We’re getting to the time of year when many small businesses are thinking about hiring summer help. Kids and young adults will be finishing school and looking for work, and there’ll be plenty of openings behind cash registers and at empty desks with a telephone. Most of these are temporary hires that make everyone happy: The kids get some extra spending money and maybe a little experience, and the small business owner fills a short-term need for help.
But what about your next long-term hire? Maybe you have plans in place and need some real help executing them by year’s end. Maybe, hopefully, you want to take your small business to the next level by finding new opportunities to increase sales and grow your customer base. You might think it’s time to add a new salesperson, or someone to help with product/service development.
Here’s my suggestion: Hire an evangelist.
An evangelist! I’m talking about someone who loves your company and can spread the word far and wide to new customers, new business partners, the media, bloggers, and anyone else who’ll listen. “Evangelist” is the best word I can come up with to describe the position I’m talking about. In reality, this person has a variety of skills that don’t fit under just one traditional job title. You need someone who can:
Write: Now, more than ever, you need great content on your Web site. Content is still king, and the better your content, the more links you can get. The more links you get, the better your search engine visibility will be. You need a blog to communicate directly with customers, and good writers make the best bloggers. A newsletter is another great way to stay in touch with customers. In this day and age, you need to become a mini-publisher and that demands someone who knows how to write.
Network: Link building is quite often an exercise in networking and developing relationships. Social media marketing is all about finding customers and joining their communities and conversations. Good “people skills” are imperative to market successfully. Make sure you hire someone who can handle today’s necessary networking chores.
Do Public Relations: As with networking to customers, your small business needs to take its message to the media influencers. This should include traditional media; press releases are still the way to reach out to those folks. But it should also include online influencers: important bloggers and important online discussion forums that cover your industry. This is what public relations has become, and you need someone with the skills to get out there and do it.
You may call all this “marketing”, and that’s fine; I prefer “evangelism.” The point isn’t to debate what you call the job, it’s to find someone who can do it. This is what your search marketing firm is going to recommend you do. This is what successful marketing is made of in 2007 (and beyond).
If you think finding this kind of person will be difficult, you’re probably right. Let me suggest you begin with your existing customer base. Your most dedicated customers are often your best evangelists. Some of them have probably already been doing it — telling their family and friends about your wonderful products and services.
Can’t I just do this myself?, you ask.
As a small business owner, you’re probably the person most qualified to do all these. You’re probably also the least able because you just don’t have the time to immerse yourself in writing Web content, doing social media marketing, reaching out to bloggers, and so forth. So for your next hire, consider someone who can. Your bottom line will thank you.
Matt McGee is the SEO Manager for Marchex, Inc., a search and media company offering search marketing services through its TrafficLeader subsidiary. The Small Is Beautiful column appears on Thursdays at Search Engine Land.