Two of the most common things I hear from prospects are: A.) I get most of my business from referrals, and B.) I want to hire help with my marketing, but I’m waiting for just one more big job to come in.

I swear. I hear this from so many designers across the country, I thought I should just write this post and address the issue for all of you.

So, we all know that repeat and referral business is the best business to have. No question there. These prospects are familiar with your work, they are less expensive to attract and, as long as the previous client fit into the “ideal” client category, you’re likely to have an easy sell and successful and fun project.

However, waiting around for referrals is not a marketing strategy. If you actively pursue referrals by systematically and directly asking for them or having a referral program, that is a referral strategy. And that referral strategy is an important part of a well-rounded marketing strategy which is crucial if you plan to grow your business or want to evolve it in the sense of doing fewer projects at a higher dollar value.

If you’re happy with where your business is currently, if you have no plans to grow or evolve it, if you don’t want to decrease your working hours while still bringing in the same amount of revenue or even more, then this post is not for you. But if you do want to grow, evolve or improve your business in other ways, and you are one of those in the “B” category of planning to “hire help when …,” keep reading. This is important.

The Only Way to Grow Your Business is Through Marketing

The way to evolve your business is to get crystal clear on who your ideal client is, where and how to reach her, what message will resonate with her and by creating a systematic strategy to do just that. And then, of course, implementation of that strategy.

No new prospects are going to call you up and hire you unless they know who you are, what you do and they feel a certain level of trust in you. They want to know how you are different from your competition and how your services will benefit them. A well-designed and executed marketing strategy will deliver this information and drive qualified leads that you can turn into projects.

Now, about the whole, “I will hire a marketing agency when …” It is important, of course, to be prudent with your finances. But it is equally important to view your marketing efforts as an investment in your business and not just a simple expense. You need to understand what is involved in a fully developed marketing plan, so you appreciate the value of hiring help. Here is a just a short list of marketing tactics you might need to employ (and keep in mind, this is not a complete list):

  • Traditional advertising
  • Digital marketing
  • Social media marketing
  • Email campaigns
  • Email newsletters
  • Print newsletters
  • Content marketing
  • Marketing automation
  • Online advertising
  • Sponsorship
  • Public relations
  • Referral marketing

Unless you plan to do it all yourself, to accomplish the implementation of a well-developed strategy, you will need (again, not a complete list):

  • Marketing manager
  • Graphic designer
  • Web designer
  • Website developer
  • Social media specialist
  • Email marketing specialist
  • Public relations specialist
  • Content strategist
  • Content development specialist
  • Marketing automation specialist
  • PPC and social media advertising specialist
  • Printer

Not to mention the marketing strategist who will do the market research, persona development, development strategy, create the plan for implementation, analyze results and adjust strategy as necessary.

All that being said, it is possible for you to plan and manage all of this on your own. But is it the most effective use of your time? Are you efficient at all of these tasks? Do you enjoy managing freelancers for the outsourced tasks? Is this in your genius zone?

OK, I Don’t Want to Do It All. Now What?

Once you’ve determined that you do, in fact, want to grow or evolve your business, and you’ve determined you don’t want to or can’t do it all, do you hire someone or contract with an agency? It’s a big decision and one that can either be a brilliant move or a huge headache.

To look at this simply from a financial perspective, Hubspot, maker of a leading inbound marketing and sales platform, created this great graphic that outlines what you might plan to spend on an employee versus an agency. Of course, this is based on averages, but it gives you a starting point.

Even hiring a marketing manager comes with certain risks. What does he or she know about the interior design industry? Another option is to hire an assistant who can help with posting on your social channels and creating blog posts. But finding someone with writing skills and the understanding of marketing strategy to produce and leverage content in an effective way? It’s either going to cost a decent amount of money or you’ll get a less expensive body who is not effective in anything other than completing tasks.

How You Benefit From an Agency

There are myriad benefits of working with an agency as opposed to hiring staff. The obvious, of course, is not having the higher expense, burden associated with an employee, time invested in hiring and training and the list goes on.

When you engage an agency, you get all the expertise mentioned above through one source — strategy, design, content creation, PR, etc. Generally, you work with one project manager or a small team, and you don’t have to manage them.

And when you work with an agency that specializes in only the home and design industry, you are certain to get not only tried-and-true marketing best practices, but also ones that take into account your specialized needs. Would you hire a person or an agency with experience marketing $13 widgets or one that only deals with marketing for multi-thousand-dollar luxury services?

Instead of telling yourself, “I will hire help when …,” ask yourself, “How much opportunity for growth and revenue am I losing if I don’t act now?”

I can help! Contact me today — I make marketing manageable!