Having made the decision that online marketing consultancy is needed for your small business; the next challenge you face is working out who is the right person or persons to provide it.
How will you ensure you receive the best value for money, results, service, and overall working relationship, as you embark on your quest for better online marketing results?
In short, you have three options.
Option 1 – Commission a marketing agency
Coming from an agency background, I can definitely advocate for these as a valuable marketing partner. An entire room full of creative, strategic, experienced minds ready to collaborate and produce work that will progress your business is every owner’s dream, right? Especially a specialist digital marketing agency that holds accolades and certifications galore.
Yet, for small businesses, especially sole traders and start-ups, marketing agencies are not always the most suitable solution. The biggest reason being the usually modest cash flow of small businesses, versus typically high fees and additional mark-ups on online advertising spend, that tend to come as part and parcel of commissioning an agency.
Put simply, for many small businesses, agencies are simply not affordable.
Although, if you do have a substantial budget available for marketing and you are interested in partnering with an agency, I’d recommend you take into account the following when considering your partner:
- Will you have a sole point of contact/dedicated Account Manager?
- How many other clients will this person have?
- Does the agency only work with small players? Is there a risk of your business be neglected in favour of sexy well-known brands?
- What is the staff turnover of the agency? Will you have a new Account Manager every few months?
- Can the agency react to real-time trends and requirements?
- Will you be tied into a long-term contract?
- Is the bulk of the work delivered in-house or do the agency rely heavily on freelancers (which may actually mean you pay a mark-up for the agency being middle man)
- Can the agency put together a custom strategy for you, or are you restricted to pre-set packages?
- Is your contact a sales rep that won’t actually be on the account/producing the work? If so, are you certain the marketing team can deliver on what’s promised?
- Is the team on your account focused on hard metrics and ultimately, your business’ bottom line?
If you’re satisfied with the answers an agency gives to these questions, and the price is right, this option could work for you.
Option 2 – Recruit an internal marketer
Deciding to recruit a new member of staff to manage your online marketing is largely dependent on how much time, money, and resource you want to commit to this business function.
There are, of course, benefits of hiring a dedicated marketing manager, such as the ability of this single individual to acquire in-depth knowledge of your business, having somebody in-house to communicate with other members of the team (particularly sales) and the comfort of knowing you have a full-time marketing person held accountable for marketing success.
Of course, all of the above comes with a few downsides too. Namely:
- the cost of recruitment
- the cost of training
- admin/HR processes and time involved
- increased overheads for additional staff
- the cost if the employee leaves, in terms of both money and productivity
- a complete commitment to a single person without the flexibility to end the contract or activity at your request
- the annual salary that comes with a marketing expert, or if you’ve taken on a less-experienced junior, the potential cost of amateur mistakes/inefficiencies
Ultimately, creating a marketing role within your business and employing the right person to this long-term is a big commitment and investment.
It’s easy to see why it’s one many small business owners aren’t ready to make.
For those businesses just starting to use online marketing, to those already active but with plenty of room for improvement, it’s preferred there be an element of flexibility and short or part-time trials of activity, in which case, the option to hire internally is not the right one.
Option 3 – Partner with an online marketing freelancer
You may be thinking this is the part where I preach the benefits of utilising a marketing freelancer and overlook all of the potential negatives, given that I’m a freelance marketer myself. That’s not the case.
The purpose of this post is to objectively overview the benefits and pitfalls of all your marketing support options – including freelancers. The reality is that sometimes a marketing freelancer is not the right choice for your small business, especially given the perception that some are unreliable and more concerned with working on their own schedule rather than when your business needs it.
This perception is heightened when your freelancer works remotely and you may never actually meet face to face. The potential to lose control of outcomes and fail to achieve outstanding results from what can sometimes be as much of a financial investment as partnering with an agency is understandable.
However, these concerns shouldn’t prevent you from working with freelancers altogether, they should simply make you more vigilant about which freelancer you partner with. For the odd marketing freelancer out there who taints the reputation of the industry, there are hundreds of others proving exceptional service and helping to build and grow businesses.
As a small business, it’s in your interest to seek online marketing consultants who don’t price themselves at the same rate as an agency or lock clients into long-term contracts. Find a freelancer who
- is your go-to support for marketing queries, advice, and requirements, but who offers flexible working arrangements such as short retainers, or a simple hourly rate
- charges an affordable fee and doesn’t take a percentage of your online advertising spend
- will work flexible hours suited to when your business needs them (within reason because freelancers sleep too)
- is already an expert with proven experience and a client-supported track record
Having a familiar, affordable marketing freelancer partner your small business ultimately allows you invaluable expertise on call and the freedom to pursue and halt marketing activity as it suits your budget and income. It gives you time back to focus on other aspects of the business while marketing sits in the hands of an expert you trust.
If this sounds like the right option for you at the moment, make sure you read the post “What to Expect From Your Marketing Freelancer” when exploring potential partners.
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