Small Business Marketing Kit For Dummies
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Calling in the professionals to help advertise your small business is often the smart choice. But whether to call on marketing professionals at all depends on many factors, including what you’re trying to accomplish, the audience you’re targeting, the talent available within your company, the size and scope of the effort you’re about to undertake, and the communications tools you need to create.

When to bring in small business marketing experts

Sometimes, especially with lower-budget or short-life materials, the help you need may be available through print shops, media outlets, or online resources. Seeking outside help is like most business investments — you can’t afford to dive in too soon or wait too long. Here’s when to bring in the pros:
  • When you’re creating a long-life marketing piece. If you’re creating a logo, ad campaign, website, or any other major marketing piece that will represent your business for years to come, invest in professional assistance if you’re not certain that your own talents are up to the task.

  • When doing your own marketing takes you or your staff away from more profitable activities. Focus on doing what you do best and contract with marketing professionals to do what they do best.

  • When the budget for a single marketing effort exceeds $10,000. If you’re putting significant dollars behind a marketing effort, don’t risk your investment by trying to do it yourself unless you’re certain of your capabilities.

  • When your annual budget for marketing communications reaches $50,000. Don’t wait until you reach this spending level to call on pros for help in creating important brand and marketing materials.

    When your budget for brochures, advertising, web presence, direct mail, and other outreach efforts reaches a mid-five-figure total, it’s time to form a creative partnership with an advertising agency or a marketing firm that can help you direct your dollars into a strong message and image for your company.

Who to call for help with small business marketing

When you’re ready to call in the pros, here are some resources you may need:
  • A copywriter writes ad headlines and text — called copy in print communications, content online, and scripts in broadcast communications. Good copywriters know how to write simply, clearly, and directly to target prospects, using a single-minded approach to grab and hold attention and to achieve the ad objective.

  • A designer — also called a graphic artist — arranges headlines, text, and art elements so they’re visually appealing, using a layout that draws the viewer’s eye to the correct starting point before guiding it with effortless movement through the ad.

  • A producer is necessary if you’re creating a broadcast ad, a video, or a multimedia presentation. The difference in quality and impact between do-it-yourself and professional productions is big and identifiable.

    Broadcast stations and cable companies can produce ads, but in return for their low production costs, you often have to supply your own creativity. If you’re not up to the task, you’ll likely end up with an ad that looks unremarkably like all other station-produced creations.

  • A web designer adds talent and expertise to the development of website visuals, content, and navigation. Ideally, choose someone who’s both a web designer involved with the visual aspects of a site and a web developer involved with the necessary coding. The result: someone who can design a site that’s aesthetically pleasing, user-friendly, and efficient for your business.

  • An agency or marketing firm handles entire campaigns, from strategic and concept development through design, copywriting, production management, and implementation of printing, advertising, and digital communications. Agencies have teams of professionals they can assign to your job, along with systems to handle multifaceted tasks.

    They also serve as brokers — screening, selecting, and managing marketing specialists for you. Most assign a liaison, usually called an account executive, to serve as your primary contact and the person who holds the agency team members accountable on your behalf.

    The management function comes at a price, which is why most businesses don’t hire an agency until their budgets are large enough to warrant management fees in addition to design, production, and media charges. Until that time, small businesses often turn to marketing consultants to provide strategic planning and program management on a more limited-budget basis.

What kind of small business marketing expertise to hire

Many small business marketers call on the talent of staff members or rely on vendor, media, or online resources as they produce low-budget marketing materials without investing in professional expertise. (Conduct web searches for “online logos” or “online brochures,” for example, to find useful sites.)

Others hire professionals on a per-job basis to create more customized and professionally produced material. Usually referred to as freelancers, these experts work for a number of clients at a time. They usually perform tasks under work-for-hire agreements stipulating that copyright ownership of work commissioned and paid for, including credit and control, belongs to the company and not the freelancer who created the work.

As needs and budgets increase, businesses move up the professional-assistance ladder to hire a company that specializes not so much in projects as in campaigns or large-scale productions. Included in this category are public relations firms, web design firms, social media marketing firms, and full-service ad agencies that get involved in all aspects of developing your marketing image, message, and materials.

How do you choose your approach? Follow these tips:

  • Scale your resources to your needs. If you want a photo of a new employee to send with a news release to the local paper, you hardly need to hire a photographer who charges $1,000 a day to take the mug shot. And you don’t need to pay a public relations consultant $150 an hour to write a two-paragraph news release.

  • Hire the level of talent that fits the task you face. If you need a single solution — say, a logo design or website development — a freelancer may be a great fit. But if your project requires management as well as creative expertise, you may be better off turning to an agency that’s set up to offer full service and to assume the coordination role.

About This Article

This article is from the book:

About the book author:

Barbara Findlay Schenck has been a marketing consultant for more than 20 years, with clients ranging from small businesses to Fortune 500 companies. In addition to her experience as a small business strategist, she's also a bestselling author and nationally syndicated columnist. Visit her website at

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