the exact opposite of what they needed, and in fact, when company leaders request a consultant that has specific industry experience, they are asking the wrong question.
Just like all our clients, Brendan and Chuck had the self-awareness to recognize that they don’t know what they don’t know. As such, they were likely to hold themselves back.
They needed an expert to help them implement They Ask, You Answer so that they could avoid those ‘roadblocks’ along the way.
Oftentimes, the value a great consultant brings to the table is the ability to facilitate a difficult conversation that companies have been hesitant to have.
Personally, I’ve seen some of the most dramatic shifts in company culture come from asking the right question at the right time. Therefore, trusting the process is a crucial part of the arrangement between consultant and client.
That said, here at IMPACT we invest heavily in continually developing and improving the tools, scorecards, checklists, training courses, guides, and content to help your organization and motivate your people to be the most successful they can be.
When organizations try to do things on their own they tend to avoid or ignore seemingly simple but important aspects that can impede their success in the future, and it’s the job of the consultant to push and challenge them to do the right things correctly, even if they are hard or difficult.
To be a better guitarist, I thought I knew what I needed to do — get a teacher so I could learn some new fast-paced solos.
Instead, my teacher helped me see that I needed to build and strengthen my foundation first so that when I do learn to play and write more solos, it’s built on a solid foundation of good theory and technique.
That’s why I really hired him: to tell me what I need to do to be a better guitarist — to tell me what I’m doing wrong, to pinpoint a place for us to start from, and work through building up the foundations from there.
He’s many steps ahead of where I am at right now, and he knows what I need to do to build up to becoming a great solo guitarist.
He’s leading me through this journey, and I trust him to guide me because, as a great teacher, he knows what I need to do in order to become the guitarist I want to be.
Even though I haven’t learned a single lick, and the people around me wouldn’t see any real difference in my playing, has it been worth it? Has it been valuable? Well, I’ve just paid for my next few months of lessons!
Generally speaking, the best consultants you hire are going to be those that have a set of specific skills to help you solve a specific problem in order to achieve something specific.
In the context of the consultants here at IMPACT, this would mean hiring a consultant that has the experience and the skills associated with successfully implementing They Ask, You Answer and guiding your company towards ownership of your digital sales and marketing.
I said to a friend recently that “I wish I had taken these guitar lessons 20 years ago.” I’ve come to terms with my regret that trying to do it myself actually cost me more in the long run.