Earlier this year I quietly panicked. Aware that most of my business was coming from former colleagues, contacts and referrals I realised two things:
- Hard times were coming with the signs of a recession ahead.
- My pool of former colleagues and contacts was finite.
This led me to the conclusion that it was time to get serious about marketing my business to expand my potential clients base to the infinite masses.
Down the rabbit hole
As a journalist, the first thing I did was throw myself into research – I started reading articles about small business marketing, listening to podcasts and doing free (and some paid) courses on blogging, social media, search engine optimisation (SEO), search engine marketing (SEM) and email newsletters. And I didn’t even get to the courses on podcasting or vlogging.
It left my mind boggling. There was so much potential marketing I could be doing, but only so many hours in a day and with client work always my priority, I just didn’t know how to focus my efforts, what to prioritise or where to begin.
I was overwhelmed and subsequently paralysed.
What is your brand?
Madeline Avery, marketing director at Birdcage Marketing, which specialises in small business marketing, says the starting point is to become clear on who you are as a brand.
“As a small business owner you are your brand, so be true to yourself.”
She says that sometimes people can be too close to be able to identify what they stand for. If this sound like you, it can be useful to ask your colleagues or contacts how they’d describe your business.
When defining their brand, Ms Avery says a common mistake is to be too general. “Too many people try to be all things to all people, but if you can become meaningful to a niche your marketing conversion rates will increase along with that.”
Upon further reflection I realised my plan to reach the infinite masses was unrealistic – and a big part of the cause of my disorientation.
As a niche writer (in my case I specialise in business, and within that in insurance, superannuation, and personal finance) my potential clients are not infinite. If pressed, I could probably list the biggest key players in Australia in each of those sectors on two hands.
This realisation led to another – that while blogging, social media, SEO, SEM, email newsletters, podcasting and vlogging all have marketing value, that value is not equal – it varies depending on who you’re targeting.
Understand your target audience and show up where they are
Ms Avery says identifying your target audience is key. “They hold all of the answers to what you need to be saying and where you need to be saying it,” she explains.
“Identity their pain points and map where they go to look for answers to those questions – that’s where you need to be showing up with your marketing.”
In my case, when it comes to reaching the marketing decision makers in the businesses in my niche, Facebook and Instagram are of little value to me – but they do hang out on LinkedIn and Twitter.
As a result, my LinkedIn profile needs to be compelling, and I need to be promoting myself actively on this channel – posting content, sharing other people’s content and commenting.
Of course, I need content to post, and as a writer, having a blog on my website and then amplifying my blog posts on LinkedIn and Twitter makes sense.
Five top tips for falling down the marketing rabbit hole (and finding your way back out again)
- Be aware that the research phase will be overwhelming – there’s a mass of information out there and so many different things you could be doing. Make notes, bookmark websites – whatever it is you do to keep track of research – until you think you’ve gathered enough detail to start making some decisions.
- Step away – once you feel like your brain has reached exploding point, forget about marketing for a while. When you give yourself some space you’ll find that the things that really resonated with you, or could work best for your business, will begin to drift up to the surface.
- Come up with a plan – once your instinct has pointed you in the right direction write down your marketing plan. It might be an email send once a month, a blog article once a fortnight and a social post once a week. Or a monthly podcast, and fortnightly video, and two socials posts a week. Whatever your formula, write it down, commit to it and stick to it. The only thing worse than doing no marketing is doing ad-hoc marketing – it takes time but delivers no value.
- Make sure your website is up to scratch – all of your marketing should drive prospects to your website and it should be the last touch point before they make contact with you personally, so before you start get your website into shape.
- Don’t panic – it’s OK to take a staged approach and try different forms of marketing one at a time. Test until you find what works for you and if something works, repeat it, over and over and over again.