Prescription without diagnosis is malpractice.  Tactics without a strategy are at best educated guesses, so don’t let your marketing agency act without a plan.

New or prospective clients of mine have at times been overly eager for me to either reaffirm their assumptions or to flat out tell them what they need to do.  After all, I’m the expert, right? Well, that’s partially true.
I can objectively be called an expert in marketing as I’m an agency principal here in Portland who put in more than a decade of dues before getting my name on the door. However, I’m never an expert in my client’s business right off the bat. It would be disingenuous for me to purport that I understand the nuances of their customers, products, sales channels, competitors, etc. better than they do. Granted I may at times have industry experience or complimentary clients, but even then if I prescribe a course of action without first understanding what we’re trying to achieve, I’ll be doing a disservice to my client.

If you were to contact me seeking my firm’s services, in the course of our initial conversations I’m going to absolutely ask you about the big picture.  What are the strategic reasons you’re looking to hire a full service marketing firm for your business?  I’m trying to get at why you think marketing or advertising is a solution to a problem your company is facing. In some cases, marketing might not be the answer, but if I don’t ask the question and simply start doing work that may or may not get a positive outcome, neither of us will ever know if your money or time is well spent.

I’ve heard accounts of clients strong arming or otherwise coercing their marketing partners into producing what they think they need. I’m sure there’s money to be made in keeping your mouth shut and simply taking orders. However, I certainly wouldn’t want my attorney to do something like that, nor my accountant or especially my doctor. I expect they’ll behave in my best interest and give me the guidance I’m paying for. You should expect the same of your marketing agency and appreciate the pushback they may give you.

Don’t be lured in by a marketer who tells you they have the cure for what ails you. Also resist the urge to self-diagnose. Instead, work with the marketing partner you’ve hired for their expertise and let them use it to your benefit.

Collaborate with them to find a diagnosis to the challenges marketing can help solve.  Be open and honest in your communication with your agency so you get the diagnosis right. If you have a prescription filled to treat a problem you don’t have, at best it will have no effect, but at worse it could lead to further complications.  So remember, tactics without a strategy is the same as a prescription without a diagnosis, they’re both malpractice.