(And 4 Things They Should)
Questions regarding expectations of marketing professionals comes up frequently enough in my daily dealings that I wanted to share my thoughts. As someone who has worked with small businesses, I have seen and experienced occasional difficulties regarding their marketing solutions. There are so many horrendous tales of financial greed and gluttony that I’m always amazed and surprised I didn’t read about said marketer in the news, since freakish, weird, awful, fire-breathing two-headed green monsters usually do, especially the lazy ravenous ones. And, all the small business did wrong was to hire a marketing “professional” so they could make more money.
It’s honestly a disgrace to the marketing industry that, so regularly, small business marketing naiveté is taken advantage of for a quick buck – and the hand that feeds is all but bitten off.
What I have learned is that marketing for small business is its own beast and can, in some capacities, be more troublesome to deal with than a large corporation. A small businesses budget matters more because there is less of it. Every dollar stretches less, so any solution really needs to fit.
Here are seven things a small business owner should be aware of that his marketing consultant should not be doing as a normal course of execution.
1. Your marketer should not be expected to “save” your business. Marketing is needed, and it’s a million-dollar tool if used right, at the right time. But, if you have problems with your business, you may need to get those fixed first. Many times, the problem is that good, solid marketing has been neglected for so long that, yes, marketing and promotion is the right answer – sooner than later. But, remember that even the most brilliant marketing plan still needs to be planned properly, surveyed, executed and tweaked before any results can be garnered from it. Understand that when you are starting with a broken marketing system, the solution (nor the rewards) are going to happen overnight, no matter how expert your marketer is.
In some cases, you will need to fix the urgency of your business first, because spending money when you are needing money might not be the best choice. If this happens, grab the low-hanging fruit while you’re fixing the catastrophe (upsell to existing clients, offer gift cards for referrals, work your social media with ads) and get it handled so you can get yourself into the position to hire a marketer. A marketer needs something to springboard up from, not a hole to climb out of. Anyone is destined to fail in those circumstances.
2. Marketers (or anyone else for that matter) should not be expected to do more work than you hired them for. There are endless combinations of winning marketing solutions. It’s not a cookie-cutter business, and you don’t want a careless solution to your business, as your business is even different from any other business in your field. During initial discussions and negotiations, you need to ask a lot of questions of your marketing consultant to fully understand what you are getting, and how that’s different from what others are getting, or what you should be getting in a perfect world. Even if you can’t afford the Cadillac model, you want to understand it enough to know if you’d like to set a goal to get one.
But, once you have signed, you can’t expect your marketing professional to do anything else related to marketing that is not included therein, unless you’d like to negotiate further to add more. I’m sure your consultant would absolutely welcome that.
(That being said, everyone would agree your marketer will be worth his weight in gold if, without you asking or expecting, goes over and above your contract agreement.)
3. Marketers should not be doing what you and your staff should be doing. They can and should be advising you what actions you and your staff can do to help things along. But they are not babysitters and they are not there to hold your hand to make sure it’s getting done. Be big boys and girls and whip yourself and your staff into shape and get them to do what’s needed to expand the business. If they don’t want to contribute (for any reason), maybe they aren’t right for the job.
4. Nobody can be expected to intuitively answer questions they have not been asked. Being a trained sales person by trade, one thing I have learned: to sell anything, you have to be somewhat intuitive about your potential client. You want to try to go into each conversation and meeting prepared to answer the questions you think will come up. “If I were the potential client, what questions would I have?”
But, life is imperfect. Your seemingly relevant question could seem out of left field to your marketer. “Your company will update and redesign my website too, right? My web guy blew me off.” Uh…
But, for sure, it’s worse when that out-of-left-field question goes unasked, because there will be upset to deal with when it finally shows up. If you hire a marketing consultant to help with social media, they will create content and posts and they will do what they can to get more followers to your sites. Don’t assume they are web developers, or even writers, unless they market themselves with those services. Check their website first – it’s there for a reason.
5. Marketing Consultants should not be making sales calls, unless you’ve hired them to. Marketing and sales go hand in hand, but they are different. Marketing is creating a want, a reach, a desire for your product. Sales is having a one-on-one conversation to answer questions and seal the deal. Just as you would not have your plumber taking a look at your HVAC system… similar is not the same. Enough said.
