I originally shared a shorter version of this with my email list, but I wanted to share it here, too.
(click here to join my email list).
The past nine months have been hard for almost all small businesses. For some, these months have been brutal. Most of my friends and community are small business owners (of all types). I've seen them have to temporarily close their brick and mortar businesses, shift how they work with their clients, and essentially create multiple new businesses to stay afloat - in most cases without much support from programs put in place to help them.
There is so much uncertainty for small business owners right now, and I know it can feel overwhelming. My state is going into a new two week freeze to try to control the spread of COVID. Other states are doing similar things (or will at some point). I know there is fear, uncertainty, and frustration for business owners trying to keep their lights on and remaining employees paid long enough to survive COVID and rebuild on the other side (whenever that happens).
The financial impact of COVID has hit small businesses hardest (and women and minority owned businesses even harder).
If, as a small business owner, you're feeling overwhelmed and not sure what to do next, I wanted to suggest this quick guide to get you back on the best path for your goals.
S - Strategize - don't jump from one pivot to the next.
L - Look at what is working - even if sales are down, something has worked - do more of that.
O - Organize what you have - whether that is your content or your inventory - you need to know what your working with to move forward.
W - Work out your next immediate steps - here's the really hard thing right now - planning six months from now (or even three months) may have too many variables - but you can plan your next immediate steps. And then the ones after those. And keep going - one foot in front of the other.
D - Don't get stuck in a loop - "What ifs" and "If onlys" aren't helpful if they are keeping you from moving forward.
O - Outsource if you can. Whether that is meals, business tasks, or errands - if you need help, make sure you're getting support so you can focus on the bigger goals.
W- Who are your biggest fans? In any pivot, switch, or decision you make, remember who your fans are and how you can best serve them.
N- Say nay to the naysayers - there are plenty of Debbie Downers and scrooges out there - don't let them get into your head.
I've seen many articles and posts sharing great anti-racism and educational podcasts, but since I'm a marketing nerd I wanted to share some Black women led marketing podcasts to help you diversify your playlist while also moving your business forward.
Want to find more?
Search these hashtags on Instagram:
Crushing Chaos with Law Firm Mentor
Show Description: Law Firm Mentor is a business coaching service for solo and small law firm attorneys. We help you grow your revenues, crush chaos in business and make more money. The Crushing Chaos podcast will feature successful solos and companies that help us become/remain successful in business, discussing the tools and strategies needed to crush chaos in business and make more money.
Although this a niche podcast for lawyers, host Alison C. William’s guests and experience cross over to other kinds of businesses, too. The Business as Unusual episode talks about how to manage all the new changes we have to deal with since COVID started.
Jereshia Said Podcast
Show Description: "Having the courage to start your own business and actually sell your consulting services online can be tough. Look, it may not be easy but it can simple. In each episode, we take a deep dive into one core growth strategy so you can gain a solid understanding of what’s required to serve, sell, and scale your consulting business. All you have to do is listen to what Jereshia Said."
I loved her latest mindset episode - 7 Mindset Shifts I Had to Make to Earn My First Million. I liked it so much I listened to it in the car and then relistened when I could take notes - her points about separating yourself from your business were so insightful and helpful!
The P Word Podcast
Show Description: "Are you ready to The "P" Word Podcast, where we firmly believe that you can do anything you set your mind to take control and learn everything you need to know to take over and finally be the best version of yourself? If your answer is yes, then listen up as our host, Tiffany Brown takes you on a journey through all the crucial elements of The "P" Word."
Anyone who has ever dealt with unsupportive friends or family needs to listen to this episode - Your Passion Doesn’t Need Permission - it will give you a boost and keep you moving forward!
Savvy Social Podcast
Show Description: "The Savvy Social Podcast is for budding entrepreneurs who want to understand the “why” of social media marketing. Social media strategist Andréa Jones of OnlineDrea.com talks about all things social media, chats with other industry professionals about what has worked for them, and teaches you how to elevate your social media strategies through practical, proven advice."
I love the interview style and deep dives into specific types of businesses and their social media marketing needs. Social Media for Real Estate Agents - there is lots of great information in this episode, so listen even if you’re not in real estate.
Freelance Friday Podcast
Show Description: "An inside look at the world of freelancing, featuring tips, tricks, and interviews with people who are doing it right."
