by Tony Fannin, president, BE Branded
There are many books, blogs, and speakers out today spreading the gospel that a business doesn’t need advertising, advertising agencies, or even PR firms. “You can do it yourself.” they exclaim. Because of social media, blogging, and the dozens of networking groups available, you can be your own marketing machine and do it just as well as the “professionals” and all for cheap or free. These self-help gurus say all you have to do is buy my book, audio CD, and sign up for my weekly newsletters (for a small fee of course) and you too can be as brilliant of a marketer as Crispin Porter Bogusky, BBDO, or Weiden & Kennedy.
In a sense they are right. For start-ups and beginning entrepreneurs, you do have to do it yourself. Lack of funds and every other key resource forces them to be resourceful and become instant marketers out of necessity. So yes, DIY marketing is probably essential for most budding entrepreneurs. But as your business grows, so will your need for real expertise. Not only in marketing, but in other areas such as accounting, legal, and HR. These DIY gurus claim that the internet has changed the rules. They are right, but only to a certain point. Once a business gets past the start-up phase, they will be facing stiff competition from the medium companies to the market leaders in their category. At that level, they play for keeps. Keeping their market share and grabbing as much of yours as possible. Now some individuals do have a natural talent for marketing and will develop that as their business grows. Most, however, do not have that unique talent.
Where I find the “hole” in the DIY preachers is that they don’t take into account as a young company gains traction and starts competing against larger competitors, who are good at all facets of the game. The market leaders are experts at the game. How do you think they became market leaders? These companies employ the best minds possible regardless if they are within the company or not. That’s why they hire agencies who understands their market, are experts at integrated marketing, and have teams of talent at their disposal. This is where the DIY marketer starts running into stiffer competition and will realize they are great at making the widget, but not great at other functions of the business, such as marketing, accounting, HR, etc.
If Coke, McDonald’s, and WalMart don’t believe themselves to have superior talent in house to do their marketing, then that should be a clue to the up and comers. To those who do their own marketing (Target), if you look closely, they’ve set up an in-house advertising agency that is no different than the ones they could hire. In reality, they still don’t do it themselves. They just happen to own the advertising agency they work with.
Now the DIY gurus say because of all of the information on the web, individuals can search and find all kinds of information on how to market (like this blog site, for example). It is true, that one can find a lot of great information about how to be a marketing genius, but it still comes down to talent. Just because you can research the subject doesn’t mean you’re going to be great at it. To me, if you can’t be great at it, why are you doing it? Isn’t this the same philosophy most use as a reason to open their own business? They believe they can do better than what’s out in the marketplace now. Just because you research how to keep your own books doesn’t mean you should. Again, the higher the competition, the more they will have experts on their team filling key positions. Not just a part-timer or an entrepreneur who has never kept corporate books before. Again, small companies can perform the basics, but as they grow their needs grow more complex and their competition more formidable.
It all comes down to this. If a company wants to stay small, you can stick with a DIY marketing strategy. But, if a company has larger aspirations, they will be competing against the best in the world and must raise every facet of their game to match that level. Including integrated marketing.