If you’re running a small business, then at some point you may be faced with the problem that you want to gear up your marketing in order to grow the business, but at the same time you’re afraid of getting it wrong and losing whatever you invest in it.
Whilst large businesses can afford to throw large amounts of money at campaigns, and absorb the losses if their marketing doesn’t work, small businesses need a return on every pound they spend. They need some level of certainty that the money and effort they invest is going to produce good results. Otherwise, what can happen is that they keep doing what they’re already doing (which probably isn’t working that well), or they blow a load of money on advertising or marketing solutions that don’t work, and then lose faith in outside help or marketing altogether.
If you want to avoid wasting money on marketing and advertising, or getting burnt by marketing consultants then you’ll want to minimise your risks and invest your money in solutions that work for you.
As you read this article you’ll discover 5 options for learning how to do your own marketing or recruiting outside help, and the advantages and disadvantages of each option.
5 Options for Learning Marketing Skills or Getting Help with Marketing
1) Learn how to do it yourself through reading books, attending workshops, using audio programmes etc.
The obvious advantage of this is that it’s the cheapest option, plus as you learn to do things for yourself, you retain control of your marketing programme. However, the major drawbacks are that the learning curve is very steep and it may take a long time to learn what works, plus you may end up learning a lot of generic information that doesn’t directly apply to your business or that doesn’t give you an actual step by step plan. You may learn what to do, but not how to do it or the exact steps you need to take to implement what you’ve learnt.
2) Use a marketing consultant/agency
The advantage of this is that you effectively hand over the problem to someone else who deals with it on your behalf, leaving you to get on with what you do best. The disadvantages of this option are that you don’t learn what works for your business and you are no longer fully in control of your marketing function – so you won’t know why some things work and others don’t.
Also, this is probably the most expensive option, and some marketing consultants have got a tendency to prescribe their pet solution, before even diagnosing the actual problem and the situation. Not only that, but if your problem is, for example, lack of sales, and you decide the solution is PR, and then hire a PR consultant, they will work to your brief. In other words, you’ve diagnosed the problem and precribed the solution. However, PR may not be the best solution to your problem, and a proper analysis of your target market and your current activities, budget and opportunities is required before forming the conclusion that a PR consultant is the answer.
3) Group coaching/training programmes
The advantage of this is the lower cost plus regular classes and fieldwork that keep you on track. Some people will benefit from working in a group, especially as they learn from the experiences of others, and particularly if there is a “buddying” system in place.
The disadvantage is the lack of personal coaching/consulting or significant input from the expert in examining your particular situation. Not only that, but you’ll be going at a pace as dictated by the course outline, when you might want to move considerably faster or even slower. Also, most programmes go through a range of strategies as decided by the programme creator, some (or many) of which are not applicable to your particular situation. This is especially true if the programme is designed for the generic “small business” – what works for a dry cleaning business may not work for a consultant, coach or professional.
The result is that you may be learning 10 or 12 strategies at a rather superficial level, rather than homing in on the 2 or 3 strategies that are really going to deliver results into your business, and which are manageable.
4) One to one business/marketing coaching
The advantage of this is the personal attention, and the ability to address your specific issues. This works out a little more expensive than a group training programme, but less expensive than hiring a consultant.
How this works varies widely and a lot depends on whether the coach is using a coaching model (i.e. they guide you in working out your own solutions) or a marketing model (they take on a role more similar to a consultant than a coach, and tell you what will work for your situation). Most do not seem to offer any structure, specific outcomes, or programme of activities so it can be hard to tell what you’re getting for your money.
5) A Structured Programme of consulting, training and mentoring delivered one to one
In this scenario the consultant uses a structured series of exercises to analyse the client’s situation, help them build their marketing foundation, overcome problems and obstacles standing in their way and works with them to create a series of marketing actions that will work best for them.
This typically costs about the same as marketing coaching, but has more tangible outcomes and the consultant will also be doing things on the client’s behalf in between sessions. The advantages are that the client is fully in control of their own situation and is being guided and taught how to do things for themselves. The consultant will also use their expertise to steer the client towards solutions that will work for their situation, their market and their type of business, and filter out approaches that are irrelevant or less likely to produce good results.
The disadvantages are that you still have to do the work yourself (unless you pay for help with implementation), and if the consultant is helping you to craft your message and build your foundation, then there may be a delay before any strategies get fully implemented. This is really the approach that is analogous to building your house on rock rather than on sand – it takes a little longer to lay the foundations, but it’s a sturdier, stronger solution in the end.