Have you ever noticed how many different methods there are to marketing your business? With so many marketing tactics out there, and so much “noise” about them, many small business owners get paralyzed… or worse, spreading their efforts across many tactics without seeing any results. This ultimately leads to feeling burned out and with a mindset that says either “this stuff doesn’t work” or “I will never be able to make a living from my business”.
I should do more email marketing and start a blog. Or maybe I should do podcasting? Social media marketing sounds easy, I’m already on Facebook. Oh, webinars would be fun to do!
These are just some of the thoughts we find filling our heads as we try to figure out how to market our business. However, the most common problem I find plaguing small businesses and their marketing attempts is they have no marketing foundation.
What is a marketing foundation?
A marketing foundation is the connecting point of all of your other marketing activities, while allowing them to be cost-effective and fruitful. By “marketing foundation” I simply mean, the key assets you need in place to effectively promote your business. Which assets you need is dependent upon your specific business. These assets typically include:
- a bulk email system (ideally with automation functionality)
- a completed website
- social media presence
- a CRM (customer relationship management system)
- a plan
Many people I talk to are bouncing around trying different marketing tactics without seeing many results. In most cases, this is due to 2 core issues:
- They have no plan
- They don’t stick with a marketing tactic long enough to truly get results (usually a symptom of not having a plan)
Some of the best advice I have received (which has come from many sources) is to focus on building one asset to completion before moving on to the next one.
By “completion” I don’t mean that it is perfect and you’ll never have to touch it again. I do mean that it is good enough to fulfill its purpose (think of the 80% Perfect rule). For instance, a website is never “finished”, but it can be built to the point where it provides all of the information and functionality you need to move forward.
The benefit of focusing on building one asset at a time is probably obvious; you can focus your time & energy on that one asset making it progress faster and at a higher quality than if you are bouncing around. This also results in less stress as well as saving time and money.
Are you guilty of this?
Have you tried creating your social media profiles while building your website while creating email marketing campaigns while planning events, and so on…
How has that worked out for you? Do you feel you are getting the results you want or expect?
Chances are (if you are still reading this) the answer is “No”. So, let’s try a different approach…
A General Plan
Even though the marketing assets you need for your specific business may be unique, I want to give you something tangible to work with here. Please use the list below as a general guideline for which marketing assets to create (and in what order) so you can build a strong marketing foundation.
#1 Email Marketing System
You probably anticipated I would say build your website first, but most email marketing systems you can use and get results from without a website.
In business, your contact list is worth more than gold.
This step includes:
- Setting up a business email address – Nothing says amateur (or “I’m not serious about my business”) like an @aol.com, @yahoo.com, or even @gmail.com email address. Most web hosts provide free or really affordable email service for email@example.com email addresses. You can also get a business email account through GMail, which I highly recommend (especially if you already use GMail).
- Creating follow-up email(s) for when people join your list
Generally, all of your other marketing efforts will guide people to your website. So, we need to get this built early on.
This step includes:
- Having some sort of opt-in or lead magnet on your site that links to your email marketing system
- Links to purchase your products or services (using a shopping cart or service like Square or PayPal) and/or scheduling appointments online (SimplyBook.me, TimeTrade, Calendly, etc.)
Note: You may have read that you don’t need a website, that you can use a Facebook page instead. The problem with that is you don’t own Facebook and you are limited on how you can use that platform. A key issue is how Facebook frequently changes how it operates, making you subject to their whims and their business strategy.
Don’t build your house on rented real estate.
A popular axiom in the marketing world is “don’t build your house on rented real estate”. At the simplest level, this means to use your own domain for your primary online presence.
Consider this… if are relying on Facebook as your “website” and Facebook closes tomorrow (which, in this day and age, is not an entirely absurd idea), how will your previous efforts to gain Facebook followers benefit you?
#3 Social Media Presence
Only create profiles on social sites that your ideal customer is using! For instance, if your target audience is stay-at-home moms, LinkedIn probably will not the best option. Having stagnant profiles (profiles you don’t post on or update regularly) can do more harm than good. I recommend only focusing on 1-2 social sites.
All marketing is word-of-mouth marketing.
This step includes:
- Matching your profile images with your website imagery (branding)
- Adding your contact info to your profile
- Adding link(s) to your website and to purchase or schedule appointments (as applicable)
#4 CRM (Customer Relationship Management system)
For some businesses (like those who serve only a handful of clients) this can wait for a little while. However, you want to be able to track customer purchases and interactions as soon as possible. Plus, a CRM makes it much easier to nurture prospective clients.
Every business is centered around relationships.
Trying to keep track of all of the different conversations going on at once can make anyone a grumpy bear. A CRM can be a time-saver (and mood-saver) by keeping a history of interactions with clients and prospects in a single location.
This step includes:
- Linking your CRM software, your email marketing system, shopping cart, and/or scheduling system
- Creating any custom fields needed to track information specific for your business
As with most things these days, there are both paid and free options available to you. Here are just a few of the popular ones…
These have “free forever” versions (not just free trials), as well as paid versions.
Many of these offer free trials but require upgrading to paid version to continue using.
#5 The Plan
Note: You should probably do this step first, but planning isn’t “sexy” so I put it at the bottom of the list. 😉
This is where you decide who all of the pieces fit together. The days of “build it and they will come” are long gone. When it comes to modern day business, we have to let people know we exist and with the abundance of things vying for our attention this is not always an easy task.
But don’t let that scare you. The kind of plan I am talking about is simple (dare I say, exciting?). You could make it as short as 1 page or draw it out like a mind-map diagram! Just make it in a way that you understand and are comfortable with using (especially if it involves crayons).
Your plan should match your personality, both in style and implementation.
This step includes:
- What offers you have (products, services, packages, etc.)
- The “Customer Journey” (the process people take to become a customer)
- How frequently you will send bulk emails and post to social media
- Advertising budget
- And don’t forget about your internal administrative processes (getting those done into a simple, repeatable process can save loads of time and headache)
Let’s Create Your Marketing Foundation
Perhaps you already have a general marketing plan and just need help getting it done. If so, we offer support services designed to get those marketing tasks off your to-do list.
What is your experience?
Have you experienced struggle in creating your marketing foundation?
Are their other tools or platforms you would recommend for others to use?
Share your thoughts below.