Yes, consistency is hard. But it's also the most important thing you can do!Read More
Last week, I wrote about how I’ve failed at marketing my own business, even though I run a marketing business.
This week I got down to walking the walk of my talk… in other words, I started marketing my business as I would do for a client. I’m sharing everything I learned along the way in the hopes that someone out there can learn a thing or two along the way.
I should preface all of this with saying I declared a few goals for the next 90 days. I specifically wanted a certain number of sales calls/proposals and a certain number of clients. I’m not quite ready to give away the numbers just yet. However I have to note that as I went into creating and executing this strategy, I kept those numbers at top of mind.
Once I figured out my goals, I looked at where I am right now and what I need to put into place to get there. Right now I already have several warm leads who in the conversion stage thatI would like to convert into clients through sales calls and proposals over the next few weeks. I also know after that I’m in need of some newer, colder leads that I can move along in my pipeline. Right now I’ve got to be working in those first two stages.
Right now my goal is to connect with newer leads to keep filling my pipeline and also ensure I’ve got systems in place to move warm leads into sales calls.
My business attract new leads in three main ways: LinkedIn, blogs and at in-person networking. Therefore I knew I needed these tasks to be covered on a weekly, possibly, daily basis.
At the beginning of the week, I outlined four blogs for my website, found at least one networking event a week and blocked out 15 minutes a day to find relevant marketing information and 15 minutes to spend on LinkedIn sharing content and connecting with others. It’s important to note here, I took time to dream up content that interests my audience, and to find networking events and LinkedIn groups that have my target audience in them. With these activities, it’s more than just completing, it’s actually putting in the effort. I can already tell I’m going to have to work in more ways to promote my blogs and provide more value through LinkedIn but those are problems to be solved next week.
The next piece of the puzzle was to figure out why not all of my warm leads convert into sales calls and proposals. I know that there’s something missing in my follow up/conversion stage. For this step, I had to look at my past leads that never ended up converting and analyze what went wrong. I went through several emails and notes about calls to break down the process. I realized I don’t a strong enough follow up process for either online or offline leads.
To solve that problem, I’ve implemented a new CRM system and added two additional touch points and I’m in the midst of creating a new lead magnet and follow up email sequence to drive more email subscribers and book more consultations from my emails. I’m also reworking the entire way I present proposals. I’m curious as to how these activities will work moving forward and hopefully by the end of this month, I’ll have data on what’s working.
And that was how I spent my first week implementing my marketing plan! Looking back, it doesn’t look like too much but the amount of clarity I have is freeing. I know where my problems are and I know how to solve them. Moving forward, I have a really clear idea of what I need to be doing every single day and week, which I’m hoping will help me set a really consistent schedule.
My first learning lesson is that all of this is still really mental right now. It took a surprising amount of willpower to sit down and look at everything going on in my marketing and sales funnel. I pushed my business activities back to the end of the day a few days this week when really, I should be tackling it first thing in the morning. One day, I didn't work on my business at all so I've started doing accountability with one of my mastermind partners at the end of every day. My new mantra has become "If I don't spend time on my business, I will never be able to support my clients because I won't have a business!" Because honestly... it's the truth and not just for me, but for every business!
“What happened to your blog?”
This is a question I’ve heard three times in the past two weeks. The latest was from someone I couldn’t shrug off: my business coach.
“Well you know, I’ve been busy,” I said, letting my words trail off. She was silent. That excuse wasn’t going to fly.
I could give 10,000 reasons why I’ve stopped marketing my agency over the last six weeks. I’ve been busy, I was traveling, I’m getting leads though referrals and relationships, I had no idea if any of it was working anyway — you get the picture.
This is a common theme among entrepreneurs and small and mid-sized businesses. Marketing is a tough thing to keep consistent. Because what happens when marketing is consistent? You get clients and when you get clients, you might be too busy to actually market your business. Which is fine, until those client contracts end and then you are right back at square one.
At least, that’s the case with me.
You would think I would know better. I am a marketer. I love marketing. I read about it, write about it, study it, obsess over it and talk about it all freaking day. I live in marketing.
I realized that I had failed myself as a marketer. I had failed my business. But luckily, that's not the end of the story.
I wanted to use myself as an example as to why marketing is so important and, also, why it is so darn difficult.
