“If you’re not part of the solution…
…there’s good money to be made in prolonging the problem”
This definition is the dark side of what we call “consulting.”
It doesn’t have to be this way…but it’s true more often than it’s not.
I want to give consultants (and clients who hire consultants) more hope today…and at a minimum, some new ways to think about consulting.
I was going through my archives of videos, podcasts, articles and all sorts of propaganda I’ve created over the years…and came across an interview/discussion I did with my buddy Joe Polish (from 2015) titled, “How to Hire a Marketing Consultant.”
While I hate the term “consultant” …I prefer educator, coach, teacher, mentor…I realized that we are all consultants (in our business and in our personal lives) …just like we are always salespeople.
That includes with business associates and colleagues along with family and friends.
Consulting and selling is not always transactional.
Just existing and breathing—and then expressing yourself–makes you a consultant and salesperson all the time.
And the constant in being good at those things, and being able to give advice at the highest level, is experience, knowledge and wisdom.
A consultant consulting about things that they have not done themselves, drives me crazy.
There is a quote (attributed to George Bernard Shaw) that is applicable here:
“Those who can, do; those who can’t, teach.”
In marketing, when I get solicited or unsolicited advice from anyone on a particular topic, the first thing I want to find out is “what qualifies you to give me this advice?”
But there is a time and a place to teach.
According to one of my mentors, Jay Abraham, it should be a requirement…but in due time:
“If you’ve done it, you have a moral responsibility to teach it.”
And no instant experts need apply for a teaching position.
“Doing it” takes time.
You can’t teach whatever pops into your head because you have one big win with one client or you read about something in a book, or you saw a radically new marketing tactic while at a seminar.
There’s a wide chasm between sharing what you heard and teaching what you know (and have experienced).
As a marketer, I dread taking cues from people who are self-proclaimed experts without a lengthy and consistent track record; but I seek out those who have done it over the long haul.
Those who I seek and hire have also had big successes and massive failures…although there really are no failures…they have won or they have learned.
I remember when I left Boardroom in 2015, the company I helped build over 35+ years (with the help of many consultants), I avoided telling people that I was a consultant–since all that meant to the folks in my town who had “real jobs” (you know, lawyers, doctors, accountants etc.), was that I was now unemployed.
To them, consulting is not a job…it’s how you fill time in-between jobs.
And if I tried to explain to those same people that I wanted to create “a direct marketing education and coaching company with mastermind groups and courses” (while writing books), they would think to themselves, “I wonder when Brian will need to sell his house.”
So, is consulting a legitimate thing to do?
Of course it is.
Just call it something else for starters. 🙂
And describe yourself by the niche you consult in rather than the catch all of “marketing consulting” or “business consulting” …and make it be in something you have extensive experience in and that you are passionate about.
Some of the most highly compensated people I know can be classified as consultants (but they call themselves something else).
As I alluded to above, without consultants like Dick Benson, Gary Bencivenga, Jay Abraham, Gene Schwartz, Gordon Grossman and countless others, Boardroom would never have grown the way it did.
And over my career I have witnessed the exponential growth of hundreds of other admired companies whose growth can be directly traced to having the best consultants on their payroll…all the time.
From the consultant’s point of view, I maintain that if you structure a consulting business as another way to get paid for your time, you might as well be one of those people who is consulting as the thing to do in-between jobs.
That’s when it can suck…. getting paid on retainer where you can be terminated at will, or getting paid by the project or by the hour, which will also create less satisfaction for you, especially if you prefer building things and getting immersed in your work rather than just getting a paycheck.
It’s sort of like being a grandparent (for a business):
You go into a company, get the grandkids (i.e. the employees) hot and bothered with all your wonderful ideas (i.e., “sweet treats for the grandkids”), and then leave a hyperactive mess for the company to clean up.
This model will definitely create less long-term security as well.
That is, you are only as good as the hours you have available and you never know when you will need to pitch new business.
It can be an exhausting cycle and it is a model that is hard to scale.
You need to be a trusted advisor, a true partner in the business, and not a hired hand.
