Five Things To Consider

Small and mid-sized businesses often struggle to determine whether they should hire an outsourced marketing firm or if they should hire employees to perform it all in-house. Here are five things to consider before deciding the best route for you.

1. Do You Have a Comprehensive Marketing Strategy?

You need a marketing strategy that is tied to your sales goals. Without one, you are guessing and hoping your marketing efforts will work. You are also guaranteeing that whomever you hire is going to be handicapped in delivering the results you need because, without a strategy, they will be making decisions that will likely have little to do with your sales goals. They will be performing their duties in the dark and hoping something works.

What is a marketing strategy?

A marketing strategy is a written plan, informed by your business’s current situation. It will help you invest your budget properly, to communicate your value to the right audience, at the right time and in the right place.

If you do have a marketing strategy that is based on a well-researched situation analysis, then it’s likely that all you need to do is some cost comparisons of contracting outsourced marketing solutions versus hiring employees.

If you don’t have a marketing strategy, then you should probably hire a marketing agency to help you formulate one, or hire a Chief Marketing Officer who can research and create a strategy for you.

2. Do You Have A Tactical Marketing Plan?

What follows a marketing strategy is a tactical plan. (Tactics are things like email marketing, websites, social media, SEO, digital advertising, etc.) The tactical plan puts your strategy into action by taking into account your audience, message, and budget. This plan outlines exactly how you will allocate your budget, by tactic, to obtain your goals.

If you have a detailed tactical plan, then you may decide that some pieces of that plan are better handled in-house. Social media can be more efficiently handled by employees, especially when it is used as a customer service channel. Employees should know your customers and be able to deliver engaging social media content to them. Conversely, updating your website may require a full-time web developer. That role might be better suited for agency outsourcing.

The good news is, with a written tactical plan in hand, you have more control over how you spend your budget. You can hire specialists to execute on tactics or you can outsource marketing activities to a marketing agency or you can choose a hybrid approach as noted above.

If you don’t have a tactical plan, then you need to hire an agency to build one for you or hire a marketing director to create one for you.

3. Can You Evaluate Marketing Skills?

With a marketing strategy and tactical plan in place, your next challenge is to find the right people to execute the marketing efforts you have planned. Doing so requires that you can effectively evaluate an agency’s or a candidate’s ability to deliver on your plan.

outsourced marketing

Assessing an agency is a bit easier. You can look at its portfolio and case studies, and talk to current clients. For potential employees, you have to know how to write job descriptions that will fulfill your plan. The candidates should provide work samples that demonstrate the specific tasks you require of them, but they should also be a fit for your company culture.

4. How Will You Measure Marketing Results?

With a marketing strategy, marketing plan, and the right people in place, you are halfway to your goals. Now you have to determine the key performance indicators (KPI’s) of your tactical plan. How will you measure the success of each tactic? Using a written measurement plan, you can assign people to be responsible for measuring and reporting on each tactic.

For example, if one of your tactics is a weekly email newsletter, someone has to be responsible for tracking how many are sent, how many are opened and how many clicks each newsletter receives, among other key performance indicators.

Your employees and future hires should have analytic skills to measure campaigns correctly. If you have opted for outsourced marketing (hiring an agency), they must have data reporting built into their procedures so you know they are delivering on their contract.

5. How Much Involvement In Marketing Do You Want?

The last thing to consider is: how much do you want to be involved in the day-to-day management of your marketing campaigns? If you are a business owner who wants to “set it and forget it,” an agency may be the right choice for you. If you are someone who loves to look at the minutia of the day-to-day delivery of marketing campaigns, then hiring specialists to work for you is probably the right solution.

Contact A Great Marketing Agency

Inciting Marketing Solutions are experts at outsourced marketing. We can help you research and build a marketing strategy, tactical plan, and measurement plan. Contact us, if you think hiring an agency is the right move for you.

What does focus mean in this world, where functioning with an attention-deficit is normal? Where every minute we are fighting both electronic and in-person attention-stealers? I think it means evaluating every endeavor, interaction, meeting, conversation, and communication in the context of your goals. It means maintaining a continuous awareness and examination of where your attention is.