My coach and I had a long discussion about why I wasn’t marketing my business. We talked about how important client work is and how I needed to value that but how I was doing a disservice by not taking care of my own business. If I didn’t take care of my own business, I would never be able to take care of my clients. Who wants to work with someone who is so scattered because they are always frantically trying to sign their next client? No one.
This is really the ongoing lesson for myself and so many business owners: you have to always be marketing yourself. You have to work ON your business just as much as you work IN your business.
This isn’t always easy. I don’t see the time spent on my marketing translating into dollars like I do when I work on clients. I can’t always see what’s happening on the other side of the screen when I’m writing blogs, pitching articles or connecting with leads and referrals. I can’t always guarantee money is going to come in from those efforts.
But I know that money can come from those efforts. I know that clients can and do find you when you put the work in. It’s my job to know this, to trust this, to improve my skills every day at this and it’s my job to show these results to clients.
That’s why I decided to use my business as an example to what you can accomplish and buckle down with marketing.
After talking to my coach, I sat down and wrote myself a marketing plan. I broke down the stages I was in, wrote myself strategies and tactics, called my assistant and told her that we had work to do.
And I’m going to be sharing it all here because I thought the best way to hold myself accountable was to make myself into a client and prove my results every step of the way.
If you are a marketing nerd or if you want to improve your own marketing and take a look at how someone who specializes in handles hers, I’d love for you to follow along over the next few weeks.
We’ll start on Tuesday and every week I’ll post two updates. The blogs will share how I broke up my marketing, the actions I’m taking, the results I’m seeing and what types of changes I’m making over the next 60-90 days.
My goal is that in the end, you get some ideas about how to understand what your marketing needs, what types of marketing you can do for your business, how to measure your results and just how effective marketing can be for your business.
Also, I hope this helps me stay consistent and accountable to one of my most important clients: my own business.
Because in the words of Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, “Success isn't always about greatness. It's about consistency. Consistent hard work leads to success. Greatness will come.”
My career in marketing began when I was hired as a social media intern for a PR firm in New York City in 2008. I can’t even begin to count the hours I’ve spent on Facebook pages, retweeting, liking Instagram posts, commenting on YouTube videos and repinning pins. I’ve been lucky enough to be a part of some incredible social media campaigns and I’ve also had the unfortunate circumstances of learning when social media does not work for brands and businesses.
The truth is, I don’t think it’s smart for brands or businesses to completely avoid social media. It’s too much of a proven tool to ignore. In the days where everyone is online and there are new products, brands and businesses popping up everyday, you can’t afford to give up a place to establish your business and give value to your audience.
There is an art and science to social media and following these tips will help you blend both without going insane.
- Know your audience
Knowing your audience is my #1 tip for almost any type of marketing activity and it’s incredibly important for social media. Know your audience and know where they hang out, what platforms they like and how they want to interact with you. Are you catering to teens and tweens? Then get on SnapChat and Instagram? Do you offer gorgeous visually pleasing products to women? Get on Pinterest. Does your audience prefer long-form content that offers ton of value? Start a blog and promote it on LinkedIn or Twitter. Understand your audience first then get social with them.
2. Start small
The best social media teams I’ve been a part of are the ones that decided to start small and grow one thing at a time. Get really, really good at what platform, learn how to automate it and then move to the next. It’s hard to build up three-four different platforms from scratch. But if you focus on just growing your Instagram so that you have a fan-base of raving fans, you will be able to more time and energy into it. Then when you decide to spread to Facebook or Snapchat, you can already leverage the success you’ve had on Instagram, making it easier and smoother transition.
3. Plan ahead
The biggest problem I see most small businesses and entrepreneurs making on social media is that they are not consistent. Consistency might be one of the hardest things about marketing. It takes time, energy, focus and patience to consistently post on social. And when things are busy and you’re slammed, it’s frequently the last thing on your list to get done, if it gets done at all. That’s why I always recommend planning ahead. For my clients, I take one day a month to map out their content and their campaigns for the month. I organize ideas, outline them and then keep track of them on a calendar. I use Trello for this but you can use Excel, Google Drive, Evernote or any type of calendar app. Then at the beginning of every week, I write and schedule out the content for the week. I use Sprout Social but you can use a free tool like Hootsuite or Buffer to get started. It helps keep my content consistent, it helps keep my content strategic and it helps me measure my goals.
