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11.27.23 – Entrepreneur – BY EMILY REYNOLDS BERGH 

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Many small businesses have neither the budget nor the inclination to hire an outside agency for their marketing. Here, an outside agency owner shares advice on how to keep things in-house most efficiently and effectively.

It’s kind of strange to be the proprietor of my own PR and marketing firm, advising other business owners on how they may be able to avoid hiring external representation to manage their marketing needs. But I get it. Not everyone sees the value (yet) of working with a second party, and even if they do, not everyone has the finances (yet) to work that into their annual budget.

Still, before I give you some tips on keeping things internal to the highest degree you can, it’s time for a reality check.

The truth about most (not all) in-house marketing

Sometimes, doing your own marketing can be cost-effective. Mostly, though, it’s not. Very often, I’ve had conversations with people who opt to go the “cheap” route by using their new hire — say, a former server or hostess right out of college whose first language is “social media” — to take on the role of increasing their presence in their marketplace.

And you know what? I can’t say I’ve ever heard of a real success story in this vein — @ me if I’m wrong. Just yesterday, a novice who’s taking over social media for a client asked me where the page password was. Um, there is no page password on social platforms. Last month, the newly appointed in-house marketer who was taking over for a client I parted ways with emailed to ask how to resize an image.

When you know, you know … and when you don’t, you don’t. Sure, you can learn how to do things on the job; I’m not suggesting otherwise. But what I am suggesting is that your business can waste a lot of time (= money) on simple intern-level tasks when you expect the uninitiated to initiate real change in your company’s promotional efforts.

Recall Bill Gates’s famous quote: “If I was down to the last marketing dollar, I’d spend it on PR.” If it’s good enough for Bill Gates, it’s good enough for me. Then again, we’re not all Bill Gates, are we? So here are some steps you can take to get the biggest bang for your buck without spending any extra bucks.

How to maximize your in-house resources

I’ve heard it said that everyone can be their own marketer. I respectfully disagree. But there are steps you can take on a tight budget to get all you can from someone on your current team who may be capable.

  1. Start small. Have your “marketing appointee” start with a basic but fundamental task, like creating your social media content for just one month. Examine their style: Are the captions catchy enough? Do the chosen images pop? Is the language audience-appropriate? If not, stop them immediately and coach on what you’re looking for. Have them get adept at only one aspect of your marketing plan before entrusting them with another. Having content on hand is useless if it isn’t on-point content.
  2. Do not overwhelm with an overabundance of tasks. On a related note, if your designated marketer was actually hired for a different job function but expressed interest in taking on your marketing, they likely won’t have enough time to fulfill both roles sufficiently. Since you don’t want to rehire for the original role (if you’re willing to do that, you might as well hire an agency at a lower cost than another new salary), you should instead set clear and firm limits on how much time should be allocated to the marketing tasks so that your business doesn’t suffer in another area by concentrating too heavily in this area. Expecting one person to do too much is just a recipe for none of it being done properly.
  3. Bring in a consultant on an only-as-needed basis. You don’t have to contract with a marketing firm or pay a monthly retainer to secure sound counsel. Instead, bring in a consultant to guide you on what you should be doing right now to accomplish your current goal. Then don’t call them until you need them again. Not only will you be supplied with expert advice, but this person will likely be able to point out deficiencies in your overall marketing plan, which will save both time and money later. Admitting when you don’t know how to do something gets you at least halfway toward getting it done.
  4. Make sure your output is professional. If what your in-house marketer is producing isn’t up to standards, this will end up hurting you more than helping you. It will hurt your messaging, your brand image and your reputation. Whether it’s typos, sloppy writing, redundant language or shoddy design, if assets aren’t on par with what your competitors are producing, do not publish. I repeat, do not publish — until they are. It’ll cost you more in labor and resources to have to backpedal and redo an asset than it would to just outsource that asset in the first place. At the very least, have a proofreader or editor on call at an hourly rate to fine-tune the marketer’s content.
  5. Budget for a full-time role. You don’t have to hire outside, no — but you should prioritize the marketing role if you expect to add real value to your brand. This means planning to replace your part-time intern, who’s likely to move on after getting their marketing degree anyway, with a full-time, on-staff marketing professional. When you have one, hold on to them; when you don’t, let them move on so your marketing plans can move up.

Related: Should Your Small Business Hire a Marketing Agency or Build a Marketing Team?

You don’t want the expenditure of an outside agency? That’s totally understandable. Just make sure that you don’t end up paying more to “fix” your own in-house marketing than you would to pay someone else to do it right from the get-go!

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Emily Reynolds Bergh


Founder at R Public Relations Firm

Emily Reynolds Bergh — vintage-shoe hoarder, cycling junkie, & lover of pink drinks — is a marketing & PR pro with 15+ years of experience under her belt. Now the founder & owner of the award-winning R Public Relations based in New York, she’s been featured in numerous publications & podcasts.