And you can’t be all things to all people…commoditization is a drag…specialization is the way to create a scalable consulting business.
The best consultants figure out ways to become indispensable to their clients (within their core competence and unique ability) …and when they do that, they are compensated accordingly…with much higher fees, bonuses on performance, royalties and even equity in what they are helping to build.
Of course, however you structure it, I recommend that you don’t call your business a “consulting business” since you don’t want your neighbors thinking you will be destitute anytime soon. 🙂
This is a topic that many of you ask me about a lot…especially after I wrote about scaling a copywriting business, and the new paradigm going from being a hired gun to going deep with only one (or maybe two) clients.
Admittedly, I wrote it from the perspective of a client and not a copywriter…but I believe it’s instructive for both.
Whether it’s copywriting, marketing or anything else, there is an art in figuring out how to share your super powers with the world while creating a steady income for yourself that is both active and passive…which adds to the freedom of running your own show.
Hiring a marketing consultant (who is not simply “prolonging the problem”) is something I think about a lot…having hired many over the years who did just the opposite (they solved huge problems and created game changing opportunities).
I only want to hire and be a problem solver.
And when I came across the aforementioned video I filmed with Joe Polish, I wanted to share it with you so you can listen in on how Joe and I went deep on this topic…and maybe get you thinking differently about this “profession” no matter what side of the desk you are on, client or consultant.
We talk about, among other things:
- How to make yourself indispensable…as a consultant and a client
- As a client, how to be dependent on the consultant in a healthy way for things only they can do
- Consulting as “harnessing genius” (either yours or others) rather than a catch-all phrase you use when you can’t describe what you do
- The best ways to scale a consulting business for yourself
- Pro tips on hiring a consultant and how not to feel ripped off when you pay someone to do something that seems easy for them to do…but it’s not easy for you
I hope you will leave this discussion and the one in the video below with a new perspective on how to truly value consulting…whether you are the consultant or the one being consulted.
Click on the screenshot below and let me know what you think.
P.S. One of the top consultants I ever had was Gene Schwartz.
Yes, he was a copywriter…but “writing for food” was never his game, and he became a trusted advisor for everything I did at Boardroom…which was all directly or tangentially related to copy and marketing…whether it was copy he wrote for me or not.
As most of you know, I have the exclusive rights to his masterpiece, Breakthrough Advertising…we’ve sold over 7,000 copies in over 50 countries over the past seven years.
Gene continues to “consult” to marketers and copywriters everywhere.
But the book is dense…and not cheap…so getting the most out of it in terms of implementing Gene’s genius into your business has become a new mission for me.
That’s where the Breakthrough Advertising QuickStart Bootcamp comes in…a two-week intensive with instruction, exercises, homework specifically geared to the business you are in…digital or offline…virtual or brick and mortar…or any combination.
We have hosted two Bootcamps already…the first was a huge success…the second was even better because we incorporated everything we learned from the first…and I can guarantee that this third one (which begins on April 5th and runs through April 19th) will be the best one yet.
In fact, someone who attended the second one asked if he could come to this next one too since he saw the power of the group dynamic.
He experienced the value of sharing with other marketers, copywriters and entrepreneurs in a collaborative, interactive environment and he wants to do it again with a completely new mix of participants.
We do hot seats on your specific business with open question and answer sessions on every call.
Put your name on the waiting list on that page… since we will be opening up seats off the waiting list this week and you will get first crack.
Seating is limited to maximize the collaboration and interactivity…we will close it at 60 participants.
P.P.S. Oops…I made a faulty assumption that you all had a copy of Breakthrough Advertisingin your library already…silly me. 🙂
In terminology Gene Schwartz would endorse (because he invented it in Breakthrough Advertising), if you don’t own a copy then you are less “product aware” …and unfortunately, you are also less “sophisticated” (as it pertains to the epic and applicable concepts in the book).
But I’m sure you are sophisticated enough in direct response marketing to know the value of this book.
P.P.P.S. And your timing would be perfect to buy the book today (if you haven’t previously) …and sign up for the alert list for the Bootcamp today as well.