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Let Go of My Ears, I Know What I'm Doing:
Helping rather than hobbling your marketing talent.

Next time I go to the doctor, I plan to offer her helpful opinions about exactly how I think she should run her business, how to treat me for my ailment, how much all that should cost, how long it should take and when I’ll be ready to pay her. I know she will appreciate my participation in the process. I’m paying her for her expertise, but I know she’ll want me to share all my medical knowledge and business advice with her, so she’ll know how to do her job.

Sure, right after pigs take wing.

For some unfathomable reason, creative businesses attract such helpful opinions like nectar attracts bees. My colleagues and I have compared notes—it’s fairly universal. Is it because to the average lawyer, engineer or finance officer (hereafter referred to as Tom, Dick and Harriet) that marketing looks fun? After all, we do organize and communicate information in a way that makes it enticing. And, there are all those colors and pictures and cool computers…

Here are a few flavors of helpful opinions we encounter. Let’s call the first one, “I See Your Lips Moving but I’m Not Listening.”

Just as I would do myself a disservice by going to the doctor and trying to do her job, when a client (let’s call him “Tom”) engages me to advise his organization on branding or take their marketing to the next level, Tom’s company is not getting the full benefit if they aren’t open to hearing my best concepts and the strategies that drove them. I’m glad that the Summer intern, a sophomore with marketing minor, has some fresh ideas, but "fresh" and "effective" are not synonymous.

The second one can be called: “What if…”

We encourage clients to pick our brains, just don’t pick them clean down to the bone, crush them, suck out the grey matter and toss them away. For example, when I present several logo concepts to my client (we’ll call him “Dick”), these examples are what, in my experience, best express the image the company wants to convey to their public. I’ve already weeded through a lot of other ideas, tried other colors and weighed how the concept measures up to our goal. Not to brag, but I probably am a bit more proficient at this with my couple decades of practice, than Dick, even though he may be an excellent engineer.

Another, and our personal favorite, is “I know what I want. Can you just operate the software for me.”

Occasionally, a client (let’s call this one “Harriet”) feels if she could just work the software, she could put her own excellent contributions in a usable, digital format. She just needs me to operate the software program. If you imagine that creative people enjoy working as though they are hand puppets, let me disabuse you. Our best ideas don’t come with the client leaning over our shoulder “moving the furniture.” “Put the yellow circle over there. Make the blue line red.” And, while Photoshop does include a magic wand tool, it’s not all that magic. “Just Photoshop that guy out of there” may be a matter of days, not minutes. Software is only a tool. Knowledge and experience are what you’re paying for. Don’t rob yourself by demanding less.

The brightest and most successful people are those who find talented individuals and trust them to do that at which they excel. Just as Tom, Dick and Harriet know their businesses, we know how to showcase their business. My job is to tease out of them what they take for granted, to help them define their value and to see their companies from their customers' viewpoint. I can help their businesses to reach the next level by articulating what they do best. So, Tom, Dick, Harriet, let go of my ears and let me do my magic for you.

Next Issue:

WWBD [what would brand do]: Living your brand

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