Getting your startup out into your target markets is critical and digital marketing is essential.
If you plan on launching and growing your startup, you must consider how you are going to market your business. To help we have developed a guide to digital marketing for startups.
Over 70% of clicks go to organic searches that rank on the first page of Google.
In this day and age, digital marketing can make or break an organization. Almost every modern brand exists online and is trying to make waves. Despite what some presume, though, marketing is only as good as the people behind its planning and execution, not fleshy technology that powers it.
In other words, choosing the right digital team is paramount. There is not much room for missteps and wasting precious startup capital is not an option. You have to keep your expenses in control, stay in the driver’s seat, manage project’s performance, and juggle other business priorities.
The additional problem is that there are three common tactics worth considering: in-house, outsource, or hybrid teams. Reaching a sound decision here can lead you to a conundrum. After all, the answer to which way is the best is not cut and dried. It depends on so many moving parts specific to every business and the industry sector. So, how do you go about the decision-making process?
Well, proceeding step-by-step is the best shot you have to reach an educated decision. And the key challenge is to determine which factors should be taken into account and which given more weight than others.
Relying on internal staff is a default option for many organizations and for good reasons too.
An in-house team knows the ins and outs of your organization, including your values, policies, procedures, needs, and mission. Members are committed solely to the work you assign to them, and some of them may even have equity-stake in your business (which boosts motivation). Deep brand understanding, cultural immersion, and direct access to resources always work to your advantage.
Furthermore, management can exercise direct oversight and keep close tabs on the activities of the team at all times. It fully monitors project quality, a pace of progress, as well as marketing budget. There is usually enough time for them to consider various strategic aspects and guide teams and individuals towards set objectives. It is also not overly hard to adjust the approach on the go and roll in last-minute changes.
Alas, rest assured that in-house model is far from some no-brainer. In the age of dynamic digital work environments that transcend borders of space and time, one does not need to have staff in physical proximity and at all times. Not only that— this “convenient solution” comes with a fair share of drawbacks.
The main problem is that it tends to be rather expensive and cost-ineffective. Having qualified specialists on a payroll strains resources and hiring cheap is a risk in its own right. It is estimated that an in-house team of agency-level experts costs anywhere between $742,000 and $1,019,500. That is way beyond what most startups can afford. The team of generalists costs less, but not by such a large margin.
To make it worse, it is highly probable that periods, where some employees are short of work, will emerge. That is why some startups avoid hiring full-time teams to work on finite processes, such as app development, PPC, campaign content assets, and display advertising.
Another issue is the fact that it is by no means an easy task to find the right candidates to fill the digital marketing positions. They have to possess expertise, motivation, and skills, and also fit your culture. So, there needs to be robust hiring, screening, and interviewing processes in place, and that takes time to develop.
Along the similar lines, it is often necessary to go through an adjustment period and invest in training and education. These ongoing expenses enable team members to effectively tackle tasks without any setbacks. However, most startups are not able to cover them until they reach a stable point of operation.
Let us also not forget that sometimes, it is simply not possible to secure enough talent and there are no guarantees it will work at full productivity. Not to mention that the ultimate outcome of in-house hiring hinges on the presumption that management and business owner know what roles, responsibilities, and skills are needed to finish the project.
Generally, in-house makes the most sense when you have a limited budget, but enough expertise and knowledge to get the ball rolling on your own. It is also preferable to have some digital pros already working for you rather than having to build a team from scratch. Another prudent scenario for in-house approach involves lager organizations with enough money to keep in-house specialists (web design, app development, content writing, SEO, graphic design, etc.) working over a long haul.
- Full control over the process
- Teams have direct access
- They are familiar with the organization
- Business functions are aligned
- Possible cost savings
- Learning curve
- Skill gap
- Additional expenses
- Time investment
- Risk of hiring wrong team members/ not being able to hire them at all
Outsourcing is a business practice that is gaining traction across the globe. It is a go-to tactic for startups lacking internal capacity to plan and run digital strategies and campaigns.
Of course, to make the most of it, businesses are tempted to hire trusted organizations that are among the ranks of top digital marketing companies. This investment is likely to pay dividends in the long run because seasoned experts working for them are on top of best practices and marketing trends. They can carry out digital campaigns across multiple channels and evaluate their impact.
What is more, they are versed in tackling issues on the fly, implementing innovative tools/algorithms, and evaluating competitors, all while working under strict deadlines. They also have access to cutting-edge software and data resources, as well as partnerships with leading tech brands like Facebook and Google.
Teams KPI-focused and have creative, innovative, and quick-paced environments fostered. They bring quick results that exceed what most small and medium organizations can achieve on their own. Hence, startups that invest time in finding the right provider scale quickly and it could all turn into a long and fruitful business relationship.
Another chief advantage of outsourcing is related to time savings. Agencies have their internal systems for oversight, delivery of results, and quality control. You do neither have to deal with all that, nor worry about salaries, benefits, additional office space, and internal training. You are also spared the hassle of searching and recruiting in-house. This is to say you can focus on things you know best or deem important for the long-term success.
But, one big hurdle comes in the form of a steep price tag. The costs vary wildly, depending on the project type and scale, as well as types of services included. But, they are rarely pleasant for those operating on a limited budget. So, it is always a good idea to check the pricing scheme and determine what the most suitable one for your business is: monthly retainers, charge per project, per hour, or per word.