The Balance, Boundaries, and Avoiding Burnout episode has so many real life, actionable examples of ways you can create and protect boundaries and avoid burnout. Start with this episode, because everyone needs to hear it.
Empirenista Business Success Podcast
Show Description: "The Empirenista Business Success podcast that reaches women entrepreneurs with weekly motivation, business strategy, stories of real life no fluff biz situations and fun girl chat. The Podcasts focuses on how to Position Yourself so that You Can Stand Out as the Authority in Your industry, Make More Income and Grow Your Business. Listeners leave feeling empowered, educated and confident that they can and will grow the businesses of their dreams while raising their kids without sacrificing their happiness.
I so appreciate that someone is saying Don’t Bank on Social Media because it needs to be said! There is more to business growth than just social media.
What’s Next Podcast for Women
Show Description: "This is an empowerment podcast. Inspire 6 figure fierce women to conquer their What Ifs to go after their What’s Next."
I appreciate the How Geni Works Her Side Hustle While Working in Corporate episode because there are so many women who are splitting time between their day job and their side hustle. My absolute favorite takeaway from this episode is “Think of the ‘why” not the ‘why not’” - that’s such a simple powerful statement to change how someone looks at a challenge.
I want to address something that I've seen come up in a a couple of different places that is horrifyingly tone deaf - well-meaning white folks who are trying to figure out how anti-racism and Black Lives Matter fits into their overall business marketing.
You can’t make a social media post and move on feeling like you’ve done your part. You must put action behind your words.
You can’t fold it in like you are trying a new brand color or font. Don’t say you are anti-racist until you can back it up with action and plans.
If you’re new and just finding your voice, know that speaking up will likely cause you to lose customers.
You’re going to do or say something wrong. Be willing to listen, reflect, and correct without involving your ego or hurt feelings (yeah, it can be hard, do it anyway).
Read, educate yourself, hire someone to help you. There are lots of resources at this blog post (which I also wrote) - https://www.themobnation.com/blog/want-to-do-better-but-arent-sure-where-to-start-start-here and some important questions to ask yourself here - https://www.themobnation.com/blog/10-questions-business-owners-could-and-should-ask-themselves
If you have a business with employees, hire a DEI (Diversity, Equality, and Inclusion) trainer to look over your hiring practices, handbook, etc and make it better - that isn’t something you can do on your own because you’re going to be too close to see the issues.
If you want blogging to be a part of your overall marketing strategy, you need to create high quality blog posts that appeal to your audience, and an important part of that is how the blog posts are set up on your website - and that’s what I’ll be covering in this blog post - how to set your blog posts up for success!
But before we get there....
(If you already have a blog, you can probably skip this next part)
First, if you’re completely new to blogging and don’t have a website yet, you’ll need to choose a home for your blog. Which is the best website platform for blogging? That is open to interpretation. You can read more about it at the link, but I think the most important feature is that you are comfortable with the platform and feel confident in creating and uploading new blog posts as well as updating old blog posts if necessary.
Second, a common question for blogging beginners is “How do I make money with my blog?” This is also called monetizing your blog and, while it is an important question, it often comes too early in the process. Blogs can be monetized in a number of ways, but the first step is always creating good content for your readers. And, as a marketing strategist, this is where I say that having a business plan and overall marketing strategy is important, too. Making money from your blog involves more than finding your niche, writing blog posts, adding affiliates, and holding contests.
Third, if blogging doesn’t come easily to you, for whatever reason, you’ll want to establish a blog writing process that works for you (and you may need to develop more than one or change it as you develop your style). I like to be upfront about this - I am not a fast blog post writer. I do not churn out six blogs a week. I could, but it would be the only thing I do. I spend a lot of time thinking about the topic before I start, I usually have one or two sentences or examples I want to share, and then I go from there. I don’t always start in the beginning and I rarely finish a blog post in one setting. The key to my own success is giving myself a deadline and working in focused bursts without distractions (if possible).
Now that we have all of that out of the way, let’s jump in!
What exactly is the anatomy of a good blog post?
Whatever your writing style or niche is, once you have the words out, how do you present them in a way that will have the most impact on your reader? What will make what you write even better?
