Do-It-Yourself Marketing for Small Companies is Risky Business
But it takes highly-skilled and experienced experts to do it well. Savvy companies understand that you can’t pretend to be a marketer any more than you can pretend to be an accountant. Both disciplines require specific skills and the context that comes from experience. Dave Thomas, president and CEO of ThomasArts, notes: “When people mess around with their marketing dollars, they don’t understand that they’re playing with their revenue, not an expense.” However, there is no shortage of business owners deciding to whip up websites, create direct marketing pieces, dash off email campaigns and design brochures with absolutely no background in these practices. They take the leap because they fall into one or both of these traps:
- No one knows my business better than me
- I don’t have money to spend on outside help
It is hard to staff writers, designers and marketing strategists in-house, outsourcing costs money and the economic slowdown made homespun marketing more enticing. But in a era when anyone can sell products and services from anywhere, the intangible asset known as brand, identity or image is best left in the hands of experts. The specific areas you should avoid taking on yourself are:
- Don’t develop your own marketing strategy. Do-it-yourself marketers often fail to cover the basics: who will buy, where to I find the highest concentration of those people and what do they need to know or hear about my product to prefer them over alternatives. They should hire agencies to develop strategic marketing because, without sound plans, any tactics will be hit or miss.
- Don’t do your own media buying. With “easy” options on Google and Facebook, the lure of playing marketer and creating ad campaigns is more compelling than ever. But it is more complicated than in the past because the old standbys of television, radio, print and outdoor are now joined by digital media. Mastering the language, requirements, strengths and weaknesses of all of these media is a full-time job, not a hobby.
- Don’t write your own ad copy. It seems so simple and intuitive when it works that a second grader could do it, right? And if you’ve written business plans, proposals, emails and other longer forms of content, you probably think you can master ad copy quickly. The reality is that it takes a special skill and quite a bit of practice to drill down to a few words that communicate.
- Don’t do your own creative work. The proliferation of software has made a designer out of everyone. But it is harder to hide bad design than even bad copy. The purpose of marketing design is to evoke emotion that causes action. If it is substandard, it will be lost among all the other noise in the marketplace. Good design requires an artistic sense as well as technical skill. Shoddy work will negatively impact your brand and a lack of consistency means it will not resonate with customers.
Ultimately, if you are building a permanent asset like a website, a video or a landing page, or if the asset represents your business in any kind of meaningful way, you should hire someone else to do it. There is peace of mind that comes with using professionals who do all of these things: guarantee results, implement their own expertise, capture your voice, trade/barter for ancillary services and finish projects on time.