I’ve run a small business for over 23 years.
That means the Internet was just an infant when we opened our doors. Brochures were the hot marketing idea for small local businesses. Everyone had a Rolodex where they kept all their business cards. We also spent many, many hours creating our yearly phone books ad.
The types of marketing media we use has obviously come a long way. Yet, one thing remains the same. The number of hats a small business owner wears every day is staggering. Without a marketing, accounting, human resource, customer service or sales department, the optimistic small business owner may believe they can do it all.
And that’s a complete nightmare.
I’m not suggesting it can’t be done (hey, 23 years in business over here). Instead, I’m suggesting we take a realistic look at our most valuable asset: our time. It’s time to bust the myth that we can do it all. Well, maybe we can do it all but we won’t do it well. It’s time to accept this hard truth and make a realistic marketing strategy.
Don’t Wing It – Make a Plan
We used to try newspaper ads or pass out coupons. The next month we’d have a sale and put it on our sign. We didn’t focus on a niche as we wanted to get everyone’s attention. I’m not sure we even knew what a niche was in the early years. We didn’t have a strategic marketing plan for the first eight years. We just winged it and tried everything that sounded like a good idea.
I still have no idea how we survived this.
In Small Business – Creating Brand Identity, Team 360 takes us through the process of building a brand image. It’s a thoughtful plan that illustrates the steps needed to make a strategy. It’s not enough to post a few social media graphics and expect good results. It’s time to stop winging it and create an actual plan. It will probably need a lot of tweaking but “winging it” is a horrible strategy for any sized business.
Outsource and Automate
Once you have a plan it’s time to figure out how to execute your killer strategy. Let’s say you are working on a summer marketing campaign. You’ve chosen a niche and now you have to create content for a marketing blitz. Here are a few things you may need to do:
✅ Choose niche-specific keywords
✅ Create graphics and blog posts
✅ Write press releases and contact influencers
✅ Schedule social media posts and track engagement.
And you have to do all this while still running your day to day operations. Remember, we have no marketing department that can do this for us. Instead of using all your time and energy on your new plan, outsource and automate everything you possibly can. For example, one law firm saw a 200% traffic increase after hiring a dedicated SEO marketing team. There is little chance a non-SEO professional could pull that off.
There are affordable writing services that can produce quality content for your blog. In Pathetic Profits? Marketing Tools To Jumpstart Online Sales, I share three great tools to consider. The idea is to outsource everything you can afford and automate every step that can be automated. You’ll save time and get better results than you ever could by yourself.
Reevaluate ROI Constantly
Many years ago, we were approached by a salesperson who wanted us to buy ads shown at the local movie theater before the movie starts. The starting cost for this service was around $3000 for the first six months. That was a lot of money for a fledgling new business but the salesperson promised us new clients would flock to our doors.
Instead of signing the contract, we started asking around about the actual ROI of this type of advertising. Not surprisingly, the ROI was horrible and many small business owners told us it was “one of the worst decisions” they ever made. We happily passed on the salesman’s offer. Maybe this type of advertising would have been fantastic in another area as it just didn’t work in our area at that time.
For many businesses, a $3000 advertising campaign is a great deal. But $3000 would be a huge investment for a small business like ours. Investing in something like this could have crippled our business. You may not be able to talk to other businesses about a marketing opportunity, but Return on Investment – ROI – Formula and Use has a few free calculators that you could use.
Be Smart About Your Limitations
I’m good at a lot of things. I can juggle managing a small business, teach classes, run a household and somehow live with one husband, two cats, and a dog. I’m very good at managed chaos.
Yet, I know my limitations. There are so many things I want to accomplish every day, including managing a multi-faceted marketing campaign. I currently manage six Facebook pages and I could not do that without the right tools. Or maybe I could but it would take all my time which would hurt the rest of my business.
Juggling our marketing campaigns, along with everything else we do, can be a complete nightmare. Yet, marketing is the lifeblood of our businesses and we can’t survive without it. It’s time to stop pretending we can do it all. And start finding smarter, easier, and more effective ways to market our small businesses.