Choosing the Right Title for Your Blog Post
The title of the blog post has three distinct, but important jobs to accomplish - all at the same time. Of course, it should say what the post is about. It should also catch your readers eye. That’s why blog titles like “5 Ways to …….” and “Reasons You Should…..” and “The Secret to….” are pretty standard these days. The third task, depending on your overall goals, is to help search engines find your blog post and understand that it is the best response to a search.
If I titled this post “The Best Ever Chocolate Chip Cookie Recipe” I would have confused bakers scrolling for the recipe (which, by the way, is in the footer of this page. And it really is the best!).
Instead, I’ll title this blog post something helpful, clear, and that uses the words I think my readers would use to search for content like this.
When choosing blog post titles think about the specific actions or information your audience wants to know. If you’re not sure, go to google and type in how you would search for what you are going to write about. Google autofill should jump in with some helpful suggestions. Still not sure? Scroll down to the bottom of the search page of your search and you’ll see a list of related search terms that will be very helpful.
Do Blog Post Descriptions Matter?
A blog post description can be an easy thing to forget to do, but it does matter. Your website builder may call it a meta description and you may need to look for it. If you can’t find it, the quickest way to find where it is will be to Google “How do I add meta description to ______ blog” - just fill in the blank with whichever website builder you use.
Why do they matter?
Think of your blog post description as a one or two sentence advertisement for your blog post - what will the reader learn? How will they benefit? What will they find at the link?
When you, or someone else, shares your blog post on social media or your link appears in Google search, a good description tells future readers what the blog post is about. You have around 150 characters, including punctuation and spaces, to make your blog post sound appealing and worth reading.
If you don’t specifically set up a blog post description, search engines will most likely scrape the first sentence or two of the blog post and use that as the description. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t - and wouldn’t you rather be in control of how your blog post appears?
Make Your Blog Posts Easy to Read
Obviously, if you’re going through all of the time and effort to create a blog post, you want someone to read it, right?
One of the often overlooked (and easy!) ways to make your blogs more readable is to make sure you’re including enough “white space” on the page. “White space” is the blank space between paragraphs.
Why does it matter? White space makes it easier for the reader to read and absorb your words.
Without white space, our eyes don’t have a place to rest. We’re subconsciously trying to focus on too many things at once. Adding white space to your blog posts means your readers aren’t overwhelmed with text. Have you ever looked at a crowded store counter and gotten lost in the options? Or the sense of frustration you feel when you are looking for something on someone else’s cluttered desk? Or the very annoying realization that the keys you have been looking for are in plain sight, but you didn’t notice them? Or maybe you’ve been skimming this paragraph because it is long, and the words are all running together.
I know, I know. Your high school English teacher had specific ideas about what was and wasn’t a good paragraph. Conventional English grammar says short paragraphs and too much space is all wrong. But we aren't in the print world anymore, we're in the digital world. New world, new rules. But grammar still matters. Please don’t ditch the grammar!
Put Your Subheadings to Work
These mini-headlines not only introduce each section of your post, they do a couple of other neat things, too! Since online readers tend to skim what they are reading, your mini-headline helps them find the information they are looking for and works well with white space to create an enjoyable reading experience.
They can also help search engines better understand the content you are sharing, so this is a good place to use keywords and phrases that you think your audience might be searching for.
Your subheadings can be statements or questions – just make sure they are related to the paragraph beneath them. To make them stand out, your subheadings should be a slightly larger font size, underlined, bolded, or even a different color - but use good judgement since a visually busy page can send readers running.
Images Add Pop
Images help illustrate your post, add visual appeal, and one image will become the preview image for your blog post when it is shared on social media. So make it interesting.
Most rely on stock images for their photos (link to stock photo blog). I’ve gathered a good resource list for stock photos at the link. You can’t use any random image you find during on the internet or through a search. You also need to be aware of the usage rights when you use free or paid stock images.
Adding alt text to your image will make your blog post more accessible to all readers, so don’t forget to add a line or two describing the image you’re using.
You’ll also want to compress your images so they load quickly for your reader. You can use “save for web” if you are using Photoshop or this online resource is one I like. (image stomp link)
What Happens After Someone Reads Your Blog Post?
Do you want your reader to do something after they are done reading your blog post?
Should they share it?
Should they respond by leaving a comment or contacting you?
Should they sign up for your newsletter?
Do you have something else they should read?
Do you have some bonus content they can receive?
