It's easy to let the lure of summer let us kick back a little, slow down, unplug, maybe take a well deserved vacation. This is a good thing, assuming we've let our marketing continue on auto-pilot, as I wrote about in my last post.
September is right around the corner, which means that the last quarter of the year also looms on the horizon. What you do NOW to create and maintain your marketing strategy and campaign execution can make a profound difference in your end of year numbers.
So, what can you do in the middle of August to prepare to hit the ground running when it's "back to business" in September?
The first thing to do is create a visual roadmap for September - December. This calendar will allow you to map out everything that may affect your business and marketing campaigns throughout the holiday season.
Begin by adding special dates (Thanksgiving, Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, Cyber Monday (if you sell online), Giving Tuesday (non-profit giving), etc. Look for special recognition days, weeks or months that are important to your industry and could be used in social media.
Will you be planning any special events, ie. customer appreciation day, a sales event, workshop, pop-up shopping day? If so, look at your calendar to strategize a date that is far enough in advance to be able to market sufficiently.
Once you know what event you will hold, break out the tasks that need to be done. You can do this on paper now and add it to a digital task list later, or an excel or Google sheet which can be shared with others. What is the task, who is responsible, when is it due? If you're depending on others to create print material, update your website or create a campaign online, be aware that they may be busier as well. Don't wait until the last minute to place the work order.
Your social media, email, and traditional marketing campaigns need to support your seasonal "offer". Timing is everything. Don't overlook the time needed to produce, print and ship marketing collateral. What can you pre-schedule and what must you do manually? Inboxes are inundated with offers at this time of year. Do you have a strategy for resending an email to your subscribers who did not open your offer?
It may feel a bit overwhelming now to think about fall and holiday marketing, but with a little planning now, you can reap the benefit of a fatter bottom line on December 31st. You can do this!!!
Last summer I celebrated my birthday by getting back to my creative roots. I always wanted to learn to paint watercolors. I think I may have posted something on Facebook about my idea and shortly after found myself walking out of Valley Art Supplies in Easthampton with my first watercolor painting kit. A friend of mine invited me to her art studio to "play" with my newly acquired paints and we spent a relaxing, fun afternoon together while she taught me how to prepare my paper, lay down a wash and plan my painting. Watercolor must be applied from light to dark, so before the first brush stroke is laid, you really need to plan the entire project.
What does this have to do with marketing, you may ask? Well, whether you're creating a watercolor painting or marketing your business, both require careful planning.
Here are some signs that you may be in need of a strategic digital marketing plan:
I publish a motivational quote on Facebook every Tuesday at 11:11 AM. I've often been asked how I chose the timing of the post and I respond, "There is no magic significance. It just helps me be consistent." The image shown here was from this week's post. As I turn the calendar to September, I've been thinking a lot about time. September signals a new season, one that's filled with renewed energy and, for small businesses, often comes with a renewed commitment to end the 4th quarter of the year strong.
Scheduling an email campaign, sales promotion or event all depends on the best timing for your audience. We tend to underestimate how timing can affect the outcome of our hard work. I've been asked twice in the last couple of weeks to help promote an early September event for which no outreach had begun. The timing for the first event was difficult as it was to occur the day after Labor Day, after a long weekend, in the midst of school starting. The second event required a tremendous amount of foundational structure, including a website that needed to launch prior to the event. The first session was planned for September 11. My advice was to push the start date out a week due to the sensitivity of holding an event on the anniversary of 9/11. Unfortunately, change meant that the last session would be held over the Columbus day long weekend.
For many small businesses owners, the 4th quarter represents their highest income during the year. Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, Cyber Monday and for non-profits, Giving Tuesday are all opportunities for not only big retail, but also for small retail and service-oriented small businesses.
By now, you should have your 4th quarter goals in place.
What will you offer - a discount, a customer appreciation event, etc? How will you promote - print paid advertising, local calendars, email promotion, Facebook events, groups, paid advertising? Do you have the in-house staff to support your efforts or will you outsource?
If you're unclear about your goals, I'm always happy to chat.
Last month I blogged about making a decision based on a task feeling "light" or "heavy". You can read about it here. This month, I'd like to dig deeper into why many small business owners put marketing on the "heavy" list and what could help you re-frame marketing so that working on this important part of your business feels "light", or at least lighter. Sounds good, doesn't it. I can feel the weight being lifted as you read this.
The reasons that marketing may feel heavy fall into a few categories. Do any of these reasons resonate?
I'd love your feedback. What speaks to you here, if anything? Is there something I've missed? If you need help, you know where to find me.
Remember, Marketing Should Be Fun, NOT Painful.
noun - the action of delaying or postponing something.
