Many entrepreneurs start their business from the ground up, nurturing, growing, managing and building it into a profitable enterprise building on their own expertise, values and drive.
Many entrepreneurs start their businesses because they could do something very well, or knew something inside and out. At some point, they made the leap from working for someone else, to working for themselves. And, as they probably found out, running a business, any business, requires the owner to become adept at many different skills, from accounting and budgeting, to human resources and management. As they grew their business, they learned the true meaning of the saying “You need to work ON your business, rather than IN your business.”
In your own business, you may have decided to hire staff, or perhaps you’ve hired outside resources to help you with some of the everyday minutia of keeping the business running smoothly. Perhaps you have someone to answer your phones and take messages. You may have hired a bookkeeper to keep track of your accounts payable and accounts receivable. You found that it wasn’t easy to “let go” of these responsibilities, but you realized that you couldn’t do it all and having the help freed you up to engage in critical business building activities.
During the first several years of running a business, you may have realized the importance of marketing your business. At first, perhaps for five years or so, word of mouth referrals kept you busy enough and your business grew. But, you then noticed sales reaching a plateau and you asked yourself “How do I take my business to the next level?
Perhaps you tried a few “marketing” techniques, advertising in the local paper, building an online search engine keyword campaign, direct mail. You may have even hired a graphic designer or web designer to help design some pieces you used to market your business. If these didn’t bring the results you hoped for you may have decided that you need some expert help. You decided to hire a marketing agency. So now that you have found an agency you trust, how do you make sure you get the most out of the relationship? The following are a couple of questions we’ve frequently heard and some roadblocks to success we’ve often seen when engaging with companies who have never worked with a marketing agency before.
I know my business better than anyone. How is your marketing agency going to help me?
Any marketing agency worth its salt will need to do some work to “walk a mile in your shoes” before developing a marketing strategy for you. This can take the form of interviewing you and your key decision-makers, along with your clients or customers. Researching your industry and your competition, along with your target audience and demographics provides an unbiased “thirty thousand foot view” of your organization, and allows a strategy to be built upon a firm foundation. While your marketing firm may not know your industry as well as you do, they should come away with a solid understanding of your competitive landscape, your target markets and how best to reach them. The challenge, no matter the industry, is to determine the best way to position your company so that your customers can clearly understand what benefits you offer and how you differ from your competition. Armed with this knowledge, a marketing strategy can be developed, giving you the best chance at success.
I know I need a web site. Why shouldn’t I just have a web designer develop it for me?
You can substitute any marketing piece for “web site” and the question is the same. For example “I know I need an ad in my industry trade magazine and a brochure. Why shouldn’t I just have a graphic designer create these for me?” The answer here is the same. Designers know a lot about what looks good, but not necessarily what will work best for you. Your marketing partner will approach the design of your web site or advertisement or brochure from a different perspective. It not only has to look good, but it has to be an effective piece that speaks to your target audience. Decisions about how effective the piece is should not be made solely on the aesthetics of the piece, but rather on all aspects of the piece. For example, is this the right medium for your business? Maybe a print ad isn’t the best vehicle for you. Does the messaging on the piece resonate with your target audience? Is the call to action appropriate? Bottom line is that good design is just one part of an effective marketing piece.
I don’t like the copy on the brochure that my agency has written. I know how to write well, why can’t I just write it myself?
This question comes in many flavors, such as:
- “I know my agency said I shouldn’t use blue in my logo, but I really like blue. I’m going to use blue.”
- “I really think I should put my photo on my web site home page. People need to know the person behind the business. But my agency advises against it. I think I know my customers best, and they would want to see it”.
- I think my email newsletter needs to be longer than what my agency recommends.
All of the above, and more, come under the heading of “I could do this myself if only I had the time”. To maintain a successful partnership with your marketing agency, you need to make the following distinction early.
You don’t hire a marketing agency because you don’t have the time to market effectively; you hire a marketing agency because you want their experience and expertise.
Bottom line is that you have to have a level of trust in the expertise of your marketing partner. It’s ok to bring up any concerns or preferences, but at some point, you need to realize that if you’re investing your hard earned money, you are doing it because you want to hire the expertise that you don’t possess. It’s not just a matter of saving the time you would need if you were to do your own marketing. You aren’t hiring an agency to do what you would do if you had the time or to design a piece because you’re not a designer. You’re hiring them because they have a wealth of knowledge and a depth of experience that you don’t possess.
This is the critical tipping point, where most entrepreneurs fail to take their business to the next level. They never grow from their “do it yourself” mentality to where they hire the expertise that they don’t have and then “let go” enough to take advantage of that relationship. You would never hire an attorney and then not take their advice or represent yourself in a big case, or go to the doctor and decide to do some needed surgery on yourself because you have the time. Ok, so this may be extreme, but the concept is the same.
If you made a decision to hire someone to handle your business development or your computer networks, you would review all the websites and company materials you receive and hire the company that brings the most experience and expertise to your company. Quite simply, you would hire the company who could do the job better than you can do it. Similarly, to bring your business to the next level, you need to hire a marketing agency that has a higher level of expertise than you have alone. Hopefully, this has cleared up why you need to hire a marketing agency to get the job done while you focus your efforts on other parts of the business.
So, roll up your sleeves and commit to keeping an open mind and letting go a little. You know about taking risks. You’ve had to take several along the way to grow your business to where it is today. Once you’ve chosen a marketing partner that you trust, allow them to take you where their expertise leads. Realize that anything other than what you would have done is going to feel a bit uncomfortable. But in the end, the rewards you reap and the growth that occurs both personally and in your business will be well worth it.