WTF is a Digital Consultant? And what makes a good one?

When somebody gets in touch with me after coming across my website, they are usually in search of a digital consultant. But their first question after they introduce themselves and their business is often, so how can you help us?

Despite the fact they decided they needed a digital consultant, and made their way to Google to search for one, they still feel the need to ask in what ways they can use a consultant to benefit their business.

Part of that confusion obviously comes from how you define ‘digital’. In many ways it is an outdated describer as the Internet and being connected has infiltrated every part of life as we know it. So, companies can decide they need the help of a digital consultant without being overly clear on what it is they need.

Most businesses just know that they want to generate more via their website. More lead, more sales, more page views, whatever it is their business needs to grow. 

The Varied Role of a Digital Consultant

As a result of this approach and such variety on what services customers will require, the role of a digital consultant can be extremely varied. Depending on what you consider to fall under the banner of ‘digital’ you can end up fielding enquiries about:

  • Website design and development
  • Digital transformation
  • Digital strategy
  • Search Engine Optimisation
  • Social Media Management
  • Email Marketing
  • Google Ads and Paid Search
  • Paid Social Advertising
  • Email Marketing

And pretty much everything in between.

The V-Shaped Digital Consultant

A few wees ago I did a presentation to a group of recent undergraduate and post graduate students on building a career in digital. In it I introduced the concept of a V-Shaped Digital Marketer.  This is an evolution of the concept of becoming ‘T-Shaped’ which has origins in the 80s and McKinsey.

Being T-shaped means have deep knowledge in a single area and a little knowledge in a number of others.

Being V-Shaped means having more depth on knowledge in a broader range of areas, but a core set of deep knowledge capabilities.

An example for areas typically categorised under the bracket of ‘digital’ is shown below. The left example being somebody who is I shaped, the middle T-Shaped, and the right V-Shaped.

A successful Digital Consultant in my opinion needs to be a V-Shaped individual, who can call on a variety of skills depending on the requirements of the client.  This shouldn’t detract from their deep knowledge in a smaller number of areas, but if they have a broader skillset, they can be more adaptable to the needs of their potential clients.

Areas of Focus as a Digital Consultant

As you become busier and more successful as a digital consultant you can then start to know where your efforts are best focussed. Either through the work you are best suited for, or where you can get the best return on your time. But you still have the other areas to fall back on should a project require it, or you have some gaps to fill in your schedule.

So, you may have deep knowledge in SEO and know that’s where you can add the most value, but a short turnaround Development job comes in which you can turn around and generate income in some down time from your usual work. Or you can advise a client on their development needs in line with your creative jobs that add value and allow you to charge more for the service.

In Summary:

There may be times where having a specialism for your digital consultancy is the right thing to do. When a particular skill comes in high demand and is in short supply being a specialist in that area can come up trumps. But over a long enough period of time having broad skills to call upon as demand dictates, will bring longevity and more success, particularly if you are an individual consultant.

If you have found this post because you are looking for a digital consultant, why not get in touch and I can explain my range of skills.

Looking for Hope in the EU Referendum

When I saw the news Friday morning I was honestly gobsmacked. I had believed all along that Remain would eventually win through and genuinely thought I wouldn’t be as close as everyone was making out. When I went to bed at around 11 both Boris Johnson and Nigel Farage had more or less conceded defeat. 6 hours later and I’m waking up to news that WE have voted to leave.

I don’t think I have ever felt the same feeling about a political event. Yes, I have voted in general elections and ‘my side’ have lost. But with that you know that there is still a level of consistency about what will happen in the future. And as much as I may agree about one policy or another, there are a lot of constants to cling on to. This time it was different.

I wanted to rant. I wanted to put all of the thoughts in my head down in writing. I wanted to smash BREXIT faces one by one into a photo of Boris Johnson. Look {smash} at {smash} what {smash} you’ve {smash} done {smash}.
But as satisfying as that might have been, it wouldn’t have achieved anything. So I decided to take all of the things that have been wrong with this referendum and turn them into hope. A hope for the future that we will take these lessons and never make the same mistakes again.

Hope #1: People understand the importance of their vote

The turnout of the referendum as 72%, far higher than any general election in 20 years. But in the days since the result we have seen people come out saying they didn’t think their vote would matter. People who voted for a BREXIT without thinking it would happen or thinking of the consequences, now left with a regret for their decision.

It can be easy in an election to think your vote doesn’t matter, especially if you are in a majority seat area. But we all need to vote for what we believe and what we think is right.

Hope #2: We force politicians to speak in real terms

The level political argument in not just the referendum but the most recent general election reached a new low in my lifetime, and the information presented by either side treated the voting public with contempt and insulted their intelligence.

This was magnified in the referendum with many people, only now realising what it means to leave the EU. More expensive holidays, loss of the right to work in other countries, restrictions on holiday homes, expensive to study and travel within the EU.

If politicians don’t speak in real terms, it is on you the voter to search out the truth.

