Small business owner dilemma

When it comes to promoting your business, should you do it yourself (DIY) or outsource? That’s a question almost every small business owner faces.

For some promotional tasks the DIY answer is usually a pretty clear choice, especially if you’re a solo entrepreneur. Consider these examples:

  • Sales
  • Networking
  • Customer meetings
  • Product evangelism

Most small business owners would likely do these critical business-building activities themselves rather than outsource them. But should this hold true for content marketing?

Content marketing as a promotion strategy

I’m a strong advocate of content marketing as a vital promotional strategy for the small business owner because:

  • It aligns your business with the reality of buyer behavior
  • It helps you focus on your niche, solution and messages
  • It’s adaptable to a variety of revenue models
  • It benefits your business in many practical ways, from establishing thought leadership to generating leads

But because content marketing is a multi-faceted and comprehensive business discipline, the DIY option may not always be your best choice.

Let’s look at some of the tradeoffs.

Be yourself, but don’t sell yourself short

Most small business owners are DIYers by nature. Does this describe you?

You started your business because you figured you could do something better yourself.

You operate your business by wearing many hats: owner, marketer, developer, salesperson.

You prefer to do things yourself which is good because you don’t have a lot of staff or budget.

If so, content marketing can be the perfect match for your DIY tendencies. It reflects who you are, gets you close to your customers and gives you a direct hand in how your business is portrayed.

But the downside of going it alone in marketing is that your business can look small and unprofessional. That look won’t help you compete.

To avoid limiting yourself you may want to outsource those aspects of content marketing that can improve your business’s image even when you’re a staff of one.

Good candidates to outsource to avoid looking small include branding, web design, content design, and image selection (unless you’re a designer yourself). You may also find it helpful to outsource some of your content automation so that viewers get an immediate, consistent response – just like the big guys.

Spend less, but don’t slow your business down

When you’re starting out as a small business owner, money is always tight. You know you need to market your business but you’ve got to do it as cost-effectively as you possibly can.

Content marketing is a good choice. A lot of its tactics can be launched with little or no budget, as outlined in this article by Jayson DeMers.

In fact, content marketing can be incredibly affordable when compared to advertising, trade shows and other “traditional” marketing techniques. If you can write, do Internet searches, download a few graphics and publish on social sites you can start a content marketing campaign with almost zero cash.

But that low cost comes with a price: it can take a very long time for organic (free) content to generate results that drive your business forward. Unless you stumble upon some magic viral formula it may be weeks, months or even years before you gain the reach and impact you need.

Outsourcing to the rescue. Or more accurately, paid exposure.

Rather than waiting for your content to blow up on its own, you can light the fuse with paid advertising, professional SEO, joint campaigns, paid PR and other investments.

It may take only a little push to broadcast your content marketing output, gain more visibility and produce a better overall ROI.

Use your strengths. Outsource your weaknesses.

The discipline of content marketing weaves a rich fabric of skills that, together, make it an effective promotional strategy. But few people have all those skills themselves.

For example, a friend of mine who’s contemplating a new business tells me he loves to write, but hates the idea of wrestling with the technology of content marketing. As a small business owner, he’d be wise to leverage his writing skill while outsourcing some of the nuts and bolts of execution.

So, what are you good at? What would you just as soon leave to others?

  • If you like to write but can’t spell or punctuate, ask an editor to help.
  • If you’re good at concepts but can’t put two sentences together in a story, hire a writer.
  • If you like speaking but not sound engineering, outsource to a podcast recording expert.
  • If you’re good at expressing ideas but can’t draw a stick figure, hire an illustrator or graphic designer.
  • If you prefer strategy to execution, hire a web developer.
  • If don’t know what a SERP is, hire an SEO expert.

There are plenty of DIY opportunities in content marketing. Do what you’re good at and outsource the rest.

Balance passion with practicality

If you’re the type of small business owner who understands the importance of connecting with customers, then content marketing is for you.

After all, the whole point of content marketing is to connect people with information they care about in order to form a trusting business relationship. And when it’s your business, your ideas and your information you’re putting out there it can be a beautiful thing.

Your passion for your business can shine directly through your content when you do it yourself. The only question is: do you have the time?

Which brings us back to all the hats you wear. Put on your marketer hat, and you’ve got to take another one off.

As you prioritize your daily hat choices, it may be more practical to outsource some of the more time-consuming aspects of content marketing.

For example, you could write an original post but outsource the time-consuming effort of publishing it on multiple channels.

Or, you could record a quick piece of video but leave the mixing, editing, sound effects and other post-production tasks to others.

Or, you could outsource the management of your social channels to a social media freelancer.

Pick your priorities so your DIY efforts have the most impact in your busy schedule.

Wrap it all up

Use these four decision trees to make the most of your content marketing opportunities:

Do it yourself to reflect who you are by nature. Outsource to make your business look bigger.

Do it yourself to spend less money. Outsource to accelerate visibility and reach.

Do it yourself to leverage your strengths. Outsource to shore up your weaknesses.

Do it yourself to share your passion and ideas. Outsource to prioritize your time.

As always, I’d love to hear your thoughts and your stories!