Becoming a better marketing consultant is a lot like working out: you can work your tail off seven days a week, pump out extra sets and reps until you’re blue in the face, but if your diet sucks, you’re preventing yourself from significant gains.

I’ve always heard that getting a six pack (of abs) is 80% what you eat, 20% core workouts. For awhile, I thought that was a load of crap. Just lift heavier, run faster, grind harder, be a beast, insert favorite gym cliche here.

Then, one fateful day, after years of maintaining, I decided to leave the beer in the fridge, and opt out of my regular cheat cheese steak. Slowly, I started noticing results because other people were noticing results. “You’re looking good,” I heard and gleamed (flexed biceps) in return. It’s stupid, but as humans, we’re wired for reinforced recognition. It took me awhile, but I learned that people do not notice inertia, they notice the accumulated product of continuous activity and life.

Marketing consulting is a $43 billion industry, employing over 300,000 people in the U.S. with an annual growth rate of 3.6% since 2011.

Comparatively speaking, when you look at industries like computer systems design, which has an 18% sales growth, the marketing consulting growth rate is pretty weak. But in my opinion, there is no excuse for it.  All industries, in one way or another, can benefit significantly from a lean, mean, outside marketing machine.

So, why aren’t we keeping up?

Simply because we are weighing ourselves down with saturated fats and focusing on the wrong things far too often.

By no stretch am I perfect. I am, however, performing at an optimum level thanks to “adding by subtracting.” Adopting a strict NO-BS mantra has enabled me recently to be hyper-productive, where I can manage everything from prospecting, to sales, to work fulfillment, all the way up to reporting, and then on to new opportunity assessment without burning out. And this is for multiple clients! What’s even better is that I still have time, if not more time, for a little Netflix and Chill.

Here are some things that I’ve cut out of my professional diet to become a better marketing consultant:

Pointless Proposal Development

One line that I’ve been testing out lately is, “We don’t make any money writing proposals.”

While this is a pretty obvious statement, I have found it absolutely necessary to say, especially in early prospecting stages. Proposals have their time and place, but they are time consuming. When you put this out in the open, people seem more inclined to appreciate the fact that your time is invaluable.

If and when I do need to write a proposal, I use Proposify, which boasts to “streamline your sales process and help you close deals faster.” And it does…sort of. Proposify’s high-quality, easy to customize templates and online portal are great features. But still, on average, to write a REALLY GOOD proposal with research supported by data, a custom letter with prospect interactions, detailed scopes of work, budgeting, and terms and conditions, you’re looking at anywhere from 2-5 hours. Just think: How much could one of your existing clients benefit from that time. Wouldn’t it be nice to bill a few extra hours each week?

New business is great, but nobody has a 100% close rate. I’ve found that many of my prospects don’t even read my proposals and just skip right to the estimate/budget section. In fact, I have the data to support this. Below are two lost proposals in my Proposify system.

Become a Better Marketing Consultant with Less Proposals

This was a proposal that I spent roughly 2 hours on for a custom eCommerce website. The prospect spent 1 minute reviewing the proposal and decided they didn’t want to do it.

Become a Better Marketing Consultant with Less Proposals

This was actually a second proposal, revised after the scope of work significantly changed. In total, I spent close to 5 hours handling resources, researching solutions, writing and editing. All for what?

Both cases show that prospects aren’t reading word for word of my carefully prepared, thoughtful proposals. I’m willing to wager that I could work in something mildly offensive, especially in the additional recommendations section, without any real risk.

I am not saying to stop doing proposals all together. Again, they have their time and place. What I am suggesting is to be very, very careful on who you choose to write a proposal for. From my experience, and from Proposify insights, most people only really care about “what’s in it for me” and “how much is this all going to cost.” Ask yourself: Can those questions be addressed up-front in five minutes or less on a phone call or in a brief email? Ask the prospect: Do you need a formal proposal or is it okay if I simplify things? Most will say the latter is cool.

Any and All Negativity

“You are what you eat.”

“People are products of their environment.”

The list of sayings goes on and on.

Because it is all true.

To become a better marketing consultant I make it a point to examine who I am interacting with and what I am consuming (television, social media, music, etc) almost on a daily basis.

I filter out people on my News Feed that gripe non-stop. I turn off sports radio because I work in Philly and all of our teams are stacked with losers. I hardly ever watch the evening news (morning news is way more optimistic). I plead (politely) with my fiance when I come home and she channels her inner Regina George and gets hangry.

