Marketing often gets a bad rap. It’s the first thing to go when times are tight, and the last function to get the attention it deserves. And yet, it’s one of the most vital functions for any business, large or small.
One of my favourite sayings is “without marketing, you have no market.” No target audience. No market place. And definitely no market share. Few products and services simply “sell themselves.”
Understandably, not every business owner is a marketer, and while inbound marketing is in many respects more informal than traditional marketing it can be significantly more complex. More technical certainly, if you take account of the prerequisite Internet knowledge, SEO, lead generation, analytics, online content marketing and (horrors!) social media. This alone is a very good reason to consider outsourcing, but how do you know when it’s time to do so?
These indicators (in no particular order) will give you a good idea:
#1: Your Results are Disappointing
The whole point of marketing is to generate sales, so if you aren’t getting them then you aren’t doing enough marketing or you aren’t doing it right. Either way, you need help.
You can choose between these four options:
- Get the necessary training to enable you or an employee to do it in-house.
- Employ a professional staff member. This is only practical if your business is big enough to afford a specialist, however.
- Outsource the entire program to a marketing agency or consultant.
- Subcontract certain aspects and maintain the others internally.
Whatever route you choose, it needs to deliver suitable returns on the investment to be worthwhile.
#2: Marketing Staff is Running Ragged
If you already have marketing staff, whether it’s one person or a team of them, evaluate the returns you’re getting against their cost and time. If you have more work than time in the day or people to do it, then you’re back to the options in #1. When your marketing person is running him- or herself ragged and still not getting everything done, it’s unlikely your strategy will be able to produce the ROI you want to achieve. This is a common problem for small companies with only a few employees, who seldom have a dedicated marketer—or the resources to employ one.
#3: You’re Out of Ideas
The world of inbound marketing relies heavily on content and digital technology. Small business owners complain that their biggest challenge in these areas is the finding ideas for website content and social media. If you (or your marketer) are spending hours each week looking for blog topics and items to share on your profiles, chances are good you’re going to be posting the wrong things. Rather, get the help you need from people who specialize in coming up with ideas for content marketing. A marketing consultant, a freelance blogger or an agency focused on your industry can make the world of difference to what you put out there.
#4: The Crickets Have Taken Over
There are few things that show you’re floundering as much as silent social media profiles do! When the crickets move in, you know it’s long overdue for you to get help. One of the first things Internet-savvy consumers do these days is check out a potential provider on social media, and if your last update was posted in December 2013, you’re in trouble.
Admittedly, you need to material to post, so unless you (or your marketing agency) is producing usable content, you’re going to have to rely on OPS, or other people’s stuff. This isn’t ideal, because it means you’re developing your online presence at the cost of losing traffic, but it’s better than having no presence at all.
#5: The Big Picture is Lost
Even if you’re managing to produce regular marketing material, update your social media and even send out email marketing, if all your efforts are task-focused you’ve lost the big picture. Everything you do in terms of inbound marketing needs to be aligned with your overall strategic goals and business objectives, or you’re wasting both time and money.
This is what typically happens when a company shifts the marketing portfolio to a junior person or someone unqualified to handle it. I see this frequently in small businesses situations, such as the owner’s nephew is a web design student who gets the (usually unpaid) task of creating a website for the company without a comprehensive strategy or knowledge of the big picture. What’s the result?
It. Just. Doesn’t. Work!
If your inbound marketing isn’t happening, it isn’t working or you’re struggling to do it, it’s time for you to consider outsourcing. If after a reasonable trial run you still aren’t seeing the results you want, it’s usually much easier to get out of a relationship with a marketing agency than it is to fire a full-time employee.
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