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Answering your questions on marketing services for SMEs

The challenge of finding the right marketing services

There are lots of marketing services available in Sussex, and finding the right one for you that will deliver real business results, cost-effectively and support you as a business owner, can be a tricky task.

Some of the common challenges we find for business owners trying to choose an agency to invest their marketing budgets into are:

  • There can be a lot of jargon, especially if you aren’t an expert in marketing already (the irony of that isn’t lost on us either!)
  • Offers of ‘basic’ marketing packages which don’t really cover what you need or want
  • Only those with deep pockets can afford a comprehensive marketing service which delivers the best ROI, therefore pricing most SMEs out of a quality service
  • A lack of transparency around services, costs and return on your investment.

In this article, we cover some of your key questions, and some recommendations of what to look for and consider.

How important is marketing for SME's?

Marketing is very important for any business, however, it is especially important for those small to medium-sized businesses which may be newer to the game.

Businesses may have enough clients and customers to keep them or their small team of 2-3 people busy for some time, however, what if they wanted to expand to 5, 10, 25, or more employees? That is where marketing will 100% be stepping in.

It may seem like a large cost initially and maybe your smaller-sized business is not generating large amounts of income each month, so every penny counts. However, you should be looking at marketing as an investment in the success of your growing business.

It’s the first thing that potential customers engage with before they’ve had a chance to find out anything about your business, operations or service. Without marketing, there are no customers so therefore no business!

If your marketing efforts and costs are not covered by the additional revenue that it should be generating, then simply put, your marketing is being done incorrectly and another strategy should be looked at.

As an SME can I get a marketing strategy?

Yes and it’s something you should be demanding too! A strategy matters in every case with marketing, even for SMEs. It will ensure that you are investing in the right marketing activities and are deciding where each bit of your budget goes.

It will also mean you are constantly looking for new opportunities, and are learning what works for your business and what doesn’t.

A marketing strategy shouldn’t be a document that sits on a shelf or takes months to create. It’s a living and breathing plan that adapts and changes but it provides an important framework to ensure all marketing is focused on your objectives. It’s easy to get distracted by something that looks and sounds exciting, but is actually not aligned with your business’ goals. A good strategy has accountability, consideration of your market and customers as well as a direction of travel you want your marketing (and business) to go in.

So if anyone tells you, you can’t afford one or it isn’t needed, this should immediately raise a red flag.

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Why is digital marketing particularly useful?

Digital marketing is a great way of accessing your potential market and customers, with a relatively low cost of entry, coupled with great targeting options to find just the right people, such as through Google ads, social media or email campaigns.

£10k+ monthly marketing budgets are not needed initially, you could easily start out with as little as £10 per day for Facebook ads, as an example. Once something works (and the customers and sales come in), then the scaling will take place.

Most people are also online nowadays, so there is no denying that you will find the majority of your potential customers and clients there, whether they are just researching, engaging with a business or making a purchase. Whatever stage your customer may be at online, you need to be there, as you can bet your competitors will be!

How much do marketing services cost?

To cut straight to the chase, we have standalone activities starting as low as £150+VAT and regular marketing service packages starting from £450+VAT per month and could scale up to several thousands of pounds per month if necessary.

But determining how much you invest in your marketing is actually trickier to answer than simply what the market price is for service or deliverable. So let’s look at the intention and real concerns that are going on in the mind of business owners when you ask this question.

Can I afford to do marketing?

This refers to both whether you have the cash for the expenditure, now and ongoing, but also can your business ‘afford a failure’. Business owners need to be confident that they can invest at the level they need to for long enough to allow for a realistic chance of success. Nothing is guaranteed in the world of marketing, but our team can determine the strategies and approaches that are most likely to generate a positive return, and show you how that would work so you can make an informed choice. You need a little upfront cash to get the ball rolling, but thereafter, with decent reporting, you should be able to see the returns fairly quickly.