We all do it. Psychologists study it. There's even a National Procrastinators week! I usually procrastinate about sending invoices. It's not that I don't like to get paid for my work, it's that I don't ENJOY the task. I put the chore in the same category as filing or shredding paper.
I've asked many small business owners what they liked least about running a business and often I'm told, "Marketing. I don't feel comfortable doing it and I don't know what to say, so I put it off." Sometimes we procrastinate when things feel out of balance, or when we don't have an efficient system in place.
The problem with putting off your marketing is that you are missing opportunities to grow your business by creating strong, lasting relationships with your customers.
Start with your mailing list.
You have people who already want to hear from you and you've promised them that you'd stay in touch regularly. There ARE ways to help avoid procrastination. Here are just a few tips to help you get past the urge to put off doing what feels hard.
When I began my career in sales and marketing years ago, everything was dependent on the "funnel". Each week I projected my potential sales for the next week based. It all boiled down to the numbers and if I followed the system, my results would be very predictable. There were times, of course, when something went wrong.
In any given week my activity log showed me how many calls I had made, how many appointments resulted from those calls, how many prospects cancelled or didn't show, how many sales I closed and the dollar amount of my production. Pretty simple, really. If I wanted to double my income, I could merely double my phone calls and theoretically achieve my goal. If I felt lazy and didn't make enough phone calls, the trickle down effect was very visible (especially to my supervisor) at the end of the week.
You reap what you sow.
Summer tended to cause distractions, not only for me, but for my prospects as well. More broken appointments meant I needed to make more calls or my sales quota would be affected. The consequences of my decreased activity level wouldn't be immediate though. In about two months I'd look at my commission check and felt the pinch. Ouch. After my first year I soon realized that I needed a super strong 2nd quarter to make up for a lackluster 3rd quarter.
As small business owners, independent contractors and non-profit organizations, everything we do to promote our products and services must be part of a strategy that factors in "distractions" like summer vacation, seasonal cycles, customer buying habits and a host of other industry specific variables.
We reap what we sow.
So for now, as we look toward the last few months of 2016, will you be ready for your "harvest"? If you need help developing your strategy or staying on track, I'm always happy to help. #beamarketer
My grand-puppy is learning to walk on a leash. As we begin our outings she is very excited, a little fearful, eyes darting everywhere, weaving back and forth, stopping to sniff, and unable to focus on the task at hand. After a few minutes she settles into the rhythm of my pace, looks straight ahead, trots at my side and occasionally looks at me for guidance. There are moments where she gets off-track - the scary postal truck (how do they know its the postal guy, anyway?), a romp with another dog, or other distraction. Eventually, we return to the walk and pick up where we left off.
So, what does this have to do with marketing, you ask?
When I work with a new client who has jumped into the world of digital marketing I often observe a similar pattern. There's an initial excitement and enthusiasm to be everywhere, darting from one social media channel to another without a clear understanding of strategy, unable to focus. As we work together to develop and execute the marketing plan, things begin to fall into place and a rhythm forms. Blog, email, share, repeat. Blog, email, share, repeat. There are the occasional moments that upset the strategy, but after a little guidance, we're back on track.
Here's a tip.
The important thing to remember is to start small and develop good habits. Plan time to devote to your marketing plan, pay attention to your metrics, and don't be afraid to reach out for help when you need it.
How much time do you spend working ON your business? Do you set aside time each week devoted to marketing? Is it difficult to maintain consistency in your marketing? Do you sometimes struggle with technology or the ever-changing features of Facebook?
For many small business owners, putting on the "marketing hat" feels like wearing an itchy, woolen winter hat - downright uncomfortable. Yet, marketing is not an option. It's a critical component of your business. So, how do you decide what to do? It all begins with ...
The good news is that marketing tools today are affordable and easily accessible to small businesses. The first step is to determine your marketing strategy.
Once you know the answers to these questions, it is simply a matter of choosing the right tools to reach your market. Don't be afraid to ask for help putting it all together, organizing and executing the plan.
The holidays are here, and the marketing push is on. Major retailers are pulling out all the stops, enticing us with Hallmark-laden messages, countless promotions and last minute gift giving ideas. Locally, hundreds of non-profit organizations will count on us to think of them on December 10th during the 3rd Annual Valley Gives Day.
Small Business Saturday reminds us to "shop small" every day of the year, helping our local businesses survive and thrive.
If you haven't put your holiday marketing plan in action yet, there's still time. Here are some last minutes ideas that you can do today just by using your mailing list:
You've spent time and energy making sure your website reflects your professionalism and your brand. But, is it pulling its weight to bring visitors to your "hub" -- your website AND mailing list? Here are five easy ways to make your website work harder.
You may already be using some of these tips, but maybe you're not paying attention and monitoring your progress.
Here are 5 tips to make sure your website is helping you:
Liz Provo, Mass Marketing Resources.