Carlos A. Espitia

Confessions of a Marketing Consultant

I am burdened. My wife asks me, “what’s wrong?” I am perplexed by my clients, I tell her. Don’t get me wrong, if it weren’t for them I would be out of business. The problem, you see, is that my big marketing accomplishments are often stifled by the very people who hired me for my marketing expertise.

The Young Marketing Analyst

confessions of a marketing & Internet ConsultantEarly in my career, I worked as a marketing analyst for a prominent marketing research firm whose clients were the Fortune-500 types. These clients were often paying us $20K to $100K per month to run research and optimization tests on their websites. More often than not, the biggest obstacle in implementing our suggested campaigns to test was… the client. Often times I’d lay out a systematic approach with all the necessary pieces needed to achieve success, only to have the client pick and choose which pieces they wanted me to implement and which not to. Even after running successful A/B tests on their websites and holding empirical data showing how they can increase conversions, the client would still want to change some elements of the recommendations.

Most times, the recommendations we’d present a client were a series of seemingly small and insignificant pieces to them. What they didn’t know is that all those pieces worked together, like gears. Never mind the thousands of A/B tests we ran with other clients, and the hundreds of case studies we had personally written about. Our biggest hurdle was often getting the client to approve the changes. For some reason, executives always feel the need to have a say in everything, even topics they know relatively nothing about.

The Marketing Consultant

Fast forward 10 years, many clients, campaigns, and millions of Dollars in managed digital marketing budgets later. I find myself at a client’s office explaining to him why the changes he made to my marketing campaign are a bad idea. I find myself feeling like the young marketing analyst many years ago, wondering why they hired me in the first place if they weren’t going to follow my recommendations? As a young analyst, this bothered me, but I had little say in the matter because they weren’t my own clients and I had to follow the corporate vision as well as that of the client. But now I have my own agency and these are my clients. I feel a personal duty to save them from themselves.

So many analogies come to mind when I encounter this scenario, and I often want to throw being tactful out the window and just blurt out my analogies:

confessions of a marketing consultant & analystDriving a car every day doesn’t make you a mechanic. Would you pay a mechanic $125/hour to fix your car, only to push him out of the way mid-way an engine rebuild and tell him I’ll take it from here? It would be like going to your cardiologist and he gives you his prognosis, then u say; “my plumber has similar issues and this is what he told me I should do…”  If you had the nerve to say such a thing, what do you think the look on your doctor’s face or his reply would be?

With the rise of social media also comes the new breed of experts. Everybody is a social media expert now. It drives me bananas when a client’s wife sends me suggestions, or worse when they edit our social media posts for that client. This is a key component to my SEO consulting services – good communication and expectations.

The Eager CEO

Sometimes it’s the eager beavers that cause massive damages to their own campaigns. I had a client ask me about 301 redirects and if they are OK to use. I told him, “sure, they’re perfectly fine, but make sure that you make the redirect point to the right page”. As chance would have it, he changed the structure of the URL for several high-ranking pages and then pointed the redirects to the wrong pages. It was a huge mess. By the time I caught it, the damage was done. Apparently, Google couldn’t make much sense of the new URL structure and the rankings for those pages went into a freefall. After about 2 weeks of this ranking freefall, his business partner asks me; “what did you do?” I was speechless.

confessions of a marketing & Internet ConsultantJust the other day I had a client send me an email draft which he wanted to send to his subscribers. He asked me for my feedback, so I wrote out a detailed email back to him explaining why that email shouldn’t be deployed in its current form. In addition to the many suggestions I made to improve the email, I also recommended a new subject line. The client replied to me: “thanks for your input, we’re going to deploy the email as-is”. Turns out that was the worst performing email of the year in just about every measurable category for that client. Open rate was half of their average rate, CTR was less than half, and sales conversion were abysmal.

I know what happens next. The panic alarm is sounded and everyone has to scramble to do damage control because of “our” failed email. He’ll say to me; “we spent thousands of Dollars generating this email list and it’s not producing!” We’d later go on to launch our own email to the same list and surprise, surprise… we doubled the results. It’s amazing what 15-years of marketing experience can do when properly applied. But I digress.

How I “Broke The Internet”

A couple years ago I actually had a client call me hysterically and say: “you broke the Internet”, to which a soft but audible chuckle came flying out of my mouth before I could catch it. After taking a couple of seconds to compose myself, I asked the client what exactly she meant. “Our email is down”, she says. “Ah, that’s a better assessment of the situation”, I say quietly to myself. Their email was down due to a site migration we had just finished and the name servers had to be updated in Outlook. I’ve been blamed for many things in my life, but breaking the Internet was a first.

confessions of a marketing consultantI’ve met with many clients, some with their own marketing teams. Weeks ago I was sitting with a client’s creative manager reviewing their campaigns when he shows me some of the brilliant content he had created. I asked where they used it or published it. He tells me: “nowhere”. The executive team and owners of the company routinely veto and shoot down this marketing team’s ideas. Do you know why this client hired me as a consultant? They hired me to show them how to be more creative and capture more market share through their content. Ironic, isn’t it? They’re willing to pay me, a consultant with a hefty hourly rate, to tell them that they should listen to their creative manager. Trust your people, trust the process, as Marcus Lemonis would say.

Trust Your Marketing Team

marketing consultantsIf you own a company or you are an executive guilty of these mentioned things, a change is required. Trust in the team you hired to run your marketing department. You may own the company, but that doesn’t make you a marketing expert. You need to get out of your marketing team’s way and let them do their job. If you hire a consultant like me to shake things up and break through the plateau you’re in, listen to him and follow his recommendations. The biggest obstacles to successful and brilliant marketing campaigns are often the executives or owners, not capital. Remember that.

If you are a marketing person and you can relate to this topic, feel free to anonymously send this article to your boss. Subtle hints don’t often work with execs.

I am someone that takes great personal pride in my clients’ businesses, and I have a hard time watching them commit the same mistakes I’ve already made or seen other clients make. There’s a good chance a case study has already been written about said mistakes too. It’s great to have input from the whole team, including owners and executives, but ONE person needs to have ownership of all decisions. The team will celebrate success together, but the ultimate responsibility has to fall on one person.

If you got this far in reading this article I assure you that I love all of my clients. I love working on different projects and in different industries. Most of all, I absolutely love the challenge of growing a business, of beating our clients’ competitors, and in figuring new ways to drive more profitable traffic to our clients’ websites. I wrote this article in humor, but also to make a point; trust the people you hired to do your marketing, you may be amazed of what they can accomplish if you let them.

As for my marketing and consulting agency goes, I’ll leave you with the words of the father of advertising, David Ogilvy, which our agency strictly lives by:

David Ogilvy, The Father of Advertising“The recommendations we make to our clients are the recommendations we would make if we owned their companies, without regard to our short-term interest. We exist to build the businesses of our clients. We sell, or else”.



Carlos A. Espitia

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