With all of the options in the market, finding the right small business marketing company can be quite the challenge for a small business owner. Most options tend to focus on one specific service, such as web-site design, search engine optimization (SEO), graphic design, or telemarketing. However, in today’s fragmented market, it is more important than ever that small business owners and marketing managers create and execute an effective integrated marketing strategy that leverages the right tool for the right job.
For example, one of our technology services clients had a strong marketing and sales engine built around direct mail and trade journal advertising, but they needed help finding the right mechanism to reach more defined segments of their market via email marketing and SEO marketing. On the flip side, a small medical laboratory client of ours would not have benefited from email or SEO marketing since their business is relationship-based; instead we helped them craft a more “traditional” marketing plan focused on direct mail, sales collateral, and education materials.
In other words, companies shouldn’t try to force a square peg into a round hole when it comes to small business marketing. This is especially true for buzzworthy trends like SEO marketing and we-site design, where everyone and their brother seem to provide one of those two services. Instead, companies need to find the best way to get the most bang for their marketing buck, regardless of which channel is being used.
So how can one sift through the myriad of small business options in the marketplace? Here are five things to look for when looking for the right marketing consultant:
- Look for strategy first, then specific marketing tools. As mentioned above, there is no need to force a square peg into a round hole. Instead, small businesses need a marketing services partner that can help them define a marketing strategy that meets their specific needs and budget. Before getting too hung up on what tools you would like to use to reach your potential customers, it is more important to define the overall strategy, then determine and prioritize the best ways to execute that strategy.
- Don’t overemphasize technical skills. The technical aspects of marketing can be intimidating. Marketing managers are often business savvy, but not nearly as web savvy. For this reason, it can be tempting to go find marketing resources that have these technical skills. However, those small business software skills are meaningless without the business background required to translate those activities into actual leads and revenue. The most technically gifted web-designer or SEO consultant isn’t going to make a difference to your bottom line if the visitors to your site aren’t actual potential customers with a propensity to buy your product or service.
- Find a partner that focuses on small- to mid-size businesses. Small and mid-size businesses are unique. They typically don’t have big company marketing budgets, and often times, they don’t even have a marketing department. For this reason, you want a firm that caters to these types of companies, has fought the same battles as small business owners, and has the flexibility to cater to your needs. For example, Luminary Small Business Academy was founded by owners that have started and run other small businesses throughout their lives, so they understand what it’s like to be in your shoes.
- Breadth of the marketing team. Most marketing firms are 5 or less employees, so they struggle to offer the breadth of needs that most of their clients need. This explains why they more often than not have a preconceived prescription that looks the same for all of their clients (see point number 1 above). Ideally, your marketing partner should be able to provide whatever service you need, whether it be direct mail, graphic design, social marketing, trade show marketing, or any other marketing services (home page).
- Balance between proven tools and flexibility. The marketing industry is littered with gunslinging one-man shops that are willing to try anything on your dime. They focus on web design but you need an integrated campaign? What the heck – why not, right? It’s your money they’re spending, so probably not. With limited budgets and resources, you want to know that the company have a proven process that makes them more efficient and cost effective, but at the same time, can tailor those processes to fit your needs.
This may seem like a lot to ask, but the good news is that these firms exist. They may be few and far between, but they are out there. Contact Luminary for a free and independent assessment to help determine the best marketing firm to help your company.