Are You Ready To Hire A Marketing Firm?

Every business owner is faced with the similar options and approaches to handling their communications strategy and campaigns.  Most start by trying it themselves, because they believe they know their business best, and want to give a try at the “fun stuff” – like marketing and advertising.

Like many businesses, you might also consider hiring a full or part-time marketing assistant or consultant.  Before you do…ask yourself this: When your business needs electrical work do you do it yourself? Hire an electrician to be on staff full-time? Or ask your plumber to handle it?

Bring in the Experts.

Though simple marketing and advertising might seem simple enough to do yourself, nothing hurts as much as a costly misfire.  Not only will you send the wrong message to a very busy public, but your budget will likely suffer and you’ll be in no position to recover or redirect the funds and time wasted.  The fact is, no one can do the job as effectively and efficiently as someone who lives and breathes the industry everyday.

Seeing the forest and the trees.

With any luck, the consultant you hire will bring with them an objective opinion and a fresh perspective.  It’s easy for many business owners to lose perspective on their brand as they become immersed in daily operations.  When you’re managing the minutia of business, it’s easy to lose sight of the bigger picture.  Often, a business’ marketing will reflect this, and the actual benefits of a product or service is lost to a detailed description of its functions and product details.  All emotion is lost in the pitch, and as such, isn’t received by the intended audience.

If you add another ball, technically it is juggling.

Even if you give the added tasks of marketing to an employee, attention is being taken away from other important responsibilities and projects.  Consultants on the other hand, are dedicated to one, and only one, important portion of your business.  The right one will stay focused on your brand’s image and sales – allowing you to keep your attention on other important development projects and goals.

Be Like Gumby.

The right consultant will remain very flexible, and should be ready to take on an assignment at a moment’s notices.  The ease of getting a project started is just a phone call away from being put into production.  Conversely, hiring a new employee to handle your marketing takes time to advertise, interview, and sort through candidates – often to find you may or may not have committed to the overhead of an employee.

The C- Word

Hiring a marketing consultant or firm may not require a long-term Commitment.  When a marketing firm completes a project, they have the flexibility to move into whatever position you need, from quarterly analysis, to basic maintenance, to completely out of the picture while remaining on the sidelines when you’re ready to take a new step forward.

Whatever your stage in business, it’s worth your time to set clear strategic goals for your marketing budget – and spend it wisely.  Investing in a professional or team of consultants to help you execute your campaign will not only save you money in the long run, but deliver greater results for your investment.

Do you work with a marketing firm?  If so…we’d love to hear about your experience!

Plan For Success In 2010

courtesy of Financial Marketing Wire

It’s amazing how quickly a year passes.  In the blink of an eye, it’s suddenly that time of year when many businesses and corporations start the scramble to create a marketing plan for the New Year.  The SmartBrand team is always amazed at the fact that many companies, both large and small, simply don’t have a marketing plan in place, and often no means to measure their efforts and investment throughout the year ahead.

First and foremost, you must define your brand and its unique values and positioning in the market place.  This can take many forms, but we often use the “tried and true” SWOT analysis that reviews the company or product’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats.

Once you have a solid understanding of your current positioning and values, it’s time to lay out some strategic and tactical plans to carry you through the year.

Step 1: Choose Your Strategic Weapons

Good marketing plans often include a wide variety of strategic approaches….not just one.  Diverse campaigns offer a wider variety of opportunities and points of measurement – which in turn can lead to a faster response in determining just what’s working, and what isn’t.  Be sure to write these strategic plans down so that you can establish solid tactical plans to achieve the results you need.  Here are a few ideas you can think about, and perhaps include.

Referrals can be a sustainable source of new clients – especially in this challenging economy.  If you choose this strategy, you may want to incorporate some of these types of activities:

  • Attending networking events or joining related business associations
  • Reach out existing and new prospects via LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook or other social networking sites
  • Create marketing collateral targeted specifically at existing clients that can refer you to new prospects
  • Develop a program to nurture and broaden referral relationships (Lunch/dinner meetings; small events; workshops, etc.)
  • Establish new opportunities to reach out to referrers (e.g. speaking engagements; newsletters; collaborative events, etc.)

Offline Marketing
Referrals may be the the most cost-effective way to generate new leads, while advisors new to the business or firms looking to grow rapidly need to reach outside of their current relationships.  If this one of your strategic choices, consider some of these types of planning activities:

  • Produce marketing collateral including a capability brochure, advisor bios and product/service sheets
  • Conduct public workshops or educational courses
  • Advertise through traditional media outlets including local newspapers, magazines, radio stations and television stations
  • Consider a multi-tiered direct mail campaign to highly qualified/targeted leads
  • Host a paid television or radio show
  • Write articles and submit them to local publications
  • Write and distribute press releases with news about your firm
  • Create a Drip Marketing program to stay top of mind with prospects

Online Marketing
With the rise in popularity of social media strategies in the past economic climate, many are turning toward these newer channels as part of a lower cost option to generating new prospects and leads. If you do decide that social media is a part of your strategic approach, you might consider:

  • Producing a website that concisely displays your capabilities and provides educational resources to prospective and current clients
  • Providing educational content through blogs, podcasts, webinars, and videos.
  • Actively participating in key social networking sites such as LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook
  • Investing in a Google Ad Words campaign (or some similar pay-per-click campaign)
  • Actively join online directories and referral sites

There are, of course, many other strategies you should consider as part of your marketing planning for the New year.  The key is choosing those that have the highest degree for return potential for your specific brand’s position, then tracking each and every effort to be certain you have the data at your fingertips to make necessary adjustments to maximize your investment and time.

Step 2: Plan The Year

So you have decided on the strategies you’re going to commit to using, now it’s time to lay them out across a year’s worth of efforts and planning.  To start, simply write out the specific activity (tactical) you want to include under the appropriate category.  For example, if you want to email a quarterly newsletter to your clients and prospects, include “Client Newsletter” under the Client Referral strategic heading.  Then put an “X” or colored block in the week/month you wish to send it out. Continue this process with each activity you identified in Step 1 until you have a marketing calendar for the year.

Step 3: Establish Your Budget

Now that you have a marketing calendar for the year…it’s time to set a budget to execute the plans you’ve made.  You’ll need to do a bit of research if you don’t know exactly how much each tactic may cost – or hire someone to help you that has that kind of experience.  Once you’ve projected the budget for each activity, simply place the dollar amount in place of the X or colored block on your spreadsheet.    In the example of the quarterly email newsletter, you would have designated the communications to be sent quarterly (January, April, July and October), which would now be replaced by the cost of writing, graphics and sending the campaign – for the sake of example, say $500.  This will give you an annual client newsletter budget of $2,000.  Once you’ve completed this process for each marketing activity, you can adjust your plan so that it fits within your budget.  When you have finished adjusting your calendar and budget, you’ll have successfully documented your marketing plan for the year.

Step 4: Implement Your Plan

So you’ve created a plan…the most important step is yet to come – following it.  We’d recommend you print your calendar out for the year, then mark down specific dates you plan on executing each activity.  If you’re unsure about when the activity should take place…make a guess as best you’re able.  It’s far better to have a calendar plan that needs adjustment than to have no plan at all.

And of course, in a shameless pitch of self-promotion, if you need help getting these kinds of plans done…contact us at SmartBrand.  Yes…you can establish and execute your own marketing strategic plan …but you can also cut your own hair (perhaps without the best results). We’d recommend you engage a professional to maximize your options and return on investment for your marketing efforts throughout the year.

Happy New Year from all of us at SmartBrand!

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