This is part two of a two-part series about common marketing challenges, especially focusing your efforts and finding the time to market your business online.
Last week, the topic was about focusing your efforts. This week, the topic is about a common challenge for small business owners: how will I find the time?
There are only so many hours in a day, and you have a million things to do. You’re already stressed and overwhelmed most of the time. I know that it’s a challenge to market your business effectively when you’re trying to squeeze it in in the midst of all the other things you have to do.
To find the time, you’ll need to be sure that this is a priority for you. If you’re not convinced about the importance of marketing your business online, then it will be hard for it to ever make its way high enough on the priority list to get your attention.
If you are sure that you want to market your business online, the big decision to make is whether or not you have the time yourself, or if you can make time by bringing in some help. You have a few options:
1. Hire an intern. Yes, this is everyone’s favorite solution, isn’t it? The rationale behind this is tempting: it doesn’t cost anything and all young people know about technology and social networks, or so the thinking goes. There are two problems with hiring an intern. First, they don’t know your business. If they don’t know your business, what your company stands for, and what your clients struggle with, how can they communicate effectively about your business online? Second, they’re generally not going to be around very long. Interns can be very useful when it comes to working on projects that can be completed and marked as done. Your online marketing is ongoing. Interns might be able to assist with some parts, such as putting together an editorial calendar, but they’re not going to be able to continuously update your blog or manage your social media profiles. Once they’re gone, what will you do? This is a temporary solution at best.
2. Outsource the work. This is another tempting solution, but I don’t recommend it. The big drawback with outsourcing is that nobody knows your business like you do. Many bloggers and marketing agencies that provide blogging and social media services are juggling numerous clients and/or writing for several sites. Of course, they’ll talk with you about your brand voice and to identify appropriate content, but it takes a long time (and money) to develop the relationship with the right people who can capture your voice and effectively communicate it online. It’s actually easy to spot when a business has outsourced its blog content because the posts tend to be watered down and pretty thin in terms of the value they provide to the reader. This is simply because contractors can’t capture the nuances of your business when they’re on the outside.
2. Recruit your employees. Having your employees handle your blog and social media updates can be a good solution. They know your business. They know your customers. If you have employees who are good writers and/or who enjoy connecting on social media, this could be a great option for you. If you do recruit your employees, work with them to define appropriate content and to put together some guidelines. You could even implement a system that allows each employee to create blog content by answering one client question. If you have four employees, and each one answers one question per week, you could have a year’s worth of blog posts right there!
3. Hire an assistant. In some cases, you may realize that you don’t have anyone in-house who can do this for you. Or, maybe your employees don’t want to do one more thing on top of their other responsibilities. If so, you might need to consider hiring an assistant. This can begin as a part-time, contract position. This assistant can focus on updating your blog and managing social media updates. As a member of your team, they would know more about your business than a third-party. Depending upon the skills and experience level of the marketing assistant, you can either have them write the content themselves or they can help to develop draft content that you or another employee can review, edit, and publish.
4. Bring in a consultant. You can bring in a consultant without outsourcing the blog posts and social media updates. For example, as a consultant, I’ve developed online marketing plans that are then implemented by an in-house team. This has worked well for the clients because it’s been less expensive to bring in a consultant than a new employee. They’re also able to tap into online marketing expertise that they don’t have in-house, yet they can then have the in-house team that knows their business the best handle the blog posts and social media updates. In many cases, this can be a win-win: the consultant develops the strategy but the people who know your business best implement it.
5. Make the time yourself. Now that we’ve run through some options for bringing in help, let’s consider what you can do to find the time if you, brave soul that you are, decide to do your own marketing. After all, this is what it will come down to for many small business owners. Note that I’m focusing here on finding the time to write blog content, since that is usually the part that takes the longest. Here are a few options to try:
- Schedule time to write every day. If this is a priority, you’ll need to choose a time to write. Essentially, you’ll be creating a new habit for yourself so that you’ll write every day. In order to get the habit to stick, you should write in the same place at the same time every day. For me, mornings work best, so I write for at least 30 minutes before checking email or social media. Other people might find that late at night or on weekends works best. Any of these are fine, so long as you stick to it.
- Block out one day to write. If you can’t write every day, then try setting aside one day to write. This could be once every two weeks, or once every week. Put it on your calendar and make sure that when the time comes, nothing else gets in the way. In one day, you should be able to write a few blog posts and schedule your social media updates.
- Block out two hours every week to write. If you can’t write every day, and you can’t set aside one day to focus on this, try blocking out two hours every week. This is better than nothing and should give you enough time to write that week’s blog post and prepare your social media updates for the following week.
- Use a recorder. If you don’t consider yourself a writer or if setting aside the time is difficult, maybe using a recorder can help. Once you’ve chosen your topic, you can address that topic by talking about the key points and the takeaway for the readers. The recording can then be transcribed and with a bit of finessing, you should have a blog post ready.
These are just a few ways that you can find the time to marketing your business online. It might take some time for you to find the one that works right for you. To tell you the truth, I’ve actually bounced back and forth between doing my own marketing, hiring an assistant, and outsourcing the work. In the end, I’ve found that what works best for me (in large part because I really enjoy writing and tend to be fairly good at it, based on feedback I receive) is to do my own marketing and blogging. This doesn’t mean that I won’t try one of these other options again in the future, but this is what’s working for me now. Likewise, you may find that you need to try a couple of different options before you find the one that will work best for you.
Have you tried any of these options yet? Which do you think would work best for your business?