Given my line of work, it’s probably unsurprising to hear that I get asked a lot of questions about marketing! Most commonly, people enquire about specific platforms or tactics. “Should I be on LinkedIn?” or “I heard I have to do video marketing, but where do I start?” come up a lot. But to make your marketing work, there is a lot more to organise than simply what channels you appear on.
You see – where you promote your business is only one piece of the puzzle. And, in my opinion, it’s not the most important one either. In order to make your marketing work, you have to get ALL of your ducks in a row. And those ducks are what I want to talk to you about today!
So let’s explore four key areas I believe you should take control of before you even think about picking up that camera to film your first video!
I’m creating this post as a sort of “beginners guide” to getting things off the ground and developing a system that really works for your small business. Here, we’re taking a look at the big picture – what do you need to focus on and what does that entail?
Throughout the post, however, you’ll find handy links to dedicated posts on each of the four key areas!
How to Make your Marketing Work – The Basics
In order make your marketing work to attract more of your ideal clients, you need to figure out not only:
- How to get your message out there? From email newsletters to social media, and public speaking to PR, there are a lot of avenues to choose from.
- How do you get people’s attention? Social media feeds are saturated in the current market – so what can you do to catch the eye and pique their interest?
- How do you get them to listen and engage? Anyone can send an email newsletter. But how do you actually get your audience to not only open it, but keep reading and clicking through?
- How do you make it happen? A plan is only as good as the action you take. So how do you make sure to actually write and send that email or social media post – and, more importantly, how will you do it consistently?
In short: If you want to get your business ready for growth, you need to have the following four things in place.
- USP (also: niche, positioning, competitive advantage): To get people’s attention, you need to stand out from your competition. How are you going to achieve that?
- Customer Focus: To get them to listen and engage, you need to give them something of value before expecting them to part with their money.
- Marketing Channels: To get your message out there and be visible, you need to have the right marketing mix in place.
- Workflows, Tools & Processes: To be consistent and see results, you need to fit all this into your busy schedule.
So, let’s look into these four areas and how you can get everything in place to get your business ready for growth.
First things first – you have to figure out how you’re going to get people’s attention. You’ll do this by standing out from your competition and setting yourself apart.
A lot of well-known brands are using USP to position themselves in the market: Just think of Lidl and Waitrose and how they set themselves apart from each other and other supermarkets. And the list goes on. You’ll experience it yourself when you’re making purchasing decisions, so start taking note of how brands differ and, most importantly, how they achieve that.
To set yourself apart from your own competition, you need to analyse the following:
- You: What do you do, why and how do you do it? What do you do differently? This all makes up your brand.
- Clients: What do they need and want? What do they say about you? How do you help them? Why did they choose you?
- Competition: What’s their USP/positioning and target audience? It can feel uncomfortable to go through this part, but as a business owner is it vital! Here are my top tips on how to keep track of your competition.
- How can you use 1 and 2 to set yourself apart from 3?
Keen to learn more? Great – I have a full post on figuring out your USP. While this post is an overview of the four key processes, this USP post here dives deeper into that one area.
2. Customer Focus
So, you’ve figured out how you stand out. Now you need to get people to listen and engage. How? By providing value first, and promoting second. The 80/20 content rule (80% customer focused, 20% promotional content) is a simple but effective rule of thumb – not just for your content!
Consider this – a website that simply describes what the company does (e.g. “I am an award-winning photographer” or “We offer reliable and professional admin support”) sits in that “promotional” space. Instead, make talking about the benefits for the customer your priority! You can achieve this with some simple edits to your copy.
“Capture your favourite moments” or “Focus on running your business, we’ll take care of the rest”. Suddenly, instead of focusing on you, the content focuses on the person who’s looking to hire you. And that recognition of their needs instantly creates a connection.
When you create content, then, try approaching it like this:
- Focus on the benefits: What do they gain, want and need? How do you help them? Tell them how your product can transform their life, not simply what the product is.
- Share your expertise: If your business fixes customers’ cars, share tips on how to care for their car or early warning signs of trouble. If your business helps people with their mental or physical health, consider offering advice on how to eat a more nutritious diet, or fitting meditation/exercise into their busy lives.
- Widen your approach: Give advice & tips on shared interests and values. Here on my blog, I do this by creating posts not just about marketing, but about how to run a small business!
Still not sure? Fear not! Once again, over the years, I’ve created a 3-part series of blog posts on this topic. Hop on over here to read more on customer-focused marketing.
3. Marketing Channels
Now we come to the part people usually ask me about first – what channels to be on! To get your message out there and be visible, you have to choose the right marketing platforms.
Here, you want to look at all possible avenues – email, social media, PR, events, public speaking, networking… While it is true that you shouldn’t be everywhere (your customer certainly isn’t!), you should have a decent mix in order to make your marketing work.
“Where do I start though?”, I hear you ask. Well, it really comes down to these two things:
- Your target audience needs to be there in sufficient numbers. No point in spending hours creating TikTok content if your ideal customer is a man in his sixties. Equally, there’s little point in focusing solely on Facebook if your customer is a teenager! Do your research to find out who is hanging out where.
- Play to your strengths! Do you like chatting to the camera? Fantastic! Video content for your website and social media is a perfect way to engage with your potential customers. But if the idea of filming yourself makes you want to curl up in a ball, don’t panic! Why not start a blog and create written content instead? Both are great options to encourage customers to sign up to your email list/visit your list of services or products – it just comes down to what feels right for you.
Sounds simple, doesn’t it? But with the sheer number of options available, it can be hard not to overthink. If this step is a stumbling block for you, check out this previous post. It is dedicated to Marketing Channels and only Marketing Channels, exploring the topic in more detail.
We all get busy and usually, it’s the non-billable work like our admin or marketing that’s the first to fall by the wayside, right? Unfortunately, however, in order to make your marketing work, you need to be consistent.
Much as though you might wish it would, posting daily for a week on LinkedIn followed by a month of silence isn’t going to get you the results you’re looking for! Streamlining your content and workflows with advanced planning, then, makes all the difference in the world. Get started by ensuring you:
- Set aside time
- Take it as seriously as paid client work, give it the same priority
- Get into a routine
- Use tools and automation where feasible, outsource where necessary
For example – instead of posting on social media as and when you’ve got the time and ideas, get a content plan in place and use a scheduling tool. The content plan helps you plan ahead what you want to post about on which platform and when (e.g. promotional post on Monday morning, a blog link on Wednesday at lunchtime and something fun on Friday afternoon). Then you set aside time to write and schedule it in advance.
This way you ensure your posts are going out at the optimal time and you have content going out consistently even if you’re busy. With this set-up, you only have to check for replies and comments, the rest is taken care of. Using this method, it takes me 3.5 hours per month to create and schedule my own social media content on Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook and Instagram.
Workflows getting you down? Check out this post: How to Monitor and Manage your Small Business Processes. It breaks down my top tips for ensuring your business is a well-oiled machine.
It’s easy to rush in when it comes to marketing. We can all be guilty of being sucked in by the latest social media trend, or impulsively booking a place at an event simply because we heard someone else was going. If you really want to make your marketing work though, planning ahead and getting those ducks in a row is absolutely key! So go back through this list, visit each of the dedicated blog posts and make sure you’re tackling each point to the best of your ability.
And after that? You’re good to go.
This post was created as a companion piece to a talk I gave at the Scottish Business Leadership Conference 2021 conference (hosted by Edinburgh Connections) in June and No Ties Networking in August.