We all knew something was about to shift in a big way once in-store customers began evaluating products in person but price-shopping the identical product with a smartphone. Brick-and-mortar retailers had to trim back margins to the point of making it worthwhile for customers to go home with whatever they were selling that very day rather than wait a day or two for it to ship.
The pandemic of 2020 only served to accelerate our collective need for competent digital marketers. Businesses of all sizes now need to get their products and services to rank on search engine results pages (SERPs) or risk a precipitous decline in market share. Many SMB owners quickly found themselves in the uncomfortable position of having to hire staff members they might or might not be able to afford based on whether they managed to turn things around.
When Should You Hire These Digital Marketing Positions?
Unfortunately, there’s no one-size-fits-all answer for when to hire digital marketing positions. Every business is unique and able to leverage the differing strengths of existing staff.
Since companies of all sizes will need to enter the digital marketing fray, it may be more useful to think in terms of broad categories rather than specific job titles. After all, smaller companies might have one person who must wear multiple hats. That’s to be expected in many settings, and perfectly OK. It’s still vital to consider where your business has its strengths and weaknesses. Meantime, here’s a concise overview of the bases you’ll want to have covered.
Harry Truman was famous for the sign on his desk that read, “The Buck Stops Here.” As you move your SMB deeper into digital marketing, determine at the outset who is ultimately responsible for both the wins and the losses. Be clear upfront that you are highly likely to have both.
In smaller settings, this person might, by default, be the business owner. Moving up in size a notch or two, an SMB owner might well be unfamiliar with the digital marketing terrain. At that point, it might make sense to hire someone who can manage the whole ball of wax. If more supervisory-level staff are needed, someone has to make sure that all assets are sending out consistent messages. Again, who is holding the reins in terms of consistent messaging?
Someone who can write great copy for a wide variety of platforms, shoot eye-catching videos, and come up with a winning brand identity scheme can write his or her own ticket in today’s world of digital marketing. Finding someone who can do all of that is exceedingly rare. More realistically, you’ll need to divvy up these content creation tasks to existing staff and/or outsource to get the level of quality you’ll need to compete online.
Just about everyone thinks that they are able to write, but few actually are. Moreover, the various digital marketing platforms available today have their own requirements and best practices, some of them right down to the word count or the number of characters permitted. Even though digital marketing is primarily visual, supporting copy must grab the attention within a mere fraction of a second. Publishing engaging copy doesn’t cost, it pays.
If your business has yet to dive into the world of publishing videos, the train is just about to leave the station and you certainly don’t want to miss it. You may have heard of a platform called TikTok? Well, search engine giant Google thought enough of its success to launch Google Shorts in 2021. The future of online video is short runtime, high impact, and professional appearance. Hire in-house or outsource ASAP.
Graphics and Visuals/Brand Identity
Someone has to be riding herd on “the fussy stuff” such as what your logo should (and should not) look like, the fonts you’ll use in branding, which colors are acceptable for print, video, web, social media, and so forth. If your online presence looks one way but your in-store material looks obviously different, you will lose trust with customers. Develop (and enforce) brand guidelines.
Now that you’ve created great content, what do you do with it? The answer will depend to a large extent on which market you hope to penetrate. If you are not well-versed in the content preferences of your target audience, find someone with a high level of expertise to supervise your overall content strategy.
Search Engine Optimization
This one’s not optional; it’s a must. The most appealing content ever created means nothing unless it gets in front of the right eyeballs. You might have the very best website in your niche, but if no one can find it, it’s not effective. There’s an art and a science to writing digital marketing content that has been optimized for SEO, and it’s worth the investment. Someone in your organization needs to be highly skilled in SEO or well on their way to learning.
Social Media Marketing
At the turn of the century, it was sufficient to put together an epic website and call it a day. Today? Not so much. Social media platforms — Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn — are where prospective customers are spending the bulk of their time browsing. Your website serves as the foundation for your “more info” buttons, but you win or lose interest in your brand on these platforms. Your best bet will be to have someone in-house for this responsibility but, if not, at least hire externally.
Will your organization benefit significantly from paid ads on various platforms? The answer depends on how well you own your niche, rank on SERPs, and the eyeballs you hope to entice. At a minimum, digital advertising returns empirical data on ad effectiveness. Someone fluent in statistics needs to be combing through paid ad results and tweaking the overall strategy.
Affiliates and Partnerships
Many SMB owners understand the power of joining forces with other, non-competitive businesses to generate a win-win in the digital realm. As an example, a locally-owned movie theater might partner with a neighboring restaurant to put together a “romantic night out” digital media package and split the cost of paid digital ads. Someone in your organization needs to be thinking outside the box and constantly on the prowl for affiliates and partnerships.
Customer Relationship Management
CRM software has evolved to the point that it can be a realistic option for businesses of all sizes. If it’s been a while since you’ve looked into a CRM solution, bring yourself up to date. While the software is no substitute for outstanding customer service, it can encourage your staff to focus on personal touches. Don’t think of it as an “either-or.” It’s now a “both-and.”
Not everyone likes to shop with a smartphone, nor are many people content to get a great price that comes bundled with rude salespeople. As long as we’re still breathing, there will be a need for customer relations in-person and on the phone. In a perfect world, your phone representatives are empowered by CRM software to greet callers by name, ask about their level of satisfaction with previous purchases, and allow them to interact at a warm, personable level.
Whenever someone is replying to email, interacting with a social media post, or publishing an FAQ to your website, they are representing your brand. In some settings, it might make sense to divvy up managerial responsibility for in-person and online customer relations, but everyone needs to be working from the same script. One of the strongest motivators for a commitment to exceptional customer service should be a regular reminder that online customers don’t have to walk out of the store, they can simply swipe away.
Get Ready for Your to Hire for Your Digital Marketing Positions
The list above is not intended to be exhaustive, merely to call attention to the various categories for which you’ll want to assign responsibility as you seek to grow your business’s online impact. Job titles and descriptions morph over time, so let job duties and personnel be driven by data and not instinct.
It will be important that you remain sensitive to the number of hours you ask anyone to work. Research shows that productivity and effectiveness both take a nosedive after approximately 50 hours per week. Even if you have dedicated, loyal staff, someone who consistently puts in longer hours is a sure sign that it’s time to take on staff or reassign duties.
Image credit: Pavel Danilyuk; Pexels