Seth Godin, author of Permission Marketing, asks the rhetorical question, Where do you get your advice?. godin points at Al Gore’s use of the late Johnny Carson as an image consultant as an example of the wrong way to look for help: asking a celebrity.
Seeking advice from well-known individuals and organizations is an American tradition. Often, the mere success of these people seems to grant them a level of expertise far beyond their actual knowledge, abilities, and insight. The other key factor is that a high-profile advisor enables the “buck to be passed”, and if the decision turns out to be a poor one, blame can be heaped on the source of the advice.
Godin notes that even if the decision is a good one, an expert advisor can help make it happen because of perceived independence and credibility. He points out that although firms often buy advice for the wrong reasons, they also fail to seek expert advice when they really should.
In the world of web marketing, this phenomenon is all too frequent. Companies seek advice from questionable sources – an ad agency, a web design firm, a fellow business owner – without critically examining the source of the advice. In an industry that changes on a monthly basis and sometimes operates in a counter-intuitive manner, it is really important to get advice from entities with real and current experience. Sometimes it’s necessary to dig below the surface to sort out whether the “celebrity” on the conference podium is a real experts or just a glib pundit.