Evaluate Your Marketing Efforts Against Your Business Goals

In terms of marketing, this level of focus means evaluating every tweet, email, ad, and blog in the context of your business goals. (Notice, I didn’t say marketing goals, as all these efforts should already be aligned with those or why are you doing them?) Now is the time to re-evaluate all your marketing efforts. Are they getting you closer to your business goals? (Last January I wrote about turning your business objectives into marketing goals. )

Drill into those key performance indicators (KPIs) and examine if your marketing efforts are performing the way you had hoped. Then look at how the efforts are or are not reaching your business goals.

Business Goal: Grow Revenue by 3 Percent

Let’s say your business goal is to increase your revenue by 3 percent. Look at your social media posts. Are they engaging your audience? Are they informing, inspiring, and educating them to buy or recommend your product or service? Are your email newsletters adding value to your audience’s inbox? Are these marketing efforts contributing or detracting from your revenue goals?

Look Carefully at Your Key Performance Indicators (KPIs)

Before you started any marketing effort, you should have mapped out what success would look like. Your KPIs should be the metrics that show if your marketing campaign is delivering. (Those KPIs should also be tied to your business goals.) Look at those KPIs again. Are they still the indicators of whether your marketing is working?

Going back to our example, let’s say you discover that your social media KPI is the number of likes or shares each post gets. However, your posts aren’t getting these, but every time you visit with a client they mention that they really like your posts. What then? Do you dump your social media posts based on the KPI or do you keep them because of the positive verbal feedback? The answer is two-fold. First, revisit your KPIs. Perhaps you need to adjust them. Second, you may need to prioritize your marketing budget differently.

Prioritize Your Marketing Spend

Keeping with our example, look at your social media efforts against your other channels (like email, SEO, Adwords, etc.). If your search engine optimization (SEO) is bringing people to your website who are buying, then maybe you increase your SEO budget and pull back on social media. Find out which posts your clients like and create more just like them.

Make Time for Marketing KPIs

If you think you don’t have the time to go through all your marketing KPIs and re-evaluate them in terms of your business goals, think again. If your marketing budget was on fire, would you throw water on it, or give it more oxygen? Not evaluating (or even having) KPIs is equivalent to throwing kerosene on your money and lighting a match. And if you really don’t have time to drill into KPIs, then contact us. We can help.

Keep Your Marketing Focus

In marketing as in life, evaluate what you are doing every day in the context of your goals. Do more of what is getting you closer to those goals and less of what isn’t.

 

An acquaintance of mine runs a 30-lawyer general practice law firm in Denver. Occasionally, he asks my opinion about marketing decisions for his firm. My answer is usually the same: get a reliable marketing system.  

Short-Term Marketing Solutions Versus Long-Term Marketing Problems

When my acquaintance wanted to rebrand his firm, he got a friend to do a logo for him. When the partners decided they wanted a company newsletter, he found an intern to handle it. He, like many small business owners, applies short-term solutions to long-term marketing challenges, then wonders why his marketing isn’t really effective.

For now, he’s not feeling any pain from these decisions because the big partners, who bring in most of the business, are still around. Their retirement isn’t far off, however, and I suspect he’ll be in a panic to market the firm once they give up their practices. He needs to build a marketing system now, while the business is still rolling in referrals.

Competitive Marketing Strategy: Build A Marketing System Today

Once the referrals slow in my friend’s law firm, I suspect I’ll get a panicked call asking my opinion about a quick marketing initiative that he hopes will stop the bleeding. It will be too late for him, but it isn’t for you. 

I’m going to let you in on a best-kept secret in marketing. You need to market your company especially when you don’t need marketing. Yes, I said it. When you are turning away word-of-mouth referrals is exactly when you need to push money into your marketing budget and get very serious about building a reliable marketing system for your business.

 Marketing 101: If You Need It Now, It’s Too Late

If you wait until your leads slow and your referrals aren’t as frequent, you are in for some rocky times ahead. Getting the wheels turning on a reliable marketing system takes time and effort, the kind you don’t have when you are scrambling to get business in the door. And, more often, when you’re in that kind of unfortunate position, you are likely to make bad marketing decisions because you’re trying to make something happen quickly.

