News: December 8

“How to Choose a Marketer,” Inc., Dec. 2008

My company sells unique home and garden products, like a dishtowel with a retractable cord that attaches to a belt. In the past, I have done all of my own marketing, and I have had a few successes. Now, I would like to hire a professional — someone with experience in marketing on the Web and on television, perhaps even with infomercials. What should we look for in our new hire?

Ruth Goldman
Argee Corporation
Santee, California


First of all, kudos for trying to expand your marketing efforts during tough economic times. A lot of businesses cut back on marketing just when they should be investing in it. But in times of economic uncertainty, you must be much more careful about each hiring decision you make. Bringing someone on full time is a huge expense and a big risk. And hiring a marketer is a much more subjective process than hiring, say, an accountant. “It’s just one person with their own set of ideas, and it may or may not work out,” says David deMartino, founder and CEO of O•ZoneLite, a Boca Raton, Florida, maker of air-purifying light bulbs.

That’s why he decided to use a public relations firm instead. A PR firm or a marketing consultant can test some strategies and help you figure out what works, often for less than the cost of a full-time hire. For two years, deMartino paid $3,500 a month to a local PR firm that had experience in marketing products with medicinal properties. The firm landed his products in hundreds of newspaper and magazine articles and ultimately got them on Canada’s version of QVC. DeMartino still uses the firm for short-term projects — when he launches a new product, for example. “I was dead set against it; it seemed like a big expenditure with no guarantees,” he says. “But it’s been the single most important thing we’ve done.”

A final note: Once you have decided who will do your marketing, think about where your dollars will do the most good. Assuming cost effectiveness is one of your priorities, we suggest avoiding infomercials altogether. In 2004, O•ZoneLite spent $500,000 to produce a 30-minute infomercial and another $400,000 to buy airtime for it. The result: an underwhelming $320,000 in sales.