All businesses tend to go through a process with marketing as they grow and scale, and we think it is important to outline the major milestones in order to help businesses figure out where they are and where they can go next. We also want to, as impartially as we can, lay out some of the pros and cons of each step. As a disclaimer this is of course not every business, but most of the many we have seen and worked with over the years.
One last thing we should also highlight is that COST does not just mean money. When it comes to marketing COST = Time, Money, and Resources. So anytime in this article that we list COST we are actually talking about time, money, and resources.
Milestone 1 - None. Zilch. Nada. No Marketing
This is where most people start out, especially those that are self employed or small business owners. They move from client to client simply from the goodwill of previous customers throwing their name in the hat with a friend. Doing a good job with great customer service is an easy way to make this happen. Whenever I speak with these folks about marketing they will typically tell me they don’t do any marketing because most of their business comes from word of mouth. This statement almost triggers me everytime I hear it because if you are not doing any type of marketing behaviors, the only place new business can come from is word of mouth. I mean, you won’t get business from your website if you don’t have one and people won’t find you on facebook if you are not on it.
- It COSTS Nothing.
- Client/Customers are warm to hot leads when they walk in the door from your referral sources.
- Higher Closing Percentage.
- You cannot control when they will walk in the door.
- Hope is not a strategy.
- You cannot grow & scale a business without some sort of system for consistently attracting new business.
Recommendation: Outline the demographics, geographics, and psychographics of your target market. Compare this info to demographics on different marketing channels to take an educated guess where you should be spending your time. The psychographic info will help you to craft your messaging.
Milestone 2 - DIY (Do It Yourself)
At some point people decide they need a steadier source of leads and customers so they start to look for ways to do this. There are countless methods out there to research, learn, and deploy. Most professionals will tell you that any comprehensive approach will be multi-pronged if you have the budget for it or highly specific if you do not. Figuring this out can be a challenge. Should I be on facebook? Instagram? Radio? We often start asking other business owners we know (that are in different industries) and then try to do what they do. I just want to caution that what works for a commercial cleaning company may not work for a Yoga Studio. What most people do is just jump on social media and start throwing stuff against the wall to see what sticks. Some really get after it and find that they enjoy these activities. They build their own site with something like WIx or Squarespace. They read up on SEO and SEM strategies. They set up their Google My Business Page. They find they are more creative than they thought and create beautifully designed social media posts using something like CANVA. They fire up the old MailChimp program and add email marketing to the mix. Around this time they realize how much time marketing can eat up of your day and that is when they start to move onto the next step. Or, they realize they hate marketing and move on to the next step. Before we go to the next step though, let’s look at the pros and cons of this one first.
- COSTS only your time.
- May generate business if you are lucky or if you are good.
- Can be fun!
- You only have so much time. Time spent on marketing is time not spent on the other aspects of your business, or with your kids, or however you spend your free time. Wait, at this level you don’t have free time. 😉
- The learning curve can be steep and time consuming.
- People usually fade off after not seeing immediate results or when they get pulled in another direction by their business. This kills consistency which is needed to have effective marketing efforts.
- Most people are limited on the number of skills they can learn over a short period of time.
- There can be a learning barrier as well. Not everyone has a technical mind that can figure out things like Google Ads, SEO, Pixels, Video Editing, Graphic Design, Photography, Video, Etc.
Recommendation: If you are approaching this or are in this step of the process, I would recommend reaching out to similar businesses in different markets to see what works for them. Keep in mind that if you are in a less populated area, asking someone who is in a metropolitan area what they do, is probably not going to work.
Milestone 3 - Inhouse, the next step.
Inevitably most business owners I meet tire quickly of doing their own marketing or get pulled in other directions. Eventually marketing falls to wayside. So then they start looking at hiring someone in house. One of two things happens - They hire someone to do other duties with posting to social media as a part of those duties, or they hire a full time marketing person.
- You have someone who can make sure you are consistent with your marketing efforts.
- Part timer is creative, they post fun stuff and you end up with decent organic engagement.
- Full timer can do a great job across multiple channels giving you a pretty comprehensive marketing effort.
- You, as the business owner, no longer have to worry about day to day marketing.
- COST seems relatively low compared to other options such as outsourcing.
- Part timer is only wearing the marketing hat part time which means you are not firing on all cylinders.
- Full timer is still limited - There is only so much one person can accomplish. Most people are not able to do Graphic Design, SEO, Websites, Photo, Video, Social, Blogging, the list goes on and on.
- Employees = liability. There is unemployment insurance, paid sick time. health benefits, loaded labor rates, workers comp.
- You also have to manage them, worry about your marketing lead taking vacations, and often employees leave with those new found skills for a “better deal”.
Recommendation: Start with outsourcing your marketing efforts instead. There are plenty of options to get you started with an affordable program that will still COST less than a part time or full time employee and you get all the pros of this step without any of the cons.
Milestone 4 - Outsource
Sooner or later, as you grow, you are going to outsource some or all of your marketing efforts, depending on how large of an inhouse team you want to keep on staff. Like all the other milestones in this article, there are pros and cons, so let’s take a look at those.
- You have a 360 degree comprehensive solution.
- The right company will guide your marketing strategy, create content, deploy it to the right places, monitor, listen, and report. The same as an inhouse team but without the cons of inhouse employees.
- There is no skills gap with the right company. They will cover all of your digital, graphic design, strategy, content creation, and more.
- The right company will make you money, so that COST you are worried about is actually an investment.
- Sometimes outsourcing can seem more expensive than inhouse employees, sometimes.
- You cannot “see” them working. This is often a tough one for employers, especially ones that are used to the traditional model of having employees at a desk.
- Choosing the right company can be daunting.
- Attaching a dollar spent on marketing to dollars earned in revenue can sometimes be difficult to track. Afterall, by the time a client or customers ends up working with you, there were probably 10-20 touches that brought them there. It may have been a google search, and a facebook post, an email, a friend, and 10 other touches that all put your name in their minds. Don’t get me wrong there are some really great tracking systems that can employed but they come at a COST.
So which milestone are you at? Had you considered the next as a potential path for growth? Or maybe, like many, have you been moving back and forth between two of them? While these milestones shine a simple light on growth and marketing, it is anything but simple. Regardless of what you have tried or what milestones you are dancing between, we would love to help you figure out what is next.