female-consultant_strategy_webThere comes a point as a business owner or executive where you may have to decide to hire in-house marketing staff or go with an agency. There are reasons why it might make sense to do one or the other. However, at some point there comes a realization that it might be best to hire an outside agency. I have outlined 5 reasons when it makes the most sense to hire a strategic marketing firm.

Your current marketing efforts don’t produce consistent results

You need a solid strategy to help you devise a plan specifically for your business or industry, and a consistent process to execute that strategy. Without both these components, you will continue to struggle to produce consistent results.

A marketing firm will look closely at your business, your industry, your challenges, and your goals to put together and execute a strategy to overcome those challenges and meet your goals. They’ll also help you measure and track campaign results to continually improve your strategy. Sometimes having that fresh, unbiased view that a strategic marketing firm provides is invaluable in assessing whether or not things are working or not. There are times that an in-house staff is just too close to the process and company.

You don’t have the money to build an in-house marketing team

Building a quality in-house marketing team can be very expensive and time consuming. To do it well you need to hire a strategic marketing director or manager to create the vision and strategy, an experienced marketing specialist that is familiar with copywriting and content development, a market researcher, a graphic designer, potentially a web designer and maybe even someone to handle the social media aspect of your marketing plan.

That could get rather expensive in a hurry and take more time than you have. If your organization is not in a position to hire a marketing staff that size, you can still get the benefits of all that skill (and more) by hiring an agency. An outside agency will have a wider range of skills and deeper experience to help you achieve your goals. And the best part is that, in most cases, hiring a strategic marketing firm will be cheaper.

Sales are struggling

If you are confident that there is a market for your product or service, and you’re confident that your customer service, sales team and pricing are spot-on, the problem with lagging sales could very well be ineffective or non-existent marketing.

A good marketing firm will take the time to learn about your sales process and integrate marketing strategy and activities with your sales team. With the support and input of your sales team, they’ll refine and adjust your marketing strategy and activities based on real results.

Marketing is not your top priority

As the owner or executive of an organization, you are busy. Often times too busy to really make marketing a priority. Many times it makes more sense to prioritize the tasks and activities that immediately pay the bills or resolve a customer issue.

Effective marketing takes time and a lot of effort. Because of that, it quickly moves to the bottom of the list of immediate priorities. Since marketing is the only thing a marketing firm does, they can take it off your plate and make it a top priority at the same time. An experienced marketing firm will take the time get to know you, your business and your goals really well. Once they have that down, they will apply their experience and skill in helping you reach your goals. Let them bring their passion for marketing to your passion for your business.

You don’t like or understand marketing

You don’t need to love marketing to recognize its value to an organization. A lack of excitement, skill and interest on your part will reflect negatively across your brand, even when if think you’re doing a good job of concealing it. Conversely, marketing agencies are passionate about what they do and the help they provide to their clients. This passion often comes through in the work they create and the brands they help.

Strategic marketing is a multifaceted and sometimes complicated series of activities.  It requires having knowledge on the complexities of several different types of communication, knowing how and when to effectively use those channels, and knowing how to properly evaluate their effectiveness.  An experienced marketing firm has experience in all of these things, and can help you make the right decisions and choices in your marketing efforts.


Modern business conceptIt seems that everyone believes they know marketing. And most certainly have a basic understanding of the power of good marketing.  However, the pace of change in marketing seems to be accelerating every year which makes it hard to keep up. What makes the most sense for your organization? Do you ramp up internal marketing or do you decide to hire an outside marketing firm?

In a recent study conducted by the consulting firm Accenture, between 45percent and 75 percent of marketing activities are being outsourced. There are many reasons it makes sense to outsource your marketing needs. I’ve outlined 5 of the top reasons below.

  1. They can think big and help you win big. Hiring an outside strategic marketing firm can help you come up with something bigger, and more often than not, better than what you would come up with on your own. When you hire an outside firm, you’re hiring professionals that are experienced in thinking big, seeing things differently and being creative. Too many businesses make the mistake of putting someone already on staff in charge of marketing. All too often, this person is not an experienced strategic marketer or creative designer. If you are looking for superior positioning and wanting to build a strong, memorable brand, why would you trust putting the process in the hands of someone less experienced and creative?
  1. You get more bang for your buck. There is an enormous amount of research, time and effort that goes into the branding (or rebranding), positioning and marketing process. If you’re thinking of giving this process to an in-house employee that has little or no experience, you should know that he or she will probably need to learn the details of how to build a brand, which includes positioning, copywriting, graphic design, social media strategy, video production and more. Turning this over to one or two members of your staff will also not yield the type of results you can get from engaging a professional firm. Many businesses make the mistake of lowering their standards and producing marginal results just to save a few dollars. Good marketing firms are dedicated to building and maintaining successful marketing partnerships. It just might be less expensive than you think, especially in the long run.
  1. They are a well-oiled machine. When you decide to hire a professional marketing firm, you’re not just hiring a graphic designer, brand strategist, researcher, copywriter or project manager. You’re hiring an entire team that is experienced in working together to get the results you want. They stay on top of new technologies and tools that are constantly being created. This team works with you each step of the way and becomes an extension of your internal team and organization. They work in conjunction with you to help bring your vision to life.
  1. They see you for who you are. Often times it’s hard to see who and what you are. You’re spending time running the daily operations of your business that you don’t have the time or inclination to take a step back and gain a true understanding of your place in the market and your customer’s needs. What are your key markets? Does the market know who you are and the products and solutions you offer? Why should they trust and engage with your company? Many times an in-house marketing team is so close to the company, product or service that they don’t have a true sense of what the market wants or how the market perceives you. Working with an outside agency is a great way to gain industry insight and a truer sense of who you are in the market and how your brand stacks up.
  1. They help reduce the stress. When you decide to engage an outside strategic marketing and creative firm, you automatically reduce the amount of daily stress in your work life. You no longer have to worry about how to position your brand, create content or figure out what type of advertising works for you. The marketing firm takes on all of these responsibilities for you. They will work with you to establish strategies, deadlines and deliverables. After that, they do the majority of the heavy lifting. And, if you work with an experienced, professional firm they will make sure that the correct strategies are developed and all deadlines are met.