This next step is often called a Call to Action (CTA). You have someone’s attention, so what you want them to do next clear - just don’t sound like a used car salesman.
How Long Should a Blog Post Be?
There are all sorts of experts citing the exact, perfect length for a blog post. Should your blog post be long or should it be short?
My answer – it depends.
On your first pass, write until you feel as if you’ve said everything you need to say.
On your second pass, you may find yourself adding clarifications or removing parts that don’t work. That’s ok. It is part of the editing process.
Your blog post should be as long as it needs to be to say what you want to say.
However, from an SEO perspective, longer blog posts (800+ words) tend to mean the user is spending more time on your website. Time spent on site is one of many signals search engines use to determine the value of a website. It also means you are using all sorts of different word combinations to talk about your subject (which will help users and search engines find your content).
Creating a longer, and hopefully more useful blog post, means you are providing valuable information people will want to read and share.
From a user perspective, reading short, dull blog posts that pretend to have good information, but are really just a shallow swipe at a subject are annoying. They also don’t give you a chance to show you know what you are talking about.
This blog post will likely end up around 2000 words. There is a lot more I can say on this topic, but I’m trying to keep it as concise and streamlined as possible.
If you’re nervous about length, don’t be! When I first started writing blog posts, I thought 300 words was a big task (and it was!). But since I regularly write blog posts, my average range is around 1200-1500 words and that seems to be the amount of words I need to say what I want to say.
Before You Go
Here are some other resources that would be helpful.
You’re home, your kids are home, maybe your partner is home...there’s a lot going on, but you still need to run your business. Or maybe you’re used to working on your business and keeping some form of routine and presence in your business is important to you.
Whatever your motivation, these ideas will help you keep your business moving forward in under ten minutes.
Brain Dump - Out of Your Brain & Onto Paper
The first place to start is with a timer and a blank piece of paper. Spend ten minutes writing out everything you want to work on, everything you think you should work on, and everything you feel like you should be working on. At some point you may feel as if you’ve listed the most important things and are done, but keep going.
Why it maters: Getting it all out of your brain and on paper means you can look at everything objectively.
Then set it aside and come back to it later. The pause of an hour or two will let you look at your list more objectively than if you jump to the next step without a break.
When you come back to your list, highlight or circle the tasks that can be done in under ten minutes. Then pick the one you want to do the least and get it done.
Why it matters: This method ensures the worst task you have to do is done and it took less than ten minutes!
Maybe your task list doesn’t have any ten minute items. Maybe everything you need to do is more involved - that’s ok. The next step is breaking down those larger tasks into smaller chunks that can be worked on in ten minutes.
For example, if getting your inbox under control is on your list, you can’t do it in under ten minutes. But do you know what you can do in under ten minutes?
And then move on to something else. Your inbox isn’t going anywhere and it will be there when you circle back to work on it for another ten minutes.
Why it matters: You don't want to miss an important client communication or opportunity because your inbox is a mess.
Keeping Up with Social Media
Write the captions for two social media posts.
Or find the images for two posts.
Does that still feel like too much? Jot down some ideas of what you’d like to share or themes you’d like to address. If you’re sharing your computer with your newly homeschooling child, jot your notes and ideas on a piece of paper or put them in the notes section of your phone. Progress & flexibility over perfection.
Stumped about what to post in general?
Start with this question “How can I serve my people today?”
Why it matters: It can be tempting to pull away from sharing on social media about your business during times like these, and I have advised against promoting business during national disasters or tragedies in the past. But because this will be an ongoing situation that impacts us long-term it doesn’t make sense to stop responsibly promoting your business. It is one thing to hold off posting for three or four days and something else entirely to not do it for three or four weeks (or months). Be a good person, do it with integrity, and come from a position of serving your people in the best way you can.
Break up your day
Go for a walk. Have a dance break. Do some yoga. Involve your kids (or just do it for you). One of the strangest things about this pandemic that we are all experiencing (together, but separately) is that days run into each other and we’re all suddenly living in the movie Groundhog Day. Get some movement.
Why it matters: It's good for you, you’ll feel better, and it will add variety to your day.
Update Your website
No, this isn’t something you can do in ten minutes! But you can work on small pieces of it in ten minutes at a time.
Here is your action plan:
This task can quickly turn into a big project and may even leave you feeling as if it is time to scrap the entire thing and start over. Save that for a future project when you have more time. For now, keep your focus on the quick changes.
