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Buyer bewareBuyer beware

Most of the marketing articles we publish in this newsletter focus on helping you, a small business owner, find innovative ways to market your business without spending too much money. 

But sometimes do it yourself only goes so far. There are companies that specialize in marketing. Suppose you decide to hire one of those companies to promote your flight school. In fact, you have a marketing firm in mind—someone you met at a Kiwanis meeting.

As you would when hiring anyone to provide an outside service, proceed with caution. You wouldn’t hire someone to fix your flight school’s plumbing or put up drywall without knowing something about them. So it should be when hiring a marketing consultant.

And here’s where many might stumble, because what, exactly, are you looking for?

Brad Hanks, writing for DIY Marketing, put together a very nice list of nine red flags to look for when working for a small business marketing agency. You can read the entire article here, but I want to highlight some of those red flags.

  • “Check out their design skills.”

    Hanks suggests you evaluate marketing companies by looking at their web design. “Web pages that look like they were created five years ago are a sign that  the company hasn’t kept up with the latest practices,” he says.

    You may be uncertain what outdated web design looks like. Here are some clues: rotating banners on the home page; inconsistent type fonts and colors; anything that can’t be viewed on a smartphone. If in doubt, ask someone you know. In fact—at the risk of sounding like a cliché—ask a younger person.

  • “Go with a local company first.”

    I mentioned a hypothetical meetup with a Kiwanis Club colleague. “Don’t hire a firm that doesn’t allow you to meet someone face to face,” Hanks says. “There are certainly good companies in other locations, but the squeaky wheel (that happens to be local) really does get the grease.”

  • “Ask around.”

Getting back to the previous point, you can use your connections in the local business community to vet someone you’re considering. “Chatting up fellow small business owners is a good way to hear about who’s been burned,” Hanks says.

I’m not going to rehash the entire article here; you really should read it for yourself. But on Hanks’ final point—“Consider doing it yourself (for now)”—that’s fine, if what you’re doing works and leads to some kind of measurable benefit for your flight school. But when it stops working—or if you’re just throwing random stuff out there in the hopes that it’ll bring business to your door—perhaps it’s time to call in the pros. 

Jill W. Tallman

Jill W. Tallman

AOPA Technical Editor
AOPA Technical Editor Jill W. Tallman is an instrument-rated private pilot who owns a Piper Cherokee 140.

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