Monthly retainers can cost an organization from $1,000 to $100,000. I would say that enlisting an agency to provide high volume, end-to-end solution is not realistic for most startups. Even when the costs are closer to the lower end of the spectrum, it is not always possible to persuade executives to look beyond upfront costs. A Company on the road to fast growth and success find it easier to justify this investment.
Finally, we must underline that digital agencies are not created equal. We mentioned leading providers, but depending on location, one could struggle to find the right provider that meets specific expectations and business needs. One thing you do not want to do is hand over control over your marketing assets to just anyone, especially when sensitive materials or strict operational regulations are at play.
Thus, to avoid potential risks, keep your eyes open to organizations that champion transparency, provide constant feedback, and have high service ratings and portfolio studies. You want to steer away from those offering recycled and reused campaigns and those that are not flexible enough to address any issues you may notice after striking a deal.
Accept nothing less than a unique offer tailored-made for you. Agencies that work with many different clients at the same time might not be able to give you this.
At this point, you may be wondering in what situation should you go down this road?
Well, first-time startup owners are often pushed in the outsourcing direction, but it could melt the budget before they know it. Then again, this strategy may provide a quick and effective solution and pay off later many times over. In any regard, it is important to stick to agencies that have a positive track record of collaborating with startups like yours and loads industry-specific experience.
- An exceptional driver of business growth
- Top-notch, fast results
- Advanced platforms, tools, and software
- More time for you to dedicate to other priorities
- Limited control
- Finding the right agency can be challenging
- Dependant on reliable communication and understanding
The last variant to take into account is assembling a hybrid team. As the name suggests, it is a blend of hiring in-house and taking advantage of agency resources. That does not imply, however, that this solution is a mere sum of the pros and cons of previous two options. First of all, you have to invest time and effort to get the best of both worlds.
First and foremost, think long and deep about how these teams operate. After all, how you divide the tasks between plays a crucial role.
So, there is usually one team in control of training, support, and strategic planning. Its members are responsible for efforts critical to startup’s mission. The other one is composed of digital marketing experts that handle a variety of tasks in the field. There are other variants, such as outsourcing all production or only specialized tasks to an agency.
Some startup owners merely decide to hire key advisors and mentors to provide insights and support decision-making. Others recruit marketing experts of all sorts and let them do everything from managing social media profiles to creating highly-targeted ads. Other startups may want to outsource their content marketing.
Despite these varieties, there is a common thread here: all hybrid models free you from making that all-or-nothing choice between hiring in-house and outsourcing. Also, there is more brand control over marketing assets than with pure outsourcing. This means there is more flexibility when it comes to changing direction and introducing changes as well.
One other advantage is that you have a chance to organize the workflow in detail. For instance, it is possible to assign agency specialists to specific channels and clients that are of the utmost value to your business. At the same time, your team members can take on tasks they are capable of seeing through. They may also learn a lot from having agency experts around, people that employ the latest marketing technologies and tools.
In the dual nature of the team, though, lies one of the main problems. Namely, you have to act as a project manager for two separate teams, and you cannot do that unless you have extensive knowledge and experience. Either that or you have one person in charge of collaborating with agencies and keeping them on the same page regarding brand objectives.
Additional difficulty could arise for startups that operate in smaller business ecosystems, where top marketing talent is scarce. In this case, outsourcing may prove to be the only course of action. Organization’s major business hubs face no such problems, but they do have to go against competition hung up on hiring the same marketing experts.
Short of this scenario, hybrid teams are generally considered a cost-effective solution, one that many startups and SMEs exploit. Regardless, monitoring and managing costs for campaign ROI is essential. At last, it always helps to have a pool of experts at your side before undertaking this approach.
- Filling internal knowledge gaps
- Consultation and exchange
- You can combine the benefits of two previous tactics
- Demands a lot of attention on your part
- Cooperation and coordination issues
- Talent shortage
Explore All the Avenues
As you have seen, in the tumultuous world of digital marketing, there are no easy fixes or one-size-fits-all solutions. For better or worse, every startup is different and shaped by a unique set of circumstances. So, you might want to tread carefully. Making the wrong decision can quickly backfire and lay waste to your marketing efforts.
I would certainly refrain from ruling out the options prematurely. Instead, take your time deliberating— review all the possible angles and find your own brand voice first. Familiarize yourself with all the tasks that have to be completed. Factor in the budget, your business model, comfort level, strategic goals, and the amount of your own know-how.
If you chose to seek external help and outsource some or all activities, minimize the risk of hiring incompetent agencies/experts. Find trusted professionals that make up for the lack of your own skill or bandwidth and do not bring additional problems or unnecessary expenses to the table.
Following this meticulous thought process, you should be able to disseminate messages that are appropriate to your core values, target audience, and long-term goals. It is time to pierce through the noise out there with bespoke marketing and find your way to people’s hearts.
What tips do you have for digital marketing for startups? You can share them at @mmgtweets.
Natasha Lane is a web designer, lady of a keyboard and one hell of a tech geek. Natasha is always happy to collaborate with awesome blogs and share her knowledge about IT, digital marketing and technology trends. To see what she is up to next, check out her Twitter Dashboard.