Why it matters: Business owners often put up websites, but often forget to keep the site updated and reflective of the current work they do.
Look at your routine
Whether you are several weeks into staying home or you’re still going out every day for work, you have a routine. The question is whether or not it is a routine that still works for you.
Take ten minutes and think about if your routine is still serving you. If not, what is one thing you can change, add, or subtract to make your life easier and more satisfying?
A few weeks ago, I realized I was spending a silly (to me) amount of time on a game app. I decided I wasn’t using it as much for fun as I was for distraction to the point that the app itself became a distraction in my day. So I deleted the app.
Why it matters: Maybe you have something else in your day that isn’t working anymore. Change it up and see what it improves.
Connect with your people
Do you have an email list? When was the last time you sent them an email?
If it has been awhile, now may be a good time to share an update on what you’ve been working on and send them something useful and helpful (whatever that looks like for your business).
If you don’t have an email list, now is a good time to choose an email provider and get it set up.
If you’re not sure which email provider to use - ask your business friends what they use. Many have a free level that should work for most people. If you’ve been less than thrilled with your email service provider, now may be the time to investigate other options.
Of course, none of these tasks can be done in ten minutes, but it is something you can start and come back to when you have another ten minutes to work on this project.
Why it matters: If you're building your business on social media and have no way to contact those who are interested in what you do you in other ways, you're are not only missing an opportunity, you're risking your entire business. Social media accounts get deleted and algorithms change.
To blog or not to blog?
One of the reasons I’m writing this blog is because I want to use some of this time to create more blogs (as well as podcasts and other content). Again, you won’t be creating an entire blog post in ten minutes or less, but you can bring the framework and layout for the ideas you want to share.
If you’re feeling stuck, start a list of things you’d like to talk about with your audience. List three ways what you or sell can help them right now. Or in the future. Or in their everyday life. Or in their business.
Still stuck? Try listing three reasons why someone should work with you or buy from you.
Now take ONE of those reasons or ways and expand on it. Add four to eight sentences and you have the beginnings of a blog post.
Come back and work on this the next time you have ten minutes. Keep expanding your ideas and you’ll end up with a blog post.
Why it matters: If blogging is a part of your marketing strategy, you need to put effort into creating blog posts (or hire it out).
Will you always have a whole ten minutes to work? No. Sometimes you’ll have more and sometimes you’ll have less.
The key to working in short bursts is managing your own expectations of what can be accomplished in the time you have as well as keeping a running list of things you want to be able to work on when you have those minutes.
You may have heard the phrase “Content is king” – which means content is where it is at if you want to grow and promote your business.
Which sounds awesome and its easy to remember, right?
But the challenge business owners have is this:
When are you supposed to have time to create the content to attract clients who will fall in love with what you?
My goal with this blog post (and the accompanying podcast) is to take some of the stress and overwhelm out of the content creation process by showing you how much you probably already have and how to reuse and repurpose it to save yourself time.
The first step is to pause and think about all the content you've already created.
You might be muttering “Gwen, I don't make content because I don’t have time.”
Here’s the thing – I think you probably have more than you think you do!
Here are some examples of content you’ve probably already written:
Once you start making your content list, you’ll probably discover you have much more than you thought! You may have even just remembered some things you’ve created and put aside. We’re so busy working on our businesses, serving clients, and juggling everything that it can be easy to forget what we’ve already done.
The next step is to divide your content pieces into different areas so you can keep track of where it is and how you’d like to use it.
I suggest you create a list of written content, audio content, and visual content. Using this method also helps you see how you can reuse the content you already have.
Now that you know what you’ve already created, let’s look at the types of content your audience wants. No, its not magic or mind reading – it is just paying attention to what they are already asking for and being aware of where they are struggling.
Look at the common themes that come up over and over again. If you are answering the same questions via email or messenger or in groups or wherever you're spending your time then that is content that your audience wants – so create something you can share easily.
You can also use your FAQ to lead your audience. Sometimes an FAQ will have an odd or unexpected question. That is usually written because the business owner (or copywriter) wants you know that specific bit of information. What kinds of questions do you wish your audience would ask? What information do they need know that they don’t know yet?
Next, look at ways you can repurpose what you’ve already created:
Whatever piece of content you have, you can probably repurpose it five different ways (at least!)
