The “I Know a Guy” Approach to Marketing Services – 3 Misconceptions

If you chose your last marketing services provider based on an “I know a guy”-type recommendation from a friend, you may have your eye on the wrong ball.

The term “marketing services” applies to everything from media buying to web design to research to creative development – and many, many more. To perform any of these services in a way that bears real fruit requires hundreds or thousands of hours of training.

While there is no doubt that word-of-mouth referrals can be a very valuable point of reference, you will benefit from digging a bit deeper to make sure you are choosing wisely. Reason: it is far too easy to underestimate just what goes into good marketing.

Here are 3 common misconceptions underlying the choosing of a marketing partner(s) based on an “I know a guy (or gal)” mentality:

Misconception #1: “I trust my friend and she wouldn’t steer me wrong.”

Your friend’s referral may indeed be the best-possible choice. But when you take a friend’s recommendation at face value, you may get lulled into a false sense of security. For example, you may skip asking all of the hard questions or you could forgo searching for other viable alternatives. Remember to keep your eyes wide open. With all due respect, it’s not your friend’s money you’ll be spending, it’s yours.

Misconception #2: “Marketing services are basically commodities, so decide mainly based on price.”

Not all web designers are good at the artwork design piece AND the programming piece AND the content creation piece AND getting it all done on time. Similarly, not all media buyers understand how to connect your prospects’ “buy buttons” with the right media choices at the right cost per point. The list goes on. Marketing services are not commodities. Rather, each one is a deep skill set – a mini universe unto itself. When on the hunt for a new provider, train yourself to look beyond the surface-level claims and find out about their experience and their past results. Price is not the only factor in the equation. Value reflects BOTH price and quality of services rendered.

Misconception #3: “Anybody with a good ‘For Dummies’ book, a few hours of time and a pot of coffee can learn how to perform most marketing services competently.”

We have met more marketing managers than we care to count who have taken a do-it-yourself approach to at least one of their marketing services. Need a new pay-per-click ad campaign? Easy: just buy a book and you got it covered. Need to jump-start your website’s SEO? Simple: call that college kid you know who is majoring in computer science and is “so good with computers.” These sound like logical approaches on the surface, but ask yourself this: would you entrust fixing your car’s transmission to a guy whose training is limited to having taken an auto shop class? Would you trust your next commercial flight to a pilot who is only qualified to fly single-prop planes? If not, why would you choose your marketing services provider that way?

Marketing in the 2010s is not the marketing of your grandfather, your uncle, or even your older brother. Data + new technologies + deep experience + strategic thinking combine to make (good) marketing what it is today. Most individual service providers and advertising agencies alike are still working like it’s 1999. If you really care about how your marketing budget is being used, don’t depend on “I know a gal (or gal)” tactics in selecting your provider. Dig a bit deeper, ask the right questions, and – of course – it never hurts to ask for references.