This article was originally published on Entrepreneur.
As a small business owner, time is elusive, and too often marketing tends to fall to the back burner. Owners are so busy running businesses, honoring family commitments and the million other things they need to do on a daily basis that this vital effort gets short shrift. Yet the simple truth remains: if you’re not marketing a business, you’re not growing it.
Here are some essential steps to that end.
Take a minute to step back and ask what you’re trying to achieve. This will help determine where to spend marketing effort. Do you want to drive more traffic to a website? Need a better conversion rate? Are you trying to create brand awareness? Knowing what you’re trying to accomplish will dictate the appropriate marketing strategy.
Know who you are targeting, and find unique messaging
Relevance is one of, if not the most important aspect of Search Engine Optimization. People have a better chance of finding you if your content is relevant to them. So, who are you targeting, and what words are they using when they hop online and start searching for products or services? What are their interests? What are their struggles? Where do they hang out online… perhaps LinkedIn, or Instagram, or YouTube? How do they like to consume content? Would they rather listen to a podcast, watch a video or read a blog post?
Next, determine your unique brand message? What makes it different and why should they choose your products or services? Being able to articulate this quickly and effectively will create results. As StoryBrand CEO Donald Miller says, “If you confuse, you’ll lose”.
To do this, you have to know who your ideal customer is, then speak to them in a way that resonates quickly and in a form they’ll likely consume. In the busy online world, people have limitless options, and are looking for connection, transparency and help with their problems.
Create a schedule, and stick to it
If you create a timeline and schedule, marketing becomes a whole lot easier. You know what’s coming up, you know what you need to do and when to do it. Set specific days and times so you can get into a routine (weekly, or even daily) until you establish consistency.
Here is an example timeline that you could put into a Google Spreadsheet or build out in Asana:
- First week of the month: Run an analytics report for the previous month. Look at numbers and keywords for content.
- Second week of the month: Write or order one blog (or whichever type of content your customers prefer) post to the site, as well as create social posts and schedule them.
- Third week of the month: Create an email newsletter comprised of blog content, upcoming events, industry trends and other topics that are relevant or timely. Schedule newsletter to go out.
- Fourth week of the month: Brainstorm topics for next month’s content (events, seasonal ideas, common questions, etc.) Do keyword research for content topics. Write or order one blog post to the website, create social posts.
- Every Monday: Schedule social posts for the week via Canva, Buffer or Hootsuite.
- Daily: Hop online for 10 to 20 minutes once or twice a day to engage.
- Monthly: Run an analytics report for your website, social media and email. Review overall performance, growth and engagement.
- Quarterly: Re-visit your SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound) goals. Check your speed and links, and update CTAs (calls to action) if needed. Create one piece of custom content (infographic, fact sheet, video, checklist, etc.) to be used as a lead magnet on the website. Keep in mind that visitors, in order to access it, should be asked to give their email so as to grow your email list.
- Every six months: Check online listings and make sure they are still accurate (Google, Bing, Apple Maps). Change if needed.
- Yearly: Check your messaging and branding: is it still resonating with your buyer persona? Does it need updating? Are there other opportunities to incorporate into your strategy? Is there anything that is not working?
These apps can help you stay organized and accountable in the process of tackling the above tasks: Asana, Trello, Todoist, Google Suite (Docs, Calendar, etc.) and Canva.
Automate, while still engaging
Luckily, we live in a world with amazing tools to quick-track marketing tasks. You can automate your social media with platforms like Buffer, Hootesuite or Sprout Social, or make it super easy and get a Canva pro account so you can create content and schedule it right in the platform. Also, schedule out emails for the month on Mailchimp, Constant Contact or Hubspot. But even as you enjoy these time savers, don’t neglect the tasks listed above; you still want to hop on daily (even if it’s just a few minutes) to engage, like, comment and share. People, as well as algorithms, will notice if you put everything on autopilot. Just set an alarm on your phone (or Todoist) once or twice a day to hop on for a few minutes.
Reuse and repurpose content
Did you write a blog post that people loved? What about turning it into an infographic, recording it as a podcast, and/or expanding on it to create an ebook that people can download (and help can grow your email list at the same time)? You can also repurpose other people’s or businesses’ content: Just be certain that it is something your followers can connect with and that you give proper credit by tagging the content creator or by using the #Repost app.
Perhaps you have older blogs? You can still rotate those into social posts if they are relevant and helpful. Did you get an awesome review on Google? After sharing it on social, turn that into a custom-branded image on Canva and share again (but in a different format). Are there common questions you get asked often? Then go live on Facebook or Instagram and expand on them. The moral of the story is that using content in different forms gives it more life, and saves you time.
Keeping track of site data will show you what is working (and not) in your marketing strategy. You’ll start to see trends, dips and red flags, so adjust content and strategy accordingly. If you notice more engagement on certain types of posts, by all means do more of those (do your videos get more views than copy-based blogs, for example?).
Grab your calendar right now and schedule a 30-minute brainstorming session with yourself and/or employees. Make it fun and buy some coffee or a nice bottle of wine and spend some time working on the business, not in it! Then start applying this information into a workable strategy, starting with goals and messaging. It’s vital to schedule time into your calendar to brainstorm and review content and analytics.