When you approach your content this way, you’ll find that you always have something you can use, and instead of starting from scratch every time, you’re building on work you’ve already done.
How to Promote Your Content
Of course, just creating content isn’t enough. The next step is promotion. If you aren’t promoting what you do/create, nobody will see it.
In addition to your list of content you’ve created and how you can repurpose the different pieces, I’d also like you to create a list of ways you can promote what you create.
This can mean creating ads around it, but it is so much more than that!
How will you share what you’ve written or recorded in what way is will you make your audience aware that you've created this really cool thing?
Ways you can promote your content:
Finally, there is one more step to this content audit.
You need to create a plan to share what you’ve created again. And again. And again.
The content you share won’t always land the first time. Maybe the timing was off, the algorithm gods were having a bad day, or what you created didn’t resonate with the right person at the right time.
That’s why making a plan to reshare is so important.
There is so much information and content flying around that if you only share it once, you’re not doing yourself any favors. However, if you share something three or four times over the course of a month, you’ll start to see people understanding what you are sharing and responding to it.
Which brings up another benefit of knowing what content you’ve creating and making a plan to share it – You give yourself LESS work!
By creating several pieces of content and sharing them on a regular basis you won’t need to create as much since you’ll be filling your content calendar with reshares and repurposed content.
For example, creating 15 fresh Facebook or Instagram posts a month for 12 months means you need to create 180 new posts per year. That’s a lot.
However, if one third of what you share is brand new, one third if reshared content, and one third is repurposed content then you have far less work and stress.
You’ll also have several buckets of information to pull from to create content that looks new and feels new but is actually something that you've already done most of the work!
When you put yourself "out there," you are making yourself vulnerable.
It is hard enough at networking events that are limited to a set number of people. But putting yourself "out there" on the internet with a potentially much larger audience is even scarier.
You feel open and exposed.
What if someone is mean?
What if someone thinks you aren't talented?
What if someone thinks you are making it all up?
Does changing and hiding to appease "someone" out there bring you closer or further from your goals?
Does knowing that someone out there won't like what you are doing make you want to quit?
Is blending in with everyone else your goal?
I talk about pricing with my clients often. Some are happy with their prices, but a large number are undercharging to the point of not making any money at all. Which is a weird way to run a business, right?
What I'm going to say next can apply to lots of businesses, but this post is especially for photographers.
Your $50, all edited images included package is not sustainable.
Please, please, please look at your actual time investment in these sessions - travel time, editing time, communication time with the client - how many hours of your life is that $50 session costing you?
Let's be super conservative and say you don't have to pay to rent studio space and your drive to and from the location is only 10 minutes each way (lucky you!)
And, again, being conservative, let's say you only spend ten minutes (total!) in communication with your client.
Finally, let's say your session is exactly thirty minutes, no more, no less. No one is late, the kids are photogenic angels, the weather and light cooperate.
Congratulations, you're making $50 per hour!
But before you break out the bubbly, remember that 20% or so needs to go to taxes. So you made $40 per hour.
That's not bad, right?
But what about getting the photos from your camera to editing?
How much time does that take? Just a few minutes? (I guess? I'm not a photographer)
Great! But watch out, those minutes add up.
How much time do you spend selecting the best photos?
Doing some light editing?
Maybe an hour total? (I suspect it is more - photographers, educate me!)
Now you've made $20 hour. Still better than minimum wage, right?
Not so fast.
Do you pay for editing software?
Do you pay for a website?
Do you pay for insurance?
Do you pay fees for a business license?
Do you run ads?
Do you seek ongoing training?
Do you pay to belong to networking groups or attend functions?
What about your camera? How much did it cost?
How frequently will you need to service it? (or replace if it is damaged?)
Camera-related equipment? Bags, stands, flash, all of those things.
All of the above are part of your cost of doing business and you MUST understand that and factor that
into your pricing.
Let's go back to that $20/hour you are taking home at the end of the day.
You aren't making $20 every traditional working hour of the week, right? You don't have 40 hours paid at $20/hour.
Sure, there may be some times when you are able to book 2-3 people back to back, but that is the exception, not the rule.
You aren't booking four hours of photography work 5 days a week, every month.
And more importantly, that $20/hour doesn't come close to touching on the value of your unique skill, client connection, or producing great photos - it just addresses (poorly) your base time.
