Over the past couple of weeks I have had a couple of people (one client, one industry contact) comment on how I am “all over” my own business marketing.
Now before you close your browser thinking this is going to be a pompous post about how awesome I am, and how in exchange for your email address, a dollar figure ending in the magical number 7, and your first born, I’ll share my “secret” for mastering small business marketing, just wait a sec.
While it is flattering to hear this, and I am glad that it “appears” this way, it is not always the case.
I know the dangers of online comparison-itis, and don’t want to perpetuate those dangerous perceptions that some people are “smashing it” and others are not.
“The reason we struggle with insecurity is because we compare our behind-the-scenes with everyone else’s highlight reel.”
~ Steve Furtick
In reality, I am a solo business owner-operator, who like many others, is often struggling to keep up with doing the work, marketing the work, and all the administration and other tasks that go along with the work.
That being said, I DO have a few techniques that help me keep on top of my own marketing, and make me “appear” to be all over it.
And I will happily share them with you for free:
I know my “why”
Most businesses know that they should be marketing themselves, but I find many don’t know why. It just gets lumped into the things you “have to do” as a business, like have an ABN and do your taxes.
While having either a simple or comprehensive marketing strategy is ideal, at the very least, you should know why you are investing time and money in marketing.
“Knowing your why” is a very trendy topic these days (thanks Simon Sinek) but it is honestly the simplest and best strategy.
And in some cases, it is very simple.
For most businesses, their “why” for marketing is “to promote our products/services and help get new customers.”
Seems obvious, but if these “whys” aren’t articulated, they often aren’t front of mind, and so get forgotten until rudely reminded (like the prompts I get from my accountant each quarter).
Being a solo operator with limited time and a busy stable of current clients and projects, my “why” actually isn’t focused on business development and getting more clients.
For me, marketing allows me to “practice what I preach”, demonstrate my expertise, and appeal to a like-minded audience.
Working in the marketing space, it is essential for me to show that I know what I’m doing.
The secondary benefit is that it does actually lead new opportunities my way, and often they are qualified and the type of people and projects that I want to work with, due to the alignment that can be seen by my own marketing.
It doesn’t have to be a multi-page, formalised strategy (though it helps). At the very least, know “why” you are marketing your business, and who you are marketing to.
I know what my focus channels are
While I do dabble in a number of different digital and social media marketing channels (for research purposes), I know what my core marketing channels are:
- my websites and blog (with regular posts)
- email marketing (with regular email campaigns)
- social media (with a focus on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and LinkedIn)
This might sound like a lot, but there are a number of tool and techniques I use (see below) that help me manage them.
It also helps simply knowing exactly where my focus should be, rather than taking a scatter gun approach to my marketing.
These are channels that I both like, and are used by my target audiences.
When new channels come along, I’ll explore them, and if suitable, add them to my strategy. Or if not, let them pass on by.
It is easy to get caught up in trying to do and be everywhere though (and usually do a poor job).
I have methods to capture ideas
While I do spend time every so often formally planning my marketing activities, most of it is done on the fly.
I have the advantage of working in this area daily, however I still find that ideas can come at any time. Therefore it is important to firstly be open to them, and secondly have methods for capturing them quickly.
My marketing ideas and updates generally come from four main sources:
1. Questions I am asked
If a contact or client asks me a question, I very quickly ask myself if this is something that others may be interested in, and if so, develop some content around it. Be it a short social media update, blog post, or item or marketing collateral.
This serves a number of purposes in helping the original person, and creating a resource that others may be searching for, or I can quickly provide the link to anyone who may ask in the future, which both helps them, and saves me time in answering.
FAQ pages on websites are a fantastic example of this type of content.
2. Trending news or topics
This may be as simple as sharing a current article that is relevant to my field and audience, or writing my own perspective on a timely update, such as this recent article summarising Google’s recent keynote announcement.
3. Topics I am interested in
While some marketers may disagree with this approach, I also write about topics I am interested in and want to write about. Sometimes these are more personal in nature, and have the extra benefit of being cathartic in nature.
I have found however, that these types of updates often resonate with some people, as one person whom I mentioned earlier specifically told me that they really appreciated my blog posts about juggling my work with being a parent.
I also find that these types of more personal updates help to attract the type of people I like to work with, due to the personal affinity.
