Wendy Steel's Marketing Blog

Ongoing musings about marketing

Why do I need a Marketing Consultant?

September 30, 2019

I get it.  When I moved from decades of Corporate life to consulting with small businesses and non profits, I understand you have very precious resources.  You live and breathe your business and are devoting countless hours of blood, sweat and tears. It's about as personal as it gets.  So why would you want to bring on a marketing consultant?  Here are some things to consider...

You want a fresh pair of eyes

There are times it can help to bring in someone with a business and marketing background that can see the forest for the trees.  Before we even dig into solutions, tactics or bandaids, I will take time to engage you in conversation about your business, extract out of that very bright brain of yours, what keeps you up at night, who your target audience is, your business performance and your near term and long term goals. It can sound daunting but this type of exercise (no homework on your part!) will help me develop a SWOT (Strength - Weakenss - Opportunities - Threats) analysis (more about this in a future blog)  and from there an opportunity to identify low hanging fruit. 

You don't have the time to stay abreast of latest marketing technologies

It's hard enough just keeping track of your day to day business.  A marketing consultant can not only alert you to faster (often free or almost free) solutions but also challenge your platform vendors to be sure you are getting the most out of your technology. I was working with a local client who was paying an ongoing "maintenance" fee for their website.  After digging in, I discovered many enhancements that had not been turned on for this client and also created more refined reporting to be sure we were testing out approaches and maximizinng response.  We even engaged in some free "beta" tests. 

You'd like to do some team building efforts but can't take the time to create materials and facilitate

Team building sounds like a nice to have but you just don't have the time to create or facilitate a morning, afternoon or several day activity. 

You are working on a very tight budget - why spend more on a consultant?

A good consultant will be able to help you focus on the right things, help with one time or ongoing program or team management and maximize your resources (your time and money).  

From Keystrokes to Brushstrokes - Lessons to Take Back to Work

September 13, 2019 (Originally posted on LinkedIn in 2014) 

We opted for a staycation this summer. No hardship here. Living on the Central Coast offers all kinds of possibilities. However, this time I wanted to mix things up - I was looking for something that would get us out in nature, unplug, rouse our creative spirits and quite honestly shake us up a bit, really clear the cobwebs. I recall some great advice from one of my favorite mentors: “choose to do things that scare the crap out of you.” Well, we found it: “The Amazing Paint Out!” led by award winning artist Erin Gafill. We would be painting outdoors (Plein Aire!) for 5 days, in different locations around Big Sur, Carmel and Monterey. The class was small, primarily “pros” and returning students, but Erin assured me it was OK for beginners to join, she would be right there coaching us along the way. And that she did. My husband and I were warmly welcomed and encouraged as “newbies” to think and act outside our comfort zones. Erin’s style of non-judgmental, supportive coaching and the group dynamic left us feeling inspired, stretched and invigorated. What was it about this experience could I bring back to the workplace? A  LinkedIn piece really resonated with me: Murderers of Innovation: The Power of Disempowerment by Matthew Galik “Disempowerment kills the core pillars of innovation. Disempowerment is the number one murderer of innovation”. As leaders in particular, how can we nurture the core pillars of innovation: 

  • Imagination
  • Drive
  • Curiosity 
  • Attitude

We all have a voice and we all deserve to be heard

One of my favorite parts of these sessions is we’d gather together, line up our paintings and celebrate each one. Not pick apart – honor. For newbies like my husband and me this could easily have been a cringe worthy experience that would have discouraged us from ever picking up a brush again. However, Erin and our fellow classmates saw the beauty in each and every painting. We all had our “moment” of celebration and praise, and we had our opportunity to share how we approached each painting. And truly there was something to be appreciated from each piece. Imagine if we could take this into our work environments. I have been on teams where this does happen, but all too often there are important voices, opinions that are not being heard. Either the HiPPO in the room or perhaps just someone with the loudest voice is silencing them. For a HiPPO refresher, to quote a recent Forbes article “HiPPOs are leaders who are so self-assured that they need neither other’s ideas nor data to affirm the correctness of their instinctual beliefs. Relying on their experience and smarts, they are quick to shoot down contradictory positions and dismissive of underling’s input.” Erin – who could certainly have played HiPPO role with her amazing expertise– offered a humility and openness that a lot of Leaders in Corporate America could benefit from.

Coach, offer leadership & vision but don’t prescribe –

We had a student comment that one of the most demoralizing art classes she went to was when the teacher (certainly not Erin ;) would walk around and actually paint her own ideas over her work. It really felt like defamation and jolted her confidence. I think about work experiences I’ve been in where very bright, qualified contributors - experts in their field - have their work completely pulled apart and put back together with senior leaders being way too in the weeds and overly prescriptive. What a powerful opportunity to give these experts their space back to they can spread their wings and fly. Let your people do what they were hired to do.

Don’t overthink, just do

The interesting challenge with Plein Aire is you need to move fast. You are dealing with nature (wind, fog, colors changing within minutes) and if you are painting with acrylics, this ups the ante even more. They dry up very fast. One of the days we were painting on the terrace of Nepenthe before it opened. Erin did a demo and a gave us a challenge. We had an hour to knock out two paintings. Erin advised us to lock on an idea, fill up our canvases and go. Deep breath, go…it was quite liberating to cut loose, paint more intuitively and move on to the next painting. It was scary but amazingly exhilarating. There is something to be said about not over analyzing, moving swiftly and letting your innate talents take over, particularly in work environments that are naturally “left brain” biased. You might surprise yourself what may come up.

No egos were harmed in the making of this community – it lives on & thrives:

We came away as stronger individuals and as a team – much as what we see when there is a strong leader in corporate life. We are staying in touch by email, sharing our paintings and encouraging each other. I have been pretty good about devoting a few hours each week to create a painting or two and it has been so satisfying. I have Erin and the class to thank for lighting a new fire and path I might not have considered had it not been for that inspiring environment.