Companies, non-profits and solopreneurs have finished making their goals for 2019, and one that's on just about every list is "improve our marketing to support our sales, positioning, lead generation or prominence." Then comes the hard part: how to do it.
There's no single answer on how to achieve the goal, but one of the fundamental questions every company or organization needs to ask itself is whether they need a marketing strategist to execute on the overall goals or whether they need a tactician. Understanding these different roles will also help answer the question of whether the marketing is best outsourced to an agency or performed in-house.
First, the definitions.
A marketing strategist is someone intimately involved with the formation of overall company strategy from the outset. Whether an outsourced individual, agency or in-house, this person(s) should be involved in annual company planning meetings and is responsible for creating a strategic marketing plan to support the company's brand and overall objectives, which includes messaging, budget, target audiences, research, advertising and (depending on the size of the company) public relations.
Once that plan is locked in place, the marketing strategist's job is to oversee the tools used--whether that be digital advertising, search engine optimization, content marketing, social media, promotions, videos, website, email marketing, brochures, trade shows, speeches and presentations--to ensure they are supporting sales by driving the company's brand story.
Depending on the size of the company or scope of the marketing budget, the strategist may be more intimately involved with the creation of these materials. Whether it's a strategist or agency account executive, this person has a complement of graphic designers, programmers, web developers, search engine specialists, etc. at their disposal. This person/agency reports directly to the CEO of the company.
In-House Marketing Assistant
A marketing tactician may also wear many hats if you can find one person with the range of skills required. Large companies break the role into several components because each requires specialization and is a full-time job by itself:
- Inbound Marketing Manager
- Social Media Manager
- Content Marketing Manager
- SEO Manager
- Email Marketing Manager
- Public Relations/Media Relations Manager
When a company reaches a size requiring it to split up all of these duties, it usually hires a marketing operations manager to oversee all of the silos to ensure continuity while also calendaring, managing processes for the marketing division, and acting as the liaison with the sales team to ensure they are working in unison.
In midsize companies with all of their marketing functions in-house, it might just be one or two people who report to the marketing strategist or someone equivalent in the C-Suite who has the time and expertise necessary to ensure consistency in the brand story.
But it's in the startup to small companies this distinction becomes the most crucial because budgets often dictate choosing between the strategist or the tactician; in-house vs. outsourced. I've seen countless startups hire a 20-something who understands social media, blogging, and Photoshop because they thought it was the least expensive option. And sometimes that's the right decision. Other times it just leads to more headaches because it's challenging to find one person to match the suite of skill sets required.
Which Way To Go?
To help navigate these uncharted waters, here are some questions to help you determine which way is best for your organization with the qualifier that I'm an outsourced marketing strategist and am biased in that direction for smaller companies.
- Is there someone in your organization who could create a strategic marketing plan or who have successfully executed a marketing plan?
- Do you understand how a strategic marketing plan integrates into your business plan, or do you believe it's an unnecessary luxury and expense?
- Are you looking to hire someone who you manage and assign tasks, or would you rather have those tasks part of a pre-written and calendared plan requiring only your final approval?
- Do you have time to read every email, blog post, social media post, inbound marketing report or do you need someone on your team who can alleviate those responsibilities while you focus on running the company?
- Do you have time to train a new employee?
- Do you know how to prioritize spending your marketing dollars on digital advertising, social media, content marketing, videos, SEO and email? If you had to choose, how you would base that decision?
- Could you direct an employee on how to cost-effectively target your audience?
- Would it be more cost-effective for you to hire someone full-time, so someone is always at your disposal but with a limited skill set, or have a more diverse skill set with multiple clients who might not be able to drop everything at the last minute?
- Would losing the one person in your company dedicated to marketing cripple your efforts?
If reading this article has made you wonder whether your company should be handling its marketing in-house or if an external strategist would be right for you, email me for a free 30-minute appraisal of your situation.