How to Get Marketing Help When You Need It

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Does your small business have marketing and branding needs, but not enough money to hire an agency

or a consultant? Don’t fret, there are still many options open to you to ensure that you’re getting what

you need to start or grow your business.

 

Here are just a few no-cost and low-cost resources from my new book, Beyond Your Logo: 7 Brand Ideas

That Matter Most for Small Business Success.

 

Learn What You Can

 

Learn as much as you can about marketing and branding on your own. Even once the business can

afford internal or outsourced specialists, some basic knowledge is highly valuable for small business

owners and managers.

 

Classes, Seminars, and Webinars

 

A good start is to take classes and seminars. Many community colleges and universities offer a variety of

small business marketing and branding courses. Some require in-person participation, others are

available online.

 

(For topic-specific marketing seminars, MarketingProfs offers a variety of free and PRO online seminars

and webcasts, in addition to MarketingProfs University courses, many of which include content suitable

for small business owners and professionals who don’t have a marketing background.)

 

Government Agencies and Nonprofit Organizations

 

Check for government agencies and nonprofit organizations that assist small businesses with dedicated

microsites, business development centers, classes, or one-to-one consultations or coaching. Start with

your city, state, province, or federal government website.

 

Here are some US resources:

 

National Federation of Independent Business

 

SCORE

 

US Small Business Administration

 

And some in Canada:

 

Canada Business Network

 

Canadian Federation of Independent Business

 

Service Canada

 

Marketing Vendors

 

Look for free whitepapers, e-books, and webinars from reputable marketing and branding vendors that

offer free resources for their own lead generation purposes. There’s no obligation on your part to use

their services, but if you find their content valuable, share them on social media and with colleagues to

help them gain exposure and search engine ranking. That’s a sure way of showing your appreciation for

their expertise.

 

Books, Blogs, and Websites

 

Regularly read marketing, branding, and customer-focused books, blogs, and websites to gain insight,

learn new ideas, discover new tools, and dialog with experts.

 

Social Media, Associations, and Chambers of Commerce

 

Join select marketing and branding LinkedIn groups, question sites, small business associations, and

chambers of commerce. They offer countless ways to learn more about marketing and branding.

 

In active LinkedIn groups, group members post resources and share their expertise, advice, and

opinions in discussion forums. You can ask questions and share your own best-practices.

 

Question sites give you an opportunity to post your marketing and branding questions and have peers

and experts respond. If you discover members with consistently good answers, you can choose to follow

them, sign up for their e-mails, and access any free or low-cost webinars or publications they offer.

 

There are several small business associations across the country, some with national and local presence.

Many offer marketing and branding resources, conferences, training, and educational programs.

 

Chambers of commerce are excellent groups via which you ca access marketing/branding professional

development opportunities and resources. They also offer valuable networking opportunities and can

add credibility and exposure to your business, increasing its referrals.

 

Join or start a mastermind group or alliance. Being part of a mastermind group of small business owners

or professionals can give you the opportunity to learn marketing best-practices, tools, and ideas that

others have used successfully. You can meet in person locally, or join out-of-town members using

platforms such as Skype and other online conferencing programs.

 

Do Some Research

 

Bartering

 

Ask your network whether anyone knows of a marketing or branding agency that is willing to barter its

expertise for your company’s goods or services. You can also explore online bartering exchanges or local

groups. There’s even an association, the International Reciprocal Trade Association, dedicated to ethical

standards in trading and bartering.

 

Higher Education

 

When you want to conduct marketing research or develop a marketing and branding strategy, check out

local universities with entrepreneur or marketing programs. Some have professor-supervised, student

consulting groups that will work on your project for free or a fee significantly less than professional

consultants’ or agencies’.

 

For smaller projects, look into college marketing and communications departments for students who

would welcome a paid opportunity to add to their portfolios and practical work experience. Ask their

professors or instructors for references to ensure students are good matches for your projects. To ensure

that students’ work is worthy of implementation, perhaps their instructors would be amenable to

reviewing student results for an affordable fee.

 

There’s also a website devoted to getting your problems “solved by the brightest college students in the

world”: Noodle Storm is free and confidential to use and includes universities such as Harvard, Stanford,

Columbia, Texas A&M, and UCLA.

 

Internships

 

Hiring student interns during the summer or after graduation is another way to gain low-cost marketing

and branding assistance. Some universities offer subsidies to employers for hiring their students. You

can also investigate state and provincial grant programs.

 

If your small business is in Canada, the federal government funds supervised, career-related work

experience for young workers to develop their skills and knowledge. Businesses can get up to 50%

subsidy for an intern’s summer minimum wages. Contact Mentor Works.

 

In the US, read the Department of Labor’s Fact Sheet on “Internship Programs Under the Fair Labor

Standards Act” to learn about paid versus unpaid internships. There may be legal ramifications to hiring

unpaid interns.

 

Another option is to look for new immigrant employment programs. Because many immigrants find it

challenging to obtain employment in their fields without local work experience, they often look for

internships to gain a foothold in the labor market. There may be solid candidates in your area who have

marketing and branding experience from their countries of origin.

 

At the end of such placements, you can hire your interns or write referral letters and say goodbye.

 

Freelancers

 

You can also explore freelance websites that allow you to post a specific marketing project and the

maximum budget you are willing to pay. Then, you can sit back and wait for freelancer proposals to

arrive.

 

That’s a good way to access marketing professionals who may have time for extra projects, those who are

starting out and need to gain hands-on experience, or those who want new clients, especially when

business is slow.

 

One request: Please don’t use sites where freelancers do the work first in order to “win” your job. Think

about it: It’s very unfair and takes advantage of people, many of whom live in third-world countries.

Check their portfolios and references first, and then award your project.

 

Summary

 

The more you can budget and invest in marketing and branding expertise to reach and engage your

target audiences with the right frequency, relevance, consistency, and professionalism, the sooner your

small business can build and sustain a strong brand for success.

 

But, until you have the financial resources to hire or outsource professionals, take advantage of the many

free and low-cost resources available to you.

 

Source: http://www.marketingprofs.com/articles/2016/29541/how-to-get-marketing-help-when-you-need-it