Negativity is a cancer that spreads like wildfire. If you do not control it, then it will run rampant on both your professional and personal life. I have found that the trick is to create mechanisms that catch negativity before, or as it begins, to invade your space. Social media can be the biggest culprit, but there are tons of ways to filter out the crap and stay ahead of it.

The Fantasy World of 9 to 5

This post started as a shimmering thought in bed on a Thursday at 11:30pm. It then entered the depths of Evernote, where it rested until Sunday at 2:30pm, later moving into our content management system. I continue to write the same post now at 7:35am Monday morning, and I will need to resume again later as I will be focusing on work for my clients soon.

My point is this: If you want to be a better marketing consultant, you have to put your “Fantasy World of 9 to 5” to bed. It’s a unicorn, get over it.

In a highly-intrusive world, nobody really works 40 hours per week anymore. Marketing consultants know this about as well as anybody. I have clients all over the United States, and some international, which means I’m always on call.

There have been nights where I have not slept because I was physically “holding up” a client’s website as their web server collapsed. I have had Skype calls with people in Tel Aviv at 2:00am. I’ve made edits to a brochure during a Friday happy hour on my phone for a client in Dallas.

As a marketing consultant, your schedule works around your clients, not the other way around. Of course, you need to have a personal life as well, otherwise you run the risk of doing more harm than good. But a 60-40 balance of work/play is essential. It also becomes a lot easier when you are able to hybrid the two.

Lazy Lunches

I’ve never made much money while my mouth is stuffed with a two pound burrito. It’s hard to design a website, or write up a report, when your barbecue-laced fingers stick to the keyboard. And I’m definitely not super productive after a heavy meal.

Sure, food gives us energy, but if you’ve ever experienced couch-lock after chowing down on some grub, you know that your body goes through a process after eating.

High-carb, high-fat and high-sugar foods (often the things you find at your favorite lunch stop) trigger a neural response as soon as they hit the small intestine, according to Huffington Post and Scientific American. A size of your meal is also found to have a correlation to tiredness due to things like insulin spikes.

The impact of digestion isn’t the only null effect of lunch. It’s the entire embodiment of the activity. I associate lunch with “break-time”, an opportunity to leave my desk so I can wander about in search of a somewhat sanitary food truck. Lunch is an escape for most people. And as we hold that perception we lose focus, billable work, and opportunity to provide clients paramount insight and value.

Yes, lunches can be productive, especially those with co-workers, and of course, clients. Casual collaboration and physical interaction that develop around a lunch table can sometimes not be mimicked. Though in my experience, I have found that more times than not, lunch conversations drift away from creativity and problem solving, and hum closer to after-hours talk.

My substitute for a lazy lunch is snacking on fruits and vegetables and assorted, unsalted nuts throughout the day. This way I can keep my energy and focus up, without sacrificing time and money. If you are going to break for thirty minutes, do something that won’t make you feel like crap for another 30 minutes or longer (e.g. mediate, go for a walk, write, etc).

Add to this List

I am always looking to explore new ways to become a better marketing consultant to provide unprecedented value to our clients at Orpical Group. The lighter I am, the more efficient I can be, which in turn will drive more profits for our client base.

If you are a marketing consultant and have additional suggestions on fat cutting, please feel free to email me at stefan@orpical.com. I would love to expand this discussion to develop more fit marketing consultants, promote high energy environments, and ultimately gain more profits for our companies and all of our clients. Of course, I will give you credit and link back to your business and social profiles. We’re in this together – there is plenty of marketing consulting work to go around!

About the Author: Stefan Schulz, Marketing Consultant

Stefan Schulz is a web and graphic designer, brand enthusiast, and online marketing expert with 10+ years of diverse experience as a marketing consultant. His work has helped earn Orpical Group accolades including The Philadelphia Business Journal’s Top Branding Marketing and Media Services Companies, as well as Top Tech Employers List.

“I love working one on one with business owners and executives. I love getting tasked with a challenge and I always feel honored when someone has faith in me to find a solution. When someone says to me, ‘We need to figure this out, and we need you to figure it out for us,’ I geek out. To be a good marketing consultant, you need to be like that. It’s like being a full-time Labrador retriever: If your client throws a stick into the ocean, you’re damn excited to go out there and get it for them.”