3 Things to Consider Before Doing Marketing on Your Own
As a small business, you sometimes have to wear many hats. And due to tight budgets, limited time, and other resources, many necessary activities can get lost in the shuffle. One thing you most certainly have to figure out is marketing. Do you hire staff or an agency? Or do you do it yourself? For the latter, a lot of small companies we know don’t know where to start or even what questions to ask when it comes to successfully promoting themselves. So, here are a few quick things to consider before you dive into doing marketing on your own.
1. Think About Your Audience and How You Approach Them
Much of the art of marketing as a small business comes from you understanding who your audience is and what their needs and challenges are. Each industry is unique, but one thing all areas have in common from a marketing standpoint is that your potential customers/clients likely don’t have the expertise, time, or skillset you do in your specialty area, that’s why the come to you. Hence, it’s critical to highlight your expert knowledge, skills, and authority regardless of the type of business venture you have.
And, as a small business, it’s also important to understand the full scope of these needs and challenges your audience faces. That’s actually the easy part. The hardest part is then marketing yourself and projecting your “brand” in a way that best matches up with those potential customer needs and the challenges they have. There are two parts to this: 1. Developing a core client persona or personas; 2. Establishing a narrative for yourself that fits what each persona needs. We’ve spoken a lot recently about narrative in many blogs, including this one on How to Adjust Your Marketing in a Chaotic World, so let’s focus our attention now on personas.
Developing a Quick Customer Persona
For the first part, start with this exercise, which will help you develop a picture or persona of your average buyer or seller:
Fill in the Typical Professional Background:
Psychographics (Ambitions, values, opinions/beliefs, example: What do they worry about? What keeps them up at night? What do they fear? What brings them joy?): ____________________________________
Behavior: Where do they go on the Internet, what do they respond to, how do they come become aware you? What do they search for and what terms do they use in your particular field?: __________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
Main challenges/pain points: _________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
How do you help:
Name for your persona (example, Wendy the Weekend Shopper, which will help you keep an image in mind as you create marketing collateral.)
Once you’ve established your customer persona or personas, make sure every piece of marketing collateral you produce – a blog you write, a video you film, a brochure, your website, your emails – all speak with a consistent voice to that persona. And don’t worry if you don’t get it right the first time. You can always adjust the personas as you go.
2. Think About a Budget and Your Time
OK, we’re assuming at this point, you’ve listed a few things that you know your audience and how to speak to them and you have your brand narrative (at least mostly) set. Now you have to start thinking about how you’re going to market your business and what you’re going to focus on. The problem: Many small businesses haven’t learned the basics of marketing (how to build a basic website, navigate the different social or ad platforms, or even what marketing channels to focus on first). It can certainly seem overwhelming.
You don’t have to dive into everything all at once. But a good way to guide your marketing is by asking yourself the following questions:
- What are the marketing must-haves I need to promote my business?
- What are the marketing activities I want to learn or that I like doing?
- How much time do I have myself or does my team have?
- What’s my overall budget for marketing?
Let’s tackle each of them.
What are the marketing must-haves I need to promote my business effectively?
While we don’t want to bias you, we’d certainly list a few must-haves here that good small business generally have:
- A modern visual website for the business that’s SEO optimized.
- Organic social media accounts on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc. (Some certainly have accounts on Pinterest and TikTok as well.)
- Lead generation and email management through a marketing automation system (MAS). And development of a regular email or newsletter.
- Consistent content (blogs, videos, photos, testimonials etc.) to post in social and on the website.
One thing you can also do is look and see what other competitors in our industry are doing marketing- wise. Here’s a quick way to evaluate that with our guide on How to Analyze a Competitor’s Digital Marketing Presence. As a small business, you may also want to consider the following:
- (B2B) Creating events online (such as a webinar) or offline in your local neighborhood aimed at helping with legal education. (e.g., a quick introduction to compliance law, employment visa law, etc.)
- (B2B) Developing downloadable content
- (B2B or B2C) Purchasing advertising in Google, social media, or connected TV (programmatic)
But first, list the areas that you want to focus on, in order, for your business. One idea: Label the ones at the top the “must-haves” and the lower ones “nice-to-have”:
What are the marketing activities I want to learn (or like doing)?
The reason to ask yourself this question is to really dig into what marketing activities, if any, you want to take on yourself. For example, maybe you like posting in social media, or you love writing and want to create a blog. Maybe you want to learn or know how to create your own website. Any marketing you can do yourself will help you save money over time. So, out of the list of marketing must-haves, list the ones that you will take on here:
Remember the more activities you take on yourself, the less time you’re going to have for other things you need to do to run your business. So, make sure you know which ones are reasonably within your capabilities. The activities you don’t take on (that are on your must-have list) are the ones that you probably want to hire a resource to do (either a marketing agency or an employee you hire). Which leads us to the next section.
