Why are so many marketing agencies and marketing service providers so reluctant to offer any marketing training?
There are several reasons why social media managers, marketing consultants, bloggers, SEO experts and content marketers are hesitant when it comes to revealing how they do their jobs. Competition is fierce in these areas and, especially for those who are self-employed, we don’t want to give clients the tools they need to manage their own marketing. Or do we?
I’m not convinced. In fact, marketing training is something I include as standard in everything I offer, whether that’s an hour of screen-sharing on Zoom or in-person marketing training.
Consult - Create - Share
I offer many ongoing copywriting services, including blog writing and producing SEO copy for digital agencies. However, I also work on a project basis, often with small or newly formed businesses. Whether it be designing a new website or devising and implementing a content strategy, the process for me is always the same - Consult - Create - Share.
All parts are equally important. Everybody consults, and everybody creates. Yet most marketing agencies and freelancers ‘deliver’, whereas I opt to ‘share’.
I believe marketing is never a completely outsourced part of any business. Or at least it shouldn’t be. Marketing strategy is so woven into the fabric of a company, so essential to its success. If you don’t know how your customers are finding you, what they like (and don’t like) about your brand, what you need to do to keep customers engaged and why you have chosen certain marketing channels then you don’t really know your business and that makes it vulnerable.
Don’t get me wrong - I’m all for outsourcing to the experts. Yet, calling in a specialist to manage something is very different to having someone take something completely off your hands. Whilst large businesses may be able to do this, small businesses need a leader driving their vision for the brand forward and ensuring that everything is moving together in harmony. This is why I believe in ‘sharing’ with my small business clients - sharing what I do, how I do it, why I do it and even teaching them how to do it.
Why would I choose to share the skills that pay my bills? To answer this let’s look at the ‘why-nots’. The myths and reasons why freelancers and agencies don’t include marketing training as standard.
Marketing Training Myths
Training Means Small Businesses Won’t Pay For Marketing
We’re not the magic circle. Just because you know how it’s done doesn’t mean you can do it. Explaining to clients how you do something does not necessarily simplify it. Neither does it make it possible for somebody else to do it to a professional level. What it usually does is help your client understand the process. Generally, this makes the work more valuable.
Let’s put it this way - most people drive but, amongst those who do, there are different levels of understanding as to how a car works. What goes on beneath the hood is not entirely necessary but having a basic understanding of the mechanics can help a person feel more secure in their vehicle. Having this knowledge does not mean when the vehicle breaks down or even needs servicing, you do it yourself. You still take it to the expert. Only, those who don’t know anything about the mechanics of a car will usually feel a little less trusting. They’ll always wonder if they’re overpaying and they’ll also wonder if extra services and upgrades are really necessary.
Sharing what you do and how won’t necessarily allow your clients to take over. Instead, you’ll mostly find it empowers them to work more effectively with you and even value your time and skills that bit more.
Training Devalues The Service
Sometimes I think what I do is easy. That’s not to say it isn’t challenging. Or that I don’t have to focus and push myself. However, it also comes naturally, usually. I think most people feel this way about their profession, that’s how we usually choose or find our way to our careers.
Training business owners in marketing, in my experience, only highlights just how much is involved. In fact, it’s usually during training sessions that I realise how much knowledge I have acquired through my career.
This isn’t to say that business owners can’t be taught how to manage their own marketing. Whether that’s their website, social media, blogging content or advertising. Yet, most will choose not to take it all themselves if that’s financially viable. Still, having an understanding of what is needed, how it works and what the processes make business owners far more confident to manage their marketing, even if that means outsourcing it. For instance, some basic training in the various ways a business can be promoted may help a business owner decide whether they wish to invest in PPC or more in Facebook advertising. It may help them decide whether they should spend time writing blogs or ramp up their PR efforts. therefore, it does not devalue marketing but emphasises its value.
In truth, a business owner who has some knowledge of marketing is more likely to invest in marketing. They are less likely to direct their profits into marketing pursuits that won’t reap rewards and may even be better equipped to analyse the ROI of their marketing efforts.
Small Businesses Can’t Manage Thier Own Marketing Anyway
Small businesses can manage their marketing and, at times, they may have to. I’ve had plenty of clients who I’ve worked with in the early initial stages who have had to take over the marketing reigns because they are managing small budgets. However, those who survive the next year or even two and begin to grow and achieve profit enough to invest will usually go back to outsourcing their marketing.
The question is when they do will they go for a big unknown marketing agency or one recommended by someone else, or will they remember the person or company who set them up for success before? Maybe with a website or marketing strategy, but most importantly, with that training that enabled them to run their own marketing themselves in the pre-profit stages.
