Doing business in today's digital-first economy means it is essential to build your online brand to promote and sell your products and services. Whether you do it yourself or hire someone, digital marketing is a critical part of doing business.
As digital technology advances, there is an increase in people's expectations to be able to communicate with brands through online channels increases. That means business owners are spending more time, effort, and budget than ever before developing and maintaining their online presence and engaging with their online communities. It can be overwhelming.
Some small business owners with digital marketing skills and time can often get started building their online brand themselves using free tools to help with graphic design, website design and social media. However, as you scale your business and start spending more time working in your business, you will need help to build your brand. If you don't have the skills or time, even startups should think about bringing in talent early.
Here are some tips for small business owners who need digital marketing help, with answers to questions often asked by small business owners, startups, entrepreneurs, and organizations with a limited marketing budget.
When do you know it is the right time to ask for help?
The right time to ask for help is when you find you are spending more time on your social media and content development than actually doing revenue-generating activities. However, that is just a general rule, and there are factors to consider.
When you are just starting your business or going through a re-branding, you need to dedicate quite a bit of time and money to develop your marketing strategy, branding and communication channels. Developing a clear, authentic, and professional brand right from the beginning will set the stage for a successful business.
Other marketing work includes brand materials (i.e. logo design) and content development, such as photography, videos, and written content. It may also consist of a website, email marketing campaigns, ads, and social media, plus traditional marketing materials, such as brochures, flyers, business cards, signage, media kits, etc.
How do you know when you need help?
Review your marketing plan to see what you need to do to achieve marketing success.
- What tactics do you plan to do to promote your business?
- What skills do you have? Maybe your strength is social media, but you need help to develop your marketing and social media strategy, design a logo, and set up your website. Maybe you want to design your website but need photography and videos created.
- Is it worth hiring someone for marketing so you can spend time working your business? If you don't have any sales yet, you may have more time to dedicate to marketing. Once you start generating sales, then evaluate how much your time is worth. If your time, as a professional, is better spent working in your business, then perhaps it is time to ask for help with marketing. Even if you hire a marketing professional, you still need to be part of the marketing process as it is your story to tell, so be a part of the planning and approval process.
Related Article: Digital Marketing Strategy - 7 Steps to Getting Started
What talent is the right talent?
There are various places to find marketing talent, but you want to make sure you get the right people at the right time. First, your plan and the questions before this, including what resources you have available - time and skills.
Here are some qualifying questions to help you determine what type of talent you need and when to bring them on board.
- Do you need help developing your marketing strategy? If you need assistance with strategic planning and are just getting started with your business, you may consider hiring a marketing consultant with skills in strategic development. They will provide you with a price for only what you need, so there is no obligation beyond the initial scope of work. However, if you find value in working with them, you can discuss future opportunities to work together. In addition to strategic support, consultants quite often have access to the creative talent required to implement your plan.
- Do you need help with social media? The best success in social media is when the business owner or leader works closely with their social media manager. It allows the owner to oversee the brand and messaging with support and expertise from the social media expert. If you are looking for minimal support, you could look to bring in a marketing intern or recent graduate to create graphics, captions, social listening, and collecting metrics. Consider a more experienced social media professional if you are looking for more guidance and support to optimize your social channels.
- Do you need help creating content? Designing a website? SEO support? Creating digital ads? For specific projects, there are freelancers available to help do the work. Suppose you are already working with a consultant. In that case, it is recommended to always discuss this with them first as they have expertise in what to look for and can advise you on what to look for to support your overall brand and communications/marketing plan.
Who should be on your marketing team? How much does it cost?
There are a few types of talent resources you can consider & where to find them.
- This may seem obvious, but as the business owner, you will need to be clear on your brand story, what skills you offer, and then be realistic about how much time you have to contribute to marketing. The best person to guide your brand's story is you, and then hire whom you need to deliver on the plan.
- Cost: $0 marketing budget, but remember that it takes your time away from doing other work.
Marketing Consultant or Agency
- Specific project - These may be consultants or agencies called to quote and deliver on a particular project with a beginning and an end, such as writing a communications/marketing plan, developing a brand strategy, or designing a website.
