THE BLOG

So You Think You're an Expert: Why it Pays to Hire a Pro

09/29/2014 11:55 EDT | Updated 11/29/2014 05:59 EST

We all know someone who thinks they can do anything, even though there are perfectly well-trained, experienced and knowledgeable pros who are ready, willing and able to take on a job. The results can go from the hilarious to the horrifying.

So it is with marketing and public relations. Anyone and everyone who thinks they have a way with words and are active on social media can do it, even though it's much tougher than most people realize.

Larry Anderson and Neil Thornton, the owners of Trigger Strategies in Fort Erie, Ontario, have been in the business for two decades. They recently published their first book, What we've learned so far, Vol. 1: An owners's manual for business leaders, that offers tips, tricks and advice about marketing. They recently chatted with me about their book, and the marketing biz.

You've been in marketing, strategy and business development for more than 20 years. Why do the book now?

Since we joined forces over four years ago, we made a commitment to always share what we've learned, what we know, and what we we're working on. This book is part of that commitment.

Reading and sharing great books is a business industry standard. We appreciate and search out great books that give hands-on advice that works in the real world of business. We chose to create just such a resource that expands beyond academic theories and vague concepts. The book is filled with ideas, tools and resources, as well as lessons we've learned from working with businesses of all shapes and sizes and in all types of industries. Our goal was to create a book where a busy business person could pick it up and go to any chapter and get an idea they could put to work in their business immediately.

What's the Number One question people ask you about marketing?

Will it work?

Marketing has always been a mystery to most businesses. They pump a huge amount of money into it, and usually can't measure it, so they don't know if it's working or what part of it is working.

The key to marketing is that there is no key. What works for one business does not mean it will work for another. Marketing is about telling your story to people that have an interest in hearing it. If you're not good at storytelling, then you risk becoming a company with no identity. That means the only thing you can do is compete on price, and that's no way to build a lasting and successful company.

You need to find what's important to the people you want to sell to, but at the same time you need to be able to deliver on it. When you can do that, then you have an interesting story to tell and that will attract more people to you.

What's the biggest misconception about marketing?

That you should see instant results. Marketing should not be looked at as an event, something you do from time to time. Marketing should be as important to your business as operations, accounting and customer service.

Marketing is also never finished. It's about answering this question "What do you want to be known for?" That question helps you determine what your brand - how you connect with the market - will be. Everything you do in your business must be true to that. Campaigns and promotions will come and go, but your brand is the essence of your business.

We see many companies being reactive to marketing and development. This is especially true with the introduction of social media and new ways of communicating on-line. Our advice is to create a well-planned content strategy that plots out, in detail, your plans, target audiences, touch campaigns and media mix.

What's the single biggest mistake people make when looking to market their business?

Giving up too soon.

Marketing takes time. If you're a new business, that means no one knows you. No one knows if you can do what you say you can do. No one knows what your quality is like and no one knows if you'll be around next week.

On top of that, no one cares. People are concerned about themselves. So if what you sell is not of immediate interest, you will be ignored. There are also a lot of established competitors already meeting these customers' needs. You need to prove that you're worth the time and energy to switch.

Great marketing helps a company be there when someone finally decides they need what you do. It's a daunting task to say the least, in a world where people are exposed to more than 2,000 promotional messages a day.

Our recommendation is to first really understand what your market is looking for that it's not currently getting, or is not getting as well as it would like from existing competitors. Then determine if you can actually deliver on it better than what is there now. If you can, tell the market about it and give them a reason to try you. Then do everything you can to deliver a better experience than they're currently getting and be consistent.

Can a small business with a small budget afford to hire a marketing agency?

Of course, but it's like having someone else write your business plan. It will look good but you won't know why.

We believe you should outsource as much as possible of what you are not that great at. Marketing however, should never be completely outsourced. You need to make sure you're always a part of it and that you ensure the brand is being represented and delivering on your promise. And that requires more than good creative. It requires you looking at every part of your business that touches the customer, and making sure it is consistent to the brand.

That's why we're so proud of our book, we believe it's true to our brand promise of "Give First."

What We've Learned So Far, Vol. 1: An Owner's Manual for Business Leaders is available at Amazon.