You’re in business and often you’re working solo. You always have a ton to do. From serving customers to fixing the cash register to learning the ins and out of taxes and insurance, it can seem like there’s always another day to work on things that don’t seem to be as pressing.
Marketing can be one of those things. Seasoned entrepreneurs will encourage you to spend some time working “on” your business rather than “in” your business, taking time to look at the big picture and plan for the future instead of getting lost in the weeds and micromanaging, as in this article from Inc.
When it comes to marketing, it’s helpful to break it up into seven, thoughtful chunks. Whether or not you already have a marketing plan, set aside 15 quiet minutes a day for marketing. Make an outline of what you’re doing, and what you might want to do, within these areas:
Brand, Audience and Messages
The word “brand” is thrown around a lot. Essentially, your brand is the experience that customers can expect when they buy your product or service, and it’s what makes your experience different from the experiences offered by other similar businesses. (A brand is not your logo.) Your audience is who you’re talking to, and your messages are what they want to hear in order to buy from you.
Website and Associated Marketing
Your website is almost always the hub of your marketing. It speaks for your business, integrates your brand and it should be current and comprehensive. While you are online, make sure that if you are a business that is open to the public, you have an up-to-date website and you’re active on Google Business.
Depending on what you’re selling, doing, and the experience you offer to consumers, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn and Google Business are all social networks that may help you connect with your current, or future audience. There are sets of best practices for each network; they are all different and most of the time it’s smart to interact with them in different ways. Crowd-sourced review sites like Yelp and TripAdvisor may play important roles as well.
Networking, Referrals, Partnerships
Networks can span from online groups to the local rotary club to business associations. Partners could be anything from other publishers of media content to village destinations who see the same shoppers. All of them take time to maintain – but when they’re a good fit, they can add up to big referrals.
Events, Collateral and Email Marketing
Events can be a great way to reach a defined audience, and if you have a presence at that event you will want collateral (such as posters, brochures, banners) to show people who you are. There’s an art to incorporating your brand and creating an engaging display. Email marketing, such as enewsletters, can reach customers consistently to stay top-of-mind and reinforce their loyalty. Email marketing platforms such as MailChimp are free (for the first 2000 addresses) – and even if you don’t have an enews but think you may someday, start gathering email addresses for your list.
Advertising, Sponsorships and Paid Promotion
Although Facebook ads can be purchased for $5, for the most part this category includes purchased visibility that can require some cash and is often for the more established businesses. But for any sized business, an advertising strategy should always accompany the outlay of funds.
Earned media is essentially publicity that you don’t pay for: a news story about your business, a guest appearance on a partner’s blog, or an article about you in a partner’s enews. Media relations continues to change dramatically, and while there is no direct cost to this visibility, it has tons of potential to demonstrate to others why they want to carry your brand message to their readers or consumers.
So in the End (It’s Only the Beginning)
When your outline is complete, prioritize your action items according to the following formula: where can you make the most impact, for the least amount of time, and the least amount of money? The points that rise to the top are a good place to start. How far can you get in 15 minutes each day?
Your business is your creation, and like a child, it’s up to you to raise it in your vision. Working in your business puts you in the position to lead: spot limitations, find solutions, define goals, and strategize for the future – a role that, hopefully, will work very well for you!