If you teach someone to manage their own marketing it doesn’t mean they’ll do it as well as you. I believe the quality of my services is as much a result of my instincts and natural talents as all that I’ve earnt along the way. Therefore, what you can teach is limited. If everyone could master something only by being taught then I’d have been a ballerina.
Training Is Bad For My Businesses
If it’s good for their business, then it’s good for you too. We all move upwards together and when we struggle, we struggle together. So empowering others is not an entirely selfless act.
When funds are tight and smaller enterprises or growing enterprises do not have money to invest in expanding then one of two things happens. Either they go under because lack of resources stalls growth OR for a while business owners have to drive the business forward independently. When this doesn’t work it’s heartbreaking and it’s why we talk so much about putting blood, sweat and tears into building a business. Yet, when they are armed with the right knowledge and support they can often get over those humps and grow into profitable businesses that can then outsource those parts of the business they’ve struggled to run. Believe me, a few months, or even years, of doing something you don’t enjoy or that you struggle to do means you will be very glad to pass it back to somebody else.
How Much Should Small Businesses Know About Marketing?
If you’re running your own marketing then you’ll need to know a fair amount about it. If you have in-house marketing or are outsourcing elements of your marketing then you won’t need to know too much detail but should have a broad understanding and you should have a strategy.
For business owners who would like to learn more about marketing, I would suggest starting with the essentials. Here are a few things I believe every SME owner should know about marketing:
Website - You should be able to edit your own website. I firmly believe this. With the fast pace of business these days, you need to be able to make small changes quickly. That does not mean you’ll be able to redesign your website as this should be left to a professional if possible. However, you should be able, for instance, to know how to add and remove products yourself so that you can follow through on decisions you’ve made for your business by communicating those through your website. It can be very stressful for business owners who realise there is something wrong with their website and are suddenly in need of a developer to fix it at short notice. This can be very time-consuming and potentially costly too.
For every website I build, I offer one hour of free training to take the business owner through their website and teach them how to update anything they might need to. Some then manage their own websites completely going forward, others ask me to update their website instead and most do a combination of both, reserving their budgets for the bigger changes they need a professional for.
Marketing strategy - Whilst I highly advise working with a professional marketing agency or consultant on a marketing strategy, it needs to be done so in collaboration with the business owner. Strategy takes into account the history of a business, its goals, the target market and it can uncover potential opportunities. An outsider cannot do this alone. Furthermore, once completed, it will be for the business owner to action this, even if that means tasking others within or outside of the business to do so. That being, the business owner needs to have a full understanding of, and confidence in the marketing strategy. Able to refer back to it and keep checking that even small decisions align with the wider plan.
Content - Any marketing content going out should be checked by someone within the business who is aware of the marketing strategy. Many people outsource marketing communications, be that social media, blogging or PR because they understand how important it is to get right. Whilst it does not need to be written by the business owner, they should be aware of the job it is doing and the impact it is supposed to be achieving. Business owners should have a clear plan regarding how they want their company talked about in the public space and control what is being put out, even if they are not producing it internally. This cannot necessarily be achieved through one training session but is more commonly done through regular meetings and conversations. Consultants and writers can then explain how they believe certain content will help drive the business forward and why they have made certain decisions. All too often, content marketers begin working closely with a business and then, once trust has been gained, are given free rein. Whilst I support this as being a good sign of an effective working relationship, from a business owner’s perspective, it’s essential to ensure that the agency or writer is still considering the goals of a business and how their content is helping the company achieve these. Whilst this might occasionally mean having to justify decisions over content, generally, it can mean a more robust and focused content plan is implemented. One that has a clear direction and is being carefully steered.
Marketing Training For Your Business
If you’re a business looking for marketing training I wouldn’t advise getting it from YouTube or even a book. The marketing world is fast-moving and no one strategy works for all businesses. Therefore, I’d seek bespoke training that centres your business. This means you’ll learn what you need to know and not waste time on aspects that are irrelevant to your company. It also means you’re more likely to have ideas along the way and be able to put together a marketing plan tailored to your business.
Many professional marketers offer small business marketing training. Or else you might choose to request training from an agency you use or from a freelancer. Whilst some may not offer this, many are happy to take you through what they do and how. In fact, those like myself won’t be able to stop once you get us started.
Training needn’t be formal but should be more like two colleagues working together. There should be no silly questions and when something is explained don’t forget that there is often more to be learnt in the ‘why’ of something than the ‘how’. For instance, you may be taught to add images to your LinkedIn posts but if you ask why it is important, you’ll learn about how posts with images are shown more often in feeds than those without. The why is important to children as they learn because it helps them gain a deeper understanding of how the world works, rather than just learning in order to complete a task not knowing the purpose of it. This doesn't stop becoming important as we grow up and end up running companies. It means that if you ever do hire someone to manage your marketing you’ll know what to ask them and be in a far better position to assess whether they are the right person to drive your business forward.