Australian marketing needs more leaders to take the start up leap

Despite being full of talented people, the Australian marketing and communications industry is lacking enough leaders with the confidence to take matters into their own hands, writes King Kong's Sabri Suby.

The business world is changing at a rapid rate, with more and more start ups rolling the dice, backing their abilities and challenging the established players to adjust and keep on top of their game.

Despite this, when I look at the marketing and communications industry, I can’t help but feel our industry hasn’t innovated enough to fill the gaps left by cookie cutter solutions, with many incredibly talented individuals too intimidated or comfortable to back themselves in creating their own consultancy.

This has to stop. It’s time for a start up led shake-up to create some real competition with the industry’s heavy hitters. Let’s not just sit back and take it, let’s make things interesting.

Many experts I meet are practitioners who are damn good at what they do, but lack the skills or confidence to go out on their own.

The most common complaints I hear are: “Yes, but how do I get clients, how do I scale, how do I differentiate, how, how?”

It’s a perfectly natural response and one that any successful marketing entrepreneur has asked themselves at one point, especially when you consider the woeful statistics on new businesses in Australia.

The key factor in any business’ success is the dedication and drive of the consultancy leader and their ability to sharpen and apply the skills that matter. Without a doubt, the number one skill required is the ability to generate revenue or, dare I say it? Sell.

It’s hardly a revelation but when most businesses are started by the ‘practitioner,’ i.e. the person who is now trying to turn their area of expertise in to a consultancy, rarely has this individual had to worry about revenue beyond their own KPIs, let alone develop the skills to maintain and increase it.

And financial success is a goal not easily reached and you must be hungry, disciplined and driven. But these attributes coupled with some stern lessons in marketing yourself and anyone can achieve success in the consultancy world.

But this is where the issue lies – and it’s something I see in our industry every day. People who are bloody brilliant at their craft and marketing their clients’ businesses, are not so sharp at marketing themselves. It’s the age-old adage of the plumber with the leaky tap.

Our industry needs more entrants. Experts who know they do things differently or can outperform the existing players. And if they were to apply those skills to how they promote themselves and those skills, and develop their skills, then they have the winning formula to grow a successful consultancy and bring our industry the competition that it needs.

Creative consultancies that use excellent creative to market themselves. PR consultants actually doing their own PR. You get the picture.

It’s tough, but you have to make a mindset shift. If the concept of salesperson doesn’t sit well with you, then think of yourself as a problem solver, a growth hacker, a business builder.

Because that’s what you are – you’re going to help grow your clients’ business and as soon as you do it once and you see the direct business you’ve contributed to, the selling part will become much easier.

A better way to approach marketing a consultancy is by providing value to your prospects. It’s vital at any stage of a consultancy’s growth. By providing value in the form of informative, engaging content, you will attract potential clients.

For example, if you are a creative consultancy you could create a video series on how creative can change your audience’s minds. But don’t just run a highlights reel of your own work, narrow the scope. Showcase how effective deep strategy can be when married with unique creative execution.

Keep your potential client on the line with an even more valuable offer to sweeten the deal. For example, a free 1-hour strategy session gives you the opportunity to understand their business challenges better and impress them with your know-how. It also gives you an opportunity to either sign them on the spot or slot them into your well-oiled sales funnel and start to nurture the relationship until you convert their business.

Then to hit the ‘boss formula’, you combine this marketing with proactively developing your skills to take you from practitioner to consultancy owner.

Self-awareness is key and you need to be comfortable enough to identify your strengths and weaknesses and skill-gaps. Don’t let these shortcomings hold you back – work on eliminating them.

I listen to e-books on my way to and from work and take short courses to hone my skills and develop new areas of expertise. There are many to choose from. Some are excellent, some not so.

Ask around, do your research and make sure they are taught by practitioners who have dealt with the challenges you face and succeeded.

With some new skills, a razor sharp focus on selling yourself and serious determination, you’re armed and ready.

A company’s beginnings are nearly always humble and the start is rarely glamorous, but it’s yours, it’s completely malleable and it’s exciting. Take the leap!

Sabri Suby is CEO of digital marketing agency King Kong, and creator of foundr’s Consultancy Empire course.


Get the latest media and marketing industry news (and views) direct to your inbox.

Sign up to the free Mumbrella newsletter now.



Sign up to our free daily update to get the latest in media and marketing.