A marketing consultant is not necessarily a marketing consultant.

From one to another, they are completely different. Some have great skills in strategy, others in tactical development and execution of marketing plans. Some are great at communicating but not fully across social media or what role advertising plays in the digital age.

In the past year, I have travelled the world talking to marketers and each one has something different to offer. They all have honed their skills in one area or another.

I first started my involvement in the marketing industry 21 years ago at an advertising agency in  Queensland. I remember watching the owner of the business operate and being completely fascinated by his skills and creativity. He had started his career as a window dresser for a large retailer and way back in the early nineties was making more than a million dollars profit out of 5-man agency. Incredible.
Want a marketing consultant in the US? Atlanta? New York? Los Angeles? BEWARE!

While he was not tertiary qualified, he had a skill that I have rarely seen since then. He was creative but most importantly he thought about the bottom line of his clients businesses.

I once asked, "why don't we do more creative advertising?".

He replied, "because we do advertising that sells."

And there lies the problem with marketing consultants and creatives today. Building a brand is great, but at the end of the day, the business must make money.

Three years ago I employed a guy as a marketing executive in our Melbourne office and he lasted a few weeks. He was terrible at everything other than writing a direct marketing letter. A few weeks later, with a web developer as a mate, he started up his own marketing consultancy.

Would I trust my valuable marketing dollars with him? No. He simply was not across marketing enough and didn't have a natural knack for understanding a market.

Recently I employed a marketing manager in a new region and while they were in their trial period, I realised that they knew nothing about marketing (or very little). In fact, I am flabbergasted as to how they had two good strong references because although she is the nicest person in the world and completely adorable, her marketing skills were almost non-existent. Although we asked all the right questions in the interview and explained how important it was to know all areas of marketing, not just one -  she thought she could wing it. Thank goodness we didn't let her loose on clients, because our reputation would be an tatters. But please let me reinforce what a lovely person she is but not the right person for the job and not a marketing manager, senior enought to drive the marketing efforts of a small business. Sometimes no matter what we do, people don't fit and you don't know that until they start.

When she started working she asked over a series of weeks; "how do you book advertising?" "I have never done a direct marketing campaign, how do you do that?" "I have never written a marketing strategy, how do you do that?" "I have never done social media?" "I have never done PR?" - well what have you done? Why do referencees say that people have done things when they have not? It is not only unfortunate for the company but also the person. As a company, we test people before they work with clients.  As for the person who has taken the job that they don't have the competency levels for, they hit the unemployment line, or they get another job and the cycle continues for them.

I say BEWARE of hiring a marketing consultant in any area of the US, not because it is the US, but because it is like any country around the world. People say what they think you want to hear, but the reality is, you need results and as a small business, you need to work with people who have "been there and done that".

Which leads me to travel. If your marketing consultant has not travelled in the past 12 months overseas and I am not talking about a trip to Hawaii - then fire them. Perhaps, that is a bit harsh, but you get the picture. Without exposure to what is happening in marketing around the world and seeing for yourself how marketing is executed in each different country, how do you understand marketing or push boundaries? Marketing isn't just what's in your imagination or what is online and quite often people forget that.

Note: The picture attached to this story is in Amsterdam and is of a interior architectural design firm. What did I learn from this company? To push boundaries, think outside the square, use design in ways I never imagined possible, create space, give your team room to be creative and MORE. It was inspiring beyond belief.
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Mellissah Smith

Mellissah Smith is a marketing expert with more than 20 years experience. Having founded and built two successful marketing companies internationally, she is well recognized as a industry thought leader and innovator. Mellissah started her career working with technology and professional services firms, primarily in marketing, public relations and investor relations, positioning a number of successful companies to list on the various Stock Exchanges around the world. She is a writer, technology developer and entrepreneur who shares her thoughts and experiences through blogs and written articles published in various media outlets. Brag sheet: #2 marketer to follow on Twitter (2003), Top 150 Marketers to Follow (2015), Top 10 innovative marketers (2014), 60K+ followers on Twitter with 97% authentic.

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