One of the most common challenges that small business owners face is finding the time to market their business while still delivering exceptional service to the customers who come through their doors.
If they focus too much on marketing, their service delivery suffers. If they focus too much on service delivery, their marketing suffers and their funnel of new customers dries up faster than a conversation about toenail fungus.
Small business owners are stuck trying to juggle everything, and can feel overwhelmed. As a fellow small business marketing juggler, here are seven of my best time management tips to manage the juggle and help you market your small business.
1. Plan Ahead
Have you ever found yourself at a loss for what to cook that night for dinner? You drive down to your local supermarket and then aimlessly wander the aisles waiting for inspiration to attack you somewhere near the frozen pea aisle.
It happens to all of us every now and again. I am not too proud to say my Tardis slippers have periodically seen the inside of our corner 7/11 supermarket late at night on the quest for inspiration.
However, you also know that you can never just pop in and just buy one or two things at any supermarket. Bread and milk turns into many more items, and before you know it your 5-minute shop has taken an hour, and your wallet has done three rounds with Mike Tyson.
By planning ahead, you save time and money by only getting what you need, when you need it, and not getting distracted by bright shiny objects.
In marketing terms, that means looking at your calendar for this week, this month and the next three months and working out what you need to do to market your business over those timeframes.
What are your upcoming networking or other events that you need to cover? What big promotional opportunities do you want to take advantage of such as Christmas or summer? When are the quiet times in your business and what do you need to do get more business during those quiet times?
Rather than facing a blank computer screen and waiting for the Marketing Muses to bop you with their copywriting wands, by starting with a marketing calendar you make everything more efficient and cost-effective.
It means you are not annoying your printer with last-minute rush requests (with added premium attached), and you can work with your preferred copywriter (aka – me) to plan and deliver your content strategy rather than ringing around to try and find anyone with a pulse who can write something today.
2. Prepare in Batches
Remember when your teacher told you to “Do one thing at a time until completion?” (Or maybe that’s just me … my kids tell me that I have this on verbal repeat for them). Seriously, it’s great advice!
If you do one social media post, and then go do something else, before you know it will have been weeks between posts and your social media accounts are the home of digital tumbleweeds.
If you are going to do one post, prepare a batch of them and stagger them out over a number of days. For example – if you are going to run with #tiptuesday as a hashtag to promote your business, work out four two-sentence tips and then schedule them to run one each Tuesday for a month. Even if you do nothing else that month, at least you will have that bit sorted!
Once you tick off one batch of marketing “somethings,” then start on a different batch. Perhaps do a batch of blog posts, or a batch of letterbox drops. Just get that one thing sorted at a time until completion (whoops – there’s that recording again!).
Read more about Batching Your Social Media
3. Use Templates
If you do something in your business more than once, then you need a template or checklist. That way, you can quickly repeat the steps you need to follow rather than trying to start from scratch each time.
Templates can be as simple as writing and creating standard marketing email templates to your clients or as complex as Australian HR Manual Templates (… and yes I know HR Templates are not strictly marketing – but you are marketing your business to your team members). Create your template and shave hours off your calendar each month!
4. Make an Appointment
If you are sick, you make an appointment with your local doctor. If your car needs a service, you make an appointment with your mechanic. Generally, you don’t break these appointments unless something significant happens.
Treat yourself and your business with the same level of respect and make a weekly appointment in your diary to market your business.
By setting time to work ON your business and not IN your business, you step out of fire-fighting mode and into strategic growth producing mode.
5. Use the Right Tools
Every tradie knows that the right tools make a massive difference to the quality of the job and the time each job takes. A saw from a $2 shop will not do the same job as a precision saw from a specialist tool supplier, and as much as I love Microsoft, the Office suite of programs don’t do the same job as specialist programs.
Tools that I use to cut my marketing time down and to increase my ability to batch my marketing are Buffer, Feedly and Canva. These are surprisingly budget friendly and still deliver outstanding results.
Read more about Useful Apps for Small Business
6. Be Results Focussed
You don’t have to be a social media tart across every platform to get marketing results. Choose your social media and general marketing strategy based on:
- where your customers are,
- where you are getting results and
- where you personally hang out.
There’s no point in doing a Facebook marketing strategy if you hate it with a passion, don’t have an account and would prefer to knit instead of hanging out on Facebook.
If you are not getting traction from one form of marketing, try something else to see if a different platform will deliver better results.
7. Do Your Maintenance
While we are on the subject of tools, a bit of regular maintenance goes a long way. Websites and computers are essential stocks in trade for most small business marketing. If your website or computer is hacked – nothing else you do with your marketing matters.
All websites also need ongoing maintenance. If your site is on WordPress, you need to update your site code and plugins pretty much weekly to help keep out the hackers and spammers. A hacked site is the ultimate dead stop, so even if you do nothing else, keep your site safe, secure and maintained.