By David Smith
Not every tech consulting firm needs a marketing department. A disclaimer: Valens Point is a consultancy that provides marketing departments to tech consulting firms, so you wouldn’t expect to read that statement here. But hear me out.
Some firms can be successful due to their prior experience and reputation. They can generate leads from existing customers and stay engaged with accounts they already know. Some firms may not have the desire to grow into new areas or increase engagements.
But other firms, the ones that want to increase their size and customer base, expand into new areas and become leaders in their fields of expertise, do need a marketing department.
I’m not saying that because I’m biased, I’m assuming they need virtual marketing departments because “what got you here, won’t get you there.”
Virtual marketing departments have many different benefits, but I think there are eight primary reasons for moving your marketing to an external firm.
Like many firms, you may have started your firm with referrals, creating a robust initial growth period. The projects went well, your positive reputation rises, and life is pretty good. But, once you decide to grow beyond the plateau, to take your firm to a place you’ve never been before, you need to invest in marketing to get you “there.”
Here’s the summary of what usually happens next: You decide to do some “marketing.” You find a “marketing assistant,” and they go to work; developing content, getting busy on social media, coordinating your events. Months go by and not many changes. Your leads are about the same, project pipeline is still dangerously slack. You aren’t getting any results from your marketing investments. You decide to let that person go, or if they are good, focus them on something else, like event planning. Your marketing efforts are, once again, dialed back to zero.
Some firms will go through this scenario over and over. They lack the consistent execution that leads them to marketing results.
A marketing department’s focus is delivering results. Their existence depends on showing tangible and intangible progress.
When your firm cycles through the on-again, off-again reactions to marketing an unexpected thing happen. The marketing responsibility comes back to you – the business leader. You are expected to know how to get customers, right? You know what to do and think to yourself, “I used to do both marketing and projects, I can do it again.” But that confidence might be misplaced. You once were able to market your business and run your business successfully, but now there are too many moving parts, all requiring specialist, each needing your input for their actions. And your business is different than it was 4, 7 or 10 years ago. It’s probably just as demanding as before – but at a higher risk.
That’s a brutal situation and one that makes a lot of tech consulting firm leaders really hate marketing. Let’s be honest, at the end of the day; most firm owners just want marketing done.
You want to have confidence that there is a marketing plan in place that will lead to results and the work is getting done. You want assurance that the plans you have to gain new clients or enter new markets will yield results.
That is what a virtual marketing department delivers: confidence. That nagging feeling that you should be getting marketing done is wiped away by a virtual marketing department focus on your business.
Inventory the skill sets you need to achieve marketing success: strategy, management, reporting, branding, event planning, content development, social, email, marketing automation, public relations, lead generation, pay-per-click, SEO, reputation management, customer experience, budgeting, and execution.
This vast list is the reason the instinct to hire a “marketing person” usually fails. It is next to impossible to find someone that possesses all of the skills modern marketing requires. If you could find this incredibly talented person, chances are you couldn’t afford them.
To solve this problem, technology consulting firm leaders have followed the advice they give to their customers: Hire an expert. But you don’t want to inherit the management of all of these experts – so you need to hire the right type of experts. You need to hire a marketing department.
But many think an “expert” marketing department is financially out of reach too. But that’s not always the case. Though various sites calculate the cost difference in a variety of ways, it’s pretty is to do the math that points to substantial cost savings associated with an external marketing department. This infographic lays out a case where the cost savings could be as much as $78,000, based on their description of services and cost of hiring figures.
A virtual marketing department will contain marketing experts and the one element that makes the department successful: the marketing director. This is the person that takes the responsibility to organize your marketing needs into a strategy and plan and also manages the plan of execution. That saves you time and money.
Your marketing strategy should answer the question: Where are you going?
Virtual marketing departments are based on strategies and agreements, whereas internal marketing teams may be based on the same, they are also subject to the bright shiny object attention of their leaders.
The famous words of John Wanamaker, “Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is I don’t know which half,” indicate the absence of clarity.
Marketing departments are experienced in the development of marketing strategies. They know how to define a message, match personas, determine what’s needed and when. A clearly outlined strategy not only identifies what you’ll do and measure, but more importantly, that you will not do and will ignore.
Using the words of Mr. Churchill to describe modern marketing, “It’s a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma.” Yes, marketing has changed. But it has also stayed the same. It’s become both more fragmented and more unified. Simpler and more complex. Easier and harder at the same time. The complex world of digital marketing tools and techniques can be overwhelming.
In recent years, this complexity has revealed itself in the volume of marketing and sales technologies available in the market. According to the team at ChiefMarTec, there were 1000 entries in their Marketing Technologies Landscape in 2014. In 2018, they reported 7000 entries. And the number is growing.
Marketing departments and their staff shield your business from the complexity of modern-day marketing chaos. They have the burden of understanding and using the tools that are appropriate to your firm, not you or staff you hired.
As the leader of your firm, you have to have control of marketing. Right? Defining control and your involvement in the marketing organization and process directly relates to the existence of a plan and clearly defined goals and expectations.
You control marketing when your marketing goals and business goals are complementary and supportive; there is responsibility for execution, and ongoing reporting and measurement.
That type of control is different from control where you are making every decision and approving every social media post. You hire a virtual marketing department to demonstrate control in a way that grows your business not demands your valuable time.
Many people think a marketing department and a marketing or digital agency are synonymous. I am not one of those people. An agency, in my opinion, is usually built around one strong tactic that they lead with. For example, an agency with strong website development skill will naturally gravitate toward website development. The same applies to social media, pay per click, branding, and all the other types of marketing agencies. The agency is built around their expertise.
Marketing departments are built from the inside out and offer cohesion to their customers. Virtual departments mirror the types of marketing department the business would create if they could afford and manage. They are more aligned with the strength of various channels or audiences. Take, for example, a tech consulting firm that emphasizes referrals and events to gain marque new customers. Their marketing department must be equipped to accelerate the results of these channels while balancing the development of their digital marketing.
The ability to attract prospects and convert them to clients is perhaps the only real marketing metric consulting firm owners care about. Sure, they like the standard KPI’s that are thrown around, but they get excited when the mystery of client growth is solved.
Virtual marketing departments understand this is the critical measurement and they can stay extremely focused on achieving. Departments are experienced in a variety of lead generation and conversion techniques and can execute campaigns, monitor and adjust as necessary, and also support your sales team with the appropriate content and tools they need to convert prospects to customers.
Hiring a virtual marketing department isn’t the answer for every technology consulting firm, but it could be your key to gaining new customers and growing your business.
Interested in knowing if you need a marketing department?
Download this one-page assessment to reveal your marketing department need.
About Valens Point
We help early-stage tech companies accelerate growth by building brand credibility, establishing repeatable lead generation, and supporting sales and partner teams. The result — effective marketing up and running in a fraction of the time it would take to recruit, hire, and train an internal marketing team.