Marketing tends to be a low priority for small businesses. You have fixed overhead and not a lot of flexibility in your budget. Why should you devote limited funds to marketing when you can give this work to someone on your payroll?
Yet in many situations this approach is too cavalier to be effective. Is it better than nothing? Possibly. Is it delivering the return you desire? Almost certainly not.
Typically marketing is not a core competency in your business model. You may, however, have some skillsets to draw from. Perhaps there’s someone who can manage organic social media accounts, or someone who can write snappy copy for the company website.
Where do your assets reside? Look at the employees you have, their total compensation, the time they spend on their given operational tasks and consider the cost of diverting them. Factor in any uncertainty about their ability to perform the job and the cost of lost opportunities and compare that to the hourly rate of a marketing firm.
No one wants to use the wrong resources for a job, whether that job is accounting, sales or IT. You wouldn’t throw unfamiliar work at a random employee, simply expect them to figure it out and hope for the best. The same should hold true for marketing.
A marketing firm with experience in your industry can either supplement or take on all of the marketing duties needed within your organization. Resources don’t need to be spent on training or managing payroll or vacation days. There’s no investment in equipment, and it’s quick to onboard a firm that already specializes in this type of work.
Outsourced work can also be much more efficient. An outsourced team has an eye to the bigger picture—messaging, branding, full-fledged marketing campaigns—and can keep the efforts consistent and coordinated. It’s also a flexible solution—you pay only for what you need.
In an ideal world, you’ll have a hybrid model, with some tasks handled internally and others handled outside. You might bring in a firm to help develop an overall plan and strategy, create effective and tested messaging and help delegate tactics to in-house staff. In this scenario, efforts should be expertly coordinated. You might be simultaneously running a blog, creating conference swag, running print ads and pitching stories to a newspaper—you want all of these activities to be integrated.
In most cases, management of a hybrid model is best left to the experienced consultant who can be held accountable for working to a plan. The firm can also be responsible for managing metrics and analytics and measuring your ROI.
At the end of the day, your marketing investment—whether in house, outsourced, or hybrid—should be worth the dollars spent.