Franchise QB or Draft Bust: Which is Your Marketing Consultant?

• Zac Heisey

NFL football fans are now in that post-Super Bowl, pre-Draft wasteland where free agency rumors fly and player arrest headlines are all we have to hold us over. However, if you’re a fan of one of several teams in search of a franchise quarterback, now is also an exciting (and nerve wracking) period of the off season. The pressure is on to identify and land your team’s leader for years to come, but the consequences of making the wrong the choice can be HUGE (just ask a Browns fan).

Home remodelers and AEC firms can think of an outside marketing consultant as the quarterback of their marketing strategy. You’re hiring an individual (or team of individuals) to help you develop a marketing game plan, direct and lead the other players necessary to carry out that game plan, and ultimately, execute the game plan to perfection.

The question is whether your marketing consultant is a franchise quarterback (think Jimmy Garappolo - GO NINERS!) or a draft bust (think, well, every guy on this list). The answer can mean the difference between year-over-year growth and throwing money down the drain.

Below are a few things to consider when you’re trying to make the determination between an all-pro marketing consultant and a flash in the pan dud.

Choose Dependability Over Flash

Guess how many quarterbacks were picked ahead of Tom Brady in the 2000 NFL Draft. It’s six. Among that group are guys like Giovanni Carmazzi, Chris Redmond, Tee Martin, and Spergon Wynn. Every one of the six quarterbacks picked before Brady are out of league, while Tom continues to dominate the position at the age of 40.

The thing about Tom Brady that sets him apart from those six guys picked before him (and every other QB in the NFL for that matter) is his consistency. Year in and year out, you know he’s going to deliver the goods and lead New England to the playoffs. Brady keeps his cool, stays the path, and takes care of business, regardless of whether his team is winning by 20 or down by 3 with a minute to go. He’s certainly not the flashiest guy when it comes to his playing style, but he’s steady and consistent. The Patriots know they can depend on Tom to come through in the clutch because he’s dependable, and he’s proven his worth for 17+ years.

Now contrast Brady’s dependability - and lack of flair - with a player like Johnny Manziel (sorry Browns fans, I don’t mean to keep bashing your squad). Manziel’s college career was basically a string of highlight reel plays, a Heisman Trophy award, and several questionable decisions (both on and off the field). He was the quintessential “high risk, high reward” player, and the Cleveland Browns took a chance on Johnny with the 22nd overall pick in 2014.

Fast forward two years, and Manziel has thrown for a grand total of 7 touchdowns (to go along with 7 interceptions), has had numerous off the filed blunders, and is washed out of the NFL. Hope Money Manziel saved some of that signing bonus.

gif of Johnny Manziel making money sign


It can be tempting to be swayed by a consultant or agency who wows you with a slick presentation or promises of instant success. In these instances, it pays to do your due diligence and learn more before deciding to work with someone. Ask for (and actually contact!) references to get an idea not only of the work they’ve done, but also how they are to work with. Are they transparent and communicative when you have questions? Do they provide clear and useful reporting, or is it a 10-page report filled with acronyms and graphs that are impossible to decipher?

Make Sure They’re Coachable

We’ve all heard NFL coaches talking about how a player who is “coachable.” Basically it means the player is good at taking feedback and criticism, and is willing to put in the time to learn and get better. Your marketing consultant needs to be coachable when it comes to learning about your business, your clients, and your goals.

A few red flags that might isn’t your marketing consultant isn’t coachable:

  • They focus primarily on what they do, rather than what you do.
  • They take a “one size fits all” approach to your AEC firm’s marketing needs.
  • They lean heavily on a “proven methodology,” and rarely offer up new strategies or tactics.
  • They become defensive when performance is lacking, and don’t offer much in terms of actionable insights.
  • They aren’t informed about your industry, nor do they appear to understand what sets your company apart.


A true marketing pro will take the time to learn as much as possible about your company, your clients, and your goals, combine that with your direct input, and develop a solid strategy to build upon. When course correction is necessary, they take initiative and work with you to find the best way forward, instead of pushing back against criticism.

Ego Metrics vs. Business Goals

Dan Marino is widely considered one of the greatest NFL players to have never won a Super Bowl. Marino rewrote the record books during is 17 year NFL career. He led the NFL in passing yards 5 times, passing touchdowns 3 times, and was selected to the Pro Bowl 9 times. He’s essentially held or still holds almost every major passing record in the league - but a Super Bowl victory is the one glaring void in Marino’s career.

Then there’s Eli Manning (Peyton’s brother). When it comes to the numbers, Eli has had a pretty mediocre career. In his best season, Eli threw 35 touchdowns and had a passer rating of 93.6. Compare that to Marino’s 1984 season in which he tossed 48 touchdowns and posted a 108.9 passer rating.

But when it came to the big game, Eli was as clutch as they come. He led the New York Giants to victories in Super Bowls XLII and XLVI, both times defeating Brady’s Patriots. The first Super Bowl victory will be remember for Eli’s houdini-like escape and heave that was caught by David Tyree - aka “The Helmet Catch.”

gif of Eli Manning David Tyree Helmet Catch


While gaudy numbers and “ego metrics” are nice, they aren’t the reason you’ve decided to work with a marketing consultant. Remember: keyword rankings, traffic, followers, links, etc. are all indicators (aka KPIs) of current and/or future success. They are not the end goal of your digital marketing efforts.

Building your brand, driving more leads, and ultimately, earning more business are the only things that should matter at the end of the day. If your marketing consultant isn’t focused on helping you do ‘Real Company Sh*t’, it might be time to look elsewhere.

gif of Rod Tidwell saying 'Show Me the Money!' from Jerry Macguire

Think Long Term

This point ties in with choosing dependability over flash. In the NFL, a guy who has a breakout game, or even a breakout season, isn’t considered dependable unless he proves he can deliver that type of process over multiple seasons. Consider the 1998 NFL Draft. With the #1 pick, the Colts selected Peyton Manning, while the San Diego Chargers drafted Ryan Leaf with the #2 pick. The rest was history.

image of Peyton Manning and Ryan Leaf

Peyton Manning enjoyed a Hall of Fame career that spanned 18 seasons and included two Super Bowl wins and 5 MVP awards. Ryan Leaf was out of the NFL within 4 years, and has struggled with legal and drug problems ever since. Of course, hindsight is 20/20 and it’s safe to assume that both the Colts and the Chargers were thinking long terms when they drafted each player. But only one of these guys actually stood the test of time.


Quick wins are great, but you should approach the relationship with your marketing consultant as a long term partnership geared for ongoing success. Promises of huge traffic spikes or rankings jumps in a short time span are red flags that the consultant isn’t in it for the long haul with your business. Even in the digital world, building your brand, establishing relationships, and cultivating loyalty take time and effort.

This may also mean that you as the business owner have to change your mindset about timelines and the relationship with your marketing consultant. While there are instances where project-based marketing makes more sense than a retainer model, a short-term or month-to-month engagement with an agency or marketing consultant is far less likely to help your home remodeling business or AEC company reach its full potential.