(last updated: May 2018)
One of the benefits of the new, tech-driven business environment is that today's startup or small business doesn't have to have all the traditional infrastructure in-house. You can outsource pretty much every part of your business - accounting, HR, project management, sales - and of course marketing.
Outsourcing isn't a new idea at all. The difference today is that it works for any sized business. Many people assume that outsourcing business processes such as marketing are only for medium to large-scale organizations: Not so. The same reasons that big companies outsource apply just as well to small businesses. Even a one-person business.
But outsourcing your business marketing isn't just something you should, kinda, maybe, vaguely consider. I think it's a lot more important than that.
How much more important?
Well, how about if I lay it out like this: Unless you're a marketing professional, marketing your startup or small business on your own is going to end in failure.
There, I said it.
If You Don't Outsource Your Marketing Your Business WILL fail
Unless you're a marketing professional, the chances that your startup or small business will succeed without professional marketing help is small at best.
Sorry, but it's true. Over the past decade we've helped more than 200 small businesses with their marketing. I'd say at least 90% of the business owners we've worked with would agree that, after working with us, they realize they actually didn't have a clue about what they needed to do.
Too many business owners think they know what's required. But they can't see things clearly because they're too engrossed in the mechanics of the business.
Working on the business, instead of in the business
When your attention is pulled 500 different ways with all that's involved with running a business - suppliers, contracts, personnel, insurance, tax, cashflow, and the rest - you underestimate the marketing challenge. You naïvely believe if we build it, they will come. You assume that customers know why they should buy from your rather than the competition. The fact is they don't (nor, most times, do they even care).
You'd be surprised how many small business owners have come to us with the base assumption that simply having customers knowing of your existence will mean they'll buy from you. Now, while that may have worked a few generations ago, that sort of thinking certainly isn't going to get you very far today. You will fail.
As a small business owner, your job isn't marketing. Your role is to run the business. Your job is to close sales, to ensure delivery of the best product or service possible, to motivate staff. It's to get the best from the resources you have available, and outsource expertise and competencies that you don't have. Unless you're running a marketing agency, your job shouldn't be marketing.
"But I Can't Afford To Outsource My Marketing!"
The number one reason why startups and small businesses don't outsource their marketing is because they think they can't afford it.
Sure, starting a small business is risky enough as it is. 50% of small businesses fail within their first five years. Anything that can be done to reduce expenses at the start has to be a good thing, right?
Try using that excuse at bankruptcy court. See how far that gets you.
The single biggest reason why you need to outsource your marketing: Because that's what your competition is doing. Do you think customers are going to excuse the amateurish branding, messaging, communications, and lead generation efforts? Why should they? No matter what you sell, you're not unique (no you're not!) so park your ego at the door and look at things from their side.
Customer expectations are higher than they have ever been. Your entire business value position - brand, collateral, product, service, customer services - are not only being compared to your competition. The customer experience is being compared to the biggest brands in the world - because that's what customers have come to expect. It's not a question of whether you can afford to outsource your marketing. It's a question of whether you can afford not to.
If your business plan can't sustain the marketing expenditure necessary to generate sufficient cashflow and revenue for the business, then you don't have a viable business. Sure, you may make enough to pay for rent, car payments and the occasional night out with your significant other. But from where I'm sitting that's not a business. That's a hobby.
Outsourcing business marketing is the most cost-effective way of marketing your business
You know what's more expensive than outsourcing your marketing? Trying to do it yourself. You know what's ever-so-slightly less expensive than doing it yourself? Hiring a fulltime marketing person on your payroll.
Don't get me wrong: having a fulltime resource to handle your marketing can be great. But for a small business, there are two issues you should consider:
No matter how great they may be or how enthusiastic they are, a fulltime marketing person is just one person. They won't know everything, and can't do as much as (even) a small agency.
No matter how cheaply they'll work for you, they'll be more expensive than engaging with an outsourced marketing services provider. Don't believe me? Don't just think about their about salary. Think about how much it costs to find the right person. What about employment taxes? Social security? Unemployment? Medical insurance? 401K? Life assurance? Pension contributions? What about buying them a computer, all the software they'll need, maybe a phone? What about what happens when they're not in the office - on vacation, or off sick? Still think it's cheaper?
Working with professionals who do this for a living gives you access to experience, resources, and expertise that you would never otherwise have. Marketing isn't a 'nice-to-have' any more. You will go down without it.
There's a section on this site about why we think organizations should consider outsourcing, but basically what we're talking about is the ability for your company to have access to additional competence resources on a as-needed basis. Open the tap when you need help, close it when you don't. The best of both worlds.
Outsourcing your marketing gives you access to top-drawer experience, experience, and advice. But you're the boss - you're in control. You're still driving the initiatives, it's just that someone else is behind the wheel.