“Choke up on the bat…a little more. There you go.” I can still hear my dad’s voice in my head. He was the best softball coach I ever had. We spent endless hours practicing in our backyard with a bat, ball, and a makeshift home plate we drew with chalk on the concrete. I’m a really different kind of marketing consultant. I view business as a game. Whoever gets the most sales wins. In any competitive sport, each and every person on the team has a role. Here’s how I feel most marketing consultants are failing to perform — they see their roles as players who are responsible for the day to day mechanical tasks rather than coaches responsible for the overall execution of the strategy resulting in a long term win.
We’ll discuss this concept by using an analogy to a baseball team. I’m a Red Sox fan but as I live here in New York City I have to tolerate the Yankee fans so let’s leave the team name out of it and avoid an argument, shall we?
The GM/Owner/Front Office = CEO
While the GM may occasionally decide who to trade or who to acquire from the Minor Leagues, that’s as far as his day to day decision making goes. The GM is normally the power role in the organization, but recently teams have started appointing a President of Operations who works with the owners to control the team’s commercial interests such as marketing the organization through endorsements, external relationships, etc. They make longer term strategic decisions such as how to finance the enterprise, coach, and players. They create the team’s brand as well as the target audience. For example, I remember once hearing a friend of mine complaining about the Yankees. “It’s just not as fun to go to the games anymore. It’s all corporate people now. I want to be at a game with a good old fashioned ragtag group of fans like the olden days.”
In business, the GM/Owner role is normally fulfilled by the CEO of the company who appoints the marketing staff and consultants.
The Coach = Marketing Consultant
In baseball there is normally a team of coaches (field coach, first base coach, etc.). The coach’s main responsibilities are to inspire and guide the team to victory in the day to day by successfully:
The coach is ultimately responsible for the team’s performance. He controls the game the most out of anybody on the team.
The Players = The Marketing Tools
The coach’s task is to synthesize the brand that the GM and front office created, the game strategy, the resources that are given by the GM and front office (access to training facilities, the baseball players themselves, etc), and the overall atmosphere (the weather on game day). These are the players in the game. The coach uses these tools to put team in the best possible position score more points than the competition.
To apply this analogy to business, the marketing consultant should synthesize the company’s brand that the CEO created and represents, the marketing strategy (social media, digital advertising, etc), the resources given to the team by the CEO (e.g., advertising budget) and the atmosphere (the economy). These marketing tools are the players in the game, and the marketing consultant has to use these tools to get as much of the right attention for the company as possible so that the team can close the sale and win market share from the competition.
Marketing Consultants’ Role Confusion
We’ve all suffered through that painful relationship that ended in disaster because the in-laws decided to act like relationship counselors…In order to win everyone has to play his or her position. Failure to do so has drastic consequences, both in business and in life.
The coach and players depend on each other. The front office depends on the coach and players as well, but has ultimate authority to hire and fire them. The marketing consultant is hired by the CEO just as the players are, but that’s where the equality ends. Coaches and players are not on the same level. This is where the most role confusion is prone to happen.
Role confusion leads to dysfunction which leads to discord and the end result is always lost games. Examples of role confusion include:
Application to Marketing Consultants
It’s not enough to be provide great marketing tools to a company. The approach has to be integrated, holistic, and full of a vision of the future. The world is full of people who call themselves “marketing gurus,” “rainmakers”, or “marketing geniuses.” My question is where were they when the world was falling down in 2007? They failed to help their clients and they went down with the ship. These “genius” tactics didn’t hold water because they were exactly that – tactics or tools – not integrated strategies that made sense given the context of the larger world and could compete within it.
Most marketing consultants function like players rather than coaches. They see their role as mechanical. Now I’m going to write this blog, create this posting, write this press release. But it’s totally responsive and not strategic. They act like the tool rather than the force driving all the tools. They relinquish control of the play, lacking any insight for the future past when is my next paycheck due. Player, not coach.
Most marketing consultants focus so much on the work product when the coaching is really what is needed. What companies need more than just a blogger, PR person, SEO consultant, or social media expert is a person who can execute these tasks while at the same time putting all the elements of the game together. Marketing consultants who do this are hard to replace. On the other hand, those who aren’t doing justice by their clients are the bloggers who blog without a sense of strategy, so aren’t PR people who lack a sense of the company’s true brand, SEO people who don’t understand what the competition is doing, and social media people who don’t see future media trends.
Examples of Marketing Like a Coach Rather than a Player
Great coaches are adept at deciding who to play up, who to push, who to tone down, who to keep in check, and who to leave alone.
These actions have been game changing for my clients and have brought their businesses to new levels.
To get out of the minor league, hire the marketing consultant who “gets it” when it comes to being not just a player but a coach, being fully committed to going beyond just the mechanical marketing tools. For social media, PR, blogging, or custom pieces such as white papers or ebooks, email [email protected] and we’ll hit the home run together.