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Classic Marketing Consulting Fail: “What We Got Here is a Failure to Implement”

Posted on May 21st, 2012
Written by Lee Odden
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  • Classic Marketing Consulting Fail: “What We Got Here is a Failure to Implement”
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    implementation failIf you’re old enough to remember the classic movie, Cool Hand Luke, there’s a moment when a rebellious prisoner played by a young Paul Newman refuses to “go along” with prison rules despite some grueling punishment. The warden, played by Strother Martin, made the famous observation about a lack of communication.

    The failure to communicate is probably the most important cause of failure with client and internet marketing consultant relationships. Everything from managing expectations to performance reporting are affected. One of the most common outcomes from a lack of communication in a consulting engagement is the failure to implement.

    Tweet This: What’s worse than bad social SEO advice? Failure to implement the good advice that gets results.

    There are many reasons for a failure of implementation when it comes to online marketing tactics and the fault lies both with consultants and client side marketers alike. Here are a few common reasons for each. Hopefully you can identify whether your situation falls into one of these categories so you can avoid wasting time, money and lost revenue growth for all.

    Marketing Consultant Implementation Fails:

    • Selling Incomplete Expertise – Not understanding what it really takes to implement a certain type of consulting can result in the agency not properly preparing the client for what their obligations are for successful implementation. “Fake it til you make it” is a common practice with consultants and agencies breaking into new areas (like all the SEOs getting into content marketing now or PR/Ad/Interactive agencies getting into SEO a few years back) and a common casualty is the inability to follow through.
      Lesson: Consultants need to develop processes for new areas of expertise, bring in outside consultants to build the practice area expertise and be up front with potential clients to ensure adaptability and to manage expectations. The other lesson is to simply not over-state capabilities and sell things you don’t know how to do.
    • Failure to Assess Capabilities – A review of both internal and client side responsibilities for successful implementation is critical. A company that says they want to develop a content marketing strategy and hires a consultant who says yes without identifying the company has no intention of hiring writers or tasking employees with content creation is a major fail for all.
      Lesson: Understand the essential processes and tasks involved with new consulting engagments and identify the capabilities of anyone at the company who may be potentially involved with implementation. Confirm in the agreement who will do what and what is expected.
    • Failure to QA & Manage Tasks – While many client and consulting engagements begin with good intentions all around, projects that take months for discovery, strategy and implementation can go off track if they are not managed properly.
      Lesson: Consultants must manage and share a timeline. They must also require time to oversee implementation and ongoing QA of content, SEO and social consulting implementation because it is inevitable that client staff or other consultants will implement partially, differently than intended or overwrite good work 6 months down the road.

    Client Side Marketer Implementation Fails:

    • Lack of Consultant & Tactical Due Diligence – Companies that hire consultants will get more value for their investment when they have some awareness of how the tactics they’re hiring for actually work. Too often companies hire social media “brandividuals” or chase after a shiny social media object tactic without really having an idea of how things fit in their marketing plan.
      Lesson: Either some effort is put forth to gather that knowledge through internal efforts or education is made part of the consulting engagement.  In particular, SEO and social media brandividuals and hot social apps in the press need to be vetted for real-world expertise, experience and practical application for the business.
    • Mis-Alignment of KPIs vs Business Goals – Imagine a company hiring a consultant to grow a Facebook fan page to 10,000 fans. The consultant delivers. But then the company fires the consultant because revenue didn’t increase.
      Lesson:  A responsible marketer should identify measurement goals that account for progress AND business outcomes. Consultants can view a goal like fans, followers or rankings as easy money but the connection to business value must be made. This one is on both client and consultant. Corporate marketers must be able to answer “why” when they identify performance measures that do not have a direct impact on business objectives.
    • Lack of Influence and Internal Support – Ambitious marketing managers who have become aware and educated about the significant impact of an integrated SEO, Social Media and Content Marketing program may get budget to hire a consultant only to discover that PR, Social, Content, Legal, HR and other parties that need to be involved are “not on board” with key implementation approvals and tasks.
      Lesson: As research is conducted into what is involved with bringing an outside consultant into the mix, it’s important that client side marketers map out who they will need to work with internally to get tasks implemented. The time to grow that internal network of “friendlies” should begin long before the engagement begins.  Identify how those peers will benefit from participation and cooperation with your consulting investment. Make sure they have a clear picture of the benefits for themselves, their group/department and the organization overall.

    Of course there are more ways to fail internet marketing consulting implementation than the short lists above, but the key is responsibility about capabilities, planning, managing expectations, allocating appropriate resources and most of all: communication.

    It takes two to tango and if a consultant is involved it will inevitably be deemed the consltants fault. That’s why it’s essential for online marketing consultants to properly identify key characteristics of companies that are capable of implementing or able to adapt or adjust to enable proper implementation. In the end, we all want a 360 degree win and that requires better communication during prospecting, kickoff, engagement and with ongoing consulting.

    If you’re a corporate marketer, what are some of the fails you’ve seen from consultants that have caused failures of marketing implementation?   Your turn consultants: What implementation fails have you experienced and how did you overcome them?