How Outsourcing Marketing Can Hurt Your Small Business

Every week as SmallBizLady, I conduct interviews with experts on my Twitter talk show #SmallBizChat. The show takes place every Wednesday on Twitter from 8-9 pm ET.  This is excerpted from my recent interview with Jill Brennan, who is a marketing consultant for small businesses that think differently. She is a mentor and the founder of Harbren Marketing and has been in the small business trenches for around 20 years. She helps businesses to discover the top mistakes that small businesses make with their marketing and how to fix them.  For more information:  www.harbren.com.

SmallBizLady: WHY DO SMALL BUSINESS NEED TO STOP OUTSOURCING THEIR MARKETING?

Jill Brennan: Many small businesses leave a lot of their market intelligence strategy and implementation with outsourced marketing providers.  Outsourcing skills that you don’t have available within your business makes sense, particularly as you can access a broad range of skills that your small business doesn’t need on a full-time basis.

However, not all outsourcing is a good idea.  And there comes a point in the lifecycle of your business when you need to develop your own marketing expertise.

SmallBizLady: WHAT DIFFERENCE WILL IT MAKE IF I HIRE MY OWN MARKETING PERSON?

Jill Brennan: It will be easier to learn from your efforts and improve what you do.

One of the biggest problems with outsourcing marketing is that the nuances of a particular activity or campaign – what worked, what didn’t, split-testing different aspects – usually remain with the outsourcing agency or contractor.  This is often valuable information that can be used to tweak future campaigns, explore new opportunities and products and modify existing products.

SmallBizLady: BUT THE MARKETING AGENCY PROVIDES ME WITH REPORTS ON WHAT THEY DO.  ISN’T THAT ALL THE MARKETING INFORMATION I NEED?

Jill Brennan: Even if the outsourced agency provides reports on what they’ve done and the results they’ve achieved, these tend to be numbers based rather than contained detailed qualitative information.  One of the reasons for this is that many small business owners don’t know what information to ask for or how to make sense of the information they do receive.

SmallBizLady: CAN’T I JUST ASK THEM TO GIVE ME MORE DETAILED INFORMATION?

Jill Brennan: You can but it’s not in their interests to share all they do as it may mean they lose work.  Agencies and contractors tend to guard the exact details of what they do.  This is usually because they believe that if they provide detailed information on exactly what they’re doing and how they’re doing it then they will be giving away their intellectual property.

And you may then decide to do it yourself or shop the information around to another agency that is prepared to do it for a lower price.  Or perhaps it will become evident that the marketing they are doing for you is just ticking over and mostly running on autopilot.

SmallBizLady: WHAT ARE SOME OTHER REASONS WHY I SHOULD STOP OUTSOURCING MY MARKETING?

Jill Brennan: It will help you get closer to your customers. Your customers or prospective customers could be giving you feedback via your marketing activities that would be meaningful to you if you knew about it.  But the 3rd party you’re outsourcing to doesn’t know your business like you do.  To them the comments seem unremarkable and not worth mentioning.

SmallBizLady: NO ONE IS AS PASSIONATE/KNOWLEDGEABLE ABOUT MY BIZ AS ME/TEAM, SHOULD I CAPITALIZE BY DIRECTLY CONTROLLING THE MARKETING?

Jill Brennan: Yes, an agency or contractor can be slower to react to changes.  And if valuable marketing intelligence is being ignored then you’re not only giving away your power to react but also foregoing your ability to adapt to changing customer demands and market conditions.  It can also hamper new product development and ultimately the future growth of your business.

SmallBizLady: ARE THERE ANY OTHER REASONS WHY I NEED TO BE CAUTIOUS ABOUT WORKING WITH OUTSOURCED MARKETING PROVIDERS?

Jill Brennan: I’ve worked with many businesses that outsource marketing and when they switch agencies or the contractor they have working for them leaves, they typically have very little knowledge of how marketing works.  Often this includes basics like not being able to login to the backend of their website.

You might be happy with the results you’re getting from an outsourced provider and don’t feel like you need to know all the details.  Afterall, if you were comfortable with the ins and outs of marketing you wouldn’t need to use them.

However, this approach is not a sustainable way to insulate your business from changes.

SmallBizLady:  WON’T HAVING MY OWN MARKETING COST ME MORE?

Jill Brennan:  Not necessarily because you’ll likely be getting better value for money.  And hiring your own marketing person doesn’t mean they need to be full-time or an experienced manager with 10+ years experience.  One option is to hire a junior and bring in a marketing consultant/trainer who provides guidance and training as required.

 

SmallBizLady:  SO LET’S SAY A BUSINESS OWNER HAS DONE THAT AND NOW KNOWS MORE ABOUT MARKETING AND WHAT’S POSSIBLE, WHAT’S NEXT?

Jill Brennan:  Next you need to create a plan to bring your main marketing activities into your business and begin implementing.  The best option here is to get help to manage this process and ensure you have the marketing strategy, training and support you need to make the arrangement a success.

SmallBizLady:  WHAT SHOULD I LOOK FOR IN HIRING A MARKETING PERSON?

Jill Brennan:  There are 4 key attributes that you should look for, the rest can be learned on the job or from training courses.  They are:

  • Be able to write well
  • Have a good eye for design (they don’t need to be a graphic designer but need some appreciation for what looks appealing)
  • Have empathy and be able to put themselves in the ‘shoes’ of your target customers
  • Have a testing mindset – marketing is about continually improving your results, its not a set and forget activity and to get the most out of it, having an attitude of continuous improvement is important.

SmallBizLady:  WHERE CAN SMALL BUSINESS OWNERS FIND OUT MORE ABOUT WHAT THEIR OPTIONS ARE FOR GETTING HELP?

Jill Brennan:  On my website, Harbren.com, you can find a few download called the Marketing Kickstart Kit.  This covers the 7 common missteps that small business owners make with marketing and also goes through your options for getting marketing help.  You’ll find information on the pros and cons of each as well as other variables to take into account.

The first is becoming better educated about the basics of marketing so that you can make knowledgeable decisions around what you need.

There are lots of other marketing guides around to pick from.  I’ve written a book on this topic called Get Smarter Marketing: The Small Business Owner’s Guide to Building a Savvy Business.  The idea behind the book was to give you the information you need without trying to turn you into a marketing manager.

If you found this interview helpful, join us on Wednesdays 8-9 pm ET; follow @SmallBizChat on Twitter.

Here’s how to participate in #SmallBizChathttp://bit.ly/1hZeIlz

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