Print providers face the dilemma of marketing their services with in-house resources or hiring a marketing firm. It’s a reasonable predicament. Print service providers (PSP’s) offer many services that execute on strategies marketing agencies recommend. These include graphic design, print, and direct mail submission. PSPs are experts in those parts of a marketing program. Would it be much of a stretch to write the marketing plan and manage the digital components? How much time could website design and maintenance, SEO, and social media take?
It boils down to one simple question: “How much of my company’s marketing should I do myself?”
Current State and Desired Outcome
The first step in deciding which direction to take in assessing your current marketing efforts and determining where you want to go. For this, bring in an outside agency for a paid assessment. A set of ears and eyes from outside will inspire new ideas. You will learn what you are doing right and where you should improve.
Prior to meeting with an agency, do some homework. What are your competitors doing? Dissect their websites and notice what you like and don’t like. Ask your clients what media prompts them to make business purchases. Lastly, be introspective. Pick a couple companies and observe how you respond to their marketing. Choose organizations outside the print sphere. Fresh, compelling ideas are the order of the day.
A marketing plan should pivot around your website. It is usually a prospect’s first experience with your company. Your website must be professional and visually pleasing, but more importantly, it must be found. It’s better to have an easily found basic website than a flashy site that languishes in obscurity. A well-constructed website with good search engine optimization (SEO) and mobile responsiveness ranks higher on search engines.
Be cautious about “canned” DIY website template tools. They can produce professional-appearing results, but the drag-and-drop structure that makes them easy to build is bad for SEO. They can negatively affect your organic search results.
Search Engine Optimization
SEO is something you can do in-house, but consider hiring a professional. Agencies use SEO specialists who spend their day moving your print service company higher in organic listings. They will suggest many ways to increase your rankings with marketing activities like strategic blogging.
SEO is not a set-it-and-forget-it proposition. As your competitors see you creeping up in the rankings, their SEO folks tweak their strategies. Then your team responds, and so on.
Social media is an easy way to engage and communicate with customers. It’s a process you can do yourself if you know how to tag someone on Twitter and Facebook, but do you have the time to keep the posts current? If yes, DIY; if no, assign to an agency.
Companies that blog have 97% more inbound links than those that don’t, which means more search engine traffic. Blog articles should solve problems or provide fresh insights on relevant topics. Small businesses cite lack of time and scarcity of ideas as reasons they do not blog regularly. A well-crafted article takes time to write, and consistency is the key. You might consider outsourcing some blog content to an outside agency.
Print and Direct Mail
As a PSP, you have powerful marketing tools at your disposal. Print and mail is what you sell, and what you know. With a direct mail campaign, prospects see how good you are at what you do. They can hold a sample in their hands.
Any marketing firm you choose should understand how to connect print and direct mail to digital technologies. QR codes, augmented reality, near-field communications and the Postal Service’s Informed Delivery program connect a printed piece to a web page.
People and Technology Costs
What is the cost of a full-time employee (FTE) whose singular focus is marketing, including all aspects of campaign creation, website maintenance, SEO and more? Compare the total burden of FTE’s to the yearly fee of an agency. Don’t forget to include yearly fees for your marketing team’s software tools in your DIY estimate. It is a cost with no end. With an agency, software maintenance is part of the fee.
The Tipping Point
You should you hire an agency to handle some or all of your marketing program if you lack some necessary skills or you don’t have the time, and you’ve decided it’s not worthwhile to recruit and hire an in-house expert. When your marketing project is an appropriate creative or technological challenge to take on yourself, go with the DIY approach. But when a greater level of experience, tools, and training are better suited for the results you need, outsource this work.