4. Recognize the funnel & have a goal
If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it hundreds of times: social media (and marketing in general) is not a silver bullet. Too many smart businesses start experimenting with social media, don’t see a return on investment right away and then give up. Creating a Facebook page is not going to help sales start rolling in. The market is too crowded. However if you recognize that social media has a proper place in your marketing funnel and you can recognize and analyze how it’s contributing to the goal of the funnel, then you’re on the right track.
For example, one of my clients is a product based business. We use social media more as an brand awareness tool than a lead generator. While we do track traffic from our posts, we rely on ads to bring traffic back to the website and use our social pages as places to post brand information and entertaining images and content. But for a service-based client of mine, we use social media as a lead generator. We use it to promote their resource-filled blog, which leads to email subscribers and consultations. We focus less on ads and more on providing and sharing high quality content. In both situations, we recognizes that social media is not the last step before purchase and we’ve built out the path to purchase it works with each respective audience.
5. Be of value & engage
This tip goes hand in hand with the tip above. Whatever you are doing on social media, you want to make sure that you are being valuable to your audience. I try to follow Jeff Bullas’ four goals of content marketing with social media posts. Everything should either educate, inform, entertain or inspire. This is why the planning stage is so important. Content matters and taking the time to actually think of good, valuable content will help you a part in the online world where too many people are willing to post cat videos and memes.
Engagement is the second part of the tip. You can’t expect anyone to connect with you if you don’t connect with others. Respond back to comments. Retweet others in your industry. Like photos your followers share Instagram. Engage in dialogue. Yes, this takes time but if you’ve already planned everything out in advance than you can take 10-20 minutes a day to engage on your social channel.
One of the reasons that social media is popular is because you can really see what’s working and what is not. The data you can receive from social media is valuable and so is knowing what to do with it. The trick is not to get frustrated if the data is showing you that your social media content is not resonating with your audience. It’s to figure out what is working and what’s not and then make changes as you go. You have to be willing to look at the data to see: is it the content that’s not working? Or is the posting schedule? Are you using the right hashtags? When I first start out with a client, I generally take the first few weeks to do some tests. I’ll keep a constant (say hashtags) and then mix up the type of content between photos and videos. Or I’ll keep the type of content and experiment with the time of day. The best advice with analytics is to always look at them and then to let your curiosity take over.
Yep, you knew it was coming. At some point, you are going to want to invest money into social media. Unfortunately, nothing was meant to be free forever. Organic reach has been slowly declining over the last few years and that trend isn’t going anywhere. You don’t need to invest right away but if you want to take your social media efforts to a higher level, you will probably have to shell out some money.
And this does not always mean ads. It could mean investing in influencers to write or promote your products. It could mean investing in social media tools like BoardBooster for Pinterest or a social media monitoring platform like SocialClout.
8. Be patient
I feel my own eyes rolling whenever I give this tip. I know it’s cliché and over used but honestly, it’s probably the best advice I can give. Social media is definitely an investment in time and energy and yes, it can be frustrating if you don’t see results right away. But if you learn to play a little, be curious and recognize that this is not a passing fad and trust that your efforts will pay off if you focus on them, you will end up seeing success with social.
Remember, social media is just one part of a fully developed marketing strategy. When you combine it with a clear, concise strategy, it’s bound to bring back higher return on investment. Without a marketing strategy, you won’t be able to see consistency in your business. Stop wondering when you’re next client is going to come in and schedule a free 30 minute Mini Marketing Planning Session with me to discuss how you can actually feel like you’re marketing your business and that it’s working.
One of my first mentors, my former boss, used to say “Marketing is not a silver bullet.” And over the years, I’ve come to learn that’s true. I almost always have to explain to people that really great marketing probably won’t happen overnight or in the first month of execution. It takes time to test, refine and truly find the right marketing strategy for you and your business. Marketing is an ongoing process. When you do it correctly, you will see a steady growth in followers, leads and clients. But the trick is managing your marketing and staying consistent with it, even when it’s not directly turning into leads.
For a small business owner or entrepreneur, this is not always easy. After all, there are about a million things we need to be doing every day. When cashflow is tight, it’s hard to focus on writing a blog every week. I get that but like it or not, if you want cash flow to stop getting tight and start getting consistent, you need to be marketing every single day.
If you have no clue what the heck you’re supposed to be doing marketing-wise, I’m breaking down the basic marketing activities you should be doing. This is not a complete list by any means. Every businesses marketing strategy is different so I can’t cover everything but if you are not executing on any of these things, then your leaving money on the table.