I just called a national chain store that offers photography services.
Their sitting fee is $10 PER PERSON.
No photos included.
No thirty minute session in a beautiful spot.
Most importantly, none of that special something YOU bring to your art as a photographer.
Look at your pricing.
Look at how much it costs you do to business.
Respect your skill and talent so others will, too.
Where should you spend your marketing time?
Where the money is.
Done. Good talk. Thanks for coming.
Ok, but really….
You know this. You need to be where your people are creating content your people care about. How, when, and what that looks like depends on your business, but the why should always be the same – you should be following an overall measurable marketing strategy to reach your goals (whatever they are) instead of posting because you forgot to do it this week.
But you also need to be aware of how much time you have, where your strengths are, and your personal tolerance for managing your own marketing. In my experience, some people loathe all forms of marketing, even if they understand the concepts. Others can tolerate it once they know how the pieces work together. And the third group finds they even enjoy marketing and have fun with it once they’ve had some practice.
As a marketing strategist, I can create a strategy for just about any business on any platform. However, I also need to know when it doesn’t make sense for a client to spend time on an activity. In my business I take that a few steps further and take my clients’ needs, personalities, and comfort levels into consideration because unlike some big businesses that have multiple departments and staff, my clients are usually one-woman shows. I feel a special obligation to them to make their marketing accessible and not scary.
But let’s step back from specific platforms for a moment and look at the various marketing tools that make it possible for you to show up in different ways and what kind of time you can expect to spend on them.
Do I have to have an email list?
Nope. But if you want to be able to reach your audience on your terms and on your schedule whenever you want, then an email list is the best way to do that. Or get all of your clients’ phone numbers and call them one-by-one. Whichever one sounds like less of a headache to you – do that.
The time it takes to set up your email list depends on how well you work with the tools. Let’s say one to two hours to set it up the first time and one hour per month (assuming you are sending one email per month) after that.
I send out an email once a month and it takes me about 30 minutes. Why is my time less that what I estimated? Because I’ve developed a workflow that works for me and I’ve gotten faster at it over time.
Do I have to have a blog or write blog posts?
Nope. But if you have great information to share or want people to find you via SEO, a blog makes a lot of sense. If you don’t care about SEO at all and just want your website to be more of a basic business card, then you can likely skip blogging entirely.
Related: How often do I have to blog?
Good news! It is completely up to you! Your blog, your choice. If you occasionally want to share something you can do that whenever you want. If your focus is more on bringing traffic to your website, building an audience, and maybe having a following then you’ll want to blog more often and with more intention.
Also related: Do I have to write my own blog posts?
Nope! You can outsource it! Whether or not you should depends (again) on your goals. If you aren’t a writer or don’t have time and just need basic posts with the proper punctuation and grammar outsource it.
If you want a blog that is more “you” and 100% reflects your voice….either work with a great ghostwriter long term, be very selective about who you hire, or be prepared to spend time writing blog posts.
There really isn’t a wrong answer – it just depends on your needs, your goals, and your time constraints.
This will vary greatly by person. Most of my blog posts take 6-8 hours to write, so I only write one per month. If you are a faster writer than me (which isn’t hard), yours won’t take as long. My blog posts also tend to be on the long side.
Start by giving yourself two hours per month and see how far you get. Or don’t blog at all use that time somewhere else.
Do I have to create videos?
Nope. Did you just breathe a sigh of relief? Although you’ll find plenty of articles and blog posts about how HOT video is and how everyone should be hopping on the video train, many people still don’t feel comfortable with showing up on video.
You DO NOT have to make videos for your business. You can. They can be a neat part of your marketing. For the right personality – they are a fantastic tool. But no one will take away your business or laugh at you if you don’t show up on video every week.
Here is even better news – there are businesses you can hire to create your videos for you! They have all the fancy equipment, skill, and resources you don’t have. In exchange for money they’ll create videos that make you look good – you may not even need to appear on video yourself!
If you're not sure whether it is time to hire someone to create your videos, read my interview with Jessica Clark - she creates videos for local businesses.
If you just do a live video off the cuff with almost no preparation – however long it takes you brush your hair, hit record, and do your thing. If general, unless you have a background in doing this, the more complicated it is, the longer it will take you to do. Don’t forget about the time it takes you to learn editing tools, lighting set up, which microphone to purchase, and so on. Your time commitment to make videos could be anywhere from 10 minutes to ten hours per month (or more!)
