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.
After much thought and reflection I have made a big decision which affects my work/life balance.
I am stepping down as an Authorized Local Expert for Constant Contact. I will continue my role as a Business Solution Provider, working with small businesses here in Western Mass and I may hold smaller marketing workshops from time to time. I will miss working with great Western Mass organizations like SCORE, MSBDC, many Chambers of Commerce and other non-profit organizations. I love to teach and love to see small businesses succeed. It has been an honor to work with an unbelievable New England team for four years and I will miss them. Over the next few weeks I will be updating my website, various social media profiles, etc. to reflect this change.
One of my long time clients leads families through the "downsizing" process. She refers to the work as "rightsizing". I like that. It feels light.
I actually began making small changes in my work-life balance last year, letting go of working weekends (I know.) but the lightbulb really turned on when I was presenting at a WBOA social media workshop last fall. Our lunch speaker was talking about how to choose to do something, or to say "no". She advocated that instead of thinking about things as something we "should" or "shouldn't do, to remove the guilt feeling and ask yourself . . .
"Does it feel light or heavy?"
I used this question as I began the "rightsizing" exercise of my work-life balance and it has helped greatly. I have also asked my clients the same question when they are up against a marketing task that they feel they "should" do. If the task feels heavy the decision to outsource the work becomes a no-brainer. Often I hear that the decision to let something go has been replaced by more creativity and productive use of their time.
More changes are yet to come down the road, but I truly feel that the process of "rightsizing" will help me make good decisions.
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.
According to a February 2015 study by Radicati Group, there are about 2.5 billion email users worldwide. Almost one in every three persons use email on the earth. By the end of 2017, they predict that 132 billion emails will be sent and received per day. No matter the email client, Microsoft Outlook, Gmail, or Aol, on average, we get about 121 messages in our inboxes every day.
So why are all these stats important?
What if I told you that every email you send could help grow your business naturally, and it wouldn't cost you a dime? Here's how:
At the bottom of any email message you have the opportunity to add a custom signature. A professional email signature should always include the basics - full name, title (optional), company, address, phone(s), fax (optional), hyperlinked email address, and hyperlinked website address.
Everything below that is FREE marketing space.
I add a link to Join My Mailing List.
You can also add a message, maybe a mention of a special event you have coming up, or a discount you're offering on a product or service. You can even create multiple custom signatures with different messages.
PRO TIP: If you have staff, make sure that all signatures contain the same information.
If you need help, here are a few support sites. You can also Google "create custom email signature with hyperlink Outlook 2013" (include which version you use).
Outlook support: support.office.com/en-us/article/Add-a-return-e-mail-address-link-to-a-message-aa26c703-5c94-4be8-82cd-1839f3cd8934
Gmail support: https://support.google.com/a/answer/176652?hl=en
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
Recently, Facebook announced that its algorithm is changing -- again. What does this mean for small businesses who devote hours every week to their business pages?
It's no secret that organic reach for business pages has been steadily declining over the last three years. Prior to the latest algorithm change, only about 5% of what you post is ever seen by people who have liked your page. Let's put that in perspective. If you have 100 people who have liked your page, you are posting for an audience of five.
It gets worse.
On June 29th Facebook announced the newest change to their algorithm and it's not good news for small businesses. Facebook will now begin to prioritize posts from user's friends and family in their newsfeeds (hey, it's what users want, right?). At the same time, content produced by businesses will decrease. Your 5% reach may now be 2%. Is that acceptable?
What's the answer?
It may be time to take a step back from your Facebook strategy, certainly re-prioritizing time spent on content creation and frequency of posting. In order to increase reach, Facebook is making it clear that you will need to advertise. The entry fee is likely to increase due to this new demand, so be prepared to pay more for that option.
What else can we do?
You might want to rethink your "list", you know, the list of email addresses you have been gathering from people who have asked to stay in touch. Devote your time to really learning how to engage with your customers, fans and supporters. The average open rate for email is 21% and if you use Constant Contact as your email marketing provider, you will enjoy a deliverability rate above 99%.
One last thought . . . . remember, you have no control over social media platforms. It's rented space. Go with what you own -- your website and your mailing list. That's where you can focus your marketing efforts for better results.
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.
How quickly do you respond to customer questions via the phone or email - the same day, within 24 hours, within an hour? Well, hold onto your marketing hats. Facebook thinks you should answer 90% of your messages received through your business page within 5 minutes in order to earn a "Very Responsive To Messages" badge.
A five minute response time may not be realistic for your small business unless you are glued to your computer, have dedicated staff or offsite administrator who can monitor activity. So, what can you do to make sure your business isn't negatively affected?
First, you must have Messages turned on in your settings so that customers can contact you directly. Make sure that you turn on notifications for messages in your settings. There are settings which can help set some expectations from consumers and not draw the wrath of Facebook.
1. Set an away message if your business is closed. You must list your business hours for this setting to work.
2. Add an instant reply to buy you time. If you're open for business, but not immediately available to answer a message, you can set up an instant reply that looks like this:
3. Change your response time display to more accurately reflect your response time. The recommended setting here is "automatically show your response time" but you can change this to meet your needs. Note that anything over a day will negatively affect your page.
This is just one of many changes Facebook has made recently that can impact your marketing. If you need help with your business page, I'm here to help. Call 413-539-7950 or email me.
You just finished composing your first email marketing campaign and are ready to hit the send button.
WAIT. Hold on a minute. Are you SURE you have permission to email these contacts?
What's the big deal, anyway. If they don't want to keep getting your emails, they'll just unsubscribe, right? WRONG. You may be a SPAMMER.
A spammer is defined as anyone who sends unsolicited email. If you didn't get permission to email that contact, (we're not talking about one-to-one messages here, we're talking about sending bulk messages) you are a spammer. It has nothing to do with the content of your message, it only applies to whether that person gave you permission. So, let's break it down further.
If you bulk email using your ISP (Internet Service Provider, ie. Gmail, AOL, MSN, etc.) and send your commercial message to a bunch of contacts through BCC who have not given you permission, you are a spammer.
If you bulk email using your ESP (Email Service Provider, ie. Constant Contact, iContact, MailChimp, Vertical Response) who have not given you permission, you are a spammer.
Spam costs society over $20 Billion dollars a year (Source: 2012 research by Hotmail & Google researchers
What goes on behind the scenes?
When you hit the "send" button, your message travels through your ESP's servers on it's way to your recipient's inbox. Their ISP is constantly monitoring ESPs to make sure they are not sending spam. They monitor complaints, non-existent addresses, spam traps, engagement metrics (did the recipient open the mail? How long did it sit in the inbox?) They look at content and subject lines often associated with spam.
They also look at the sender's reputation.
If you send unsolicited email, or spam, your recipient's ISP (Gmail, Yahoo, MSN, etc.) may block your ESP (Constant Contact, iContact, etc.) and can report the abuse to a 3rd party Block Listing Agency and share results with other ISPs. Getting unblocked takes time and costs money.
Companies like Constant Contact who have a very good reputation as an ESP, invest a lot of money making sure we all "play nice" and follow the rules. New customers with large lists and certain industries who are often responsible for spam may have their lists vetted. Customer support may ask your email collection practices. If you come to an educational workshop, you will receive "best practices" in how to grow a great mailing list. After all, we're all in this together.
So, how can you NOT be a spammer?
Liz Provo, Mass Marketing Resources.