Marketing Tip: Market While You’re Hot

Take control of your future business while things are good. The economy is humming along, and everyone is fat and happy right now. It’s the exact right time to invest in a marketing system.

Marketing Questions: What Is A Marketing System? How Does it Operate?

A marketing system is a set of consistent marketing campaigns that have been formulated to grow your business. These campaigns are strategically aligned with your goals and are based on thorough market research into your SWOT, target markets, competitors, and customer journey.

Marketing systems usually operate campaigns in several different channels such as social media, email marketing, public relations, search engine optimization (SEO), and more. They begin with a 12-month strategic plan and focus on the path of your customer’s journey from first hearing about you to brand evangelism. (Brand evangelists love you so much they tell everyone about you and do your marketing for you.) Marketing systems vary widely in scope from business to business, but they are made to be frequently measured and adjusted to maximize return on investment (ROI).

There Is No One-Size-Fits-All Marketing System

Just as there is no magic bullet in marketing, there is no one marketing system that fits every business. Some businesses can do really well by putting a lot of resources into social media. For other businesses, that would be foolish. So how do you know what kind of marketing system you need? By investing in market research. It’s a competitive advantage that will inform what campaigns to launch and how much money you should put into them. No marketing system should be built without a deep dive into market research. Without it, the system is doomed to fail.

We Build Marketing Systems

When you have a marketing system, you no longer have to ask your friends for marketing advice, nor rely on interns or guesses. More importantly, you aren’t wholly reliant on word-of-mouth marketing to generate leads. You know exactly what needs to be done to market your business.

We can build a marketing system for your company based on your needs and specific audiences. Talk to us while you still have plenty of leads. Start building your marketing system today. When things slow down (as they always do) your competitors will be scrambling while your marketing system will be buzzing along, churning out leads.

Half the battle of getting anyone to do business with you is gaining their trust. If you could get someone to have total confidence in your product or service immediately, what would you be willing to pay for that? If you didn’t have to invest in marketing campaigns that messaged your reliability or value and people just showed up at your doorstep, eager to do business with you, what would that be worth to you?

Smart Marketing: $900 Million Worth of Consumer Trust

For Stanley Black & Decker, Inc. they decided that it was worth $900 million. That’s how much they paid Sears for their Craftsman brand. To some, that may seem like an exorbitant price tag. but what Stanley Black & Decker is really paying for is decades of consumer trust and familiarity with the Craftsman brand. True, they are also purchasing all the capabilities of the company but, honestly, they already have those.

The Craftsman brand has been woven into American culture for more than 90 years through commercials, radio ads, billboards, and countless customer experiences. Throughout those decades of offering quality tools and customer service, Craftsman built a reputation of reliability–something every tool buyer prizes. Just as you’d be hard pressed to find any camper who doesn’t know the Coleman brand, tool buyers know Craftsman. That kind of brand familiarity and consumer trust is very valuable.

Competitive Marketing Strategy: Purchasing Less Competition

You can spend nearly 100 years and hundreds of millions on marketing to build that kind of reputation or you can acquire it for nearly a billion dollar. In addition to purchasing trust, they also bought less competition on the store shelves. Similar to when you go to the supermarket and deliberate between Cheerios, Chex or Wheaties, you aren’t really shopping between competitors (because all these brands are owned by General Mills.) By buying Craftsman, Stanley Black & Decker will own more of the product choices in the tool aisle of the hardware store. Consumers may think they are buying a different brand but they are simply buying an extension of a corporation’s brand holdings. The more sub-brands a large brand offers, the less chance the consumer will actually buy from a competitor.

Marketing a Brand: How Brands Began

The ability to dominate a store shelf isn’t why brand delineations started. During the Industrial Revolution, companies began burning their names into the wooden barrels used to transport their goods. It was a means of differentiating one company’s product from another. Over time, the brand became a symbol for particular product attributes. Today, “customer-based brand equity occurs when the consumer has a high level of awareness and familiarity with the brand and holds some strong, favorable, and unique brand associations in memory (Keller, 2001). Awareness, familiarity, and favorable associations take time, resources and lots and lots of marketing.

