I recently got the following question in my inbox:
Q: How does a small business decide when to hire a marketing firm on a part time basis? Full time? Or hire an employee with a marketing degree?
A: When a small business starts to look for outside help, the possibilities seem limitless and the potential costs can appear both over-whelming and uncapped. You’re smart to take a few moments to weigh your options and get more information.
I’m a fan of keeping marketing in-house for as long as it makes sense because you can control, learn, and grow on your terms.
The question is, when does it stop making sense to keep your marketing in-house?
When a small business is looking at outside help, it’s usually for one of three pivot points:
- Whatever we’re currently doing isn’t working… maybe someone else knows better.
- Our marketing worked for where our business was in the past, the trouble is, we’ve outgrown it and need something to take us to the next level. But we’re not sure what.
- We are way too busy serving customers and being profitable and we know marketing is important – we just don’t have the bandwidth to stay ontop of it.
Marketing Pivot Point #1: Whatever we’re currently doing isn’t working… maybe someone else knows better.
If your company is in the “whatever they’re currently doing isn’t working… maybe someone else knows better” stage, then it’s time to get a new perspective.
If it’s an issue around a specific tactic, then you may find yourself working directly with a graphic designer, developer, or copywriter.
If you’re looking for tools to be created, you’re not happy with your current flier or business card, website, you’ll be working with a professional who specializes in that specifc tactic.
However if it’s more strategic – if your answer to “what isn’t working” is either “everything” or “I don’t know” then I recommend you meet with someone trusted who can help you untangle what really is the current situation from a strategic standpoint, not from a tactic standpoint.
I’m a strategist (so that’s what I do best) and there are many flavors marketing consultants can also help you decide where you are and what the real challenges are.
It’s important that whomever is helping you with perspective and strategy is asking the questions to help you determine whether what you have on your hands is a marketing challenge, sales challenge, or a process challenge.
A challenge with people not understanding what you do is different that someone not understanding how to buy from you or how to buy from you in the future.
Once you’re clear on the challenge, you’ll want to be smart in building a solution – the solution can likely come from in-house, if you have the talent, or from independent contractors who help you create the pieces. Sometimes your consultant can oversee this. Together you develop a few key systems or pieces to help solve the problem efficiently, getting you to the next level of business – a correlation between your marketing and sales.
Rarely would I recommend an agency at this stage because costs are high and control is low. At this point, you want low costs and high control so that you’re able to efficiently oversee your own process.
Marketing Pivot Point #2: Our marketing worked for where our business was in the past, the trouble is, we’ve outgrown it and need something to take us to the next level. But we’re not sure what.
First, congratulations on getting to this point! It’s not
always ever easy.
If you’ve outgrown your marketing and need new pieces developed, you may want to return to who helped you get here before.They already know you and you save time in ramp-up.
If you weren’t happy with them, ask for referrals for a strategist or consultant who can help you outline what is next in your marketing. If you’re looking for a referral, you’re welcome to contact me directly and we’ll see what we can find for you.
If ongoing marketing support is needed – for instance, you’ve correlated that Google AdWords is an important part of your business (aka it works for you), then you will probably still find it less expensive to hire someone indepdent to oversee the process and report back to you.
However, if you have seven or eight of these independent people working for you, it may be time to start looking at bringing in a part-time person to oversee your marketing.
The challenge here is finding a someone who has the individual talents of the different providers at a price point you can manage. Usually, I find what can be taught to a part-time person and pay the provider to train them so that the skill set is now in-house.
I’ve trained in-house marketing coordinators to think strategically, so there’s no limit to what the right candidate can be taught.
Marketing Pivot Point #3: We are way too busy serving customers and being profitable and we know marketing is important – we just don’t have the bandwidth to stay on top of it.
When this is your challenge, it may be time to get help with making your process become more efficient and the first step is often deciding whether to make your part time person into a full time person or to go with an agency.
Agencies are wonderful options for companies who have more important (and profitable) work to do than run their marketing.
The brilliant shift in today’s world is that there are different types of agencies for different budgets, usually that involves a flat-rate retainer fee for a certain number of service hours, with you paying for any analog (paper) or digital materials developed, or specific services outside of the scope of the retainer.
If you have questions on this process, or are looking for some help navigating, definitely reach out – you’re welcome to schedule a chat with me and we can outline what’s needed, what’s next, and what’s unnessciary for where you are today.