Running an SME or startup can mean juggling numerous roles and responsibilities. One moment you’re writing press releases and the next you’re generating invoices.
With so much to do and so little time in which to do it, it’s easy to ignore certain roles. After years spent working with hundreds of small teams, we’ve noticed that marketing is very often the very first role to get dropped.
We think this is wrong. Especially when you consider that many small teams often don’t know where to invest their time. They bet on the wrong strategies, get frustrated at the lack of results and shift their focus elsewhere.
Marketing is important for businesses of any size and makeup — but you have to do it right.
In this article, I’m going to share some sure-fire tactics you can use to improve the quality of your campaigns and boost your results.
Just because you’re a one-person marketing team doesn’t mean you can’t take advantage of the world’s most effective marketing methodology. Click here to download our free Introduction to Inbound Marketing eBook.
Understand Your Audience
Understanding your audience is the first step in any good marketing campaign. After all, if you don’t understand who you’re marketing your products towards, you’ll end up creating campaigns and content that just doesn’t resonate.
We find the most intuitive way to understand your audience is through buyer personas — basically model representations of your ideal customers.
Buyer personas include things like a customer’s role, motivations and pain points, and marketers use then to guide campaign creation. It allows you to imagine an actual person and create content for that particular person.
HubSpot published an excellent buyer persona template for budding marketers. You can download it for free here.
Keep It Simple
There’s nothing wrong with ambition — if you’ve got the resources to back it up. However, if you’re part of a small one-person team, unchecked ambition can easily trip you up.
Before you start, calculate how many hours you have available per week and estimate what you can realistically achieve in that time.
Can you really run five disparate campaigns, targeting radically different demographics? If you’re on your own, probably not.
Here’s Jennifer Burton from Sheffield-based Steel City on keeping things simple.
It can be easy to try and do too much. Focus on a campaign a month, or every few months and tailor your e-shots, direct mail and social media around this, get your team involved speaking to clients about the campaign to back it up. A calendar to organise all the campaigns and events you plan will also help to keep you on track.
Marketing Executive at Steel City
Being brutally honest with yourself and limiting your campaigns to what is actually achievable means you can give each campaign the time it demands.
Merge Personal and Professional Networks
As a small or one-person marketing team, one of the most powerful assets you have is your own personal network. While it might seem rude or intrusive to use your own friends and family as a marketing database, everyone does it. And if you do it in a non-spammy way, hardly anyone is going to care.
Invite your personal network to like your company pages and share your best bits of content regularly.
If you are a member of industry groups — LinkedIn groups, Meetup groups, networking events, etc — consider tapping into these too.
Listen to Your Customers
If you work in a one-person team, it’s unlikely you have enough spare funding lying around for extensive user testing and market research. However, that doesn’t mean you can ignore your users.
You should take every possible opportunity to mine your customers for information and feed that information to back into your campaigns.
Aaron Giles heads up marketing at the Great Escape Game and has refined his approach by listening to his audience.
Many small businesses get so wrapped up in what they think their customers want, they forget to listen to what their customers actually want. Working at the Great Escape Game I had the preconceived notion that people wanted to live out their dreams in an immersive real-life action setting. A chance to become James Bond, a chance to save the world, a chance to be the hero. However, when assessing the unparalleled success of our horror-themed game — where people are captured by a sadistic serial killer — I started to ask customers why? And what I found out was completely on the contrary to people wanting to live out their dreams. People wanted to be scared, to be frightened, to live out their nightmares.
So through listening to the customer I realised that unlike the normal angle of selling to customers hopes and dreams, we were in fact selling to their nightmares!
Marketing Manager at the Great Escape Game
Automate Where Possible
There’s a lot of busy work in modern digital marketing. Whether it’s fine tuning title tags, fixing images or buttering up influencers, running even simple campaigns can balloon into full-time roles.
Thankfully, there are quite a few services dedicated to automating the boring bits, freeing up your time to invest to the fun bits.
Here’s Jennifer discussing the demands of social media.
