3 Rules to Stop Sucking as an Online Marketing Consultant

3 Rules to Stop Sucking as an Online Marketing Consultant

A lot of my fellow WordPress enthusiasts and my readers are marketing consultants. Even those who don’t position themselves that way…and unfortunately some of them suck at marketing.

I’m not hating on anyone here. Everyone sucks at something…and I spent my share of years at “Hard Knocks University” before I finally got a clue.


I’ve noticed something peculiar about entrepreneurs, though…

They all think they’re marketing experts.

I can’t blame them I guess. It’s intoxicating to the EGO…wielding the power to conjure up the money to put food on your table while millions of poor souls are forced to work for an employer in exchange for a measly, albeit predictable, paycheck.

It’s easy to get what I call “entrepreneurial fever.” This is where you make $50 working for yourself and suddenly you’re this marketing guru…a legend in your own mind.

But when you’re sitting across the table (or on Skype, halfway across the world) from a client who knows as much about marketing as an octopus knows about operating a cell phone, you often become the expert by default.

In case this has happened to you, or in case it’s in your near future, I thought you might want to know what I’ve learned from the piles I’ve stepped in as a marketing consultant…

#1: Lesson One: The Customer is the Expert

Have you ever heard that the Customer is always right?

Well, I’ve got my own spin on that now…

The world’s greatest marketing expert is your customer.

Of course, they don’t know this, and it’s better that way. Easier to sell them stuff. The best way to learn how to market to a customer is to measure their behaviors, and WordPress has a ton of plugins and gadgets that help you do this.

Use these tools, and find out what’s going on in the customers’ heads before you start giving your clients advice. This is easy to do if you monitor customer behaviors and ask yourself why they’re responding to your client’s marketing the way they are.

Of course, you could always survey the customers, but many times that’s about as useful as a flamethrower in a room full of gas cans. Your customers don’t always have a clear idea of what they really want, and what people say on surveys tells you very little, if anything, about what will actually motivate them to spend money.

But if you watch their behaviors, you’ll discover what they honestly value. This is the only cure for what I call “sneakerbreath.”

(Open mouth, insert foot)

It’s easy to catch sneakerbreath as a marketing consultant. All you have to do is open your mouth, say something that sounds right, only to have your client come back and give you the ole’…

“I tried that and it didn’t’ work.”


Ever had to talk your way out of that one? Not much to say other than:

“My bad.”

So before you advise, find out how the customers are already responding and build your strategy around customer behavior.

#2: Lesson Two: Question First, Consult Later

If you start advising before you’ve asked at least three to five good questions, I’ll be willing to bet you my left shoe that you’re misleading your clients.

Napoleon Hill once said that opinions are the cheapest commodity on earth. Yet many well-respected entrepreneurs say information is the most valuable commodity on earth. If you smell a contradiction here, I don’t blame you.

The difference lies within the perspective from which an opinion is given. An opinion based on correct knowledge can be worth a fortune. But an opinion based on speculation, and even genuine experience, can be as rotten as a bucket of raw sewage. You have to ask the right questions first.

The poet T.S. Eliot once said:

“Where is the wisdom we’ve lost in knowledge? Where is the knowledge we’ve lost in information?”

TS Eliot

I’d pose this question to anyone who aspires to be in the education business, especially marketing education and particularly for those who have a lot of experience already. Experience can be your biggest crutch. It can cause you to advise a client based on assumptions about what you believe the problem is, only to end up in the “of those who have nothing to say, few are silent” club.

This is why it’s always a good idea to have three to five diagnostic questions that you ask before you give any input about a client’s marketing strategy. In fact, it’s a good idea to do this before you even consider taking them on as a client or quoting them a price for your services.

Questions are the mark of wisdom, and people will pay you well to ask the right questions. They seldom care about opinions…they can get those anywhere.

#3: Lesson Three: Read Fail to Succeed

If you want to be a goldmine of marketing wisdom for your clients, learn by taking risks and testing your knowledge when marketing your own business. You might have heard the saying:

“Readers are leaders.”

Cute, I like how they made it rhyme. That’s as far as the value of this saying goes. Leaders are people who take action and who learn through trial, error and persistence. This is especially true when it comes to being a thought leader in the marketing niche.

It’s like Dan Kennedy (the marketer of marketers) said:

“Marketing isn’t something you learn, it’s something you do.”

Dan Kennedy
Dan Kennedy

Amen to that.

I’m not saying you shouldn’t read to become a better marketing consultant; but if reading comprises 20% or more of your learning, you’re making beds in a burning house and asking your clients to sleep in them.

There are thousands of books on marketing, many of which were written by people who couldn’t make money doing anything else so they decided to try advising people about making money.

-Scratches his head-

If you read enough of these books, you’ll fill your head with theories that sound great but which, when applied, go over like a belch at a wedding banquet. Reading might be safer, but if you want to be a good marketing consultant, you have to risk failure and learn what really works.

#4: Don’t Forget Lesson #3, Get to Work

Life is too short to suck at what you do, and take it from someone who has stepped on plenty of land mines; these lessons can help you blow up your income as a marketing consultant. Find out how your client’s customers are already responding, ask some solid questions before giving advice and learn by testing your own ideas in the marketplace.

Online marketing consultants are as common as ants at a picnic, but there will always be a feast of opportunity available for those who are worth their salt.


Seth C