Who Really Wants To Be Educated About Marketing?
Think about the last time you asked someone for advice. What was it about the situation or person that caused you to seek advice? Or consider the last time you were in a restaurant looking over the menu, trying to make a decision about what to order. You may have asked the waiter to help you with this decision, soliciting his or her advice as to what option may be the best one, what is fresh, what pairs better with the wine, etc. While both situations involve seeking advice, there is a difference between the two. In the first situation, you are seeking advice from a trusted friend, relying on their experiences and their knowledge of you to guide you in the right direction. In the latter situation, you are putting your trust in the opinion of a total stranger who does not know you from another customer. So…what makes you trust the latter’s opinion enough to order what they recommend?
The World Of Marketing
Now let’s compare this situation to the world of marketing, particularly in regard to client education and advising services. When a client hires a marketing firm for advisory services, how is it much different than trusting the waiter at a restaurant?
If you think about it, there really is no difference—UNLESS you are able to contribute something more to the relationship. The problem, however, is often getting the client to understand that in order to get the most out of the advice and service they are seeking, they have to be willing to accept something more. This “something more” that one may need in order to trust your opinion is a willingness to be open to being educated.
“You can’t put a price on a good education.” “Knowledge is power”. These are bold statements, but what does it mean to be educated? And what is the difference between being educated and getting advice? The question may seem like splitting hairs, but the difference between education and advice often gets muddled in the client-agency relationship. To be educated means to have information—how else can informed decisions be made? On the other hand, to be advised involves opinion—an opinion summated with or without a collection of experience and educated knowledge. It also involves trusting that opinion.
Clients tend to skip over or discount the education component of what marketing agencies offer because they hired you to produce targeted design with measurable results—education is not their primary objective. This should not be the case, but it seems to be reality. However, the question needs to be asked—can one be appropriately advised without first being educated?
The challenges related to collaborating with clients who want to have a large role in the creation of their marketing materials, but have not been educated as they should be, results in mistrust or questioning of the advice they are given. This causes missed deadlines and timelines to be delayed.
Maybe the dynamic needs to change. While clients may hire marketing agencies to advise them in order to condense the education component, they still need to spend a portion of the decision-making process obtaining education and becoming knowledgeable so that they may make the most informed decisions and truly be involved in the process. But then the question becomes: “what is the correct amount of education that clients need as a part of the marketing process?”
What is the Correct Amount?
In the marketing agency world, client education is important at every level. For example, communicating to clients “why” one solution may be more appropriate than another, or “what” steps are involved in particular processes, is an essential part of decision making. Ensuring clients fully understand the scope of the project and its direction is imperative to the steps that follow.
Most will agree that an important role for in-house legal marketers is to be advisors and partners to their attorneys—the person that they go to and seek advice from, in a sense. Attorneys should be able to look to their marketing professionals as assets to help them increase exposure for their practice and the industries they serve. Creating this visibility and confidence in their marketing department assists in gaining a seat at the table. We all want a seat at the table with our partners, right? As legal marketers, the attorneys in your firm should be viewed as your clients. This is a concept Moiré Marketing Partners has suggested in a past blog,Your Partners Are Your Clients.
Let’s take a closer look at the marketing and creative agencies law firms hire. Law firms hire agencies for a variety of reasons:
- Lack of internal resources to get the job done
- Looking for marketing and creative expertise, excellence and guidance
- Looking for an agency partner that will help take the firm to the next level and serve as their “in-house marketing staff”
- Seeking cost-effectiveness (financially, hiring an agency partner is more cost effective than a new employee).
Like in-house legal marketers, being a trusted advisor plays a large role in what agencies do as partners with law firms. It seems that oftentimes the value lies in trusting advice, not in informed decisions. Being a trusted advisor can be viewed as more like that friend from whom we seek advice—but even in that situation, you don’t always follow that advice without having “something more.” The value and focus needs to be shifted to making an informed decision through education and knowledge.
Most agencies are confident in their create prowess, but it is the level of advising that elevates one agency over another because of their ability to educate. Education is a two-way street, requiring both the agency and the client to take accountability in the process.
As a marketer (client), you were hired, in many instances, to lead your firm’s marketing department. Being able to talk the talk and walk the walk is what partners look to you and the marketing team for— to make decisions that positively affect the firm. Not all that different when law firms hire agencies. One would never present an idea or solution to partners without have all the details to support your argument for a particularly marketing cause. Education helps set you and your marketing department up in presenting your case to your partners. Most agencies do the same when presenting ideas and solutions to clients (this should raise a red flag if your agency doesn’t.).
Certainly research would be the first step in understanding the true marketing needs and strategic direction of your firm. Communicating with other professionals in your role and outside your industry, read articles, white papers or cases studies on the particular topic, training and/or seminars, conferences, etc. all are avenues to for education.
Staying current on marketing trends and how they may be developed and implemented is essential. You do not want to be left behind, always running to catch up with your competitors and/or market. Understanding processes that agencies follow (i.e., website design and development, identity development, etc.) in order to provide strategic design with measurable results is important in understanding and making informed decisions. The agency should be responsible for sharing this knowledge along the way, providing insights and reasons behind a design, a direction and strategy.
Think a bit more about where your focus is now, and maybe where it should be and could be in the future. Being able to redirect focus and view the education component as important is essential. Don’t just trust the waiter – and don’t always listen to your friend – when it comes to making an informed decision.