As I was allowing a 60 year old Italian man to straight shave my neck last week at my regular barber (pretty cool old style barber shop – they call it a “whack”), I was suddenly struck by the notion of trust. It’s funny how the implied consent of placing your tender neck in the hands of a half blind, mostly in-comprehendible aging man from the old country will cause you to consider such things. Working with a consultant is much like being a barber. You only go to one when you absolutely need it, it’s hard to find a good one, sometimes you walk away wondering if you could do a better job yourself and when you do find one you like you wonder why you didn’t go earlier.
Much of the “Marketing Automation” landscape is made up of what I would consider to be “do-it-yourself” haircuts. The notion of asking for help is perpetually tied with shame and plagued with trust issues. Everyone wants to be trusted – at work it defines our value. As marketers we are forced to prove value on a daily basis, and much of that value comes from knowing the business, the product, and most of all, the buyer. For the most part we don’t trust that anyone knows our space better than ourselves. When buying new tools to help us better communicate with those buyers we want to be the champions and we want to justify any new expenses with real results. The only problem with that equation is all of the baggage we bring with us. You simply can’t start cutting that new “do” with gobs of Aqua Net, molding paste and years of buildup weighing you down. You have to start clean.
This brings us back to trust. What’s the basis for trust? Results – and you don’t see the result before taking the plunge. Often times this leads to an ill timed high-top fade right before that big family photo shoot. Have I beat the haircut analogy to death yet? So how then can marketers ever establish trust or reach for help when they don’t know what will work before beginning. Just like looking for a barber, get out there and talk to people. Anyone claiming to be an expert should have no problem-producing customers who can attest to it. They also should be using their services themselves. I’ll spare everyone the gross overload of analogies that exist to illustrate this, often-involving dog food, champagne etc. – but it’s true. If you believe in something, and you believe in your team, you should use it. And you should pay for it. Any consultant who hasn’t purchased the system they support and doesn’t run it to drive revenue should be cast out and stoned. Seriously. That’s the same as lying in my book.
So we know what we should look for when we reach out for help, great customers, use the solution themselves and put their money where their mouth is – so what’s the problem. Well, for starters, people are liars. Someone trying to sell you something will say some pretty amazing things. In order to sift through the BS use the above as an initial qualifier and then invite your short list to prove themselves with a limited engagement. I think limited engagements are awesome – and you should walk away feeling that way too. You’ll know when you feel comfortable bestowing that trust, and it will be warranted because the equation is balanced. You got what you need and the consultant was paid appropriately.
I never knew how important it was to have a fair trade when establishing trust until I got into the services business. Growing up we are mostly taught that getting more than you deserve is the goal. In business that translates to price negotiations and it has become standard in the software business – that price on the site is not what you will end up paying. I wrote a rant a while back about this (which I’m convinced my father liked more than anyone else) but it still hold true. When you are providing services, your price is your price. Set it fairly and you will profit – set it too high and you will starve, set it too low and you will eventually allow your level of service to align with the price you charge. For those consultants reading between the lines, this means – YOU WILL GET LAZY. Maybe not at first, but take it from someone who has done hundreds of them over many years – you cannot provide premium service at bargain basement prices. And because premium services are what the consultant should be providing, the client should want to pay a fair price. During the limited engagement you should have to opportunity to see if the service lives up to the hype and should walk away feeling like you received true value. Trust is born.
It’s normally pretty easy to determine the trust level a client has going into an engagement. I feel strongly that if a client shows those signs its best to start off slowly, rather than jump in headfirst. I’ve had legal departments re-write my agreement, I’ve had clients ask for payment to be broken up into 20 parts scattered throughout the project all tied to milestones with penalties involved, I’ve had prospects yell at me in the BUYING stage before. Warning signs – all of them. There are crazy people in life and guess what – a lot of them have jobs. They’re crazy at work too. Here’s the trick – the limited engagement works both ways! If the consultant sees a bad fit during that time they can complete the committed work and opt out. Sometimes you just have to get out – trust me.
So, what’s the point? As usual, I find that most modern ideas tie back to very well known, overused clichès. Walk before you run, don’t bite off more than you can chew, don’t take candy from strangers – wait, maybe that one doesn’t work. Regardless, don’t walk away from the possibility of help just because it’s difficult to trust that someone else can provide the help you need. Try them out, really talk to them, and talk to their customers. Find out who they are as people – marketing is subjective, at the end of the day, you are going to end up with someone’s opinion of how things should be. Speaking of opinions, if you’re ever in Scottsdale, stop by Goodfellas barber shop, they do a great job…that is if you are willing to trust a 60 year old man with a razor to your neck.
Meet Justin Gray
Justin is a serial entrepreneur and the CEO and founder of LeadMD, the world’s largest revenue operations agency having implemented over half of the Marketo user base. Justin has made a career of launching successful companies and scaling them, with successful exits of over 200MM+ in the last decade. Justin’s latest endeavor launched in 2016 when he co-founded Six Bricks an online learning startup designed to combat employee and customer churn through experience-based education. Over the past 10 years, Justin has emerged as a strong voice for entrepreneurship, marketing and culture. As a recognized speaker, Justin has been published over 350 times in industry publications and holds his own column, Tribal Knowledge in Inc., while writing for Entrepreneur, Tech Crunch and others. Justin and his wife Jennifer met over marketing and three years later welcomed their son, Grayson, into the world in April of 2017.