This appeared in print as part of the story “Best Laid Plans” In 2007, the City of Columbia’s visioning document suggested that council...
“I don’t have the time.” Seems like that phrase is a small business owner’s mantra. Despite the time crunch, some owners find time for the marketing tasks needed to sustain and grow their business while others don’t. What’s the secret?
Recycle Content: Start with one piece of content and use it across many channels. Imagine a blog post that can be shared on social media, be republished in an email newsletter, be included in a radio spot, inspire your print advertisement, be repurposed as a mailer and later become part of a free talk or seminar. Mind blown, right? By recycling content, you reach a broader audience. You can keep your message consistent and targeted. This keeps design, content development and image costs to a minimum.
Evergreen: Start with the end in mind and create materials that have a long shelf life and can be used for multiple purposes. “We make sure that content we put out holds relevance for a long time,” says Dan Shifley, owner of Dogwood Solar. Shifley learned this lesson the hard way. “Early on, I produced a bunch of flyers that I planned to use for several neighborhoods over time, but I printed a specific date and year on them that made it only good for a one-time use. Lesson learned.”
Document Processes: Sometimes the hard part is knowing where to start. Having a documented process can provide you with a good starting point to reach a polished result. Process adds consistency to your in-house marketing efforts. Best of all, it allows you to take the first step towards delegating the work.
Delegate: “Delegate :-),” advises Susan Myers, realtor at Weichert, Realtors–First Tier, who did it “all or not at all” until she experienced the power of delegation. If you’re unable to find the time to do your marketing activities on your own, make a list of what you want to accomplish and determine what those activities are worth in projected income. Use that number to set a budget for finding help. You could get by using an intern, a design freelancer or content developer to lighten the load, or an agency could take care of it all.
Template: Pre-created templates ensure consistency across content and make it easier to produce quality items through delegation. “I make sure the files and content I use the most are set up with formatting and styles, so all I have to do is tweak content,” Shifley explains.
Service Subscriptions: If you spend too much time stuffing envelopes or driving to the post office, you may need to find a service to help you skip a step or two. For social media consolidation, consider using HootSuite to schedule and post to multiple social media sites at one time. Services like SendOutCards will deliver treats and cards to your database — no envelope stuffing necessary. “Our goal is a 12-month soft touch system, all prescheduled, with limited maintenance after it’s in place,” says Myers. She uses a combination of SendOutCards, Pro Power and Sharper Agent to accomplish the goal.
Automate: Like service subscriptions, automating allows you to skip a step. For example, many bloggers compile their email newsletters by hand to highlight their monthly blog posts. Some email services can pull blog posts directly from your website and send them out, cutting the task in half. Myers says, “Auto schedulers are a time saver. We use HootSuite to schedule automatic posts daily, weekly, etc., like our party reminders.”
Automated appointment reminders can be sent from your online calendar software. Or, like my eye doctor, Shelly Williams, owner of Williams and Associates Eye Care, you can add appointment reminders to the check-in process. Williams’ front desk staff have me address my own reminder cards for my next visit when I check in so they’re ready to send when scheduled.
Scheduling: I feel like I preach about scheduling social media, email and blog posts to my clients. “I had known scheduling was an option on Facebook and in my blog for a while but just recently started using these features. Man, what a time saver,” Shifley says. “It really takes the mental pressure off that ‘I should really post something this day, week, hour, minute,’ and I know that I have a content stream flowing that I just keep adding to the back end. So if I can’t get to it for a couple weeks, it doesn’t mean the world hasn’t heard from us during that time.”
Small business owners are creative to the core, even when carving out the time to make their marketing easier. It all comes down to finding a system that works for you and sticking with it. Then you can review your outcomes and enjoy the business you bring in!