Q: I am looking to hire someone for my business to help me get the word out and eventually bring in more sales. I'm not sure if I need a PR person, a PR agency, a publicist, a sales rep, a business agent, a booking agent or a marketing manager. How can I select the right professional to meet my business's needs?
A: If PR or sales is not one of your core competencies, then you are to be congratulated for outsourcing-for finding an expert to do what he or she does best so you can continue to do what you do best.
The ideal situation for any business is to have a sales representative acting on your behalf to sell your business's products and/or services. The con is that you bear the full cost of this person's salary and benefits along with the time it takes to manage him or her. The pros are that, typically, the right person will be a dedicated employee who is passionate about growing your company, bringing in sales and sharing in rewards and profits.
If only it were this easy. If you knew a salesperson could bring in $20,000 worth of business for every $10,000 of salary he or she was paid, hiring a salesperson would be a no-brainer. In reality, the biggest challenge is educating or finding someone that knows as much about your industry, product, service or business as you do. Typically, this requires a long startup curve that's often not worthy of the investment. Evaluating all these factors will help you determine if a salesperson is the right move to bring in more business for you.
If you are strictly trying to get the word out about your company, then using the outsourced services of a publicist or PR agency is probably for you. A publicist will make calls, arrange appearances, follow up with media, solicit press and so on. Their efforts will allow you to go face-to-face or phone-to-phone with prospective clients. When they focus on the details, you're free to do what you do best.
A PR agency typically does all a publicist would do, but spends much more time developing your PR strategy, defining target markets and ways to communicate to them via the press, developing a media kit to get more PR placement, and making the contacts. Remember: Whether you go with a publicist or a PR agency, their job is to get the word out about you. Yet you still have to hope that someone picks up the phone as a result of their efforts to make a call to you. At this point, closing the sale is still left up to your selling process. Hiring a publicist or a PR agency does not guarantee an increase in sales. Neither does hiring a salesperson, but the probability of increased sales does go up when you hire one. This decision, of course, has to be weighed against the cost and training time involved.
A marketing manager will coordinate all your marketing in addition to the PR and spend time planning your business's communications. The result will be a big-picture business planning approach for growing your business. Again, getting someone up-to-speed or knowledgeable about your industry must be evaluated.
A booking agent concentrates primarily on booking event-related appointments, such as public events, conferences or seminars. If this appeals to your target market and has a good probability of being converted into business, you must give strong consideration to this method of gaining new business.
As you can see, there are a variety of methods to gaining new business and growing your company. Evaluating your overall strategy-as well as resources such as time, training, salaries and benefits-will help you determine your best course of action.
Al Lautenslager is the president and owner of The Ink Well, a commercial printing and mailing company in Wheaton, Illinois, and the principal of Market For Profits, a Naperville, Illinois-based marketing consulting and coaching firm. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or through his Web site, Market for Profits".
The opinions expressed in this column are those of the author, not of Entrepreneur.com. All answers are intended to be general in nature, without regard to specific geographical areas or circumstances, and should only be relied upon after consulting an appropriate expert, such as an attorney or accountant.
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.