Small business owners have so much on their to-do lists that it’s a wonder how it all gets done. Let’s be honest – sometimes it doesn’t! There just aren’t enough hours in the day.
Kathy and I have been there! Take our blogs, for example. Our January resolution was to post weekly. We were doing GREAT, too. Until we weren’t. One insanely busy stretch was all it took and our weekly blog fell to the bottom of the to-do list once again. Ironically, all that writing at the beginning of the year had led to a strong surge in client leads. We had proof that it was working, yet we still didn’t prioritize it. Why? Because even as experts in the field, we simply ran out of time for marketing.
So, how do you make time for marketing when so many other tasks feel equally or more important?
The bottom line is that marketing must be seen as valuable and vital to your bottom line. There must be a sense of urgency. Marketing is what creates and distributes your brand, drives product development, improves communication, maintains relationships with your customers, and tackles the competition. There is no other function of your company that will be as critical as marketing. Period.
Ask yourself these questions:
- Will there be an interruption in lead flow if the marketing is not implemented?
- Will there be damage to your company’s reputation if marketing is not managed?
If you are reading this article, chances are you already know the answer to be “yes” to these questions. You just need to figure out how to make the time for marketing when you don’t have an in-house marketing team. Keep reading!
Organize Your High Level Strategy
One reason marketing falls to the wayside is because there is no rhyme or reason to your strategy. This is particularly likely if you skipped the “Marketing Plan” section in your “Business Plan” when you started your business. The last thing any business should be doing is marketing “just to be marketing.” That kind of strategy creates chaos and stress, Instead, drop everything right now and take a day to devote yourself to organizing your marketing strategy following these five steps:
1. Take a snapshot of your company’s current situation.
Which social media channels are you using or not using? What shape is your website in? Have you been blogging? Determine your weaknesses and strengths. Where have you been promoting your company? Do you have any non-digital marketing channels? Define your team and resources.
2. Define your target audience.
You might have already been there and done that, but we find that many of our clients are too broad with their definition when we first meet. Take a little bit of time now while you’re getting organized to review. Having clear audience segments makes it easier and faster to create your marketing messages down the line. Bigcommerce.com has a great article on how to break it down.
3. Make a list of your marketing goals and be as specific as possible.
Getting more customers or making more sales is a given. Let’s get really specific during this high level strategy step. For example, you might want to set a goal for the number of followers on Facebook by the end of next month. Perhaps you want to create one webinar per month. Think short term and long term, including numbers and metrics that will help you measure success. Check out this article for inspiration and additional guidance.
4. Determine which tactics will work for your business.
Now that you have your goals, it’s important to be realistic in what will work for your business. If you set a goal for blogging once per week, but you know deep down that it will never happen, reassess your goals. This step also requires a bit of research. You might be perfectly excited about one of the goals you’ve set, but is it practical for your industry? Financial advisors, for example, have to be highly aware of compliance regulations, so that SEO goal you’ve just set might need to be adjusted accordingly.
5. Set your marketing budget and commit to spending it.
Figures vary, but the U.S. Small Business Administration gives a range of 7% – 12% of your revenue to be spent on marketing. This number is higher if you are a start-up or in a growth phase. Entrepreneur.com has marketing calculator you may find handy. The reason this step is so important is because many small business owners waste valuable time each month calculating (and re-calculating) what they can spend on marketing. If you build it into your budget right from the start, you don’t have to spend another minute thinking about it. Additionally, if you know you’re making the financial investment in marketing, you are much more likely to give it the attention it deserves.
Organize Your Daily Marketing Strategy
Now that you have your high level strategy in place, it’s time to organize the nitty-gritty daily strategy. This is were you dive in and make it all happen. This is sometimes the hardest part because it’s one thing to have a plan in place, it’s another thing entirely to apply it. These three tips will help you get going:
1. Keep records.
It’s really easy to think you’ll remember everything, but you can save time if you keep meticulous records of your marketing efforts and results. Having a way to measure your return will help you feel confident and confirm what is working. More importantly, it will give you a way to see what isn’t working – saving you valuable time and energy!