Social media can seem like a really important marketing medium these days but it is rather time-consuming to plan and review. A free management tool like Hootsuite can save time organising all your posts in one go rather than having to break off from other activities and update every day.
Services like Hootsuite can shave hours off your workload per week by allowing you to schedule hundreds of social media posts on a Monday and set them to trickle out over the coming week.
Other services like IFTT (If This Then That) support complex logic decisions, enabling you to automate things like thank you emails, archiving email enquiries and republishing media across all of your social media accounts.
Choose Your Social Channels Carefully
Facebook gives you access to an unbelievable 1.5 billion users so you should definitely invest your time on it, right? Well, perhaps but perhaps not. What social networks are right for your business depends more on the demographic than it does on the potential audience size.
Trying to reach artists on LinkedIn, health and safety managers on Instagram or researchers on Snapchat will probably deliver very poor returns because each target audience just isn’t on each platform.
To pick the correct social channels, you’ve got to understand your audience and predict where they are likely to hang out.
Here’s David Raymond of Embark Consulting on his social network decision-making process.
We decided to take a ‘trial and error’ approach to marketing, reviewing all the social media platforms, deciding which ones were most suitable to our company and making some initial investments and comparing the interest, value and return. In the world of new technology, the old sales principles still exist: people buy from people and always add value where possible, so we applied this to our marketing strategy.
We built our websites and blogs to be interactive with the visitors, then launched our YouTube channel HSE Tube to promote our company, offer free advice to followers. We built our Twitter account to share some of the news from with our industry, focussing on topics that we feel our followers will find of interest and of value to them.
Managing Director at Embark Consulting
By simply trying out different platforms, David honed in on networks that were frequented by his customers and content mediums that complemented his business model. Copy David’s approach — don’t be afraid to try things out. Try and build a community on Facebook or a following on Twitter. If it’s not working, ditch the network and move on to the next one.
Done Is Better Than Perfect
Countless people, projects and businesses fail because they aim for perfection. They want every bug fixed, every line of code optimised, every T crossed and every I dotted. And they want all of that before they go live.
Well, the truth is perfection doesn’t exist. In any project, product or service, there will always be more work to be done. Whether you launched one day or one year ago, there are always improvements to be made.
Instead of focusing on perfection, I recommend aiming for functional.
For example, say you’re an app developer. Instead of trying to launch an all singing all dancing app, launch a stripped down version, instead. Once it’s live you can keep updating it, bolting on new features and expanding its functionality.
There are two big reasons I’d take this approach. One, if your product is working and live, it can start generating a return and pay for its ongoing development. Two, you can harness your audience as a research tool. Put whatever you are working on live and ask for feedback— it’s amazing what value fresh eyes bring to a project.
Tracking, Tracking, Tracking
If you’re a part of a small marketing team, the number of hours you have to play with is extremely limited. And when you’ve got a limited resource pool, it’s essential you invest them in the most effective strategies.
As Carl Lincoln of Integrated Technologies is about to explain, tracking your efforts and the results they return is an essential step in identifying those strategies.
One of the main things I’ve learnt working as a one-person marketing team is to make sure that you continuously monitor what’s working and what isn’t. You may not have time for complex, detailed analytics but you should be clear on why you’re doing what you’re doing and set some review periods against it. That way you can ensure that you’re using a finite amount of time in the most productive way.
You’ll have to face the fact that while there’s a tonne of things out there (how many social platforms are businesses using now!?) you’re not going to have the resource to do your best at all of them. Try new things, stick with what works and don’t worry too much about the rest.
Marketing and Business Development at Integrated Technologies
Hire an Agency
As a one-person team, there will some things you can’t do on your own. As much as you try, it’s impossible to be a crack graphic designer, content marketer, copywriter, developer and public relations officer. There aren’t enough hours in the day to carry out all those activities, let alone develop the skills in the first place.
While you could recruit dedicated in-house staff, costs can quickly spiral. The alternative is to hire an agency to support your marketing.
Having an agency on retainer lets you dip into a pool of resources and talent as and when you require, kickstarting your marketing without breaking the bank.