Most of the small business owners aspire to grow their organisations into a corporation someday. The surprising truth is that bigger is not always better, but always different. My co-founder and I spent half our careers working for corporations experiencing the international assignments and roles of department heads. The other part is running our startup and helping small business thrive. We’ve seen both worlds.
In this article, I will talk about what makes corporations bulletproof, what are the obvious advantages of the small business. We’ll continue with kinds of help a small business owner might need from a marketing agency to move to the next league. And finally, you will get tips on how to spot a right marketing services provider for your small business.
The big guys’ world
Breath out, not going to bore you with something you can see in Suits series. From the arsenal of corporations’ perks, here’s the list an entrepreneur would love to possess.
- Expertise in nearly every aspect. Big and successful corporations employ specialists in a wide variety of narrow fields. They have risk assessors, sales strategists, cybersecurity managers, business development analysts. The list is endless. Moreover, they are keeping track of all their previous actions, decisions, successes and mistakes. Whenever they find a pattern, they crystallise it. This brings to the following point.
- Procedures for any situation. This often discourages young employees and makes them feel like robots that need to follow orders. The upside of this is an excellent shield from mistakes. Like in the case law, most of those procedures are based on the precedent of failure. You can compare it with a tortoiseshell, which makes the animal slow but well-protected. In the end, evolution is about creating survival, not beauty.
- The scale. Significant scale allows utilising tools and techniques, which are not affordable for small organisations. For instance, a TV advertisement often provides the lowest cost per contact.
- Lots of cash. Financial stability opens possibilities to treat mistakes as learning opportunities. This is the right approach for everybody by the way. Corporations can afford to run a new campaign after spending a lot on the previous one, which wouldn’t work.
All the corporations that I worked for had entrepreneurship as a part of the corporate culture. And none of them was good at this. I’m piling some advantages that business owners should aim to keep in their DNA as they grow.
- Agility. The speed of decision-making is not something to underestimate. You don’t have to have 3 level of management to approve. You don’t submit a request for legal assessment which queues in a line of other hundred requests. You don’t have the comments from colleagues who aim to be seen and try to make you sink (sorry, that’s a bit of Suits’ plot, a true story still).
- Relentlessness. When your results are at stake, you do whatever it takes to achieve. Sometimes, it’s an extra mile, sometimes an extra marathon. Most probably, you’re hiring like-minded people to your startup, who are inspired by your ideas. That type of culture is very much declared by corporations and very rarely is true when you look from the inside.
- Ambiguity. This is something that makes the life of a startuper interesting and full of surprises. This is fun, and this is something startup-minded people seek. This also means that it will be very harsh to stick to the plan, as news will be coming from everywhere, all requiring your undivided attention.
The last point brings us to a conclusion that small business is very dependent on its suppliers. When the times get tough, you need to be able to delegate. You will also need an alternative point of view, a bullshit filter if you wish. This supplier should be a great executer, a consultant and a business partner.
Top skills of a small business marketing agency.
I will be covering the points that will be helpful especially for the small business owner. I will skip the general topics like overall marketing expertise, knowledge of consumer trends, etc. There are a few questions that will help you to figure out if your potential marketing supplier is capable of the topic.
Growth facilitation. As the small business grows and increases scale, a lot of operational work changes. The company during the first six months and the same company one year after are different organisations. In the beginning, you should be doing things that don’t scale for the sake of testing market opportunity. Later on, you should be focusing on optimising your operations and in some cases seeking investments to scale up. Similar processes will occur in the marketing sphere of the business. It goes from running MVP-type of experiments to settling down with automation, chatbots, etc.
The right marketing partner should be able to support you during the transformation. In some cases, they may even guide you if they have enough experience. As you will see in the next points, this may even go beyond the expected marketing scope.
What to ask before you start?
- How they see the difference in working with 2-people startup and scaling company?
- Their background with scaling facilitations. Don’t mix up with growth hacking.
Non-marketing expertise. Marketing partnership implies a more or less long-term relationship. The bigger your business becomes, the more sporadic questions from different disciplines arise. Selection of CRM system, recruitment interview questionnaire, choice of tablet PC for your sales team. And many other diverse subjects will be bombarding you. You cannot become an expert in all fields, and you cannot be looking for different contractors for each discipline. It will be useful if your marketing supplier can give you a hand when you’re stuck.
What to ask before you start?
- Is the agency willing to support with tasks outside their general expertise?
- What kind of extra services are they ready to provide?
Strategy consultancy. For many reasons, startupers benefit from working with full scope agencies. That implies getting your ideas challenged, always having the alternative point of view and shared responsibility for the outcomes of marketing activities. If you’re not looking for a blind executer, you need to be sharing strategic information with your marketing partner. The good thing is that it will become a 2-way sharing.
The benefits of asking for a marketing strategy from an experienced agency are obvious. They may help you structure your thinking, generate new ideas. Eventually, they will be much more committed during the execution stage.
What to ask before you start?
- What are their strategic capabilities and prior experience?
- What kind of inputs would they need to compile a marketing strategy? If they take it seriously, they will ask for a ton of data on your previous actions, your market and consumer knowledge.
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