Some of you may have read our Madness in Marketing blog post back in May. In this post, the next in an occasional series, we continue considering some of the recurring themes we see as we work on marketing our own company and others.
Is marketing worth it?
This is a question we face almost daily, for ourselves, and for our clients. There is no lack of advice out there about how to market. There are more platforms than ever to get your message out, and many of them are free or low-cost, at least to start. Analytics offer real-time snapshots and much deeper dives into the data that backs your efforts.
And yet. It can be difficult to tie marketing efforts directly to sales, no matter how expert you are at interpreting analytics data. Creating interesting, on-brand content day in and day out can seem impossible. Convincing clients that investing in a real marketing strategy and the associated tools to implement it can be a challenge.
So: what is the value in hiring a professional marketing agency? What gains might your company realize? Here are a few of the questions that we hear and ask, over and over again, all of which tie directly to the idea of value.
What’s the big deal about defining your brand?
For us at Qocreate, defining your brand is about telling your story. This is something we emphasize throughout our service offerings, from proposals and business development work to traditional and online marketing campaigns, because we strongly believe that a strong story is the key to getting your message “out there.”
Once you have created your story, everyone can tell it, from your CEO to your marketing director to your receptionists and cashiers. You can tell that same story through your website and other corporate materials. And then you are really rolling, because your brand will be consistently represented and reinforced at all levels. Brands that do this successfully - from Lodge Cast Iron to Patagonia to Southwest, all of which were startup businesses once upon a time - have loyal customers who believe in their stories and buy from them over and over again.
Social media, TV advertising, guerrilla marketing - isn’t it all the same?
In a word, no. For small business, social media is the game these days; TV is expensive and unconventional “guerrilla” marketing is hard to pull off successfully.
There are exceptions for every rule, of course, but in general we would recommend starting by expanding social media networks and influence. Why? Because those networks are easily accessible, inexpensive, and suitable to a variety of content and content types. Spending some time growing your company’s social networks can introduce you to potential clients and opportunities without much investment. In addition, the fluid nature of social media permits you to experiment and see what works; it’s never all or nothing, and you aren’t stuck with a pricey 30-second TV spot which garnered no return.
If Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Instagram are all free, why can’t I just market my own business then?
Of course -- you absolutely can! But successful marketing is work, even when you are taking advantage of free tools like social media. Marketing requires time for planning, a creative approach to content generation no matter the media, and constant care. That time comes at a cost, and frankly sometimes it’s better not to start social marketing campaigns if you don’t have time to keep up with their demands. Nothing looks less successful than a Twitter account that hasn’t been active in two years, or a LinkedIn company page that isn’t current.
The takeaway here is that once you start promoting your business through social media, you can’t just stop; you have to either stop well or continue, because doing otherwise can have a real negative impact on your business. That’s where a professional marketer can come in handy, whether it’s just to help with planning and tools or to fully manage social media efforts.
Why should I spend the money on a marketing plan and services when I can’t tie those activities directly to sales?
Good question. There are two parts to this answer.
First: it usually is possible to tie marketing activities directly to sales. That’s the point, in fact. Depending on your product or service, there may be direct correlation borne out by analytics, or it may be more indirect; for instance, a potential client may check your company out online after receiving a referral, like what she sees, and move forward with asking your company for a proposal. Analyzing marketing data and testing different strategies for engagement can help pinpoint the value, in dollars, of your efforts.
Second: just like any professional service, marketing is often done best by those who live and breathe it. As most businesses would not try to represent themselves in contract negotiations or prepare their own corporate tax returns, we would recommend considering professional marketing services to plan and implement your marketing efforts.
Of course it is possible for business owners and others to create successful marketing campaigns, and some part of every marketer’s job is to gather input and feedback from business owners and decision makers to refine and improve campaigns. Fresh eyes and ears can help craft your story in a new way, and planning can open opportunities based on your budget and industry. Start with a committed budget, and then find a well-vetted agency or freelancer who can get it done for you.
As you can tell from this post, we at Qocreate believe that marketing is worth it, even though it may require investments of time and money. Marketing can get small businesses from Step A to B faster with a better return, and allow you to concentrate on what you do best instead: your core business.
Want to talk more about marketing strategy and activities? We are always available to chat through ideas and establish budgets. Schedule a call with Qocreate today, or email us whenever the mood strikes!