Are you a small business owner? By “small,” I mean any start-up or company with annual revenues up to $50 million. How much time and money do you devote to marketing? Do you even have a formal, written marketing plan? If so, do the objectives of the marketing plan dovetail with the overall business plan? (More on that later.) If you don’t have a marketing plan, much less a marketing department, welcome to the club. You’re probably in the majority – and that’s not supposed to make you feel better. Ever consider outsourcing your marketing?

A company without a business plan is like a sail boat without a rudder, and a business plan that omits a marketing plan is like a rudder without a tiller. Your boat will maneuver with a rudder, but without the tiller, it will be all but impossible to steer toward your destination. In fact, it could just go in circles. So too, a company without a marketing plan.

Marketing, as most of us know, represents a business cost that is challenging, at best, for which to determine ROI (Return On Investment), and at worst, an expense many business owners would dearly love to eliminate if they could only figure out whether they can afford to! It sits there on the balance sheet, growing like a tumor by the week, and screaming for someone, anyone, to explain what it’s doing for the business. After all, sales generate revenue, not marketing, right? It’s easy to measure the contribution made to the bottom line by a salesperson. Advertising drives traffic, right? So, for most small businesses, the choice is simple – hire more salespeople and run more ads. Besides, you say, advertising is marketing, right? No, it’s not.

You’ve probably heard this before, but in simplest terms, advertising is tactical; marketing is strategic. Sales? Tactical. Customer Service? Tactical. Website? Tactical. Are you beginning to see a trend here? Strategy is the plan; tactical is the execution. Of course, you can execute without strategy, which is how countless small businesses operate (see: rudder & tiller). I equate that to setting out from your home in Maine to visit your uncle in San Diego — without directions, a map or a GPS system. You might get there eventually, but at what cost and after how long? More importantly, at what risk? Besides, who, in his or her right mind, would do such a thing (I mean, other than Bear Grylls, the Man vs. Wild guy.)?

“OK,” you say, “I get it, marketing is important, but is it necessary? And, no matter how you slice it, marketing is expensive. End of story.” “Besides,” you say, “I’m swamped trying to drag business through the door, make payroll and service the customers I’ve got.” That’s where outsourcing comes in! You can still have effective marketing, without carrying the overhead of infrastructure or leaving it to chance with an unqualified staff member who has other responsibilities. Simply outsource your marketing. I know, that still represents an expense, and perhaps worse, you’re giving up control because the people doing the work are not employees. At least that’s what many owners think. But if, for just a minute, we accept the premise that marketing is both necessary AND expensive to support in-house, then we can focus on the advantages of outsourcing your marketing.

When it comes to your products and services, loyalty, good Ideas, commitment and creativity are NOT the exclusive domain of you and your employees.

A good marketing services company will approach your business like it’s their own. They’ll listen to you, learn what’s important to you, determine your company’s value proposition, research your market and help you develop a brand platform that will communicate to the world who and what you are. They can help you build your marketing tool box — the tactical stuff — as part of a plan that fits your budget. Most importantly, the end result will be a map that helps you get where you want to go. They work for you; they just don’t have an office in your building. Like any other task or responsibility you delegate, outsourcing allows you, the business owner, to focus on other mission-critical areas like production, sales and customer care. And, if financially necessary, it can be done incrementally on a pay-as-you-go basis, something you cannot do with an in-house staff.