You’ve Decided You Need Marketing - What’s Next?
At some point, every growing business realizes the importance of maintaining consistent marketing to support continuous growth. But who is going to do this marketing?
Think of your business as a live organism, where you, the owner, are the brain. Whatever idea is born in the brain should find its way out in an appropriate verbal or visual manner. Marketing serves as several functions of the organism: it’s the voice of your business as well as its eyes and ears. It helps to find the best way to express the idea to the outer world (with the desired outcome in mind), receives feedback, analyzes this feedback, and sends a response back to the brain.
As a business owner, you probably can’t be both the brain and the neural pathways that communicate the brain’s message. You need someone to help you with the later.
Inside or Out?
First, you must decide whether you want to have an internal marketing department or outsource it. This decision depends on each business owner’s personal preferences and comfort. Take the following into consideration before you make this decision.
1. What is your vision of marketing?
Even though it sounds cliché, this is an important question to ask yourself and share with your executive team. What do you need the marketing for? How do you see its purpose? Do you want to develop a certain public Image, or do you just need some help with wrapping your thoughts in a nice design? Do you need lead generation and funnel development or existing customer retention and relationships? Finally, how much liberty are you willing to allow your marketing team to have? In other words, will you allow your marketing team to shape the message and the tone of communications, or will you dictate that yourself?
2. How much are you willing to spend on marketing?
This math is well known, although widely disregarded by both small and large companies. The rule of thumb is to allocate ~10% of your annual revenue for marketing activities. This doesn’t include payroll if you hire an internal team. With a marketing agency, you cover all production costs and the agency’s commission , which varies greatly from one agency to another.
3. How much of your own time are you willing to dedicate for marketing?
Whether you hire internally or outsource your marketing, you must spend some time with your marketing forces to ensure they are aligned with your business strategy. This may stretch from occasional brainstorming to total control over all marketing activities. It is totally up to you as a business owner how much you want to be involved.
Once you’ve answered the above questions, it’s time to compare advantages and disadvantages of internal and outsourced marketing.
- Less Expense - Having an Internal marketing team is usually less expensive if you find the right talent(s) who can cover some activities in-house. For example, they may be able to help with website maintenance, social media, event logistics, some graphic design and copy writing outside of their usual marketing tasks.
- More Flexibility and Control - Internal marketing teams provide more flexibility and are easier to control. They allow for closer collaboration with you and other members of the office. And you can keep a closer eye on what they’re doing.
- Evolves with Your Business – Because they are entrenched in the company culture and part of the community, internal marketing teams will inevitably evolve with company culture. This makes marketing efforts easier and more organic.
- You Need to Recruit – Marketing agencies have talented individuals ready to go. If you are making your own team, then you need to take the time to find and vet candidates.
- Longer Ramp Up Period - It takes time and effort to develop a productive marketing department even after the team is hired. Your marketing team (or person) must familiarize themselves with the industry and company culture, develop a message and a marketing program, find the right tools and channels to work with, etc. Depending on various factors, it might take six months to a year before you see significant results.
- Access to Resources - Marketing agencies usually have access to more resources than do internal teams. For example, agencies buy media “in bulk” and usually get better prices than do individual business customers.
- Easier to Find the Right Fit - If the agency specializes in your industry, then you can get references from their existing customers, so you know what to expect in advance.
- Less Flexibility - Collaboration with the agency is usually less flexible and very much budget-dependent.
- Need for Accountability – You can’t just hire an agency and let them run. You need to develop very specific KPIs and regularly review them to make sure your agency makes the most of your marketing budget.
In my personal experience, the best way for small businesses to run effective marketing is to have a combination of both options. Hire a capable marketing manager to develop the strategy, marketing program and budget. Then outsource specific tasks or projects that require skills that your in-house manager doesn’t have.