Every Problem Isn’t a Nail

Or, why to stop hiring marketing firms. 

Imagine for a moment you’re relaxing on the couch. In a lazy sunlit reverie, you think, “ahhh nothing like a Sunday afternoon nap.” You vaguely register the sound of a flushing toilet in the upstairs bathroom and think nothing of it, happily returning to a blissful half slumber. Until you feel something. It’s a drop of water. Then another drop. Now you’re awake. The ceiling is leaking. It’s right around the bathroom, and you just heard the toilet flush. 

OBVIOUSLY you call a plumber. He shows up and heads right to the bathroom. An hour or so later he comes downstairs. “Didn’t see anything leaking through the floor as you said but you got a leaky base, typical loose connection with the tank. Put some new bolts in and sealed it up real good. Should be fine.” 

The next evening on your beloved couch it’s a familiar scenario: The game is on and your family’s around, everyone enjoying a snack. Suddenly it’s back—you feel a drip of water and frustration boils up: “Ugh, I just had the dang thing fixed! The plumber was literally here yesterday—clearly, we need someone new.” So you rinse and repeat only to have a leak the next day. Repeat process. Repeat leak. Ten new plumbers later and every day you’re emptying a bucket that now lives on the couch. Your napping couch. 


Clearly, it’s not the toilet. Clearly, you don’t need a plumber—as it turns out there’s a weatherproofing issue and a clogged gutter. But you called a plumber, and plumbers fix plumbing. So each time they fix something that isn’t broken. And you’re a little bit poorer and left with the same problem. 

As silly as this sounds, companies do this ALL THE TIME with marketing firms.

Maybe a business can’t reach its growth goals. Maybe the salespeople are complaining that suddenly no one is buying. Maybe someone made a comment about such-and-such other business taking a great account.


Each marketing firm then does the same thing: uses marketing to try and solve the problem. It’s all they know how to do and it’s their only tool. IF they’re good and IF your problem is a marketing issue it MIGHT work. 

Unfortunately, growth problems at most companies are complex. When sales drop, when customers stop calling, when proposals aren’t being signed it’s rarely just a marketing issue. From sales, to business development, to systems architecture, to, yes, marketing—so many components have to be in harmony to get where you want to go. 

At Burgard, we’re often called in after a painful cycle of marketing firm failures: Many companies are frustrated with how much they’ve spent for how little they’ve gotten. And it’s not the marketing agency’s fault! They’re doing what they know how to do. 

To avoid this cycle? Our clients have found immense value and success in the following: 

Hire a consulting firm or consultant. In the least self-promoting way, find a company that deeply understands sales, business development, and the systems that keep these facets of your business running. Let them diagnose the problem (you can always hire a marketing agency AFTER you know it’s truly a marketing issue).   

Get specific. Some marketing firms are quick to sell you “branding” or a lot of digital advertising—especially when they deal with B2B companies, it’s rarely this simple. Be especially wary of places with packages or tiered systems (gold, silver, bronze). Take the time to write out goals, challenges, and what, if anything, you’ve tried. And be sure to share this. Communicate that you have a specific problem you’d like to solve, not just “I want to grow more.”   

Be wary of case studies and ask for references. Marketing firms are good at marketing. The case studies they send can be illuminating and helpful. BUT, it’s a good idea to ask for some references too. Case studies can sometimes be taken out of context or cherry-picked to make uncommon results seem like par for the course.    


Did you learn something new, or perhaps you have a question? We’d love to hear from you!

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