Marketing, and for professional service providers brand differentiation in particular, is critical to the success of SMEs. If clients don’t know what to expect from you or that you even exist then they won’t use you.
Few growing pofessional services companies should be looking for a creative marketer. Most of the marketing activity needed in small to mid sized B2B service-based companies is admin heavy and it is a combination of marketing and business development that will add the most value to the business.
What can your marketer help you with?
- Branding & brand awareness – you are likely to continue to want to outsource the branding itself to a designer however a good marketer will understand the importance of brand and brand awareness.
- Optimising marketing spend – someone numerate, able to calculate ROI from events and other spend such as PPC, will be able to make the case for investing in marketing and allocating resources in the most efficient way possible.
- Website – your website is your shop window and you want someone who will take an interest in making it as attractive as possible. A marketer should be interested in generating and maintaining content to help keep the site fresh and boost SEO. The best marketers use both analytics and instinct to understand how users interact with your site and refine the user experience.
- Database cleansing – the marketing exec is the logical person to take ownership of your database. If your data is out of date or incorrectly coded they will not be able to segment contacts easily or effectively meaning that you will miss out on opportunities and your consultants will waste time.
- Adverts – adverts, both in print and online, help build brand awareness. Your marketer should ensure that the quality and consistency. For advertising to be effective it generally needs to be sustained - an occasional advert is usually a waste of money.
- CVs, creds & pitching - brand is not simply about your website and advertising. A marketing executive can help you create a consistent brand image across all “touch points” including invoices, pitches etc.
- PR – by creating a constant stream of news into the press your marketing exec can help you maintain a high company profile with your target audience.
- Content creation – creating content boosts SEO, keeps your website feeling fresh and means that you have a stream of activity for your social media channels.
What experience level to hire
Small to mid sized services SMEs will typically employ a junior marketer (graduate to 3 years experience). This makes sense in that much of the marketing role in professional services is admin and can be done by a junior resource. However marketers mature with age and a junior resource is likely to need handholding to help them understand what they should deliver, and how to communicate the impact they are making to the business as well as coaching on the different technologies available to support them.
An experienced marketer should be able to lead the organisation’s marketing not just implement it but will be relatively costly especially when considering the proportion of the role that will always be administrative. The admin levels can also make it hard to attract good, experienced marketers who often prefer sectors with larger teams and more opportunities to be creative.
Some organisations employ an experienced marketing consultant to mentor a junior resource.
When do you need a marketer?
There are a number of triggers that might signal you need to bring a marketer on board including:
- you are not achieving the expected/desired level of awareness around your brand, product or service.
- when your collateral (e.g. website, CVs, adverts etc) doesn’t look like it is all part of the same suite.
- if you need a new website as launching a new site is a very time consuming process. NB – you will need an experienced marketer to work with the web agency or it will take up a disproportionate amount of your time.
- you have a news section on your website and no fresh content has been posted to your social media channels except jobs you are recruiting for.
Marketers need targets to help them feel secure in their roles - without them many will feel unable to justify their salaries compared with their impact on the business. The most important thing is for you and them to know 1) what they are trying to achieve? 2) why? and 3) how it will be measured?
You will also need to put in place career development plans for them and support their training to help them develop in an environment where they are unlikely to have a mentor.
Alex Arnot is non executive advisor to more than 20 SMEs.