Hope #3: Politicians are held to account for their lies

We seem to now live in a world of freedom for politicians to lie. Less than 9 hours after the result was confirmed, Nigel Farage was forced to admit the £350 Million we apparently (but don’t actually) give the EU each week wouldn’t be spent on the NHS. Of course it won’t, but that is what the leave campaign suggested on the side of their bus and hung a large portion of their campaign on. This figure that has been disproven in number of times, they refused to drop. And we as the voters fail, repeatedly to hold them to account.

And the other key lynchpin in the vote, immigration. Again less than 36 hours after the result, leave campaigners forced to backtrack on claims of reduced or more control on immigration.

The British voters, and the British media, have to hold politicians to account for these lies. And moving forward, we have to do this before a vote is cast.

Hope #4: We see past individual political ambitions

We have to realise our politician’s intentions. There is one reason, and one reason alone that Boris Johnson led the leave campaign. His own personal ambitions to be Prime Minister. He saw an opportunity to potentially remove David Cameron and position himself at the front of the queue. Despite being open about his belief in a single EU trade union in the past, he was willing to switch sides for his own personal gain.

Equally the reason we had a referendum in the first place comes down to David Cameron’s desperation to stay at the head of The Conservative Party. He was facing a revolt from the right leaning Conservatives and had to promise the referendum to keep his leadership and secure his position as Prime Minister.

Neither believed we should be leaving the EU, but both were willing to put the country at risk for their own ambitions. And Johnson went one step further to manipulate and mislead 17,410,742 people to get where he wanted to be.

As voters we need to be smart enough to see through this, otherwise we will continue to be pawns in their game.

Hope #5: I hope I am wrong about the future

And the final hope.  I hope I am wrong about the impact this will have on the country, the economy, and our future as a nation.

I’m worried about what the future holds for our country, but I have to cling to hope that we may at least have learnt some lessons about democracy and our role as voters within it.

My Marathon Story in Pictures

On Sunday 6th April 2014 I ran the Greater Manchester Marathon.  26.2 miles of pain, suffering and desperation in the name of a great cause, Action for Alports. It is a campaign on behalf of Kidney Research UK which focusses on Alports Syndrome, a rare kidney condition which as yet has no real known cause or cure.

After an injury hit training programme my sights were set pretty low, just finish it!  26.2 miles later I can happily say I achieved that goal, but not after some dark moments along the way.

To distract me from the physical pain I decided to take some selfies along the way, I tried to do every mile but a lack of mile markers made that tricky. Thankfully I did manage to catch some of my pain and suffering in photo form, and the relief at the finish line.

So far I have raised £550 but if you are feeling generous, you can still donate at

Price as you must, not as you could

How much to charge for a product or service is a tricky task as there are many ways in which you can approach it.  Some people look at the market and see what others are charging, some people go through a testing phase of pricing elasticity, other just seem to make it all up!

But there is one tactic which I strongly think should be avoided, yet people seem to do it, and that is pricing based on what you think people will be willing to pay.  This is generally done when you think there is an above average margin to be made, or your customers aren’t savvy enough to understand the cost of delivering the service.  But ultimately this approach leads to unsatisfied or disillusioned customers, and eventually you are going to have to reduce costs as competition increases or customer awareness brings more transparency.

I recently experienced this approach whilst on honeymoon in Bali.  We stayed in 2 different 5 star hotels on the island, both of them great in very different ways.  But what they both had in common was their ridiculous over charging for food and drinks.  I had a rough idea of the wages they were paying staff, and the general price of goods and services in the country and could not fathom how they were coming up with their prices.  It wasn’t even as if you had to go far for a comparison.  10 mins from each hotel was a local centre where you could buy meal and drinks, of a similar quality to which you could find in the hotel for around 40% of the price.  I am also pretty sure even these prices were a fair amount higher than other areas of Bali given the resorts and areas we were staying in.

The only reasoning I could come up with for the hotels pricing policies was the nature of the clientele.  The hotels were largely frequented by Europeans, Australians and Asians who are from more affluent markets than Bali.  It seemed clear to me therefore that  the hotel was simply pricing based on what they thought people would be willing to pay, and had the money to pay, rather than what they should charge based on their in costs and an acceptable margin level.

The outcome of this approach was damaging on two levels.  Firstly it left the restaurants and bars relatively empty most of the time as people quickly realised they got more for their money just down the road.  Secondly, it left customers such as myself feeling exploited when they did pay for food and drinks, and left a negative opinion of what were, in all other areas, excellent hotels.

I’m not saying you should cut your margins to unmanageable levels to please your customers.  Make sure your margins after in costs are enough to keep your business running and make sufficient profits, but don’t feel tempted to add additional margin where unnecessary.  Pricing in a more logical and fair way will lead to more customers (as your prices are less prohibitive) and will leave customers happier, leading to return business and recommendations.

In the case of the hotels above, if not for the pricing I would have been raving to anybody who listened about them.  But due to their pricing strategy there is always a bit “but” at the end of the description which makes the review less glowing.  I am also only likely to recommend the hotels to those with deep pockets or credit card limits thus reducing the word of mouth effect.

Your pricing has major impacts on your business and how well you can scale, whatever market you operate in.  So before you start to get greedy with your margins, think about how it might impact your ability to sell, and the message your customers will be putting into the market about you.