Go Beyond DIY (Do-it-Yourself) Marketing

By Kim Marie McKernan, MBA, MS

A Marketing Technology organization asked me to present a Bold Prediction for this year. The one I chose might surprise you. In 2021, freelancers will be the driving force to help small businesses reinvent their marketing. Every day I speak with small business owners struggling with the complexities of today’s marketing landscape.  Those businesses that relied on networking, referrals, and word of mouth in the past, now need a sophisticated online presence. Many business owners are trying a DIY (Do-it-Yourself) approach to marketing and using a wide range of technology and resources to help. DIY means spending many hours learning and making a lot of costly mistakes. Unfortunately, many owners are not proud of their marketing presence, and it rarely generates the results they need. It’s time to consider a new way to work. 

New Options for Evolving Businesses Needs 

We have all witnessed a seismic shift in marketing that has required continual learning and rethinking strategy and tactics.  A growing part of what I learned in my MBA in Marketing is irrelevant to today’s average businesses. Entrepreneurs and startups lead the way to reinvent marketing to meet their evolving needs.

The only options for executing marketing in the past were to hire an in-house marketing team, a creative agency, or both.  Now there is another way: Hire freelance marketing experts. You can add high-level expertise strategically when and where you need it. From SEO (Search Engine Optimization) to advertising on Instagram to branding,  you now have an unprecedented number of freelance options.

Hire freelance marketing experts. You can add high-level expertise strategically when and where you need it.

Freelance Marketing Expertise

Most business owners can benefit significantly from having expert support from freelancers. In branding, I have found that few business owners have the perspective to articulate what sets them apart in an authentic way. The technical aspects of typical marketing activities such as creating a website, sending useful emails, and sharing social media posts are high. Each requires understanding best practices, acquiring skills, and developing software proficiency.  For example, I can use Canva to design a logo but would not be happy with the results. I value the expertise of a graphic designer.  He or she understands what the visual will convey to your customer, how it will look in each medium (printed page, online, or on a piece of apparel), and the science behind the choice of color.

What is often hidden but critical is the importance of deciding which marketing activities to invest in for your business. This strategy should be highly personalized to your brand and based on your industry, budget, and goals.  There is no DIY blog that will give you these answers. They require a profound understanding of your business and an awareness of all of the marketing opportunities available to you.  For example, many business owners think of marketing as social media only and ignore the opportunities presented by email and public relations. Content marketing is a powerful way to target your ideal customer with relevant information they need and want, but many business owners do not even know it is an option.

Use a Team of Freelancers

Most business owners don’t need a single freelancer but a team of experts on their side.  Working together with these freelancers can help businesses achieve marketing excellence they cannot perform independently. It also frees them up to focus on activities they like to do essential to the company.

Five Reasons to Leverage a Team of Freelance Experts
  1. Access to both generalists and specialists brings better results. Like many fields, marketing needs both generalists and specialists. The complexities of businesses and marketing today requires specialized knowledge. For example, hundreds of media options are available to reach your customers, each with best practices, software, and skills required.  This level of specialized expertise is widely available to you from freelancers.  Business owners also need someone who understands how it all fits together and can help decide where and how to invest resources strategically to generate results.   
  2. You have unprecedented access to marketing talent to help you grow. COVID-19 shook up the workforce because of remote working, homeschooling, and layoffs. Many talented creatives have decided to work as freelancers to take care of children, obtain greater freedom, or fulfill a passion. The expertise they bring was only available to the largest corporations with extensive marketing staff in the past.
  3. You don’t know what you don’t know. Many of today’s best practices were created for a world of large, slow-moving companies with a life span of 70 years. The mindset of “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” is now replaced by “Constantly test what works.” Companies must reinvent continually. Freelancers can help you apply what works and bring new ideas to your business. Companies can have blind spots that a freelancer can help overcome by sharing what generates results for their other clients.
  4. Diversity on your team brings better solutions. The Science of Creativity has proven that a diverse group provides more and better ideas. Each expert has worked with many different clients from various fields that bring new creative approaches. A collaborative team of freelancers chooses to work together.  Each person is a business owner and is motivated to help their clients succeed. They also know what it is like to run a business and identify with a business owner’s needs.  This team’s creative output is exponentially more productive because they inspire each other to greater heights.
  5. Working with a team fills in gaps to ensure excellence. As a fan of CliftonStrengths (formerly Strengthsfinder), I have seen the power of knowing your strengths.  It also implies you need to supplement any gap with others as part of your team.  A small business sometimes can’t afford to hire full-time employees but can easily hire freelancers. Filling in missing skills with help where they need it will provide owners more time and enjoyment at work.
Struggling with Finding Freelance Talent?

Some tips that I have learned based on my experience putting collaborative teams of marketing experts together for a range of businesses are:

  • You need an experienced project manager who understands your brand and business.
  • Be clear on your goals and what success looks like for you.
  • Focus on projects and marketing investments that generate results.

I offer a service called Rent-a-CMO (Chief Marketing Officer), where I act as an in-house ally on behalf of the owner to find and manage their freelance talent using a proven process.  I have developed a network of experts I trust and ensure projects are done on time and within budget. Managing marketing projects can be a significant challenge for a business owner who may not understand the complexity and sequence of each task.  This service is becoming a popular choice for business owners who want marketing excellence but prefer to focus on their core business.  

Kim Marie McKernan, MBA, MS, is a marketing leader, facilitator, and presenter who left a career as a marketing executive to found Inspired Outcomes to help business owners bring their vision to life with a true brand that generates results.  

She combines an MBA, an MS in Creativity and Change Leadership, and certification as a facilitator in Appreciative Inquiry with 30 years of experience in the corporate world to leverage both practical and academic credentials. She is on the Creative Education Foundation faculty and a mentor at Shift/Co and Collective Brains. 

At Inspired Outcomes, Kim works with organizations and individuals who value excellence and are ready to launch something new or renew their brand. Her proprietary Build a True Brand™ process combines Appreciative Inquiry, Creativity, and Marketing. The result is an authentic brand that inspires loyalty in your best customers. She meets you where you are and takes you where you want to go. 

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