Do I have to be on Instagram?
You don’t. It may seem as if everyone else is, but whether or not you should spend your time there depends on what you want to get out it.
If, for example, your audience spending time on Instagram in ways they might connect with what you do? Then it makes more sense to spend time on Instagram.
On the other hand, if your audience isn’t on Instagram in ways that make sense for your business – you will either need to do something extraordinary to get and maintain their attention or get used to lower results that you might be hoping for.
Again, this is hard to estimate because there are extra factors – Do you need to create or find images? Do you find it easy or challenging to write captions? Are you posting to Stories? How stylized are your photos?
You’ll also need to include time for hashtag research, responding to comments, and interacting with other Instagram users.
If you are creating graphics, it makes more sense to do several at once rather than one or two a week. It also helps to create a content calendar ahead of time so you know what you are posting and when.
As an example, I recently created an outline for four months of content in about an hour – 6 concepts/ideas to talk about and 10 subtopics under each of those 6 concepts equals 60 unique posts.
I spent another hour creating the images and a basic copy outline for those 60 posts.
The way my Instagram is set up, I need around 15 of those per month (the rest of my posts are regular images). In total, I spent around two hours setting this up. I’ll still need to expand the copy a little bit and change hashtags, but the two hours I spent means I’ve greatly decreased the time I need to spend on Instagram tasks for at least the next four months (longer if I reuse posts I’ve already created).
Plan for one hour of big picture planning per month, 30 minutes of posting/scheduling time per week, and 5-10 minutes per day for interacting with other accounts and responding to comments.
Do I have to have a head shot?
If there is a chance you’ll be speaking, presenting, or otherwise be featured anywhere – then probably. This company has a fun, on-brand (and possibly brave!) approach to head shots (link to green cooking show thing). But their choice might not be your choice.
So, yes, in many cases you need a head shot. Find a photographer whose work you like and do it.
Some photographers do basic mini sessions that can be as short as 15 minutes while others take longer.
Do I have to have a Facebook business page?
This one is a little tougher just because Facebook is such a HUGE entity. But, no. There are businesses without Facebook pages doing just fine. However, if your alternative to skipping the Facebook business page is to treat your personal profile as a selling platform, please be aware that this violates Facebook’s terms of service (that agreement you probably didn’t read when you first signed up for Facebook). They can (and do) shut down/delete profiles for violating their rules.
Similar to Instagram, it depends on how involved your process is, posting frequency, and how much you need to do before hitting “schedule”.
If you decide to also publish your Instagram posts on Facebook, your time commitment can go down even further.
Try giving yourself 45 minutes per week to schedule week or more of Facebook posts.
If you schedule something interesting this month, it makes sense to schedule it again in a couple of months. You can also look through your past posts and re-post something that did well for you. Not only will this cut down on the time it takes you to create a post, you’ll also have a good chance of your post doing well the second time, too.
Do I have to go to networking events?
Absolutely not. For the right person in the right time of their life networking can be a fab and fast way to build connections and meet people. But it isn’t required. Plenty of business owners never attend networking events and their business still grows. (mob link)
Excluding travel time, an hour or two per event.
Do I have to send out cold calls, emails, or postcards?
It depends on your business. For some business models this is a standard method of getting in front of new people, and it works for them. For others, it isn’t a good fit. You know your business best.
It depends on your business and what this project looks like to you. Are you calling random numbers and hoping for the best? Low time commitment. Are you designing a post card? Crafting a thoughtful email? Higher time commitment and then less since you can reuse what you’ve written.
The Next Step
Now that I’ve covered some tools and given you some loose time frames – what is your next step?
Determine how much time you can set aside for your marketing and stick to it for a month (Does this sound like going to the gym? Yes!)
Keep track of how much time you are spending and what tasks you are working on. If you deal with a lot of interruptions, I suggest setting a timer that you can pause and restart as needed.
At the end of the month, look back over what you did and determine if it was a good use of your time. If it was, keep doing it. If it wasn’t, look at why and decide if you need to focus on something else next month. If you discover there are some tasks you recognize need to be done, but you don't want to do them, then outsource the work and use your time on something else.
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.