Many of us feel we have an inner marketer just waiting to come out. We all have opinions about the ads we see on TV or on billboards, for example. We know when we get an email from a company whether it seems relevant or not. Promoting ourselves on social media has almost become an ingrained skill. With all that in mind, why would entrepreneurs need a marketing lead at all?
Anyone who’s launched a small business and grown it beyond the first few customers will know the answers to that question all too well. It’s much like the way that, while initial sales to customers can be handled by a single founder or company owner, success often means recognizing the need for others in prospecting and closing more deals. Or think of all the basic admin tasks that might be managed via smartphone apps -- many organizations still eventually bring on an additional employee to facilitate calls, organize meetings and other tasks that shouldn’t bog down the boss.
Marketing might seem harder to hand over to someone else, at least at first. After all, a lot of the activity involves developing the brand identity of a firm, which might involve ideas particularly close to the founder or owner’s heart. Crafting the right messages to the target audience, meanwhile, can require deep knowledge of a particular community and its interests in addition to expertise in the firm’s products and services. For entrepreneurs that are more sales driven, meanwhile, it might not be clear what marketers really do all day, let alone why they should hire one full time.
Unfortunately, the downside of not hiring a dedicated marketing resource can be serious for startups or small and even medium-sized businesses. It can mean competitors get much more attention than your firm. In some cases it might mean sales are harder to come by, because customers and prospects simply aren’t aware of who you are. And it can mean a lot of inefficiencies or duplication of effort as marketing materials have to be constantly created from scratch -- or might become hopelessly out of date.
Before we go any further, let’s recognize what a marketer is, and what they are not. A marketer is someone focused holistically on telling the story of your company across different channels and build the demand and trust in your offerings and your team. A marketer is not a part-time admin looking after social media accounts, or a co-op student designing a flyer.
Ask yourself how many of the following are true, and if they are, looking for a marketer might be your next top priority:
Traditional advertising can be straightforward if you’re running a business in a market that is relatively new and where simply sharing details about the strengths of your products and services is enough to get customers lining up. For the most part, though, customers want to hear more than a simple sales pitch. Even if they are a corporate buyer, they want to get excited about what their lives will look like after they’ve made a purchase. That can involve a special kind of storytelling that an entrepreneur may not be able to do, or doesn’t have the time to do.
A good marketer will look at the overarching qualities of your target audience and develop personas that reflect some of their most common traits and key differences. That becomes the basis for creating story ideas, which they can then turn into a variety of content marketing assets such as blogs, eBooks or even native ads.
Those running a business have to keep a constant pulse on revenue and other growth indicators. They might be less focused on what it takes to get some of those sales, asking their initial sales reps to spend more time making cold calls or attending industry events.
A marketer tends to have a more high-level view of the entire journey customers take. This includes the moment they first recognize they need a product or service to how they engage with a company and how they stay engaged once they’ve done business with the company. There can be different kinds of content or other elements that customers will need along each stage, which can help lead to better customer retention or even referrals that take some of the heat off the sales team.
Founders or company owners often have no problem talking convincingly about their firm and its offerings when they get in front of a customer, but a lot of growth now involves doing something similar across many other kinds of channels.
In fact, a good marketer is often essential to creating an “omni-channel” approach to branding and generating demand, whether it’s publishing blog posts, connecting with customers on social media or working with video. If this isn’t your strong suit, best to start recruiting someone else to do it.
Mass-marketing can be highly effective in some situations, but the other effect of digitization has been the opportunity -- and expectation -- to take a more one-to-one marketing approach with customers.
A full-time marketer can work with a variety of tools today, including marketing automation platforms such as Marketing Cloud, to achieve true personalization in a variety of activities. Imagine emails that not only include individual names but customized offers, or landing pages on your website that can be aimed at specific industries or other segments.
Looking at marketing as merely an expense or a necessary evil is one of the reasons some firms fail to hire someone in the first place. Hopefully your thinking has evolved a bit since then, but a big part of making sure you hire the right marketer is seeing that they can also articulate the value of what they do.
Marketing metrics can vary a lot, of course, but they should at least include a sense of how many customers are actively consuming or showing interest in your company’s content, the extent to which that leads to sales and their willingness to suggest your company to people they know.
It’s probably pretty safe to say that most small businesses that bring on a marketer don’t regret it. Instead, it doesn’t take very long before they wondered how they got as far as they did without one.