Why the World Needs a New Startup Marketing Consultant
Estimated reading time: 6 minutes
…an Exclusive Interview with Lucy Siegel by Lucy Siegel
Q: What is Lucy Siegel LLC? Is this your third public relations agency?
A: Lucy Siegel LLC is my third entrepreneurial venture, but it isn’t a PR company. It will provide marketing communications strategy, planning and training services. The clients I’m interested in working with are startups and foreign companiesin the early stages of developing a foothold in the U.S. These are companies that could really use
help from a startup marketing consultant. I’ll also be working with other small to midsize companies.
Q: Aren’t people catching on that consultants merely borrow your watch and then tell you what time it is? And then send hefty bills for their supposed expertise?
A: What you’re saying can be true at times. But there are situations where consultants bring expertise that their clients lack. They can also provide independent, neutral input that company insiders can’t. Sometimes it saves money in the long run to spend some upfront to make sure you’re taking the appropriate actions.
Q: How many consultants will you have?
A: Just me. I’m the queen bee and the worker bee both. When you hire Lucy Siegel LLC, you’ll get Lucy Siegel.
Q: What’s the difference between hiring Lucy Siegel LLC and hiring an agency to provide marketing services?
A: Clients will hire me on a project basis to consult on and help plan their marketing communications and PR programs. I am not a day-to-day provider of marketing or PR services, but I’ll help match up a company to the right agency if a client wishes, or find an internal staff member or freelancer, which may be a better solution sometimes than an agency. I look at the circumstances and choose the best fit for each individual situation.
Q: Small and midsize companies don’t have tons of money to spend on marketing and PR in the first place. Why should they hire a startup marketing consultant like you when they’ll also need to hire the resources to do the day-to-day work? Isn’t that just an extra layer of expense?
A: You’re assuming they know what kind of marketing resources they need. This is not a good assumption. Startup founders may be brilliant experts in some areas, but many of them have little or no experience in marketing or communications. Companies frequently ask marketing agencies for services they think they need but that aren’t a good fit for their needs. It’s up to the agency to advise the client about what will and won’t work for them. As a PR agency owner, when I felt our services weren’t a good fit, I advised potential clients to use the budget on other kinds of marketing activities.
Q: Why are some companies not good candidates for PR?
A: That’s a blog post unto itself. But to answer briefly, it depends on how you define PR. If corporate leaders are looking for media coverage of their company and/or products, and there’s nothing that differentiates them from competitors, it’s very hard to interest the media in covering them. They’re not doing anything that’s newsworthy. Sometimes it’s a matter of timing: at times I’ve been asked to arrange media coverage of a product that isn’t yet available – not even to journalists and bloggers. Unless the product will be really revolutionary, or comes from a big company like Apple, consumer media aren’t likely to agree to cover it until it’s available to purchase.
However, the definition of public relations is much broader than media relations. It encompasses social media programs, content marketing, events, speaking engagements, community relations activities and more. But most of the time, when a company is looking for a PR firm, they want media coverage. Many business people think media coverage is the be-all and end-all of PR. Whether or not their companies or brands are of interest to the media, they want to be in the media. Some agencies will try to dissuade a potential client from spending money on something that won’t bring results and will try to sell something else that would be more helpful. But many agencies are too hungry for business to just walk away when a client asks for something that can’t be done. They say they can do it and pray that somehow they’ll find a way to deliver.
This situation isn’t limited to PR, it’s the same with other forms of marketing communications.
Q: Are you saying that agencies can’t be trusted to do what’s right?
A: The problem is, too many agencies will take on clients they can’t help because they need the revenue. The thought process isn’t usually a cynical one; generally they’ll convince themselves that with luck they’ll be able to succeed, even though in their hearts they know it’s very unlikely.
Q: How can company executives protect themselves so they don’t waste their marketing budgets?
A: There are a several ways:
- Add an experienced, savvy marketing executive to the staff to take charge of marketing and communications. The problem is, many startups that should begin marketing activities aren’t yet in the financial position to hire someone with the proper experience.
- Go to an “integrated marketing” agency that provides a wide range of services rather than a single-discipline agency that only offers one type of service. Most single-discipline agencies are biased towards the service they offer, whether a potential client needs it or not. But integrated marketing agencies are more discipline-agnostic, since they provide a range of marketing services and can provide a proposal based on the best mix of services for a particular client’s goals. However, integrated marketing agencies are profit-making businesses, too, and most of them are unlikely to advise a potential client that the time isn’t right to start working with them (and this is sometimes the best advice). There’s also the issue of budget. Most startups and small-to-midsize companies without senior marketing professionals on staff don’t have any idea how much they need to spend to make an impact. There’s just as much to lose by spending too little as spending too much. If the budget is too small, there won’t be enough activity to make an impact and the budget is just wasted.
- The third option is to hire a marketing consultant to work with the company’s executives to develop a proper marketing strategy based on the budget available, and to recommend the best resources to carry out the strategy.
If I were the CEO of a startup or a new U.S. subsidiary of a overseas-based company, I’d rather spend a relatively modest amount to get help from an unbiased marketing consultant than risk wasting a significant amount of budget on marketing solutions that won’t work. As my website says, there’s no GPS system for reaching a marketing destination, and in many cases there aren’t even maps available. It’s a waste of fuel and of time to get in the car and drive if you don’t really know the way. Hiring a guide to draw a map and give directions is eminently sensible.
By Lucy Siegel, Lucy Siegel LLC