Marketing ROI: The Value of A Brand

Now, brands are shorthand for a myriad of ideas, information, and emotional references. Pick a big brand, let’s say, Coca-Cola. You immediately have certain associations that jump into your mind. Those mental constructs are built from years and years of advertising imagery, experiences, and personal consumption. Everything you have seen and heard about Coca-Cola filters through your neurons when you think of it. And you aren’t alone. Billions of people also have mental associations that come to mind about Coke. Those mental associations are the reason Coca-Cola is one of the most valuable brands in the world. Over and above their secret formula, Coke’s value comes from the mental shelf space the brand owns in billions of minds.

Marketing Outcomes: What Is Your Brand Worth?

In the end, your brand is what people think about you. It’s shorthand for the value you offer, how you are different from your competitors, and what your consumers can expect from you. (If you’re not sure what your brand stands for, maybe it’s time for a brand audit.)

Considering that Sears bought Craftsman in 1927 for $500, I’d say they made a pretty smart move by selling it to Stanley Black & Decker. Meanwhile, Stanley Black & Decker just added a legacy brand to their portfolio. Win-win, right? Well, only time will tell if the Sears brand can survive without Craftsman and all the positive brand equity it built for its parent company over the years.

(And just for fun, here are the 10 oldest brand logos.)

Keeping a small business small requires work and a consistent set of behaviors. Not everyone can do it. For some small business owners, these behaviors come easily, and they have no trouble staying small. Other business owners need some coaching. If you’re struggling to keep your business from growing, here are the top five ways to market your business to cap your current revenues. Practice some or all of these habits, and your business can stay small for years to come.

Keep Trying Things

One of the best ways to keep your business small is to keep trying different marketing tactics. (Marketing tactics are things you use to promote your business like your website, online advertising, email, social media, radio commercials, etc.)  When you hear about a marketing tactic that someone is having success with, jump in and try it.

For example, when you learn that your brother-in-law is getting leads from social media, initiate a Facebook business page and start posting. Getting on the social web is fun. Dive in. Once you realize that social media requires daily attention, assign the Facebook effort to someone else. When that person gets too busy to keep posting, make sure they forget about it and abandon the effort. That way, when a prospective customer finds your business on Facebook, and there hasn’t been a new post since 2016, they’ll wonder if you’re still in business. Yes! Revenues maintained.

Hold On To Your Old Website

Your aging website may look a little dated, but it still works. Your name and logo are on it, and visitors can find your location and phone number. They don’t need anything else. A website is an expense and a big undertaking. Put it off as long as possible. It’s always best to save yourself some money and keep your website as-is.

If you feel you absolutely have to update it, you probably know someone–your nephew or a neighbor who build websites on the side who can do it on the cheap for you. Ask them to help you out. It may take several months longer than expected, but you’ll likely get the website that is perfect for keeping your sales and leads exactly where they are now. Thumbs up!

Assign Marketing Tasks to Staff With No Marketing Experience

Another reliable way to ensure that your revenues stay small is to assign marketing tasks to employees who have no training or experience in marketing. An employee who can type and Google information can figure out how to market your business. Do not invest in any marketing experts. Experts will implement strategic marketing that is efficient and measurable. They will not help you keep your business small. Always assign marketing efforts to people who have little to no background in marketing.

Avoid Tracking and Measuring

This habit is easy to maintain, so you have no excuse for not cultivating it. Google Analytics (GA) allows you to see where web traffic is coming from, and what visitors do on your site. When possible, don’t connect Google Analytics to your site in the first place. But if it’s already installed and tracking your site traffic, ignore it. Don’t ever log in to the dashboard, don’t analyze the data, don’t learn anything from it. Not analyzing your web traffic is probably the easiest way to keep your business small.

The same goes for call tracking and customer relationship databases. Don’t install any means to discern how someone found your business or how much the lead cost you.  

Rely on Referrals and Word of Mouth

Referrals and word of mouth have gotten you this far, don’t try to improve on this tactic. Your sphere of influence likely doesn’t go past your friends, family, and coworkers. Keep it that way. Internet marketing can expand your customer base, but that won’t keep you small. Stick with personal networking and relying on your salespeople to find new leads.

If keeping these habits up seems daunting to you, don’t get discouraged. There are plenty of other small business owners who are successfully practicing these habits. With a little practice, you will be on your way to limiting your success in no time!