Hiring a marketer can feel like a small business fairy tale – not the Disney kind, the Grimm brother’s kind. A crafty path of pitfalls where you’re introduced to obscure manipulation, abstract proposals, and of course, new ideas. How do you find the right marketing person for your business? And, should you hire a marketing person, anyway? Here are 5 practical options and how to vet a marketing vendor.
Stats have placed advertisers up there (or down there rather) with lawyers as some of the least trusted individuals in the world. Even advertisers know the industry is rife with experts they wouldn’t so much as buy a beer for. However, there’s only so long a small business can DIY. You know you need help, and usually, fast, because you need to get back to business instead of trying to be cool on the likes of social media. Right? Right.
“How Do I Find The Right Marketing Person?”
I see that concern on your face. Relax, there are options and ways to vet marketers the same as any other industry. Some doctors are better than others, some marketers are better than others. That’s just how it goes.
5 Practical Options:
Small business owners tend to look for:
- agency referrals
- a marketing consultant whose work spans their industry
- a channel specialist
- a freelancer or
- hire a marketing generalist internally
From my experience supporting small business owners for 15+ years here’s the low down on each of the 5 options, where you can find a good one of each, and how to vet a marketing vendor. All from a marketer’s perspective.
Find The Right Marketing Person
@ a Marketing Agency
Pros: A marketing agency answers “how do I find the right marketing person?” by offering you access to a broad range of people – each a specialist that will apply their expertise to your business. Most business owners can’t afford to hire such specialists full-time, so this is a great option to allow them to tap into what is essentially an outsourced marketing team.
Cons: Firstly, the typical agency kick-off process can lag. Small business owners typically need support, yesterday, not after several sales meetings, workshops, lunch and siestas. If you like the courting experience, this is where you’ll find it, but ego stroking does not always achieve quick revenue turnarounds for you, just for the agency.
Marketing agency employees also typically have their contributions tightly constrained by the allocated hours to their account. This means that while the agency’s team, are experts, their brand participation is strangled and their focus split. This can impact a brand’s results significantly unless you’re able to cough up a large enough retainer to support them.
Where to find a good marketing agency:
Whether you are looking to hire a freelance marketer or a marketing agency this advice applies to them all: you should always see if they have worked with a business similar to yours in some capacity. This can be broad, eg. e-commerce experience translates easily across industries. Look for a local referral from a business similar to your own but not a competitor. If you are looking for a creative agency, you can browse websites like Dribble & Behance that showcase various agencies’ and designers’ work.
Find A Marketing Consultant
Well, full disclosure, this is a harder one to answer objectively because I am one. But let’s give it a go, starting with the cons…
Cons: Marketing Consultants inherit unfortunate stereotypes from two words: marketing, and consultant. Consultants are assumed to tell you what you already know, and then charge you a lot for it. And marketers, marketers can be stereotyped as manipulative.
“Sometimes people are selling you something you might actually need…”
Pros: Here’s the thing a sales director once shared with me: “sometimes… sometimes… people are selling you something you might actually need.” It’s true: sometimes a consultant is actually an expert in their field. They offer an unbiased lens from years of consolidated experience across a multitude of brands. They’re often exposed to contrasting methodologies and can introduce you to a proven approach for yours. This ends up fast-tracking results, increasing returns on ad spend while paving the road for a stronger brand long term.
An independent marketing consultant like myself needs to preserve their reputation, so the quality of service and results are a priority. Look for someone that takes pride in their work.
Where to find a good marketing consultant: Referrals + LinkedIn + of course I’d be silly not to mention my own marketing consulting services for small business owners.
Find The Right Marketing Person
A Channel Specialist
Pros: Channel specialists are usually digital marketing specialists that work across Paid Per Click campaigns like Facebook Ads manager and Google Ads. These individuals carry a wealth of experience that typically offers their clients exactly that: wealth. Types of channel specialists include social media marketing specialists, Paid Per Click (PPC) specialists and Google Ads specialists.
