To say inbound marketing is a burgeoning market could be an understatement. With the help of partnership-focused analytics tools, more people are trading their fulltime jobs -- willingly or by necessity -- to channel their inner Don Draper and pair his marketing savvy with the 21st century.
The challenge is that when you’re an inbound marketing team of one (or even just a handful of people), you also become copywriter, designer, strategist, accountant, sales lead, editor, SEO specialist ... the list could go on for paragraphs.
So if you find yourself in the middle of an identity crisis, read on for the signs that it might be time to call on the help of an inbound marketing agency to make your marketing more streamlined, and your business life more efficient.
Sign #1: You’d rather potty-train 12 toddlers at one time than pull together a creative team.
Awful visual, right? Sourcing, interviewing, hiring and managing the efforts of several creatives is no easy task, either. Not only is paying the overhead for an in-house creative team unwieldy for some, but once you have that team, you must orchestrate their efforts so they produce what you're looking for.
If you're at a point where your business needs more headcount around creative, ask yourself these questions to determine whether it might make sense to go with an agency:
1) Can I detect branding inconsistencies? This is more than making sure the logo is aligned properly on each piece of creative. This is about image, and cohesion. For instance, does a color palette blend with a font? How about photography, white space, and ad copy?
2) Do I speak designer-ese? The beauty and the challenge of working with amazing professionals is they were educated and primed for amazing things -- hiring an in-house team will give you an inside look at a vernacular that can boggle the mind. When they deliver a piece of creative, do you know when (see above) and how to tell them what you want instead? Could you talk to them about HTML and CSS?
3) Am I capable of building systems around people? This could mean in an office, or virtually -- but those systems need to enable them get their jobs done efficiently. You can't have systems that result in projects that tend to limp across the marketing finish line.
If you've answered "no" or "not really" to many of these questions -- or even if these scenarios make you uncomfortable or totally stressed out -- it might be a good sign that outsourcing creative to an agency is a good next step. You have enough to worry about. Don't add more.
Sign #2: Your new motto is: “I can sleep when I’m dead.”
When 12-hour days sound like an easy week, there’s something awry. The whole point of joining the inbound marketing crusade (we hope!) was to rely on the very best of your abilities and strategically use them to help your company grow. If you can raise your hand to more than three of these scenarios below, it’s likely time to call on an agency for help:
Your LinkedIn comments have sunk from insightful and engaging to “I almost read the first paragraph.”
Business lunch? Who has time for lunches -- I’m still learning how to re-size photos.
You’re tempted to make blogging a chore for your 11-year-old.
Sales leads are given prime attention, between the hours of 11:30 p.m. and 1 a.m.
Do those sound familiar? If so, which ones? Let's take that last bullet -- sales leads should be given prime attention the second they're ready to be contacted by a sales representative (or yourself). If you're getting distracted from closing new business to attend to marketing matters, it might be worth outsourcing specific functions to a well-vetted inbound marketing agency.
Now, if that last bullet did sound familiar to you, ask yourself if any (or all) of the preceding bullets are also familiar. Being able to silo which tasks in particular are a time suck -- or are just not getting the attention they deserve -- will help you decide on what specifically needs to be outsourced, and to whom.
Which leads us to sign number three you might need to outsource a part of your marketing ...
Sign #3: You’ve become a jack of all trades, master of none.
There are few completely, utterly unenjoyable aspects of being an inbound marketer. Blogging? Chatting with people on Twitter? Conceiving creative email campaigns? Casting a marketing vision for your company? Fun stuff, right?
The problem is, the more of these tasks you take on, the more your time and talents get stretched thinner and thinner. To figure out what you’d like to master, go through these exercises to see whether it's time to give some of your daily tasks over to an agency:
1) Think back. What made me most excited about inbound marketing when I first learned about it? How often do I get to do [insert awesome inbound marketing task here]?
2) Start a list of grunts. I’ve told friends prepping to build a custom home to watch what gathers dust in their current house -- and design that space/closet/room out of the home they’re going to build. Use your grunt list the same way, and prioritize what you’d gladly hand off to someone else.
3) Join a local professional marketing group (like a HUG, if you're a HubSpot user) and/or come to INBOUND 2013. No, HubSpot did not pay me to write that ;-) When I’m down in the dumps or my grunt list has jumped to a new Excel tab, I know it’s time for a change of scenery and/or I need to spend time with people who are passionate about the marketing things I love, too. That energy is catchier than twerking.
(You’re thinking about twerking now, aren’t you?)
What do all these signs come down to? Growth and sales suffer when you’re doing too much, whether inside or outside your skill set. Leads are likely falling through the cracks and into your competitors’ arms. If more of the experiences in this article were familiar than unfamiliar, dip your toes into some inbound marketing agency research. You might find it helps you shorten your grunt list, letting you spend time on the things you do best that help you grow the business.
Correcting grammatical glips since 1994, Amanda is TMR Direct's content manager who makes the world go ’round with Excel spreadsheets and red pens. She loves writing and hiking, but not at the same time. Connect with her here.