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.
Musings about marketing, social media, and small business.