Marketing cost versus marketing investment

This leads to the second point, in that when starting out on marketing, the costs tend to be categorised as ‘additional expenditure’. That isn’t actually the case however, if you choose your marketing tactics (and agency) well, that initial upfront cash should deliver a return beyond its original value fairly soon. So once you’ve dealt with the initial affordability question, it’s then a matter of measuring your return on investment (ROI) – figuring out what is profitable for you, including your overheads and employees’ wages etc.

It should always be the intention that marketing generates more back than you spend. At Growth by Design, we always focus on what will return the greatest ROI in the shortest amount of time. For example, for Sussex & Surrey Partitioning, by investing in a new website, search engine optimisation and content, they saw a ten-fold increase in enquiries which doubled their revenue.

What do I want the business to achieve?

It’s fine wanting to know the price of a service, but does that help you make a decision on what your marketing investment level should be? The better question to ask, is what do you want your business to achieve? If we said that your marketing investment would be £10,000 per month, but there was a very high likelihood of returning £100,000 per month, you’d find a way to finance it. By contrast, if it were only £50 per month, but it was definitely not going to work, how keen would you be to engage on that basis?

How much risk do I take with my marketing?

Investing in marketing, especially when you aren’t an expert in it yourself, can feel like a risk – to your cashflow and business. However, no one ever became successful by taking no risk. It’s about managing risk and mitigating it, primarily through having confidence in your marketing partner. It’s not therefore about finding the cheapest supplier but finding a partner who understands your business and marketing, cares about your business as much as you and is accountable for the results.

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Would it be better to outsource my marketing to an agency or to it in-house?

When deciding to take the plunge and start your journey with marketing, you may be wondering the best way to go about doing so. There are a few options, each with its own pros and cons, so it’s important to determine the most sensible route for you depending on your business, your team and your ambition.

Doing it yourself

Doing marketing all by yourself for your business can land you in a sticky situation. You most likely will lack any experience in it, and watching a few videos on YouTube and taking a quick course won’t make you a pro.

For example, would you let someone perform surgery on you if they have only done a quick course for a week? Most likely not. You would opt for the avenue of a professional who is fully qualified with years of experience. This should be the same for marketing.

In almost all cases, we’d recommend not doing it yourself as there are very few pros, besides the immediate cost-saving, but also means you’ve very few customers, so actually, it will cost you money in the long run!

Hiring an in-house employee or a contracted freelancer

Assuming you hire a skilled person to do the job, they should be able to do their job well in running marketing tasks and achieving promising results. However, marketing covers a wide range of areas, from PPC, website design, SEO, videography, copywriting and many more. It will be rare that someone excels in every single area.

Hiring a team would be the preferred route here, however, it would cost thousands per month to have 5-10 people just for marketing, which most likely would not fit into an SMEs overhead and staff budget. If you hire an employee, you will also have to manage them, along with giving them sick pay and holidays, which creates additional overhead costs for your business.

The key here is to think long and hard about the skills needed and the outcome wanted as to who you could recruit or hire on a freelance basis to do all of the marketing activities. If you just need one skillset, then this could be a route for you, but if other activities start to creep into the role then maybe this isn’t best after all.

Outsourcing to a marketing agency

A marketing agency is often the best solution for business owners. An agency will consist of a team of experienced professionals who all excel in various marketing skills and can assist where, and when, needed.

Full support is always given, and there is no management or training required by you since they are outsourced. This will remove any potential headaches and costs you will have with hiring an employee.

You will also have full reassurance that the job is being done correctly and at a high calibre, as it’s always being undertaken by a team who specialise in it.

The only task here is to brief them well and keep them closely involved in your business so they can do the best they can for you.

Sussex-based marketing services from Growth by Design

Being small business owners ourselves, we understand the questions, concerns and outcomes you want, and need, from your marketing. We hope this article answered some of your most pressing questions. You can read more about things to consider when choosing a marketing agency, and why Growth by Design prides itself on being different.

If you are in the market for professional Sussex marketing services and want to discuss your needs with us, then we would be delighted to speak with you. Our award-winning marketing services team based in Wivelsfield, East Sussex has a full team ready to grow you and your business.

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