1. Review your goals. I suggest setting monthly marketing goals. You should be working towards something and it doesn’t necessarily have to be clients. It might be website traffic, email subscribers, booked consultations, social media followers, etc. You want something measurable. Look at your goals for the last month. Did you hit them? If yes, great! Look at what worked. If not, ask yourself why not? You can’t be afraid to look at your results. Great marketers know that most of marketing is all an experiment. It’s all about testing and tweaking until you get it right. You have to be able to look at what right and what didn’t and learn from it. See it as an opportunity.
2. Review your numbers. If you have a website or any digital platform, you should be monitoring your traffic and growth. After all, why else would you have these tools if you have no idea if they are working for you? The key is to look for trends in these numbers. Look at your biggest referrers to your website. What content was best performing this month? What days were best for your social media posts?
3. Do a quick audit to ensure everything is still funneling and flowing. This is something I hear pushback on but honestly, it takes a couple of minutes and will give you major peace of mind. Audit your funnels. Are your emails still delivering correctly? What happens when someone signs up for a free consultation? Is everything still working right? Nine times out of ten, everything will be running smoothly. But glitches happen all of the time and your potential clients are not going to hang around to let you know that they’re clicking on a bad link. It’s up to you to check up on your funnels.
4. Set your goals. Now that you’re wrapped up on the previous month, it’s time to look forward. What are you going to tackle this month? And how are you going to tackle it? I’m a big fan of process-driven goals and breaking down what we want to accomplish into how we’re going to accomplish it. Identify what you are going to achieve this month and build out the plan around it. You want four clients? That’s fantastic so you are going to want to ensure your marketing is set around getting 4-12 consultations, depending on your close rate. So if you want 12 consultations, how many offers do you have to make, how many people need to sign up for your email list, how many people need to visit your website. This is why you need to check your numbers, know what works and understand why things do and do not work for your brand and your audience. Because you don’t want to be shooting into the dark. You wan to be building your plan based on data.
Check your numbers. This is one you might need to do, depending on the size of your business but I also suggest looking at your website analytics, email subscribers, social media followers just as a check in. Again, the more data you have and the more clear you are about what works and what doesn’t, the better your marketing will be.
Scan for mentions of your business or brand. This is another thing that not everyone sees as helpful but I love doing it. Who engaged you this week? Who linked to your website? Who retweeted you? How are people engaging with your business and are you engaging back? If you don’t have time to connect with people every day, then you should definitely be trying to connect once a week. It’s all about getting in touch with your audience.
- Look for trends. With this activity, it’s important to not go overboard and end up in comparison-itis hell. But looking around at what’s going on in your industry or your world can help you create relevant content and keep you on the cutting edge. What are people talking about? What is your competition talking about?
- Write content. Content is king online and you need to post regularly, whether you like it or not. Since no one really likes writing content, except content writers, I’ve found that for myself and most of my clients, its easier to write all your content in one big block. Batch your blogs, emails, articles, videos, etc. Write something to your audience every week.
- Schedule your social media posts. This only applies if you choose to use social media for your marketing efforts. I love social but I’ve found it’s so much easier to schedule things out in advance. You can use a social media scheduling tool like Hootsuite, Buffer, SproutSocial or any of the other hundreds of tools out there.
- Check your accounts. Did anyone email you, message you or comment? This will take you 10 minutes every day, maximum. Do you have any leads or people asking for information? CHECK!
That’s it. If you’re checking in throughout the month and the week, marketing doesn’t have to take up a ton of time in your day to day.
Now, what’s not written in your post is the execution of the tactics you identified when you set your goals every month. Obviously whatever you identified you need to do, you need to fit into your schedule for the month so there will always be a few more marketing-related activitiesIf you are running things like PPC ads or Facebook ads, then you will need to have more maintenance on those types of things as well. Again, everyone’s marketing activities will differ slightly but if you have a business and you want to attract customer’s online, you need to be doing these activities!
Hopefully this post doesn’t overwhelm you because it really shouldn’t. Marketing is not as complicated as so many people think it is. It’s really just about understanding your audience, knowing your data, measuring and - most importantly - executing.
If you are reading this article and feeling like you have no idea how to even start with your marketing, I’ve got you! Schedule a free mini marketing planning session. In 30 minutes, you and I can talk through your marketing, what you need and how you can get started!