Don’t Opt Out of Marketing

To each his sufferings: all are men,
Condemned alike to groan;
The tender for another’s pain
The unfeeling for his own.
Yet ah! Why should they know their fate?
Since sorrow never comes too late,
And happiness too swiftly flies.
Thought would destroy their paradise.
No more; where ignorance is bliss,
’Tis folly to be wise.

~ Thomas Gray, 18th Century Poet

Ignorance may indeed be bliss, but it often has dire consequences.

It’s not that I am without sympathy. Trying to juggle all the tasks necessary to build a thriving business can be overwhelming. And I confess to having dreams of hiring a financial supernova to take care of everything and anything having to do with money and numbers and finances. It’s a beautiful dream—but it will never be more than a dream.

As a business owner, it is essential that I understand my finances and take full responsibility for all financial decisions. I may choose to hire an accountant, bookkeeper, and financial adviser, but handing over the whole kit and caboodle is foolish, irresponsible, and incredibly dangerous.

The same is true for marketing.

Over the last couple of years, I’ve spoken with solopreneurs who feel about marketing the same way I feel about finances. I’ve heard horror stories from those who have opted out of their marketing and left their brand and business reputation in the hands of another. Anna’s story is compiled from those I’ve heard from other solopreneurs. And she will serve as the voice of experience in this cautionary tale.

Like many solopreneurs, Anna found marketing overwhelming. She wasn’t sure where to start—she just knew that she needed to build her business. But the more research she did, the more overwhelmed she felt. So when an acquaintance mentioned that her daughter had recently started managing a local business’s online marketing activities, Anna set up a meeting.

For almost a year, the arrangement worked out beautifully. Her capable assistant was able to build a new website, start a blog, set up an email newsletter, and get Anna set up on various social media platforms. Together they came up with a basic online marketing strategy that Anna trusted her assistant to implement. She felt confident that her assistant understood her business and her approach. While her assistant would deal with the online marketing, Anna would focus her efforts on events, conferences, and other networking activities. Gradually she became less involved with the work her assistant was doing.

Then disaster struck.

Anna’s assistant moved out of state to attend graduate school. The events of this time are not clear, but what we do know is that it took Anna two months to realize that her assistant was no longer managing her online marketing activities. And while she had a website, blog, email newsletter, and social media accounts, she couldn’t access any of them.

Anna relied completely on her assistant. Over the course of their time working together, she had become less and less involved in her assistant’s work and less and less responsive to questions—empowering her assistant to do whatever she felt was best. As a result, Anna had deleted a number of emails from her assistant, including those with login information and details about domain registration and web hosting.

Anna emailed her former assistant, who responded that she had already provided Anna with all the required information. Subsequent emails were ignored, and the situation steadily deteriorated as problem-solving turned into the assignment of blame. Feeling defeated, upset, and foolish, Anna stopped pursuing her former assistant. Eventually, she took responsibility for the mishap and reached out to a tech-savvy friend for help. Ultimately, Anna was able to recover the emails and take control of her online marketing activities.

Anna’s story is, sadly, not terribly uncommon. In fact, in this scenario Anna was fortunate. Her assistant did the best she could under the circumstances. Her posts and engagement with potential clients was always thoughtful and anytime someone had a question that went beyond her knowledge-base, she invited them to give Anna a call directly. Not all online marketing service providers are that conscientious.

Intelligent outsourcing is smart business; opting out is risky business.

This cautionary tale is not to imply that you cannot hire someone to help you with your online marketing activities. A good copywriter, web designer, or virtual assistant can be a huge asset as you build your business. But it’s important that you protect your brand and business reputation and recognize that they are critically important strategic assets.

The key to outsourcing is to delegate those tasks that are repetitive and time-consuming but don’t require your expertise and personality; and to be actively engaged in setting strategy, reviewing materials, and staying engaged. A good team can keep you from opting out of your marketing while helping your leverage your strengths through intelligent outsourcing.

This week, take some time to look at those areas in your business where intelligent outsourcing may be advantageous. Have you opted out of any areas in your business? If you have a virtual assistant, does your relationship work well for both of you? Are you actively involved in your online marketing activities? Have you reviewed everything done by those who serve your business? Does it feel right? I encourage you to have a conversation with the folks you’ve hired to help you build your business. If they are good at what they do, they will welcome your active engagement. In the meantime, please share your questions, tips and experiences in the comments. We’d love to hear from you!

Photo Credit: Keirsten Balukas

About Erica Holthausen

Erica Holthausen is the Chief Instigator behind the Honest Marketing Revolution and creator of the 10 Steps to Honest Marketing. As a marketing mentor, she helps solopreneurs and microbusinesses fall in love with sales and marketing so they can help more people while building thriving, life-sustaining businesses. She believes marketing is an integral part of how you serve the world. Sound good? Sign up for her email newsletter and join the revolution!

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