Before we get started, I’d like to draw a line between your marketing strategy and the tools you use to execute that strategy.
Facebook is a tool, not a strategy.
Facebook ads are a tool, not a strategy.
Instagram is a tool, not a strategy.
Instagram Stories are a tool, not a strategy.
Your website is a tool, not a strategy.
SEO is a tool, not a strategy.
Your copy is a tool, not a strategy.
Your fonts and logo are a tool, not a strategy.
Your new headshot is a tool, not a strategy.
Your email list is a tool, not a strategy.
Get the idea?
You’ll notice I talk a lot about tools here on my blog, other places online, and when I speak. That’s because “How do I….?” questions come up frequently. In my mind, I’m always tying it to strategy (which is why my intake form focuses so much on goals), but I wanted to write a blog post just on strategy because I see so many people get so stuck on specific tools they forget they should be looking at the bigger picture.
Step 1 – Set a Goal
What is the goal of your marketing strategy?
Is it more sales?
More traffic to your website?
Are you focusing on just awareness right now?
Is it visibility and reach?
Do you want to get people to your physical location?
Do you want them to sign up for your email list?
One place I see business owners get stuck is the idea that posting once on social media or showing up once at a networking event will automatically mean a sale. Sometimes it works that way, but it isn’t standard.
If your answer to my question above is “I want to make a sale,” then you need to think about all the steps someone would need to take to feel comfortable buying from you.
Those steps? That’s your marketing strategy.
Someone must be aware of you before they can buy from you.
They have to feel connected enough to you or your product to want to buy it.
They need be engaged in the process of wanting to buy something.
They have to be in the position of allowing you to make a sale to them.
When you are considering which business goals to pursue, make sure they are your goals and not someone else’s. This isn’t the time to let family, friends, podcasts, or articles you read online tell you what you should want in your business.
Your goals should be reasonable and attainable for where you are in your business now (not where you wish you were) or you are setting yourself up for failure. It is one thing to set a goal to sell 50 items this month when you are already selling 45. It is a completely different thing to set a goal to sell 50 items this month when you don’t even have product yet.
If your goal is make a sale, add 10 people to your email list, and get five shares on a post – you are closer, but for this process, stick with a single goal instead of several so your stay focused and your marketing doesn’t end up scattered.
Step 2 – Define Your Difference
Get clear about how and why what you do is different from others who do what you do.
To be clear, there are likely thousands (if not more) people who do what you do. Your challenge is setting yourself apart.
It is easy to say “I care more” or “I work harder,” but that isn’t something someone outside your head can grasp onto.
Go deeper. Be specific – what are the benefits someone gets from working with you? What are the wonderful things you do for your customers? How do you meet your clients’ needs? Why is your approach different or better? How do you show those differences through every step of someone working with you?
I also suggest looking at where you can make yourself stand out. If, for example, you say you have great customer service, but you drop the ball and don’t return calls or messages – that creates a disconnect for your customers because you aren’t living up to the level of service, they expect from you.
You need to know not only why and how you do what you do, but also be able to share it with your potential clients. This goes far beyond a tag line – it is every interaction they have with you before, during, and after the time you work together because you are creating an overall experience for them.
Step 3 – Know Who You Want to Work With
This might be the place where you expect me to start dropping terms like “client avatar” and “buyer persona” – but I’m not going to do that.
Instead, I want to ask you who YOU want to work with?
If you are thinking “I want to work with everyone!” – you are thinking too broad. Not everyone needs your services/product. Even if you are selling mops not every person needs a mop, and even those that do only sometimes need a new one.
Instead of thinking “Anyone who will buy from me!” think “Who makes me love my work?”
What kinds of clients/buyers make you think “I wish I could work with them every day!”
Who has made you so excited you can’t wait to meet with them again?
Which clients make you happy when you see their email in your inbox?
Conversely, which clients do you think about and shudder?
Who made you want to turn off your phone and move to another country rather than deal with them one more time?
I have had both (and everything in between). I don’t know about you, but I’d much rather work with someone who makes me happy to do the work with them and is excited about working with me, too.
As my business has progressed, I’ve gone from needing to take every possible client and hoping for the best (even when there were alarm bells!) to being able to be selective about who I work with and when.
Step 4 – Know your People
Now that you have a goal in mind, you’ve thought about how you stand out from the crowd, and you have a good idea of who you do (and don’t) want to work with – let’s talk about where to find your people.
This is where you have to put yourself in your client’s shoes and determine:
Where they spend their time?
You need to be where your people are and sharing information in a way that makes sense to them.
If, for example, your people are primarily on Linked In – then you need to be there.
If, on the other hand, your audience doesn’t use Linked In – then you probably don’t need to be there.
