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Should you outsource your marketing?
👉 the answer is not what you normally hear
Exciting times…our first Q&A question…and a good one too…
Do you (does one) try to work out how to use say LinkedIn or FB or YT to attract professional clients on one's own, or does it really pay to pay for (some highly leveraged) help from an agency-type entity? Richard
Typically you hear two rather self-serving answers to this question.
People who teach marketing say “no” - you need to keep ownership of your own marketing as it’s the key to growing your business (and you should buy their training to help)
People who run agencies say “yes” - give the work to dedicated professionals and focus your time on running your business (and you should hire their agency to help)
For me the truth is that if you seriously want to grow your business you’re eventually going to have to outsource marketing (or hire a team to do it).
But initially, you’ll want to start out doing your own marketing so that you deepen your understanding of clients, get to know what marketing works and what doesn’t, and build up a little war chest to make outsourcing a less risky decision when you come to do it.
When and what to outsource and what to do yourself really depends on two things:
The type of business you run. If you’re in a service business or similar where you need to work in the business serving clients then you’re going to have a limited amount of time free for marketing. If you’re in more of a product-oriented business (eg you’ve created some online courses) then you’ll have more marketing time available.
Your skills and interests and the kind of things you want to be spending your time doing. For example, you can force yourself to write daily posts on Linkedin for a while, but if you hate it, you’re eventually going to give up.
With those factors in mind, my experience is that every business goes through three big phases.
In phase 1, where you’re just starting up, a lot of your marketing is personal. You tap up old clients and contacts. You get referrals. You talk to anyone you bump into about your business.
That gets the ball rolling but it hits limits fairly soon and you need to start reaching new people outside your immediate network.
That’s phase 2 - and it’s when you first have to think about whether to do the marketing yourself or outsource it to someone else.
My own preference in phase 2 is to start by doing your own marketing because it puts you in direct contact with your clients.
There’s nothing teaches you more about what clients really want than trying to sell something to them. And it also teaches you what works and what doesn’t so that when it eventually comes to outsourcing your marketing you can make a much more informed decision.
And finally, if it works well, it allows you to build up a “war chest” of cash you can use to fund your marketing in the next phase.
If you grow further, you enter phase 3 where outsourcing is an inevitability - you simply don’t have the time or the skills to take it to the next level and you need to hire professionals.
But if you’ve done well in phase 2, by then you’ll have a much better idea of what type of marketing will work for your business and what a good provider looks like. And you’ll have the money to afford a premium provider.
The key time for most people is phase 2. You have to decide what type of marketing to do and when to switch it over to hiring someone else.
If you’re in the type of business where you’re going to have limited time for marketing then you need to use strategies that don’t have a huge learning curve.
The main online tactics here at the moment are regular (daily) posting on relevant social media as a way of being noticed, building a following, then guiding them to a newsletter as a way of building your relationship.
It used to be that tactics like SEO, Google Ads, Facebook Ads and Youtube Ads were learnable relatively quickly by small businesses and you could get results with a relatively small learning curve and small investments.
My experience is that’s no longer true. There are exceptions of course, but by and large, ad platforms are a lot more complex to learn and to get good at than they used to be. I used to be pretty handy with Google Ads a decade ago for example, but it would take me an age to get back into it now having not used them for so long.
If you’re in a product-based business, your product is already created, and you have an aptitude for it, then, by all means, invest time in learning how to run successful ads. But be aware that you’re competing against people with big budgets who do this full-time.
If you’ve reached that level where ads or SEO are your next big option for growth then for the vast majority of us it’s best to call in an agency.
Again, there are always exceptions. People for whom the targeting and copywriting side of ads just clicks quickly and they’re able to do it well alongside client work.
But for most of us, those more technical skills are best outsourced.
Of course, choosing the right agency is a challenge in itself. Having seen behind the scenes of a few I know that some are incredibly good, and others much less so. That’s a discussion for another day, but having done your own marketing and being close to your clients will help you no end to make a better decision.
What’s important now though is to realise there are three phases to growth with different tactics being effective in each phase:
Phase 1: growth through personal connections, contacts and referrals
Phase 2: growth outside your network using an easily learnable (but time-consuming) skill like regularly posting content on Linkedin or YouTube or Medium.
Phase 3: outsourcing your marketing while you focus on other aspects of running your business
This is a big, big question but hopefully I’ve been able to shed some light on how to make a decision.
More questions? Email me or drop them in the comments below…