When you first launched your small business, you probably had a close-knit, core team of people who dealt with all the essential functions of running the business. It may even have been a team of one – you.
However, as your business grows, it’s important to expand that team and invest in new blood. Insisting on keeping a direct handle on all the different jobs – operations, HR, marketing, finance etc – as your time becomes ever more pressured will only hold the company back.
So when you can no longer dedicate the time needed to marketing and the company has grown enough to be able to invest in a specialist, it’s time to take on some support.
Considering an agency?
Many companies – both large and small – outsource their marketing. This can be a way of dipping your toe in the water and testing out a new way of working before committing to an employment contract. Taking on external support is much more flexible than hiring staff as it brings with it the possibility of shorter term contracts, a wide skill mix – and exit clauses if it’s not working out well.
Agencies will be able to cover more ground than an individual team member and offer input from staff with different levels of experience, from directors to executives, assistants and trainees. And using an agency will mean you don’t have to worry about cover for employees being off sick or on holiday.
To find a good agency start by checking out trade magazines or asking trusted contacts for recommendations.
Planning for a new addition
In an ideal world you will already have developed a sales and marketing strategy that supports your overall business plan. That strategy should make it clear what the marketing deliverables are and how the sales and marketing functions will work together in your business.
If you don’t have a marketing strategy in place, it’s important to consider these issues before taking the plunge in hiring a marketing person, so you might want to use a marketing agency initially to help you look at your business needs and draft a plan; if you decide to work with an agency for your ongoing marketing this is likely to be their first job.
The Marketing Donut has an interesting article on managing the relationship between sales and marketing teams, including a business-owner’s ongoing role as a leader.
To give you an idea of potential staffing costs, the Prospects website gives income data from Marketing Week/Ball & Hoolahan’s 2014 salary survey, which showed that:
For more details read the full article in Marketing Week.
There’s no ‘one size fits all’ when it comes to marketing roles and it’s crucial to have a clear idea of the type of support and level of responsibility you’re after before taking someone on. It’s no good being vague in your brief and then feeling disappointed when a new staff member or outsourced team doesn’t meet your expectations.
There are various choices: Do you want someone who will develop strategic plans and work at board level? Someone who can take overall control of marketing on a day-to-day basis, reporting to a director as needed? Someone at a lower salary level who can churn out the work but needs daily supervision? Or perhaps someone who has responsibility for marketing as part of their role, but manages the work of an external agency?
If you’re thinking of recruiting, you can get a good idea of the typical kinds of roles available and the associated salaries by looking at trade magazines such as Marketing Week which have vacancies sections. As with most industries, exact job titles can differ between companies so try to pay less attention to those and more to the job description and responsibilities.
If you’re planning to work with an external agency to provide your marketing support then you could ask their advice about the best approach.
Individuals and agencies all come with different skill sets and industry experience – it’s up to you to decide whether you want to choose someone with proven success in your market or a ‘go getter’ who’s new to the industry; a well-rounded individual, an expert in a certain area, or an agency that can provide a balanced mix of skills and experience.
Also consider the main channels for marketing to your target customers and therefore the skills and experience you need in a marketer or agency:
If you need expertise in a certain area – such as the relatively new domain of social media – make sure a prospective employee or agency has the right experience, has achieved a recognised qualification in sales and marketing that employers are looking for or be prepared to train them up. If it’s not something you’re strong on, don’t be bamboozled – anyone you’re thinking of taking on must be able to explain what they want to do in plain English so that you can understand their aims and judge their success with confidence. Remember, you’re looking to develop a good long-term working relationship.
Take the time to do your research and decide on the best way forward for you before starting a recruitment drive or signing up with an agency, or you could waste both time and money.
The keys to making it work
You might be taking a step back from the day-to-day marketing activities but make sure you still know – and are happy with – what’s going on.
One of the main things to be sure of is that any agency or individual you take on understands your product, your business vision and values, and is able to market you in a way that reflects those values.
Make sure any brief you give has a set budget, clear aims and SMART targets so you can measure success and get the best value for money.
Manage your expectations if you employ a lone marketing professional – with most businesses there is more than enough for an individual to take on, and one person doesn’t equal an entire marketing department!
Remember to get everyone started off on the right foot. Whatever level they’ve been brought in at, give your new team member an opportunity to comment on the marketing strategy and suggest changes as time goes by and they become embedded in the company.
It’s important to also spend time with existing staff in sales and other departments to make sure they all understand each other’s roles. This will help them work well together without feeling threatened. Ask your sales team to feed back on what is having most impact and which marketing campaigns bring them the best leads, so they can build a positive working relationship and maximise sales opportunities.
Getting down to the nitty gritty
By the nitty gritty, we of course mean the money. Make sure you always have a handle on how much is available in your budget for marketing and the best way to balance that spend between running costs – whether an employed staff member or ongoing agency costs – and non-recurrent spend on items such as promotional materials or advertising space.
Don’t forget the impact of a new starter on others in the team. Someone will need to manage either a new staff member or an agency contract. Will that be you?
And plan ahead for success – make sure you have some flexibility built in to your sales, customer services and operations so that when your new marketing manager hits all the right buttons and the calls come flooding in you’re prepared to handle them successfully.
Having either having temporary staff or call handling support lined up when a big campaign is due to hit will make sure you reap all the rewards of a job well done.