I can say, in a very general way, that most businesses need to have a professional presence on Facebook (and it is a must if you want to run ads). But I can also think of businesses who have no social media presence at all and seem to do fine because they are focusing their efforts in other places.
If you aren’t sure where your clients hang out ask yourself where your last five clients came from – chances are you’ll see a pattern. If your last five clients came from referrals – where did you meet the people who are referring you?
Step 5 – How Do You Help?
I’ll be honest, I loathe the term “pain points” – it is a mean phrase meant to push people in a direction they may or may not want to go in – all so someone can make a sale. Its yucky. So let’s flush that term and focus on where you help people instead (hey! Let’s make “Helper Points” a thing!)
Again, put yourself in your clients position:
What they care about?
What do they need to hear from you?
What problem do you solve for them?
When they have a problem you can solve – what makes them decide to seek help?
When they are seeking help – what do they think the solution looks like?
Approach it from a place of compassion and lessening someone else’s struggles and frustrations. You’ll have a great place to start and you’ll be able to sleep at night, too! Win, win!
Step 6 – Video and Email and Phone Calls, Oh My!
You know where your clients are and what they care about, but have you thought about how they take in information and how they prefer to communicate?
Do they want to see video?
Are they likely to sign up for email lists?
Do they prefer photos over text?
Do they want to talk to you on the phone or do they prefer to be contacted via email?
Do they only move towards making a purchase after meeting someone in person?
Meeting your clients where they are is an important part of your marketing strategy because it helps to build trust and make your interactions easier.
Step 7 – Create Work Flows
The earlier steps focused on finding clients. This step is all about the systems you need in place to keep in touch.
First, no spam. Do not spam people via Facebook, Instagram, or email. You will not be making friends or earning clients if you go in that direction.
Second, think of creating work flows when clients reach out to you.
Always respond promptly – someone is trying to give you money so don’t make it hard for them!
If you’ve responded to an email, message, or phone call and don’t get a response within a week – it would be reasonable to follow up because we all get busy. Maybe they meant to respond to you but got distracted. Maybe they thought they sent an email but didn’t. Maybe they were waiting on something else before they responded to you.
If someone says, “I’m not ready now, but I want to revisit it in a couple of months.” For the love of fluffy bunnies, follow up in a couple of months!
Beyond that, think of where else you can set up work flows and reminders for yourself.
How are you using tools like Instagram, Facebook, and email to stay in touch with clients and potential clients? Is that schedule and plan written down somewhere? If not, write it down and stick to it for three months.
Step 8 – Marketing on Purpose
In Step Four I asked you where your clients came from and at the end of Step Seven I asked you to stick to using tools in a specific way for three months.
Knowing this information and planning to act on it is marketing on purpose.
Instead of “throwing everything against the wall and see what sticks” over and over (random marketing often from a place of panic because you don’t know what to do) – start paying attention to the stuff the sticks and do more of that (marketing on purpose).
You have several measurement tools at your fingertips via Facebook, Instagram, and the other marketing tools you use – start using them.
Step 9 – Adjust as Needed
Be prepared to adjust and tweak.
Several years ago, multiple photos on Facebook almost guaranteed you more reach than a single photo. Then it was video. Then it was video, but not YouTube video. Then it was Facebook Live.
The marketing world is always changing and what worked last year probably won’t work as well this year. Thanks to Step 8, you are measuring what you are doing so you’ll be able to clearly see when things change.
Your goals and desired outcomes may change, too.
Instead of being frustrated and giving up, start experimenting, and stay flexible.
Step 10 - Outsource
At some point in your business you will reach a place where spending your time writing social media posts isn’t cost effective because when you look at the time expense – you make more money meeting with a client or creating something you can sell.
Or maybe you are on a deadline and you need groceries – it makes more sense to pay the delivery fee and tip than lose an hour shopping.
Or maybe your inbox and calendar are a mess and you need someone to triage emails and schedule for you.
One day (or maybe today), you will look at your business and realize that if you had two hours back per week you could make real progress – and you’ll hire a house cleaning service. Or meal delivery.
You can’t do everything, so hire out where you can.
Bonus Step – Reevaluate
Something else will happen as your business grows and changes – your focus will shift and you’ll need new goals.
Be aware of when the old goals you were working towards aren’t serving you anymore. I recommend checking in with yourself every couple of months to make sure the goals you are currently working towards are still matching up with your long-term business goals.
To recap – you need to think bigger than your next Facebook post because if you are focusing just on the tools instead of the marketing strategy behind the posting, you are missing a big piece of the puzzle.
Instead of starting with the tool, start with the strategy and use the best tools available for your goals to get there.
If you're ready to create your marketing strategy and would like some help - get in touch!
Musings about marketing, social media, and small business.