2. Create a login file.
Don’t waste time trying to remember that login for Instagram or how to access your Google Analytics. Create that login file now and keep it in a safe place.
Related: Strong Passwords, Secure Websites
3. Create a master calendar.
This deserves an entire blog series on its own, but you can save a phenomenal amount of time marketing if you create a simple master calendar. Start with holidays and upcoming sales events. Add them to your calendar and jot down when you want to start promoting them. Once you have the basics in your daily planner, you can now craft a few posts. Eliminate the frenetic, last-minute “throw something together at 5:00 just to get something out there” approach. Take a few minutes now in the calm light of day and put those pieces together. Hubspot has some excellent resources if you aren’t already using the Fisher Green Creative calendar. Another great resource comes from The Marketing Helpline – check it out here!
Automate and Leverage to Make Time
Now that you have a good plan for what you want to accomplish, it’s important to set them in motion in a way that works for you. We recommend that you automate as much as possible and leverage the features you find easiest.
Our favorite automation tools include Buffer for scheduling social media posts and MailChimp for scheduling emails. Both are very intuitive even for the most technically challenged among us. There are thousands of options to choose from, but here are a handful of other recommendations. The way to narrow it down is to match the platform that works best with your current set up and skillset. Did you know that even Facebook has a scheduling tool?
In other words, leverage! This is where you make time by selecting the marketing tools that you feel comfortable implementing. Are you comfortable with Facebook Stories? Use it! Do you prefer to update your blog? Go for it! You are giving yourself extra time by eliminating unnecessary learning curves.
Don’t Get Sidetracked
It’s easy to do and sometimes impossible not to do. It’s amazing what pops up sometimes that throws us off schedule. The important piece of advice to remember is that it is OK – and even recommended – to ignore the latest and greatest marketing trends until you have the basics down pat. You can make time for yourself by staying focused! Here are some helpful reminders:
1. Separate your personal social media from your business.
2. Create a specific task list for each day and an overall weekly to-do list.
3. Keep your marketing plan and editorial calendar handy.
Collaborate and Delegate
Often business owners are the experts in their business and the voice of their company, but it’s time to collaborate and delegate. Take advantage of team members who are willing to take on some extra work or identify ways to share the work load. Many of the scheduling tools mentioned above have “team” options, to help coordinate content creation.
There are some fantastic tools out there to help you be more efficient. Start with an excellent CRM if you don’t already have one. We use 17Hats.com and have recent experience with Insightly.com. We would recommend both!
Next, think about using a digital collaboration software, like Slack or Asana. These are great if you actually use them, but we don’t recommend implementing yet one more thing to keep track of if it’s really not your thing. A good old-fashioned desk calendar and email can be just as effective. The key is to find a system that works for you so that you are saving time by being consistent and efficient with your teams.
It’s not uncommon for small business owners to be the do-it-yourself kind of folks. After all, that is likely how they got to be business owners to begin with. Does this sound familiar? Then taking courses is an excellent way for you to go. While attending class (virtually or otherwise) will take time up front, you’ll save hours, weeks – maybe even months – in the long run by investing in learning proper techniques and marketing strategies.
Our favorite learning resources include Coursera and Udemy. We also recommend the learning centers available on most of the major social media platforms. Don’t underestimate the value of things like Facebook Learning or LinkedIn Learning. You can also check out this link to find a course that might work for you.
It goes without saying that you can save a lot of time by simply outsourcing your marketing, but we have to include it here in hopes that you’ll contact us! We can take care of any or all of the above, while you get back to the other important aspects of your business.
If nothing else, remember that marketing for your business should be seen as an investment, so whatever time you do spend on it, it’s well worth it.
Jenny Green, Co-Owner of Fisher Green Creative, specializes in digital strategy development, social media marketing, and SEO for small businesses. Away from helping clients or studying the latest marketing trends, Jenny volunteers her time coaching youth soccer, enjoys a cold craft IPA, and works to save the elephants. Connect with Jenny on LinkedIn or email.