The single biggest marketing challenge affecting small business owners (and a surprisingly simple solution)
A few weeks ago, I reached out to a bunch of different entrepreneurs, asking them how they go about marketing their businesses online.
From designers and photographers to independent cafés and shop owners, the range of responses I received gave me an insight into how small businesses use online marketing platforms, and what they ultimately want to achieve from their efforts.
It also showed me which areas of online marketing small businesses struggle with. Not everyone enjoys writing blog posts, running social media accounts or optimising websites for Google – most entrepreneurs would rather be spending their time completing projects and keeping clients happy.
It’s understandable: spending too much time on online marketing can be a real distraction from getting work done. But when you run a small business, marketing yourself via social media, SEO and blogging is one of the best ways to ensure you win the work you want.
So, when I asked entrepreneurs what they find most challenging in terms of marketing themselves online, it didn't surprise me to see one major theme emerge. Can you guess what it was?
If not, don’t worry – the following responses should make it pretty clear:
“Finding the time to update my website.”
“Balancing online marketing with time spent creating work.”
“Making the time to keep up with the various online marketing platforms I use.”
“Summoning up the energy and time to market myself.”
“Writing blog posts on top of the time I spend on client projects… it always ends up at the bottom of my to-do list.”
Bingo! You got it: the single biggest challenge that entrepreneurs face when marketing their businesses is time.
Over 40% of my respondents told me that they can’t find the time to market themselves effectively. More than any other issue (SEO struggles, social media algorithms, even those dreaded GDPR changes), the greatest barrier preventing small businesses from achieving their marketing goals is simply not having enough hours in the day.
The good news is that there are ways to overcome the problem of not having enough time to market your business. Keep reading to learn one very simple solution that can help you to market your business effectively, without losing focus on the important tasks and creative projects that earn you money and keep you feeling fulfilled.
So many platforms, so little time!
The responses to my survey showed that many entrepreneurs feel overwhelmed by how many different marketing platforms are available to them. With new social media channels and content marketing strategies appearing every few weeks, it can feel impossible to keep up.
On social media, the introduction of Facebook Live, Twitter Moments and Instagram stories has drastically changed the way businesses use these platforms to market themselves.
Google’s ever-shifting algorithms can mean that any SEO knowledge you glean from reading blog posts, watching videos and listening to podcasts soon becomes outdated.
Blogging trends change quickly, too – one minute it’s long-form content that gets the best results, the next it’s listicles or infographics.
The idea that busy entrepreneurs have time to keep track of every online marketing innovation is ludicrous. Yet as business owners, we often put unnecessary and unrealistic pressure on ourselves to do everything at once, leading to inevitable failure and a crushing sense that we’ll never get the marketing results we want.
Rather than always trying to do more, the solution to better marketing is to do less. This might seem counterintuitive, but it’s true. If you want to get more from your online marketing efforts without spending any extra time on it, the solution is simple.
Do one thing well
It’s that easy! Rather than spreading yourself across numerous different marketing platforms and failing to use any of them effectively, focus your time on becoming an expert in the one channel that best suits you and your business.
By focusing on just one marketing channel, learning as much as you can about it and dedicating a small amount of time each day to it, you’ll quickly become an expert at using your chosen platform to achieve the goals you’ve set for yourself.
While others become stressed out and flustered by trying to be on every platform at once, you’ll discover how to convert the time you spend on your chosen platform into real results: dream clients, highly-paid work, exciting new projects.
So how do you decide which online marketing platform to invest time and effort in? That depends on your business and the skills you already have.
You should pick a channel that plays to your strengths and allows you to reach your target audience easily. For example, if you take beautiful photos and are looking to market your photography business to a particular group of clients, it makes sense to focus your efforts on Instagram.
Let’s say you’ve given yourself one hour each day to spend on marketing your business. By using that hour entirely on Instagram marketing, you’ll be able to:
Publish a new photograph on your feed, demonstrating the type of work you specialise in
Write a thoughtfully composed caption, appealing to your target audience
Research relevant hashtags to include in your post, maximising your chances of engagement
Comment on images posted by other users, starting conversations with potential clients
Share a story that will appear at the top of every follower’s feed, increasing your visibility
One hour is just enough time to do all that. You might struggle if you had to do more. But thanks to your tidy schedule and consistent Instagram marketing strategy, your engagement receives a huge boost.
You gain lots of new followers (relevant ones – the kinds of people you’d like to work for), regularly receive comments on your posts, and even get some enquiries through your website from potential clients who discovered you through Instagram. Nice!
Now imagine that you’ve got Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and LinkedIn to worry about on top of Instagram. Plus a blog and a bunch of keywords that you’d like to rank for on Google. Remember, in this scenario, you’ve still only got one hour to spend on your marketing each day.
There’s no way you’ll be able to devote enough time to each task without it resulting in a massive drop in quality. All of a sudden, you’re swamped with marketing responsibilities that you can’t keep up with. You try to do it all, but there’s simply not enough time.
The result? Less engagement, fewer followers and zero goals achieved. By trying (and failing) to do more, you’ve actually achieved far less than if you’d focused on the one platform that’s likely to help you succeed.
But, by spending an hour each day on the single platform that works best for you, you’ll gain so many more leads than you would by struggling across several different social media sites. And when that hour’s up, you can get back to doing the important work that keeps your business thriving, without worrying whether you’ve dedicated enough time to marketing yourself.
What if one marketing platform isn’t enough?
For some entrepreneurs, using just one online platform to market themselves won’t cut it. Continuing with the example above, you might be keen to combine your Instagram marketing efforts with a blog.
As well as boosting your SEO and establishing you as an authority in your industry, a blog could help you to leverage the audience you already have on Instagram. Sharing blog posts with your Instagram followers could tempt them over to your website, making them even more likely to become clients.
As we’ve already established, though, time is limited. Unless you’re a multi-tasking genius or love spending all your precious free time on marketing, you might find it tricky to run a successful blog, keep up your presence on Instagram and do everything else that’s required to run your business.
If you don’t want to miss out on the opportunities a blog could give you, but don’t have the time or energy to run it yourself, one option is to team up with a freelance copywriter who specialises in writing blog posts. Ideally this should be someone who has a good knowledge of SEO, so that they can help you to rank higher on Google while posting quality content to your website.
Of course, it’s not just blog posts that you can get help with. There are talented freelancers within every online marketing niche you can imagine, from social media to email newsletters and online video (if you need recommendations, feel free to drop me a line!).
Choose the right person to work with and your investment will more than pay itself off, thanks to the extra paid work that comes your way as a result of your professional approach to online marketing.
Remember: everyone has the same number of hours in a day. It’s up to you how you use them.
Whether you’re spending the next hour marketing your business online or working on an exciting creative project, I hope that reading this guide has inspired you to focus on the things you’re best at, in order to smash your business goals and reach more of the clients or customers you want to work with.