6. Marketing professionals can’t be expected to research and build your business goals for you. This is a big one. Yes, I can put together a marketing campaign for just about any business, as can other marketers. Yes, some of us can and do work in specific industry niches. But many marketers like the variety of dealing with many different industries. I can help market your stuff whether you are a singer, a car dealership, a finance wizard, realtor or storefront. It doesn’t matter to me; I like it all. What does matter is that you prep me with tools to get it done for you. I will learn the ins and outs of your industry, if needed, but you need to load me up with all the relevant information about your business: how it’s organized, what are the goals, policies and purposes, as well as what your ideal client is, to name a few.
It’s not fair for you to make your marketing consultant do this work for you. It’s not his business, and even if he makes a good guess, it will never be the real thing. If you don’t have these tools readily available (in your head might not be ideal, but it is a workable place), you have work to do before you can hire someone to help market it right.
7. Marketers (for the most part) do not need to learn every last detail about the product you need promoted. If your marketing consultant is hired for a project, or is freelance, you can’t expect them to know your product like the product creators. A marketing professional is hired to create want. When you have given them detailed material about the product, notes, access to the creator or other expert or any other information they need, they will have the best chance of creating something fantastic to promote it.
Yes, they need to know a lot. They need to know your vision, and have your specific goals in mind, definitely. But, they are not going to be taking tech support calls. And their content is only going to be as good as the tools they have at-hand to create it. The content is going to be related to your desired outcome for that campaign and nothing more. You need to provide them all the information you have so they can form a revenue winner, but it doesn’t have to include the kitchen sink.
For example, if you are selling airplane parts to airplane manufacturers, you need to know enough to speak the lingo clearly to the manufacturer. But, you don’t need to answer every question they may have about every part, packaging, material, etc. You see the absurdity in this? The company that hired you is going to have staff on hand to be able to answer those questions. Marketers only need to know enough to be dangerous and effective in their marketing efforts to create a demand of the campaign target audience. We are all just cogs in the same wheel.
Having said what marketers shouldn’t do, there are many, many things your marketing consultant should be doing for you. Most of them are obvious, but there are too many Quick Cash Kent’s out there that will sell you a bill of goods, take your money and run. The good consultants should be doing at these 5 things, and you should consider yourself lucky if they already are.
1. Creating engaging content that your clients and potential clients want to reach for. This is key, so don’t underestimate the creative juices that need to go into your business to market it. Creating original content is branding for your business, and since you want your potential clients to choose you instead of Larry’s down the street, you need to understand that your communication needs to be loud, clear, interesting, entertaining and everywhere. This is precisely why you are hiring a marketing manager.
2. Changing on the fly. Tracking their marketing activities and adjusting those actions accordingly to keep seeing stat increases, as well as changing tactics and directions if needed (if your goals or internal situations change) is imperative. But, you should be trying not to change on the fly.
Remember, your marketing professional very well could be a small business himself, and many times is a one-man shop who likes to help businesses like yours succeed. Since there are only so many hours in the day available to work, especially if one has a family or social life whatsoever, your one little contract could have a big impact on his business if it’s suddenly gone because you’ve just decided to go in a different direction.
Your marketing professional wants to help you. They also want to count on you to uphold your end of the bargain. When things change, communicate it clearly and concisely, and hopefully you will have a professional on your hands that can tweak on the fly, with a smile.
3. Sharing their expertise with you and providing input that will help your business, whether you are paying them for it or not. If your marketing professional sees that you could be making more sales calls, or asking your existing clients for referrals or getting more testimonials, they should share with you what they see and think, knowing that you may have just temporarily lost sight of a few simple and effective actions you have at your fingertips.
4. Communicating with you often and honestly. Explaining everything to you up front and regularly during the process what they are doing, how it’s going and what should be changed will make all the difference in being able to stay one step ahead of a successful campaign or being a part of a slow, crippled one. You need to catch up and go over things at least once a week. If you are not communicating, it will be slowed. Guaranteed.
I hope this has helped. Below are some questions you can be asking your marketing consultant, during discussions and negotiations, to get the best outcome for both of you.
- What is the ramp up time for this, and what will be done during the ramp-up?
- Are there additional costs that I will be expected to pay to ensure a successful campaign?
- What information do you need from me to get started, and what will I need to provide during the campaign?
- What actions can my staff do to support the campaign?
- How will you be tracking the progress and when and how will you share that information with me?
- How long can I expect this campaign to take for the best results?
- What are my options if things change internally during the campaign (like run out of funds)?
- What is excluded from this campaign that could or should be included and how will that affect it?
- Is there anything else I should know or be prepared for before starting this campaign?
Here’s to your prosperous and successful marketing efforts, and the business expansion that will come as a result of it.