Hiring a digital marketer: a short guide for small business owners

Published on April 15, 2021
Last modified on July 09, 2021

Being digitally savvy is not just a mere competitive edge anymore — in this day and age, keeping up with digital trends and understanding how these can impact your business is key to staying relevant in the market.

But unlike large companies with dedicated teams just for this purpose, small businesses don’t have the same resources to spare—with digital-related functions such as web design and development, marketing, SEO, Adwords, and other advertising commonly outsourced to agencies and freelancers instead.

Outsourcing is definitely a cost-effective way to address small businesses’ digital needs, but there is also a certain advantage to actually having in-house staff who knows the ins and outs of the business better.

Throughout working with different types of businesses over the years, we’ve observed that a balance can be achieved between these two things—while you don’t necessarily need to hire an entire team of marketers and developers or form your own in-house IT department, it’s still probably a good idea to have a dedicated digital marketer in your company.

(Throughout this blog, we’ll use the term “digital marketer” to refer to a role that serves as a digital go-to person for your business — someone who can help you execute your digital-related activities, and is also technical enough to be a bridge between your business and third-party vendors, like software developers.)

In this two-part blog series, we’ll talk about the advantages of having such a role in your company and the ideal qualities that you should look for when hiring. We’ll also share a list of things that you can do once this role is filled to help you get started on your digital strategy.

But first, let’s consider why your business needs an in-house digital go-to person:

How marketing in small businesses usually works

Small, and even up to medium-sized businesses usually don’t have a dedicated marketing team. In fact, it’s typically the business owner who takes on this role, juggling it along with sales, HR, administrative and other management duties.

The bulkier part of the tasks may then be outsourced to agencies or freelancers — like programming tasks, writing ad copies, designing ad banners and brochures, setting up accounts and campaigns, doing SEO, posting on social media, and similar activities.

This setup typically doesn’t work for a number of reasons:

  • The owner already has a lot of things on their plate, which leaves them little time to work on marketing activities.
  • The owner often does not have the necessary know-how.
  • The owner also needs to coordinate everything between marketing, developers, and other stakeholders to make sure that things get done.

All of which can be very time-consuming.

When issues arise in the organization needing the owner’s attention, digital marketing is usually the first one to fall by the wayside—and it often stays there, forgotten for a long time.

Why you need a digital marketer in your company

Many people start their buying journey online — whether it’s researching a product or a service, or simply being exposed to options available to them through targeted advertising.

An established digital presence helps your company be visible to potential customers on the web, and having an in-house dedicated digital go-to person for your business will greatly help with that. But you might be wondering — isn’t it enough to delegate digital-related tasks to expert third-parties?

Even if you use an external supplier or a freelancer for marketing and web development, there are still many advantages with having your own in-house employee with a dedicated digital role:

  1. An in-house person will be primarily focused on your company — they deeply understand your industry and business goals, as well as have a more significant stake at the project because they are a part of your team.
  2. With this setup, you get to have a stable in-house core who can manage your company’s digital activities, while the execution can be outsourced to agencies (onshore or offshore) who may have more experience and resources doing development or running ad campaigns. This way, you get a perfect balance as opposed to either just having a full in-house team (which would be unnecessary for most small businesses) or completely outsourcing everything.
  3. Having this person in your team will allow you more time to focus on other aspects of the business, and lessen your stress from juggling different roles in the company, roles that many small business owners are not equipped to handle.
  4. You will have a go-to person who is 100% on your side, someone who can evaluate prices and proposals, explain complicated concepts and ideas without any bias towards a particular company or solution, and is primarily invested in your own bottomline.
  5. Since this person is likely more well-versed in all things digital — whether IT or marketing — you can trust them to coordinate well with your third-party developers or marketers, and even interpret their lingo for you to understand important reports better.
  6. They are digitally-savvy and often on top of new trends and technologies. As such, they can be a source of inspiration and new ideas in marketing and software development.
  7. With a dedicated full-time person, your digital marketing will no longer be swept under other tasks in the priority list, and will take on a more defined structure.
  8. Because they are primarily focused with your company’s digital activities, projects and campaigns can be executed much faster and with it, your company can enjoy the results faster, too.

What you should look for in filling out this role

Ideally, you should look for someone that can do both IT and online marketing — an individual with enough knowledge and experience in both fronts that, again, can act as your company’s bridge to third-party partners like developers and marketing agencies.

Experience

Experience beats everything. It would be a plus if they have (or have had) their own websites (e.g., affiliate sites or webshops). That way, they would have had exposure not only to marketing but also to the technical side of things, and this with the perspective of a business owner.

They could also be someone who has worked in an agency before—meaning they have the know-how and can apply it to your company, as well as relevant resources and connections who can help you (for example, with Adwords, Facebook advertisement, SEO, etc.).

Marketing and technical background

Ideally, your new digital marketer should have both a technical and marketing background. You’re not exactly looking for a software developer here, but just someone who understands enough to be able to act as a sort of liaison between you and your developers or the IT agency that you use.

At the same time, they should also be well familiar with marketing concepts—understanding the metrics that measure a successful campaign and being able to coordinate with marketing agencies in both the creative and data analytics aspects of advertising.

Having a digitally savvy person on your team can serve as a valuable asset as digital acceleration continues. Once you have successfully filled this role, it’s time for you to get started on building or improving your digital strategy.

Next: Building your digital strategy »