- Monthly/ongoing work - Other work may be for a monthly or an ongoing project, including digital marketing, email marketing or social media management. If you want to manage your marketing, hiring a specialist can provide guidance in the way of coaching.
- Cost: $50-$150/hour is a typical price range when hiring a marketing professional. The varied price depends on the level of expertise and type of work required. If you are hiring for a project that includes various tactics or ongoing monthly management, look for a project discount to be offered.
- As you grow your business, hiring a full-time or part-time employee to assist with marketing is an option to consider. Marketing may be all or part of their job description. For example, if you are looking for assistance for your business, an employee's role may include duties such as sales calls, administrative tasks, and marketing support. This person may be selected to work with an outside marketing expert, coordinating materials, approvals, and communications with inside sales representatives,
Cost: As above, it depends on the type of skills needed and the level of experience required. As well, the amount of responsibility expected, such as guidance and oversight of your marketing strategy. Since this is an ongoing commitment and expenditures are absorbed by the owner, an employee's hourly fee is less than that of a consultant.
- Freelance workers specialize in a specific marketing field and are available to hire on an 'as-needed work, such as video editing, graphic design, writing, etc. Sometimes freelancers provide these services without a detailed contract and often do this as a 'gig' job in addition to their full-time work.
Cost: Quite often freelancers promote on an hourly basis, but this can be misleading since one person may take longer than the other to do a job. Get a quote on the entire project rather than the hourly rate, as some take longer than others to get the job done. Review their previous work and testimonials before hiring them. You will need to clearly understand what you want because they are only delivering on a specific part of a particular project.
- Students and recent graduates of marketing programs at local universities and colleges offer talent through internships. These are provided for the short term and at no cost or minimal cost to the employer. However, some administrative work is to be done with the expectations that the intern will receive guidance and mentorship. Be prepared to put in extra time if this is what you want to do.
- Cost: Free to entry-level pricing.
Volunteer (if applicable)
- Not-for-profit or charitable organizations may seek to look for volunteers to assist with their marketing efforts. Some people have the skills and believe in your cause and will be willing to put in the work for no cost. However, volunteers come and go, so make sure clear guidelines and governance are in place to manage the high turnover.
- Cost: Free. However, if this is an entry-level position, make sure to include the cost of training.
Where can you find the people with the right skills?
As part of the marketing team yourself, it is important to stay up to date on current marketing trends.There are quite a few low cost or free resources available by listening to podcasts, reading articles, watching webinars, networking and more.
If you are in the Mississauga, Ontario area, your local library offers e-resources such as Lynda.com. The Mississauga Business Enterprise Centre (MBEC) also provides free live webinars and recordings on Digital Marketing . A series of webinars here focused on digital marketing, including how to write a digital marketing plan.
Marketing Consultant or Agency
When looking for a consultant or agency, you can go online to search by putting criteria such as area, type of services, and niche markets. You can also place an advertisement on a local job board, search on LinkedIn, or even find a brand that impresses you with their marketing and ask them who is doing their marketing. Once you find someone you like, make sure to interview them to see if they are the right fit for you.
Related article: Are you looking for a Social Media Manager?
When looking for an employee, you can place a job advertisement, search on LinkedIn to find talent looking for employment, or get a referral from a colleague. Be realistic in your expectation when writing the job description. Even though one person may have various skills, they often specialize in just a few, so know what you want before hiring.
If you are looking for freelancers, there are platforms such as Upwork & Fiverr available with other platforms added all the time. If you are in Ontario, Canada, a vendor directory of talent is available on Digital Main Street .
For volunteers, you can put out social media posts, advertisements, or put a posting on a local charity job board such as charityvillage.com
For interns, contact your local university or college. If you are in Southern Ontario, Canada, contact the career centres at Humber College, Sheridan College, and the University of Toronto Mississauga. EDGE at Sheridan College is an entrepreneurship hub, and there is a group of talented graduating students available to support small business owners at studentmarketingconsulting.com . These are just a few as an online search will find others in your area.
Remember, it takes time and money to develop a solid online presence. Taking the time to promote your business on top of running your business takes a lot of work. When you first start, much of the work may be done by yourself with intermittent help from marketing professionals. To stay competitive and get ahead, it is essential to scale your marketing as you grow your business.