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Is your marketing scalable?

I like Jen Sable Lopez. She’s a smart marketer but also extremely personable and really takes the time to engage with fellow marketers in a meaningful and valuable way. I would go as far as to say that my interactions with her make me more likely to mention SEOmoz content, link to their website, and perhaps most importantly, recommend their product to colleagues.

Now some of you might be reading this and saying, “so what?”

After all, SEOmoz is already one of the most well-known brands in the online marketing industry. And their founder, Rand Fishkin, is one of the most well-known personalities as well. But that’s just it. While Rand has done quite well for himself on an individual level, he also had the foresight to scale out his marketing and branding efforts for SEOmoz by building a team around him as opposed to trying and do it all himself.

And even after attaining a tremendous level of success with the brand, he has continued to scale out the organization, even going as far as to hire a community manager like the aforementioned Jen. It takes a lot of trust to put the communication and engagement of your brand into the hands of someone else, especially when you spent so much time and effort building it up as Rand did, and this tells me that he understands that one of the only tried and true ways to grow your business is to give up control over even the most intimate facets of marketing (and business administration in general although that’s not the focus of this blog).

This is something that enterprise-level companies understand well but most small businesses and website owners struggle with.

If you’re an owner and operator of a website or web-enabled business, ask yourself, do you outsource any facet of your own marketing? Or are you, like many others out there, wearing the search, social media, web design, web development, email, analytics, conversion optimization, content development, etc. hats simultaneously? If so, it’s time to consider a different approach.

At this point, some of you will say that you’re on a shoestring budget and so you simply can’t afford to outsource any facet of your business. Well I’m here to tell you that if you’re creative, and take some time to really drill down into the various operations that go into maintaining and promoting your website, you will find ways to outsource some (and eventually all) of those activities. And there are some great tools out there that will let you leverage the competitive nature of the web to find talented people that can execute these activities at a fraction of the cost that you might have anticipated.

My personal favorite is Elance.com, but there are many other similar sites that bring together freelancers of all kinds (programmers, designers, content writers, SEOs, customer service reps, sales reps, etc) and give them an opportunity to compete for your business. Not everybody on these sites is worth bringing on board. But if you start with very small tasks and shop around a bit, it won’t be long before you find some amazing help at very feasible prices.

There are also some even more outlandish but effective services such as Amazon’s mechanical turk. The Amazon folks call it “artificial artificial intelligence” and it basically allows you to hire human helpers to execute extremely simple and repeatable tasks based on your instructions. And again, if you’re creative and really think about what goes into maintaining and promoting your site, this service can deliver some incredible ROI.

These are cool services, and there are also more conventional ways of bringing on marketing help (e.g. just hiring employees) but I’m amazed at how many business owners out there, who have the disposable income to bring on help, simply refuse to do so. And their main objection is that they’re convinced that nobody else can do what they do and/or that they’re afraid to hand over the fruit of the labor to some outsider that could potentially sabotage what they’ve worked so hard to build. And so they continue to burn themselves out, working seven-day weeks and double-digit hours per day, thinking that’s the secret to growing a powerful brand and highly profitable business.

If that’s you, take a moment to reflect on the SEOmoz example above, and also think about other successful brands (Raventools and their army of social media savvy employees comes to mind) that have learned to expand well beyond the concept of a one man/woman shop. They were able to do it without self-destructing, and so can you.

And who knows, you might just find that letting go of control and allowing your marketing to scale out will give you more time for the things and people you love, while also driving increased revenue and efficiency. Now wouldn’t that be something?

P.S. Though I have yet to hand over hugoguzman.com’s community management efforts to anyone, I can tell you that I employ over a half-dozen folks to help maintain and manage various facets of the site and the marketing of the site. I pay very little for this work and the ROI (both in terms of site profitability and my ability to spend time with my wife and son) has been tremendous.

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