November 2013

The Magic of Mentoring for Marketers

Consultancy has always suffered from the rather unfair reputation of advice for which you pay a lot of money for knowledge you already possess. I was certainly struck by this thought while at Reuters as I, from time to time, greeted a small army of earnest young consultants piling out of the lift in pursuit of their sage and imperious leader.

After many years as a consultant myself, I realized that, in many cases, there was no need for me to field a large team, immerse myself in a client’s business, wrestle with strategy and deliver weighty documents.  Once when presenting to a client’s board, the chairman gently observed that much of what I was recommending was “blindingly obvious”, to which, with suitably ironic smile, I responded, “If it’s so obvious, why aren’t you doing it?”

Thus began a long and successful but very light-touch relationship.  They knew their business already, they had the intellect to work through strategy, often they had the imagination to develop ideas, all I had to do was help them ask themselves the right questions.


Mentoring then, by my definition, is helping people to help themselves. Coaching is teaching people to help themselves and consultancy is doing for people what they are often quite capable of doing for themselves.  Mentoring and consultancy are at opposite ends of the cost scale but one mentor for two or three days a month can often (but not always) achieve every bit as much as five consultants working three days a week …and more.

Think about getting from A to B without your satnav. You’ve done the journey several times with “now turn left” and “now turn right” keeping you on track. Take away the guidance and it can be quite hard to remember the route with confidence.  Consultancy is a satnav that you come to depend on …mentoring is finding your own way the first time and never forgetting it.

SEED-communications.com_The magic of Mentoring for Marketers

Mentoring happens a lot at board level, where the mentor may simply act as a sounding board as the CEO, Director or line manager straightens out his thoughts, issues and concerns.  But it can work at every level. A busy marketing director will find it hard to guide four or five direct reports. A couple of days of mentoring per month may be all a new marketing manager needs to give him or her the confidence to get a grip on the work.

The EMEA Marketing Manager for one client stepped up to Global Digital Marketing Manager.  She needed a plan. Once I would have drafted it for her, this time we did a call for one hour a week for six weeks. She produced a very commendable plan and was able to justify it to the management team with much greater confidence.

One of the most valuable applications of mentoring is in helping a client define or refresh their brand.  Consultants will spend many many hours identifying how the brand is seen today and how it needs to be seen, identifying the core proposition, positioning, personality and purpose.  They talk endlessly to employees, understand customers in depth and map where the market is going over where the market has been.

All absolutely essential but who better to think this through than the employees themselves …they ARE the brand and have it in their day-to-day power to deliver what the brand needs to be. With a robust set of handrails, employees from all parts of an organization can define and refresh their own brand and deliver it with much greater conviction if they’ve helped to create it.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not advocating the end of consultancy.  There are many well documented case where there is no viable substitute. But mentoring in general and in marketing in particular has a great deal more to give.


Tony Wardle is an independent brand marketing consultant operating at director level in the UK, Europe and USA. He is an Associate Partner and Chairman of SEED Marketing Communications – a full-service marketing consultancy based near Birmingham in the West Midlands providing marketing solutions for business growth. SEED Marketing Communications helps ambitious SME’s with marketing guidance, support, mentoring and marketing implementation with specialist sector experience in Food Retail, B2B and Not for Profit. Tony was Chairman & CEO of Saatchi & Saatchi subsidiaries working in advertising, direct marketing and sales promotion. He has also held positions as Group Marketing Operations Director for Reuters and Interim Marketing Director positions for Detica Group, Jones Lang LaSalle and Actant. His brand growth marketing experience includes work with – Welsh Assembly Government, ICL/Fujitsu, Tieto, First Direct, Lloyds TSB, Orange, and many SME’s. When not busy consulting and mentoring, Tony helps with helps with his daughter’s art gallery, The Paragon Gallery in Cheltenham.

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