Small businesses have an especially difficult time providing their products and services while simultaneously marketing them. Day to day fires and calls to arms pull you away from important promotional activities that are the fuel for future business opportunities.
It always starts with good intention - defining an ongoing marketing strategy, pulling the trigger, and going strong for about a month or two. But then something happens. An emergency occurs that pulls you away for days or weeks and other emergency-like demands raise their hand to steal your attention.
As soon as the intended marketing plan is abandoned once, it becomes easier to abandon it again, and then again. And before long those marketing plans halt altogether until another magical strategy session takes place to begin the cycle all over again.
Here's the thing. Most companies, when developing a new marketing strategy, tend to go overboard with it. It may not be too much for the outside marketing agency that helped define it but it's too much for the team that has to execute it because they have a thousand other responsibilities that take priority. It's better to define a minimum viable marketing strategy so the ability to execute it becomes more realistic and achievable.
Minimum Viable Marketing Plan
You may think to yourself, "hey self, we need to do all these important marketing things to win new business. We're at a point of desperation and if we don't we'll surely fail." This is so similar to New Year's resolutions to exercise. Going from no exercise to 5 or 6 days a week will most likely result in failure. Not because you don't want it but because you haven't made it habitual. Then, when life gets in the way, you'll let it.
Instead, start small. You've made it this far and will probably be ok without a Cadillac marketing plan. Avoiding tons of new work will help you steer away from stress that could eventually overwhelm you and cause you to abandon ship.
Here's how you can score your very own marketing turkey. Yes, that's a bowling reference to three strikes in a row. Just follow these three key steps:
1) Identify your constituents
Don't make this harder than it has to be. You probably already have a prospect list and a current customer email list. If not, start now. Grab all those business cards you've collected and all of the past prospects you've pitched to, even if they didn't bite. There's the start to your prospect list. You're not a fortune 500 company so don't get too caught up in segmenting prospects by size, industry, geography, etc. You need to be seen and heard so let's keep it very simple for now.
2) Establish your touch points
Any contact with a prospect or customer is called a touch point - emails, phone calls, meetings, mailings, ads, etc. When a person sees your name and associates it with a product or service, you've created a new touch point. Congrats! You're on the road to success. First, however, you'll need to decide what medium is best.
For most, my recommendation, is to stick with email. It's simple, straightforward, and has been proven effective time and again. Plus you can create an account on Constant Contact or Mail Chimp, select a clean template and send an email within minutes. Don't send it through your personal account because you can't track opens and clicks.
3) Execute through meaningful content
Now comes the more difficult part - execution and regularity. Again, start simple and be realistic. Try to write a blog post once per week about something that will benefit your constituents. How-to articles, new industry trends, product teasers, and success stories are all good starts. Don't write garbage, write content that is engaging and compelling to your target audience. You should schedule in the time each week to write and have a deadline for your posts. If that becomes too much, change it to every two weeks or once per month. Something is better than nothing and you need to form the habit before you can upgrade your plan.
Once you have several items of content, use your email service to send snippets or overviews of several posts (with strong headlines) to your prospect and customer lists. By doing this you're creating more touch points. I'd recommend sending one email for every 4-6 pieces of content you write. This way your readers can scan more headlines giving them more of a chance to click through to read the entire post or article.
By following these three guidelines you will likely score a turkey and begin to grow your business. Maybe not a lot at first but you'll have more eyeballs scanning your content hopefully furthering your reputation as an expert. After 4-6 months, revisit your strategy and adjust for those areas where you've developed good habits.
Be sure to start tracking the effectiveness of your efforts by reviewing email click-throughs, bounce rates, visitors, etc, after each email send. Once again, stay simple. Don't over-analyze the data but keep track of it in a spreadsheet. You should add annotations about specific content when you see spikes in activity or engagement. This will not only help you know what's working but offer encouragement when you see stats improving.
Most importantly, don't wait to build your minimum viable marketing plan. Start now and give yourself a chance to develop good habits.