How much time do I have myself or does my team have?
One of the areas that small business owners inevitably struggle with is their time, especially in the beginning. What areas should you spend your time on? After all, running a business means you’re in charge of many things – product, R&D, finance/accounting/billing, new business development, marketing, sales, customer relations, and any number of other areas. Marketing is only one of those. So, it’s critical to ask yourself: How much time can I really devote to this? (Even if it’s something you like or enjoy doing.)
What’s my overall budget for marketing?
Do you have to spend money for marketing your business? No, of course not. Many small businesses are just really aggressive in doing guerilla-style digital marketing using mainly organic means. They build their own websites, develop content to post on social and on the website, design their own marketing collateral, write their own newsletters, manage all the incoming leads or purchases, and even run their own advertising. That’s not to say, however, that every small business does this or even half of those activities. That’s why it’s good to consider this last question: What’s my overall marketing budget?
Typically, businesses can spend anywhere from 5 to 20 percent of expected revenue on their marketing. This might include the following expenses:
- Hiring staff or a marketing agency
- Paying for advertising in social, Google, a programmatic ad network or offline advertising (radio), print
- Paying for the development of marketing collateral (video, brochures, design, direct mail)
One reason many less established businesses take on a lot of the marketing activities themselves is that they can’t afford to spend money upfront on an agency or an ad buy. But that’s where you want to also understand your own risk tolerance. After all, as the saying goes, you can’t make money unless you spend some too. And with any small business, much of that marketing should focus on boosting your visibility in the marketplace. If you achieve that, you’re basically guaranteeing a certain number of potential clients approaching you.
The question here is how much of that do you pay for? And where to invest that money? One method: Set a goal based on where you are today. For example, if you earn $15,000 a month today could you spend $1,500 a month on a targeted activity and see if you could make more than $16,500 per month on average over the course of a year. Maybe with this $1,500 you buy a few social ads, boost some content, or invest in upgrading your website or SEO. Another way to do the same exercise is to consider your overall cost per acquisition (CPA) – figure out how much it costs you to acquire a new customer. And then calculate a good spend per month based on that and what goals you have.
One bit of advice: If you’re going to hire a marketing agency for an ad spend, for example, it’s worth considering a budget of at least $2,000 per month, which can cover the agency fee and some spend on media. But much will depend on the type of agency you select.
So, here’s a quick exercise for you:
Current revenue per month (or expected revenue): $_______________________
Percentage of revenue to spend on marketing: %________________________
Set your budget per month here: $____________________________
Based on my budget, I’m going to allocate this much to the following activities:
$________ . Website Design and Development
$________. Social media (including design, content creation)
$________. Content development (outside of social, but could include blogging, videos, whitepapers, case studies)
$________. Advertising (Google, print ads, social media ads, programmatic / connected TV, radio)
$________. Webinars / Zoom costs
And then stick with that plan, at least initially. You can always go back and adjust what it is you want to spend money on and increase it or decrease it in any area as you go.
3. What Marketing Channels Do You Need?
We’ve already touched on the main marketing channels so let’s go into more detail about each and how to do them yourself or with a little help. The ones we’ve listed below are the ones that many small businesses use. Some businesses also add advertising to the list of items they run themselves. If you are considering that channel, take a look at our 7 Things to Consider Before Buying Ads for a Small Business. We also recommend that, generally, you hire an agency as ad platforms can be complex to say the least.
Website: Setting up the site with marketing in mind. One of the big mistakes we see small companies make is that they don’t realize the importance of systems integration and data sharing when they set up a website. In the ideal world, your website will be able to track user behavior and translate that into more personalized messaging based on that behavior. The key word here is: data! Because the website is typically the centerpiece for activity, monitoring user behavior and sharing that with other systems is critical. And thinking about your marketing holistically is also important. Obviously, there are lots of website integrations you’ll want to develop but here are a few core ones for you to consider:
- Connecting your website to your marketing automation / email / CRM platform. For your small business site, you’ll most certainly want to set it up so that the data from your lead generation forms gets pushed into your email / marketing automation platform/or your CRM. In some cases, the marketing automation platform itself will have a form you can embed on a page of your website or the platform will allow you to develop great looking landing pages with forms on them so you can track traffic and leads to that page in one place. If you have an e-commerce site, you’ll probably want to use its capabilities as well to push data into a CRM or be able to pull data out of that to populate into a marketing automation platform so you can continue to engage your best customers.