argument-silhouetteAuthenticity.  It’s a common word that many people know and use.  But, what does it mean to marketers? Dictionary.com defines it as the quality of being authentic; genuineness.  That’s great but, again, what does it mean to marketers, specifically professional services marketers.

When you are in the business of marketing professional services rather than a product, the only way to truly gauge if a person is authentic is to observe their words and their actions and make a determination.  Does the person do what they say they will? Are they genuine in their interactions with colleagues, prospects and clients? Are they honest and open? These are the types of questions that I ask of myself when interacting with others. Do I do what I say I will? Am I genuine, do I treat others with respect and honesty?  In many ways it comes down to are you credible?

If you can’t answer yes to those questions about yourself then you’re probably not being authentic. Same goes for questions of those you work and interact with every day.

So, why is authenticity important? For those of us in the professional services marketing world, it’s pretty much all we have. When we talk with prospective clients we need to make sure we are honest about what we can and cannot do. We have to be honest about the types of experience we have. We have to hold to any timelines or deadlines we make about getting more information or even a proposal to them. If not, we damage our credibility and our authenticity. And we all know once that damage has been done it’s awfully hard to get it back. Once that prospective client becomes an actual client you still have to be authentic. You need to be honest with timelines and other deliverables. You need to be honest and open with feedback and advice, even if it might not be what the client wants to hear. Over time, your authenticity will become the foundation of your brand.

The same goes for our interactions with colleagues.  Are you honest in your conversations? Do you accomplish what you said you were going to accomplish? Did you get it done on time? Do you respect them for who they are and what they’ve accomplished in their career?

My observation is that more often than not, people are not all that authentic when interacting with colleagues. They tend to stick to their own agenda and try to manipulate or coerce others into doing what they want in order to achieve some outcome. This leads to a lot more office politics and road blocks than necessary.

When was the last time you listened to your colleague? Not to respond but to truly hear and understand their position. When was the last time you were honest with a colleague and told him or her that you did not agree with their opinion or idea? Not to put them down or belittle them but to move the discussion forward and come to the best win-win outcome for the organization as possible.

If we can move our corporate or organizational culture more toward authenticity,  perhaps many of the negatives associated with the current culture will disappear. It’s okay to disagree on business (or personal) activities. The key is to be open and honest and keep the ultimate goal of moving the firm forward at the forefront of any discussion. Remember, not all of the ideas and opinions you have are the right ones so you need to be open to that feedback knowing that the other person is coming from a perspective of what’s best for the organization. You might even call it compromise. Plus, being challenged in your thinking is a good thing.

On the flip side, not everything others throw out there is the greatest and best. You need to be confident enough in yourself and your experience to be able to challenge thoughts of others in a non-derogatory way. And, remember, just because you challenge someone else’s thoughts or opinions does not make yours right either.

 


As we sit on the edge of 2015 staring at 2016 I have to ask, what have you done?

This is as good of time as any to reflect on the prior year and take inventory of all you’ve done and not done.  Then, take the not done list and make it your to-do list.

Simple, right?  It sounds simple but the devil is always in the details.  But, if you start the year with those tasks/goals that were not accomplished (or done) then you will almost guarantee yourself that you will get them done.

Happy New Year!Happy-New-Year

 


hustle-bustleWow, it’s hard to believe that it’s been over a year since I posted anything to Brandcraft.  But, to be fair, it’s been a really crazy year.

As we countdown to the end of 2015, I wanted to take a moment to reflect on the year that was.  Back in January I started a new job with Rubino & Company in Bethesda, MD.  It was a tough decision to leave WebsterRogers and the relative “safety” of the job and the firm.  But, personally I needed a new challenge and Rubino has certainly provided that for me.

It’s a great firm with many great people and expertise.  What they didn’t have was any marketing support.  So, in many ways I went back to the beginning of my career again and was forced to do many of the things an entry level marketing coordinator would do.  I was creating collateral, preparing proposals, running webinars, etc.  It was very beneficial for me to go back to the basics and see what needed to be done and do it.  So many times, as we progress in our career, we forget the more mundane tasks and how important they really are to the success of the firm.

Don’t get me wrong, I spend a lot of time on strategy and coaching as well. It’s been challenging keeping all of the different balls in the air but I think I have done pretty well.

So, as you take time to reflect on your year and prepare for 2016, don’t let life get in the way of living.