No business is too small to market!
Every business, no matter how small, needs to market its services. The question is when should a small business owner look outside of her/his do-it-yourself marketing activities and hire a marketing agency/consultant? The answer is: “from day one”.
Initially you can hire an agency, on a per-hour consultancy basis, as a sounding board to establish marketing goals, strategize marketing priorities and create a marketing schedule of social media postings, print ad publishing and the like.
Checklist to consider before hiring a marketing agency/consultant
The big general questions
When looking for a marketing agency/consultant to handle your small business marketing needs keep in mind the following:
1. Does the agency offer flexibility in services offered? Can you create a service package and/or pick and choose the specific services suited to your business size, budget and needs?
2. Do you have one key contact person to talk to in the agency? Can you communicate all your marketing needs to one person or do you need to talk to and then repeat your needs to many different agency people, in different roles, before you receive the service/answers you require?
Keep in mind that while many agencies, large and small, will outsource many of their specialty services (for example translations, coding, graphics) the key contact person must remain the agency person and not the outsourced person.
3. Size doesn’t always count. Do you feel the agency is geared to small business needs or are they really geared to medium to large businesses and have taken on small businesses just to 'bulk up their clientele list'? Snagging a big-name agency does not always ensure marketing success for a small business.
4. Do you feel the agency is listening when you talk about your small business goals and marketing needs?
Good questions to ask/points to consider
1. Does the agency provide you with regular update/strategy meetings?
2. Do they have industry-specific marketing experience? This may not always be necessary, but you should be aware of their range of experience.
3. Speak to current clients of the agency and get a sense their working relationship.
4. Find out what is NOT included in their price structure? What extra expenses (out of pocket or OOP) may be incurred that could mean the difference between a marketing budget well-spent and a seemingly low-budget marketing plan with so many OOP items you will find yourself quickly over-budget?
5. Do they speak and/or offer services in foreign languages, which may be important for your target markets?
What about you?
1. Do you have a vision and a direction of where you want to take your business?
2. Have you considered which areas of marketing you need the most help? Social Media? Content writing? Graphic design? All the above?
3. Marketing is a big piece of real estate and requires the time and attention of both you and the agency you hire; this is not a 'pay-and-forget' activity!
As a 'couple', did you and the agency set expectations as to how many hours of work is required from both sides? Whether creating a marketing plan, a social media posting schedule or a specific marketing campaign – as the small business owner, you must be an active partner in the initial preparation, review and approval of content and images, progress and deadlines and also be ‘in the loop’ concerning results and follow up.
Many small business owners contact me when they become disillusioned by their current agency.
Don't jump before you consider the following
1. Ask yourself why are you unhappy with your agency?
2. At the onset of your relationship with the agency, did you jointly establish parameters, manage expectations, goals and timetables?
3. Were the above parameters met? Marketing is an inexact science, when things did not ‘go as planned’ were there post mortem meetings (formal or informal) to examine what happened and how to remedy the situation?
4. Do you have too many cooks and too any opinions when working with the agency? Many small business owners tend to invite the opinions (or get uninvited opinions) of all sorts of well-meaning friends and relatives into the marketing mix. While open discussion and free flow of ideas is great, in many cases this situation gets out-of-hand very quickly and the small business owner doesn’t know which way to turn and second and third-guesses every move of the marketing plan. These situations never end well. You need to listen to your gut, choose an agency you feel comfortable with, believe in their method and direction or find another agency.
Where does this leave the small business owner?
Marketing is not a sprint, it’s a marathon. You should wake up every morning and consider what you will do today to advance your business and part of that ethos includes understanding that YOU must be an active member of your marketing agency team. Whether you work with an agency, are considering hiring one or are considering moving to a different agency, ultimately marketing your business is part of your job as a small business owner.
Do you want to open yourself to a more successful business? Are you lost in the social media jungle? Let me help you re-energize your business and rediscover your passion in your profession. We’ll work together to improve your marketing strategy and online exposure and find the perfect target markets for your business. Contact me today to schedule a free introductory meeting.