- Connect your website to Google Analytics. Not only is Google Analytics free and easy to connect to your website, but it also comes with a number of benefits. First and foremost, it’s a great tool for you to be able to analyze your website traffic, including popular pages, total unique visitors, and even the devices and geographic areas your audience comes from. If set up correctly with goal and conversion tracking, it can also tell you information about where people coming from (organic search, paid search, email etc.), and what pages are driving your leads, purchases or conversions. Lastly, it’s a critical component of data if you’re going to do any paid search or paid display campaigns in the Google Ads network. Connecting your paid ads to analytics helps you understand which ads are most effective and producing the best ROI.
- Consider the Website User Experience. As you start working on your website, we also recommend integrating the seven UX (user experience) rules that can help guide your design and development. If you can’t do this yourself, don’t worry. There are agencies out there like ours that can help. The seven to pay attention to are the following:
- Website speed / page load
- Skinny navigation and client-focused labels
- A great mobile experience
- A good internal search
- An airy visual design
- Limited colors and fonts
Emails: What Types to Send Out & What Frequency
If you’re going to manage your email yourself, the question then becomes what emails you should send, and how often. The real answer to this will depend on your own priorities and bandwidth. But we’d recommend a couple of basic emails if you’re just starting out.
Email Type No. 1: Start with a Newsletter. Many small businesses have a newsletter that goes out to previous customers, current customers, and those prospects they’ve acquired but not yet converted. They put all kinds of content in their newsletters – content from a blog they produced, an industry round-up, commentary, even products or services for sale. The newsletter’s exact focus isn’t as important as making sure you’re continuously putting your business in front of all those different audiences with relevant information. For example, past and current customers refer you to new business (or maybe they’re need help again from you.) And with new prospects, you might have the opportunity to convert anytime they’re ready. As to frequency, you can start out once per month, but if you have more to say you can certainly make it biweekly or even weekly.
Email Type No. 2: Direct Sales Pitches. Another common email tactic that successful businesses use is a direct sales pitch. Maybe this email focuses more on why someone would select your products or services, what makes them unique, or asks if the recipient needs services right now. The sales pitch ends with a call to action to contact the company or buy its products and services directly and provides the best way to do that. As to frequency, this email can also be done once per month or occasionally, depending on the other outreach that you do, or emails you might automate to different audience segments. As mentioned above, this is a great opportunity to also personalize that message to your different audiences too.
General Email Tips
With any email you send out, here are a few tips:
- Make sure your all emails prominently display your contact information, including phone, email address, as well as location
- Have one section that reinforces your personal narrative – it could be a single sentence or something that encapsulates what we referenced in the section above.
- Make sure to add social media links to your existing social accounts
Creating and Maintaining Social Media Accounts
We certainly recommend small businesses take advantage of social media – as it’s essentially a free way to distribute your content and enhance the visibility of your business. One thing we’d say you should certainly do is scan the competitive field to figure out what channels other companies are using in your industry. For the most part, we’d say Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and LinkedIn will cover many of the audiences you need. But for some, Pinterest and TikTok certainly will lend themselves well to your business if you have a certain demographic. For the purposes of keeping this short, we recommend you download our 2022 Small Business Guide to Social Media to get into the strategy and approach here for each of the channels listed above.
Developing Content for Your Audiences
Content is the small businesses’ version of guerilla marketing. That’s because producing it is just up to the individual and, as stated above, what they like to produce or can produce. Putting out consistent content that engages audiences in social media, YouTube, email and your website is critical to your success for a number of reasons, among them:
- It keeps you top of mind among your network. Certainly, one goal here is to consistently remind those who know you that you are a good option when individuals are seeking products and services in your industry.
- It helps you establish authority. The great part about content (whether you do it in a blog format, a standalone video, a social media post, or through email) is that you can establish your expertise, especially when it comes to areas that your audiences may not know a ton about.
- It allows you to cross-link to your website pages. One thing many small businesses don’t realize about content is that it’s the perfect vehicle to allow more cross-linking to your website pages, which should have 5 internal links pointing to it for SEO purposes, as well as externally from social and other sites.
- It can help you acquire new lead prospects to your list. Some content such as guides, downloads, and webinars are great ways to acquire new potential customers where you can understand audience interest and tailor follow-up messages to them.
- It can help convince potential prospects that you’re the one. Lots of small businesses create content in a few different areas that can help spur a decision a decision among prospects. This type of content includes testimonials, case studies, or even reviews that you encourage your previous customers to submit in Google Reviews or Yelp.
What Types of Content?
Here are some content types to think about. Take a look at what others in the industry might be doing and see if you find that effective or not:
- Blogs / Articles
- White papers
- Case studies
- User-generated content
- Social media exclusive content
We hope walking through these 3 considerations has been helpful, especially before you dive into any do-it-yourself marketing. At Marketing Nice Guys, our goal is to help you excel at digital marketing. If you need help on marketing strategy, or those areas where you’d rather not go-it-alone, contact us. We’re happy to provide a free consultation to discuss all your needs.