Is your startup ready to hire a marketing professional?


As a passionate business owner myself, I’m constantly striking up conversations with local startups concerning their efforts to launch and market their new company or brand. Many new business owners aren’t sure what to expect when it comes to hiring outside marketing help, especially creating a marketing budget–some might even be reluctant to do so since startups can be tough on the wallet.

Aren’t sure if your startup business is ready to spend on marketing? Here’s some points to consider when you’re preparing to take the plunge:

    1. Believe that a marketing professional can add value to your business. Many entrepreneurs are business-savvy and probably have a healthy understanding of marketing. However, in order to build a healthy relationship with your newly-hired marketing professional, it’s essential that you release the reins by acknowledging that you may not know everything about marketing after all.

      Respect each other’s areas of expertise and work together to reach your business goals. Just as you’re an expert in your industry, a marketing professional is going to know the latest on marketing trends and tactics. I know what you’re thinking–how could any one know more about your business when you’re the one who eats, lives, and breathes all things about your company? I witness a lot of new business owners struggle in the area of trusting outside marketing help, likely because they are so invested in making their new business successful that they have a hard time believing anyone on the outside could bring the same level of passion to the table.

      Yet this trust and respect is detrimental to making the partnership work. The key is to constantly help each other bridge the learning gap–the marketer will likely need taught some principles specific to your business industry, so be patient and willing to teach them as needed. Likewise, a good marketer will already be working their butts off to understand your industry beforehand and will not only create a relevant and awesome marketing plan for you, but will take the time to teach you such marketing practices and help you understand how they apply to your business. I call that a win-win relationship.


    1. Know what you want out of your marketing hire. Are you looking for short-term help to launch a specific campaign, event, or product? Are you needing help with an annual marketing plan? Or do you need fast marketing strategies for saving a sinking ship? Before committing to a marketing professional, it’s best to communicate clear expectations you have and how you’ll measure your marketing goals. Most often reflected in numbers, this can be in measurement of sales, of leads, of online customer engagement, etc. And be fair with your marketing goals–if you’ve never tracked your leads or measured any existing sales goals, it’s not really fair to throw out a random number just to see if a marketing professional can magically meet it.

      Just be upfront with your marketing professional regardless where you’re at. You may need to start by tracking existing leads for a few months and then letting your marketing pro make some educated suggestions. Be willing to share your existing business numbers and let your marketing consultant help you figure out a realistic goal. Always keep in mind break-even points and costs-per-lead. Measure, measure, measure, and know what you want before hiring a marketing professional!


    1. Establish a dedicated marketing budget. This one’s a toughie for new business owners. Most likely you’ve just spent your whole life savings to start your new business, and it can be daunting to think of investing even more when there’s a risk of it never paying off. So it’s common to find yourself scared to talk to a marketing professional, and all you really want to know is how much it’s going to cost you. The answer? It depends. (I know, you’re rolling your eyes at me right now.) But it really does! It depends on what needs done (Have you branded yourself yet? Do you need a new logo? Do you need to rebrand in order to appeal more to customers? Do you have a website yet? A Facebook page? Will you be maintaining these or will I?). So many factors! And of course these also depend on your industry and target audiences.

      So my incredibly generic advice for small business owners here in Indiana is that I recommend setting aside at least $5,000 to get you started with a marketing professional. I start with the marketing basics, so if you’ve yet to fully develop your identity and brand personality, that’s where we’ll need to start. Next you’ll need to get your main marketing message nailed down, which needs to be highly relevant to each of your target audiences.

      Usually the first vehicle for marketing yourself is with a website–and any other marketing outlets would be a waste of money if your website currently sucks and can’t successfully convert those visitors to leads. I often have my clients start with either building or redesigning their website. This is a big budget eater.

      While new marketing tactics can take a lot of time and money upfront, once they’re up and running you can set it and forget it while the leads keep coming in. Though tactics like an email marketing program, Facebook posts, and other marketing campaigns will likely require monthly maintenance. Most of the time I quote and charge a client for my time to develop and build such programs and then charge a much smaller monthly fee to run these programs regularly.


  1. Be open to changes. So often a new business owner is so personally invested in their new company that it can be super hard to hear any type of feedback. It’s your baby–I get it. I really do. If you’re not ready to hear that your blue and black logo with lightning bolts that your nephew developed for you is totally too macho for your all-female target audience, then you’re not quite ready to talk to a marketing professional.

    A good marketing consultant will show respect when providing critique and feedback, but these conversations can be really difficult! When chatting with a potential client, I can often tell it would be a lose-lose relationship for both of us if there’s a lot of sensitivity towards any potential changes to already established branding (such as a logo or existing website). It truly requires an open mind–sometimes it’s hard to hear that you didn’t make the best choice initially, but wouldn’t you rather hear this and get it fixed so that you’re more relevant to your customers? You’re hiring a marketing professional for their expertise–you’re not paying them to agree with you but to truly offer their professional opinions concerning your business.

If any of these points make your stomach turn, then you’re not ready, plain and simple. Marketing in general is a risk (as is any business) but the excitement can be found in making it a controlled, educated risk. Being truly ready to hire a marketing professional and finding one you really mesh with is the formula for a fun and exciting relationship that will deliver results for your business!

Jenny Erb, Marketing Consultant

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