Rogue Traders

If you visit regularly, you’ll have gathered that I’m a big fan of DIY. For small businesses, with limited budgets, you can’t beat a well targeted blast of home grown …

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1st November 2007 at 12:28 pm

If you visit regularly, you’ll have gathered that I’m a big fan of DIY. For small businesses, with limited budgets, you can’t beat a well targeted blast of home grown marketing that comes straight from the heart and is held in check with a stiff measure of common sense.

But lets face it, time is money. And if you’re out doing the biz and reaping the rewards, there comes a point when you want to focus your energies 100% on what you do best. And it’s not marketing.

So you’re in the outsourcing game. Passing it to a professional (or a group of them), to do it faster and hopefully better, seeing as you’ll be paying for the privilege is all very well. But there are cowboys out there. And poor choices can lead to expensive mistakes.

As I’ve earned my stripes both in the cut and thrust of the agency world, and under my own steam as as an independent consultant (or freelancer), I thought I’d share some top tips for getting it right, when you decide its time to let go.

Agency or Independent?

Both have their merits. The first is more costly – but in return you get access to a spectrum of resources. Agencies come in all shapes and sizes. The bigger you go, the bigger the price ticket. If you want a full marketing strategy and your prepared to dig deep to fund it, this is the route for you. My rule of thumb for an entry point into this arena is a budget of £10K to spend. For that, a local agency will come and make you feel special. But be smart. Talk to a few and be clear on what you get for your money before you commit. If your budget is smaller, running to just hundreds or a couple of thousand, you’re better off with an independent, you buy their marketing expertise, usually on a day rate and anyone worth their salt will give you an idea of how far your budget will take you. Don’t expect the earth for a sixpence – they have to make a living too! In both cases, a solid recommendation from someone who has used the agency or the individual is the best possible in. If none is forthcoming, a yell search or a bit of web research should unearth what you need. Lets face it, good marketers should know how to get their own message out. .

Be prepared to invest time up front

Getting your new marketing partner on the same page as you will pave the way for a successful relationship. Be prepared to spend time sharing your information, your ideas and your aspirations. If you haven’t got these already committed to paper in some kind of documentation, you’re probably premature in contacting someone. They can help you articulate your strategy and proposition, but very few will be able to do the real thinking for you – and frankly if they could, they’d be selling a different set of services to ‘marketing’. All that said, don’t expect to dump a couple of reports on them and walk away – anyone worth their salt will probably want to get close to your business, talking to some customers, your staff, taking a look at your product or experiencing your service first hand. Be generous. Give access and tell them the full story.

Agree costs and deliverables

You may be off-loading your marketing, but you are gaining a supplier (or hopefully partner) that will need managing. Set the rules at the outset. Be clear about your objective – what you want to achieve and by when. Don’t be coy about your budget. And make sure you understand how their costing structure works. Typically, your budget is going to be eaten up fees (the thinking time, writing time, design time) and by the deliverables (which can involve buying images, print, media space etc). Make sure you don’t get caught out by additional business expenses, couriers and miscellaneous ‘stuff’.

Be open minded

You’re paying for a different perspective. Any agency or independent worth their salt will challenge you. They may challenge your thinking, they may challenge you creatively or they may expose weaknesses you either haven’t seen (or are choosing to ignore). Embracing this challenge can be tough. But if it’s done right, this is the kind of tough love that can help you build your business on the firmest of footings – absolute conviction.

Sara Scott

Sara is a marketing specialist with a wealth of on-line and traditional experience. With award winning credentials as an advertising writer, her career also spans the disciplines of planning and strategy for both B2B and consumer clients. Having worked for one of the the UK's biggest non-London agencies, Sara now works on a consultancy basis for clients large and small. http://www.smallbizpod.co.uk/blog

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