A Business Consultant Solves Problems. An Ad Agency Sells Services.
Sure, you could say I’ve owned an ad agency. In fact, I’ve owned, ran and consulted with several. But I consider myself a Business Consultant, first and foremost.
Why? Because my staff and I solve business problems. It just so happens that many of the solutions connect with marketing.
Many ad agencies are filled with well-meaning people. Creative-types in uber-hip office space unite under a really cool logo to foster really cool ideas. The problem is, too many times the ideas trump obvious business solutions. A new logo won’t solve the problem of a website that won’t convert. A new color palette or typeface re-design probably isn’t going to make much impact either. The job of the business consultant is less sexy. Dealing with numbers and percentages and connecting the organizational and communication dots that are not as glamorous as designing a new campaign.
To be fair, good design can help immensely in reducing user friction in navigating a website. But tactically changing the look of a website (unfortunately the most common form of client selection and mis-direction) is usually based on luck. Why not start with strategy instead?
As a Business Consultant, we advocate commencing any and all marketing initiatives with strategy. Our written strategy is based on a client’s business goals and objectives. This includes the website, which is why our websites aren’t cheap. Good strategy from a business consultant is an investment in future customer relationships. Creating fun ad agency projects is usually an exercise in self-pleasure.
Don’t get me wrong, we love the creative projects, too. But as business consultants, we apply our creativity beyond the execution. Here are ways to tell if your marketing firm thinks like a typical ad agency, or performs a role of business consultant:
1. Knows that revenues provide very little without profits to accompany those revenues.
2. Understands important numbers like average sales ticket, life-value of customer, cost-per-acquisition, to name a few.
3. Is able to figure a reasonable return-on-investment model.
4. Provides solutions in addition to the typical services.
5. Maintains a strategic mindset.
6. Doesn’t believe that marketing is the answer to every business problem.
7. Is as comfortable talking with the accountants as the account service people.
8. Isn’t intimidated by numbers.
9. Helps clients make rational decisions based on specific goals & objectives rather than on emotion. Meanwhile, understanding that the client’s customer-base very likely may make their purchase decision based on emotion.
Look, ad agencies serve a legitimate and very valuable purpose. However, sometimes you need a business consultant to sort through the marketing nonsense and harness true creativity with your current ad agency…or your new one.