Cons: A channel specialist tends to be detail orientated, which is exactly why they’ve ended up as a specialist. While this can be good, it can also mean they don’t always paint your bigger picture. PPC specialists can lock you into a transactional marketing strategy, where you’re paying a higher cost per click on high-intent channels like Google ads because only a few have heard of you, and their expertise doesn’t usually extend to brand. Your reputation (brand) needs to scale, and your marketing strategy move beyond what tends to be a default one and a fragmented collection of specialists’ input.
Where to find a good channel specialist: Referrals + Google Search + LinkedIn.
How To Find A Freelancer
Pros: Marketing freelancers can be flexible legends (aka assets) for marketing managers and small business owners alike. They’re normally adept at crossing mediums and have formed a broad understanding of marketing tools and methods that can then be applied to your business.
Cons: Freelance platforms like Fiverr are open platforms and as such can be littered with such a spectrum of skills that it can be hard to find a reliable and highly-rated freelancer that is not only good at what they do but also a good communicator for your business needs. The platforms have so much competition that your initial investment can be tempting in price, but also a perilous investment with uncertain outcomes.
Where to find a good freelance marketer: This is just my opinion, but I find better freelancers outside of a freelance platform. Try using the term ‘freelancer’ in a LinkedIn search.
Option: Hire A Marketer Full-Time
Tips To Hire A Marketing Person Internal To Your Business
Having a full-time marketer onboard is a step towards business growth – if you find the right marketing person. Most businesses start by placing an ad on Seek or LinkedIn. Alternatively, go via a recruiter who has either a HR person with a solid understanding of marketing or an actual specialist recruitment agency. Both can help you find a dedicated expert that not only impresses you but impresses your accountant too.
Pros: You’ll have an individual dedicated to your success with a full-time focus.
Cons: Many marketing managers, particularly if you have a low budget, can operate kinda like a project manager – fully dependent on marketing specialists or agencies to actually get the job done. You get what you pay for in this space.
Tips To Hire A Marketing Person
- Ask about their knowledge of your industry
- Use job ad campaigns to target the right people
- Work with a specialist recruitment agency
- Look for an excellent communicator, but avoid show-ponies
- A negotiator. A ‘yes man’ (or woman), might do what you want, but ultimately don’t lead. Someone with negotiation skills can help you navigate your own ideas whilst pursuing growth.
How To Vet A Marketing Vendor
What should I look for when hiring marketing professionals?
Ok, so now you have started looking for the right marketing person, you want to vet them. Here are some things to look for when hiring an independent marketing expert or marketing agency:
1. Read reviews
Looking for phrases like, exceeded my expectations, ethics, responsiveness and employee ratings. Yes, employee ratings matter unless, apparently, if you’re Elon Musk. An agency’s reviews that are overly gushy can be fake, but if the reviews are consistent enough they may just be on the money.
2. Verify them
Look up clients listed on the agency’s website or within their proposal – you may find a marketing manager or director that you can message directly on LinkedIn. Initially ask them for an agency/consultant recommendation, rather than asking specifically about the service provider you are considering. Otherwise, you may find they don’t respond.
3. Size matters
If you are approaching an agency or freelance marketer that normally works with large companies, they may struggle to get results for a small business. Likewise, if you are a large business, you really want an agency or consultant that usually works with larger brands. Your ideal candidate works with businesses that are about your size and has a proven track record taking them from A to B.
4. Start step-by-step
If a vendor wants long-term commitment upfront, this could reflect sales inexperience and/or something fishy. An experienced marketer/agency understands most businesses need to build trust step by step, and as such, offer the opportunity to work with them on an incremental trajectory. For example, a basic retainer with selective add-ons. The only marketing vendors that tend to be able to justify longer-term commitment upfront are SEO or PR specialists, whose deliverables are momentum dependent.
Remember, if it was easy, everyone would be Jeff Bezos.
Need a hand? I'm an independent marketer working one-to-one with small business owners.