As an Indianapolis marketing consultant, I encounter people while networking each week who would love to hire me. In fact, I often get comments such as “I’d love to hire you but I’m afraid I can’t afford your services.” I even heard this week, “You’re worth every penny that you charge but I’m not at the level I need to be at in my business to pay for an outsourced marketing specialist.” As a solo business owner myself, I definitely understand this. Money is tight, especially when you don’t have clients beating your door down to pay you because your product costs too much. 🙂
This is the old chicken and egg dilemma. Sales must come before marketing, but shouldn’t marketing come before sales? How can a company get to the point where they can “afford” paying for marketing services if they must have the sales to do it?
Let’s analyze this for a moment. What most small business owners want to be doing is spending their time on revenue-generating activities, such as billable hours or selling more product. However, someone in the organization (or some method of marketing/advertising) must focus on bringing in new clients. So as I see it, the options for that business include first uncovering all of the low- or no-cost ways that the company can promote itself without spending money on marketing/advertising. This includes:
- Networking at chamber of commerce, industry and other local events
- Sending out press releases or pitches to local media (PR)
- Optimizing website content for SEO
- Social media marketing
- Article Submission (columns or whitepapers to local or trade publications or websites)
- Standing on a street corner with a sandwich board
- Asking friends and family for referrals
- Cold calls
- Email solicitation or email marketing
- And other guerrilla marketing tactics
Okay, have you made your list of activities? Now look back at the list. Do you notice something that they all have in common?
All of these activities take up a lot of your time: time that you could be spending on your business, working with clients or serving your customers, or doing what you do best, whatever that may be.
Now, if you love marketing, doing all of the above activities, and you have people that can do all of the other aspects of running your business, then there’s your solution. But if you don’t love doing these marketing things, and you know that every week you are pulled in so many different directions that you back-burner your own marketing every time, then it’s time to hire someone to do the marketing for you. And if your time is better spent doing other things, then keep this in mind when thinking about outsourcing your marketing.
However, doing all of the above tactics may not result in finding enough new customers. Maybe your prospects don’t use social media or read blog posts. Maybe they don’t go to networking events. And they don’t read the local paper. And they don’t answer their phones or read unsolicited email anymore (after all, we have voice mail for screening calls and filters for blocking unwanted email). What do we do to find customers, then?
My solution for you is to spend money on advertising or other paid forms of marketing. These methods may include, but are not limited to:
- Print advertising (newspapers, magazines, trade journals)
- Billboards and other outdoor advertising
- Industry membership
- Event sponsorship (luncheons, industry golf outings)
- Direct Mail
- Directory advertising (including yellow pages or similar)
- Search marketing (Google Advertising)
- Social media advertising
- Banner/Internet advertising
- Tradeshow marketing
- Pay-per-lead sources
- Radio advertising
- Television advertising
- Mobile advertising
Find where your customers reside, and then find a way to reach them. If you can’t reach them from one method, try another. If your current methods aren’t working, then you need to spend more time analyzing your customers to determine the best way to find more qualified leads and get more sales. It’s that simple.
My guess is that anyone who is concerned about sales has not taken the time to create a formal marketing plan for their business. This crucial step guides decision-making when it comes to marketing budget. This plan will also help alleviate concerns about spending money to make money because it’s carefully thought out and calculated.
In the world of start-ups, every company tries to start out small with their marketing budgets. But many companies don’t make it because they are afraid to take risks such as hiring a marketing person or spending money on an ad campaign to reach their ideal targets. It’s unfortunate that many businesses don’t realize their mistake until it’s too late…and they’re out of business.