Most companies, even small businesses, recognize how important marketing—especially internet marketing—is, not only for the bottom line but perhaps even the survival of the company. But as expenses mount, particularly during the startup phase, it can be tempting to see marketing services as just another expense. And that’s when you may be tempted to declare, “I just can’t afford you.” So what should you do?

Examine Your Mindset

The biggest hurdle when incorporating marketing services into your budget is overcoming the idea that marketing is an “expense.” Yes, you do have to spend money, but like training, staff, tradeshows, and more, marketing isn’t just the “cost of doing business” but an investment in your future. It’s also not something you should wait to do once you’ve got a revenue stream, because in today’s crowded marketplace where just about anyone can put up a website and compete with you, you might not get a second chance at getting your message out there. Marketing your brand spankin’ new business needs to be a priority, not an afterthought.

Would your business consider electricity, phone service, internet, and business association memberships optional? Marketing is just as critical as a utility or networking relationship. You may have to exercise caution in your expenses, but that doesn’t mean it’s an add-on for later down the road when it “works” for you.

Choose Your Services

Agency relationships don’t have to be all-or-nothing. You may have some interest or capacity for doing certain marketing tasks in-house. But just because it’s not in the budget to hire an agency for a full-service package doesn’t mean you can’t have access to their knowledge, expertise, and coaching. From consulting to a la carte solutions, an agency relationship can elevate your results by filling in the gaps in your team’s experience. Don’t let an all-or-nothing perspective result in you doing just that… nothing.

Count the Cost

Many times, when hiring an agency is viewed as a big expense it’s because it’s not being compared properly to the alternatives. If you don’t hire you agency to market your business,

  • You could fail due to not being able to promote yourself competitively.
  • You could be responsible for all your promotion and burn out.
  • You could take on an intern who ultimately doesn’t have the knowledge or experience to get you results. You’ve invested time and money into their development with few business results.
  • You could hire an entry-level staffperson who lacks experience, may not make good choices on social media, and who will need to be replaced as they quickly move on to a new job further up the ladder. You’ve invested time and money into their development with few business results, and will rinse-and-repeat the process with frequent staff churn.
  • You could hire a qualified marketing manager at market-value salary and benefits, putting your business in a tight spot when it’s not ready for the human resource cost.

The alternative is that for about the cost of that entry-level staffer (before the cost of churn kicks in), you could have an experienced agency that will be with you for the long haul. When you can have the pros without the overhead, wouldn’t that be a wiser investment?

We get it—building, growing, and maintaining a business is a delicate balance, and sometimes tough financial decisions need to be made. But marketing is an area that must always get some consideration, whether it is to bolster your efforts with a little outside help, or go ahead and contract with an experienced agency to avoid the pitfalls of trying to drop the task on the shoulders of an inexperienced entry-level employee. Marketing is an investment in your future, not an expense.