If you’re not running into any marketing challenges, you can skip this post. However, if you find yourself struggling to market your business, you might find this information helpful.
Based on my own experience and that of my clients, I’ve noticed that the two biggest challenges to marketing online for small businesses are: 1) focusing one’s efforts and 2) finding the time for effective marketing. In this post, part one of a two-part series, I’ll share with you three tips for finding your focus and approximately how long it will take to implement each one. We’ll get to finding time next week, because it will be much easier after you’ve decided what to focus on!
Why Do You Need to Focus Your Efforts?
To start, it’s worthwhile to reflect on why you need to focus. Simply put, without a focus, your online marketing efforts are ad hoc and may not be helping your business.
You may write a blog post about whatever happens to have your attention at the moment, but it may or may not be related to your business goals. You may post something on Facebook that catches your fancy, but it may or may not get you closer to your goals. If you have unlimited resources, this isn’t a problem. The challenge for most of us who are constrained by either time or money (usually both!) is that we need to be very selective about what we choose to engage in. We need to do our best to make sure that our online activities are aligned with our business goals.
Ideally, you would be creating an online marketing plan for your business. However, if you’re not able to do that yet for whatever reason, here are three simple steps you can take to get started focusing your efforts:
1. Be clear about who you’re trying to reach. Knowing your target market is a start, but it’s not enough. It’s not easy to sit down and write a good blog post that speaks to “HR managers at small-to-medium sized businesses.” It’s easier if you’ve created an ideal client profile, so that when you sit down to write, you’re creating content for “Jennifer, a 45-year-old female HR manager struggling with benefit programs at a 50-person engineering firm.” In the first scenario, your target market is broad; in the second scenario, you can speak directly to an individual, honing in on her particular challenges and struggles.
This doesn’t have to be too difficult to do. You can start by reflecting on shared characteristics among your current clients (or the clients that you want to work with, if you’re just starting out) and write up a short description of your ideal client that includes those characteristics. Give your ideal client a name and speak directly to that person when you’re writing. I find it helpful to start some blog posts by writing at the top of my draft: “Explain to Jean how I’ve overcome problems with focus and time in online marketing so that she can overcome them, too.” The benefit of this approach is makes it more likely that the content you develop will be relevant to the client that you’re trying to reach.
Time it will take: One hour to draft your ideal client profile.
2. Plan blog content that will be useful for that person. Once you know who you’re trying to reach in your marketing, you’ll want to draft ideas about topics that you can blog about. This can help you overcome one of the biggest blogging challenges: not knowing what to write about. By planning your blog content in advance, you’ll always know what you’re going to write about. This will make it easier to write your post because you’ll just be explaining your topic to your ideal client. It will also help you to ensure that you’re blogging about topics that are relevant to your client, not just random topics.
An easy way to plan out your content is to come up with a list of questions that your clients have asked you. Write down all the questions that come to mind and then select the top 10 questions. Take your list of questions and assign one per week for the next 2 and a half months. Write an answer to each of those questions, and that answer will become your blog post for that week! By doing this, you’ll actually have started on the editorial calendar for your blog.
Time it will take: One to two hours to write down your questions and schedule one per week for the next 10 weeks.
3. Plan your social media updates in advance. As you think about using social media to market your business, remember that you don’t need to use too many social networks. Yes, it would be nice to have a vibrant presence on all of the networks out there, but it’s just not realistic for us small business owners. Focus on the one or two networks that are most suited for your business. If you’re a B2B services provider, this means that you should probably spend more time on LinkedIn. You might want to try Facebook and/or Twitter, but you may not need to worry about Pinterest just yet. Be selective and be very conscious about the time that you have available.
Once you’ve selected your networks, prepare your social media posting schedule by drafting ideas for categories of topics that might be of interest to your ideal client. You can then assign one category per day. For example, on Facebook, you might want to share a link to your blog posts on Mondays and Thursdays, updates about your business on Tuesdays, an industry update on Wednesdays, and engagement questions on Fridays. Then, once each week, you can write a specific update for that category. Using Facebook’s scheduling feature, you can schedule all your updates for the following week at once. During the week, just check in quickly to respond to comments, and to comment on and like the updates of the people you’re following.
Time it will take: 30-60 minutes per week to plan and schedule your social media updates.
One important thing to remember about these three steps is that they’re designed to get you started. Once you start, you’ll need to pay attention to what’s working and what’s not so that you can adjust accordingly.
Okay, now you might be thinking to yourself, this all sounds good, but how will I find the time to do this? For an answer to that question, tune in for next week’s post! In the meantime, leave a comment and let me know if you’ve struggled with finding focus and what has worked (or not worked) for you.