By Paul Schindel
The proliferation of communications channels spells a huge challenge for many small businesses. HOW should you spend your time and money?
Perhaps the first question to consider is whether to focus internal resources on your marketing communications, or to engage an outside agency or expert.
Creating an internal communications staff offers the advantages that come with more intimate knowledge of the company’s products, services, and interpersonal dynamics – the day-by-day, blow-by-blow activities that can add nuance to your messaging.
On the other hand, finding suitable individuals for your communications to-do list can be daunting. If they’re on the young-and-inexperienced side, they may have good knowledge of the marketing toolkit and good basic communications skills. But they may lack industry-specific business and technical know-how. You’ll need individuals who can contribute strategically, who have compelling writing skills, or graphic design skills, or social media skills, or analytics skills.
Engaging an agency typically puts a great depth of experience and resources at your service. Most offer a comprehensive menu of services: strategic planning, creative services (copywriting, art direction, graphic design), media planning and placement, production management, and analytics reporting. Importantly, an agency often brings a “been there, done that” level of expertise to a small business’s challenges. Even if they don’t have experience specific to your industry, most agencies’ track records give you the advantage of knowing how to find opportunities and avoid pitfalls; there’s often less trial and error involved.
Conversely, agencies may employ more resources than you need. Or hand the work to “juniors” while charging you full price. Or, they may work in self-consciously stylish surroundings, contributing to high overhead that your company underwrites. So, it’s important to consider size and resourcefulness in the context of your current and anticipated marketing communications needs. By way of a self-serving example my agency, Three Bears Communications, operates from a small office in the cheapest building on an impressive street in Princeton, NJ. Our team works virtually, and we offer the expertise of many experts on an a la carte basis, so clients don’t pay for resources they don’t need.
Either way, someone in your company must be the point person who ultimately directs, reviews and approves your messaging. The key to success, whether working with internal staff or an outside agency, is frequent, candid and ongoing discussion of what’s working, what isn’t working, and what’s upcoming. That, plus adequate budgeting and a commitment to ongoing, targeted messaging.
Paul Schindel is President and Chief Creative Officer at Three Bears LLC in Princeton NJ – serving small business with a comprehensive array of marketing communications services. He can be reached at 609-688-1400 or Paul@ThreeBears.com. www.ThreeBears.com