SCORE

by: Jeannine Wheeler

Whether you’re a sole entrepreneur with a big business idea, a startup with a slew of investors or a well-established small business, you need to decide whether or not to outsource your marketing services, including your PR. Seeking out the right business marketing advice in Austin when the time comes is crucial.

To help you decide, here are three things to ask yourself.

  • Do I have the in-house marketing expertise to reach my business goals?
  • If not, do I hire a consultant or should I look for an agency?
  • Either way, do I have the time and expertise to manage whomever it is I do hire?

Make no mistake, investing in a marketing professional or agency is a major investment, especially if you’re just starting to get your business off the ground. And while you may be the best widget maker, service provider or web developer in your industry, you still need to tell people about your product or service. And that’s where an expert marketing consultant comes in.

Typical marketing services include:

Brand – what is your unique product, service or concept and how will you distinguish it?

Design – what will your product packaging, collateral materials and advertising look like?

Digital – what kind of a website will you have and how will you attract visitors, data capture and possibly monetize the site? (including SEO and pay-per-click programs)

Public relations – how will you package your messaging and get it to your audiences?

It’s hard to imagine that as a small business owner you have got all these skills yourself. Perhaps you can do some of the tasks above, but are not so knowledgeable in others. Maybe you can hire someone to manage some of what you need initially and build up to a full-scale marketing program as you become better established.

There are some integrated marketing agencies that can provide you with expertise in all of the above services, and there are consultants who are quite good at many of the marketing skills.

Many consultants have had experience at some of the big agencies and have now gone out on their own. Ask around for a referral and determine how many of the marketing skills you need that they have. Aside from skills, it’s important that you like and want to spend time with this person, who will essentially function as an extension of your business. One rule of thumb is: “Would I want to have a cup of coffee or an after-work drink with this person?”

This holds true for an agency as well. You should like and want to be around your account manager and feel they are a good reflection of your product or service. After all, you will spend a lot of time together working to achieve the same goals.

To be sure, a good web developer is key to creating a highly functioning, navigable and professional looking website that will attract and retain visitors.

Whether you hire consultants or agencies, you will need to spend time briefing them on your business and goals, managing the programs they develop for you and measuring the results. This is a hands-on exercise and one you will become more comfortable with over time.

Once substantial growth is achieved, some businesses hire a professional to work in-house as a permanent employee to manage their marketing programs. This has many costs associated with it, but can help you exert far more control over the process.

Whether it’s you, a consultant/agency or an in-house marketing team – brand, design, digital and PR are essential services to expanding your business to new markets, audiences and sectors.

Before you do hire anyone, however, you will want to look around for local resources that can help you to learn how to perform these services yourself and/or get a clear idea of what you should be looking for if you were to hire out.

Your SCORE Austin is a great place to start. There you can find mentors and an abundance of certified counselors experienced in just about every facet of business.

About The Author

Jeannine Wheeler is a PR Director who has worked in three countries, including Russia, the US and the UK. She is currently Sr. Vice President of PureEnergyPR , a PR firm specializing in powerful, tailored and highly strategic communications programs for clients in a variety of industries, including energy, mining, building services, healthcare and health and wellness. Jeannine is in the firm’s Austin, Texas office.