You already know this, but let me say it anyway: There aren't enough hours in the day for you to effectively do all the things that need to be done in your entrepreneurial business. Your many hats include accounting, operations, technology, IT, HR, sales and, of course, marketing. And marketing is one area where building a team, using internal and external resources and delegating tasks, can really pay off.
Even though you may not have a marketing person on staff, you may have employees whose skills you can tap. In fact, most of your employees can probably do something to help out. But before involving your whole team in your marketing efforts, you need to figure out what exactly can be done in-house and what should be left to the professionals.
When deciding what can be done in house vs. what should be outsourced to a marketing professional or agency, the three most important factors are workload and experience/expertise. Entrepreneurial staffs tend to run lean, so you must first evaluate your employees' workload to see if they can handle additional responsibilities. You don't want an employee working on a direct-mail campaign in lieu of getting the billing statements out on time.
Second, look at your current employees' past experience. If you have an employee who's handled media relations or had a job in journalism, for instance, you might want to have this person start building relationships with the media. Then, as you identify more target markets and niches, you may want to hire a professional with more expertise to launch more wide-ranging targeting efforts.
It's important to point out that if you plan right and concentrate on delegating just a few marketing tasks each day, much of your marketing can be done in-house. Because marketing's made up of many elements, all working together, spreading your marketing tasks throughout the company is a smart way to get the job done.
If you'd like to get started using your available resources, take a look at these suggestions for some easy ways to include different staff members in your marketing efforts:
Often, customers' first contact with your business is your receptionist, so you should pay close attention to the way your customers are greeted. Do you have guidelines for answering the phone, and are they marketing oriented? I guarantee the more successful companies do more than say hello and identify the company name before transferring a call. Here are some ways your receptionist can help you stand out:
- Create a new, nonstandard phone answering script featuring the product of the month.
- Hand out product information, catalogs or order information to all guests.
- Use idle time to handwrite thank-you notes from the company to key customers and prospects.
Accounting Department Employees
You may not look at your accounting department as a member of your marketing team, but personalized customer invoices can make a big impact on your company's image. Here are a few other ways your accounting staff can get involved with marketing:
- Stuff fliers into outgoing invoices.
- Handwrite a note on billing statements.
- Offer an accounting hotline to customers.
- Join in on customer tours and in sales rallies.
Some companies anticipate--and eliminate--any loss in translation that might come through a salesperson or customer-service person by having functional staff people talk directly to customers. For instance, I know of a printing company that has their graphic designers speak directly with customers about artwork and graphics. These designers are proud to be part of the marketing process, especially when they're so effective at improving the customer experience.
Production or Service Delivery Personnel
Don't discount the people that do the physical production or delivery of your product-they know it well and can help you reach customers directly. Some ways they can make an impact on your image:
- Enclose a reminder to reorder in your packaging.
- Have them participate in brainstorming meetings about packaging and bundling ideas.
- Show the production department on customer tours.
- Feature their employee profiles in your company newsletter.
- Include a notice in all packaging that states, "Produced and Packed with Pride," with the employee's signature.
Tips for All Employees
- Have employees research the competition or research and compile customer databases. This works especially well with employees who are heavily involved with computers and like to surf the internet.
- Tap into employees that have computer graphics skills that might not be used on the job when you need a logo or creative concepts developed for marketing and advertising. You might be surprised at how passionate an employee will be about a project of this type.
- Issue press releases about other activities employees are involved in, such as their volunteer efforts in the community.
- Include employees in brainstorming sessions regarding marketing creative, special-offer planning, customer communication planning, event planning and so on. It doesn't take a marketing pro to come up with a great idea.
- Have employees deliver things to customers during idle times. This can include actual product delivery, quote delivery, a thank-you gesture of a box of bagels or lunch brought in and so on.
The marketing efforts you can have all your staff do are only limited by your imagination. The bottom line is, getting everyone to participate in your marketing will go a long way within your organization and with your customers to improve your business image and bottom line--and successes will be shared by all involved.
Al Lautenslager is an award-winning marketing and PR consultant and direct-mail promotion specialist. He's also the principle of Market For Profits, a Chicago-based marketing consulting firm. His two latest books, Guerrilla Marketing in 30 Days and The Ultimate Guide to Direct Marketing are available at www.entrepreneurpress.com.