Small Business: Preparing to hire a marketing company.

Small Business: Preparing to hire a marketing company.

Posted on December 13, 2016 Mary Merritt

The excitement of starting a new business cannot be described with mere words. Most business owners will tell you that, through all of the ups and downs that come along with owning a business, they wouldn't change a thing. As co-owner of NerdyMind, I must say that I agree with that statement whole-heartedly.

However, as Guy Kawasaki has said many times over: "the probability of an entrepreneur getting venture capital is the same as getting struck by lightning while standing at the bottom of a swimming pool on a sunny day. This may be too optimistic."

What Mr. Kawasaki is trying to say is that, as a start-up business, you aren't going to have a lot of funds. It becomes incredibly imperative that you understand the importance of setting up budgets, and working some marketing into that budget. Starting up a business is an investment, and you will have to invest in order to make it work (and it STILL might not work).

Before you start a business, make sure your mind isn't over in "fluffy la-la-land," dreaming of yacht trips and private jets. Your start-up life is more likely to be filled with Ramen noodles and jarred spaghetti sauce. Trust me on this one.

NerdyMind wanted to offer small business owners some advice in a series of blog posts. In the first 2 years of our existence, we worked with a lot of small businesses (heck, we ARE a small business ourselves). Today we wanted to focus on how small businesses should prepare themselves before working with a marketing company such as NerdyMind.

Establish a marketing budget and communicate it to your potential vendors.

We're really nice people, but we don't work for free. Our expertise, experience and creativity is worth money--and you should never expect to get anything for free. Vetting the right marketing company is very important, but you should be fully transparent about your budget from the get-go. Many times, marketing companies like to tailor custom plans that are meant to MEET your budget. When you start getting proposals from companies before having a budget, you're just going about this all backwards. Not only that, but you are really wasting time on both sides.

Since your funds are precious, it really boils down to planning. If your first year will only allow $15,000 for marketing, you should focus on a few key pieces of marketing materials. First off, you need a brand mark (logo). Should you spend $25,000 on an advanced branding exercise? ABSOLUTELY NOT. In this NERD's opinion, you should focus more on building a website and getting some onsite search engine optimization going. These types of customer acquisition tactics can really breathe some cash into your business as the year progresses. Don't worry about profits in your first year, worry about cash flow. Once again, trust me.

Know your business' vision inside and out (and be ready to talk about it a lot).

Marketing companies want to adopt your vision. When you are excited about your new company and you can speak intelligibly and passionately about it, we get extremely motivated. What is your mission? Why does your company exist? Where do you see yourself in the future? What are your markets? Who are your customers? Why is your product or service better than anyone else's? Knowing the answer to these questions is the spice of business life. Many folks think that smaller businesses get kicked to the curb a lot because of low budgets. That's not that case for us. If you are wildly excited about your business and you bring good energy to the table, we're willing to make it work. If you don't even know the name of your company might have come over to us a bit too early.

Don't get paralyzed with perfection. Get something OUT THERE.

Guy Kawasaki is not only famous for his work with Motorola and Apple, but many consider him to be the king of "bootstrapping." His philosophy clearly states that more time doesn't always equal a better product or service. It's important to be flexible and not too picky about your marketing materials. Heck, you really can't afford to be! Normally in the marketing industry, the pickier you are, the more you should expect to pay. Guy says that companies should "ship and test," which basically means get something out there relatively quickly because it is the only way to get feedback from your users and potential customers. More importantly perhaps, it is the only way to start getting cash flowing into your company. Even if you are working with a team of people, you're still working in a vacuum until you deploy and start building feedback loops with your customers.

Remember, if you are starting a business up and you haven't been blessed by the venture capital gods, you need to be smart if you are going to survive the first 2 years of your life cycle. Be passionate, but be smart. Come prepared. And once you DO hire a marketing company, listen to them. You are not just paying for their time--you are also paying for their experience and expertise.

Good luck to all small business owners!