4. Keyword research
As well as being invaluable for search engine optimisation, keyword research often raises oodles of content opportunities, as it tends to include many questions that people type into search engines.
Being able to answer someone’s specific question is not only a valuable SEO technique, but creates genuinely useful content. In my experience, for every one person who asks a question, many others have searched for it, or thought of it.
I was recently told of this nifty tool that can also help with blog post topics, AnswerThePublic (thanks Kate!)
I then have three main tools for then collecting my ideas:
1. Marketing calendar spreadsheet
This is a simple Google Doc that I can access online from anywhere. It offers monthly overviews where I can plot and plan activities, and a daily calendar for more detailed planning.
I use Evernote for developing blog posts. Within it I have a notebook called “New Blog Posts” where I create notes that often begin with a simple title or topic, and some a few draft points to build on. Often there are a number of open and half written post ideas there that I can work on.
Once they are published on my blog, I move them to a “Completed Blog Posts” notebook within Evernote so that I know my “New Blog Posts” is always full of fresh fodder.
3. Emails to myself
My inbox also doubles as a to do list, and if I have an idea on the go, without time to pop it in my spreadsheet or Evernote, I simply type myself an email with the idea in the subject heading. That way, when I’m able to, it reminds me to either action immediately, or plan further using my spreadsheet or Evernote.
I also “write” in my head. I used to think this was a little odd, but then hear Darren Rowse from ProBlogger share on one of his podcasts that this is how he wrote a lot in the early days when he was juggling part time jobs with building his first blog. It allows me to work through concepts while stuck in other “idle” occupations like traffic.
I have developed my digital marketing habits
Again, I am fortunate to work in this field, so marketing is usually front of mind, however I’ve developed the habit of publishing regular updates, because I know my why, and have a stream of regular updates to publish.
This takes time to develop, and its success is driven by constantly asking “would anyone be interested in this?”
I do this quite subconsciously now (as it is a habit) but initially, I recommend having tools to remind you to ask this question.
They may be:
- dedicated time set aside each week for marketing planning and preparation
- an agenda item in regular team meetings to discuss marketing opportunities
I blogged sporadically for about 4 years. Then last year I decided to commit to regular fortnightly blog posts. This was only achieved by booking appointments with myself throughout the week to plan, write and publish posts.
This also helped me discover the times that I wrote best, and so I have now adapted my week and habits around those times as well.
Like any habit, it takes time, and even then you might get out of the habit every so often. The trick is to not get too caught up in it, and just get back into the groove without beating yourself up.
I use scheduling and automation tools
A key aspect of successful marketing is publishing regularly, and when it best suits your audience, not yourself.
And content scheduling is vital for this.
As I’ve mentioned, I often work on marketing in blocks of time when it suits me, but I don’t necessarily want all of my updates to go out then. I try to post on social media channels a few times a week and so make use of Facebook’s native scheduling feature, and use Sprout Social and OnlyPult to schedule Twitter, LinkedIn and Instagram updates.
I will also post a number of updates “live” but the scheduled updates reassure me that there will still be a relatively regular flow of activity from my accounts, even if I am busy with other work.
Most blogs will also allow you to schedule posts to be published in the future. This way I can work on a number of posts (if I get ahead of my plan) but then still publish once a week or fortnight, to offer regular content.
I also use an RSS email campaign that automatically sends a monthly summary of all of my blog posts for that month. This ensures I send at least one email campaign per month, without even having to think about it. Then I can plan and send or schedule other email campaigns as required.
I monitor my results and learn from them
Obviously I am an advocate for regular detailed reporting, at least once a month. But at the minimum, you should be regularly reviewing your marketing efforts and using this to help refine future activities.
Key marketing statistics include:
- Page views on blog posts
- Time spent on page of blog psots
- Bounce rate on blog posts
- Open rate of email campaigns
- Clicks on the various links in email campaigns
- Reach of social media posts
- Clicks, likes, comments and other engagement factors on social media posts
This information helps understand what types of content are resonating best with your audience, which provides focus for which to focus more on in the future.
Okay, so it might not seem simple, but like anything worth doing, you need to put a little work in to it.
If you know your “why” but the time, resource and skills required to manage it are lacking, the it is worth investing in other resources, such as outsourcing your marketing, using freelance copywriters, or syndicated content systems such as Feedsy (providing they suit your brand, and reflect your “why”).
Now over to you, how do you stay on top of your small business marketing?0