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Marketing With the Pros

There's plenty of help available when it comes to marketing. The key is choosing the right kind to help grow your business.

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Outstanding entrepreneurs are often excellent do-it-yourselfers. They learn to be great at their core businesses while handling the thousand-and-one tasks that require attention on a daily basis. But the trick to real success is understanding what tasks to take on and when to call in the pros.

It's not always smart to do everything yourself. Unless you were a skilled tailor, you probably wouldn't try to sew your own shirts. You may be a great hair salon owner or roofing contractor, for example, yet be out of your depth when it comes to .

Marketing encompasses everything from and PR to 30 or more different specialties, including copywriting, art direction and media buying. The good news is that there's professional assistance available at every level. And once you've identified your and approximate budget, you can choose the right professionals to help you reach your goals.

Here are four types of marketing support you can tap to help build your business:

Marketing Communications Agency
A full-service marketing communications company will generally encompass advertising production and placement, PR, direct mail, design and often online marketing as well. This is the most costly type of marketing vendor, since agencies assign teams of professionals from a variety of disciplines to work on a single account. Each worker's time is billed by the hour, so it's not uncommon to have a team of five or more people working on an account at rates ranging from $75 to $250 per hour. If you have a marketing challenge that involves multiple tactics, an agency is a smart way to go because they will form a complete campaign for your approval, then place it in select media or through multiple marketing channels. Depending on the size of your geographic market, you'll need a minimum budget of about $100,000 to several million dollars to hire a marketing communications agency.

Copy and Design Team
If you have a modest budget, your best bet is to find at least two individuals who work as a team, such as a copywriter and art director. In most cities you can find highly experienced people who have struck out on their own after many years in agencies. You'll get to work with people with 10 to 30 years experience who can expertly and affordably execute your materials. Find professionals who have expertise in the areas you most need to pursue. For example, it requires a different set of experience and skills to create TV commercials than it does to create business-to-business collateral materials.

Media Buying Service or Broker
If you choose to hire a copy and design team to create your advertising, you'll need a skilled and experienced media buyer to make all but the simplest purchases. A media buying service will create a proposed media schedule, whether for print or broadcast, then negotiate for rates where appropriate, place your schedule and bill you. They'll take a commission, generally 15 percent, just as an advertising agency would on the media they purchase. If your budget is large enough, the media buying service may take a reduced commission. If you're using solely direct-mail lists to reach your target audience, consider hiring a list broker. These pros will search for the right lists to meet your needs, then negotiate for them on your behalf. And since brokers are compensated by the list vendors, you may pay no additional fees for the service.

Marketing Coach
One of the biggest challenges entrepreneurs face is choosing the right marketing strategies and tactics to win sales. It can be difficult to go directly to a copy and design team unless you know exactly what you want produced and the types of messages that will resonate best with your target audience. That's where a marketing coach comes in. After 17 years in the coaching business (and nearly 30 in marketing, including 10 in agencies) I strongly advise finding a coach who can look at the big picture, beginning with your marketing budget and goals, then work with you to create a one-of-a-kind marketing program you can manage with the daily operations of your business. Avoid coaches that work strictly within a single profession, as they're more likely to propose a cookie-cutter approach. Beware of long-term commitments, and look for a coach with expertise in using a variety of tactics to reach target audiences similar to yours.

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