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How to Choose Marketing and Sales Priorities (As a Small Business Owner)

Choosing the right marketing strategy is the difference between success and failure. It will save you time, headaches, and will help you make more money with less effort. Many people see marketing as something complex that only big brands do. Marketing and sales are any actions you or your business take to get new business. Without clients or customers, you aren't in business.

To pick the right marketing priorities:

  • Block off time for marketing and do it consistently
  • Create a compelling vision for where you'd like to take your business
  • Effectively communicate the ways you're better than every competitor
  • Look at a variety of marketing tactics (Facebook ads, YouTube videos, billboards), etc. Pick the 2–4 you can realistically focus on, then commit to 6-months of effort using these tactics.

Please note: You'll get more out of this post if you find my pre made worksheet. Download by clicking the button below. I highly recommend printing it out and then filling it out.

Download the worksheet.


Estimated reading time: 23 minutes

THIS IS A SHORTENED VERSION OF OUR FREE EBOOK: SMALL BUSINESS MARKETING PRIORITY BLUEPRINT: Save time, clarify your vision, and find the right actions. You'll get even more out of it and get to see all the tips by typing in your ebook below. You should receive it in your inbox immediately.

If you're a small business owner, I'm guessing life tends to be hectic.. You may be working 15 hours a day, feeling stressed, and overworked. I have been there.

I remember 1 year ago...

It was 5:30 a.m., and I was ready to give up. This was my third late night in a week. I was broke, exhausted, discouraged, and depressed. There were bags under my eyes, and I felt in my gut that my business was over. I was working 7 days a week, and my business was failing.

The weeks I didn’t have work, I’d spend all my time lining up work. Once I had lined up all of the work, it required all of my time, attention, and focus. I’d work like crazy to meet client deadlines. Then, when those projects were over, it was back to square 1 again. 

Jacob LE with Burnout

Feast or famine.

Over and over. It was exhausting.

I almost gave up, but I'm so glad that I didn't. Because I discovered how to avoid the crushing stress and anxiety, and I developed a way to consistently receive customers.

SECTION 1: Block Off Time for Marketing (and Do It Consistently)

1. How to Find the Time to Do Marketing (Even When You're Busy)

You can find the time in your life you need TODAY. Not years in the future. In this section I will show you how.

As a small-business owners, one of your biggest challenges is finding new customers. So, you spend all of their time finding new customers and clients. It takes time, it's unlikely you'll go to a networking event and line up a client that exact day. But, you finally find enough clients to keep you busy. Then, things get crazy. You're trying to please a ton of customers at once, and it eats up all of your time (and sometimes your sanity). However, then the number of customers go down. And you have to do this process all over again.

This is the wrong way to market. When you're busy with a number of clients, marketing may be the last thing on your mind. But, this is key if you want to have customers lined up a month or two from now. This is the way out of feast or famine.

In order to find the time to work on marketing, you need to find the time. Here are my top 10 tips for saving time as an entrepreneur. I've implemented them in my own business. It's increased my productivity and decreased my stress. I studied how many of the top entrepreneurs and millionaires are scheduling their day and learned from them.

2. 10 Ways to Add More Time in Your Day as an Entrepreneur, Step by Step


1.

Notifications pull away your focus and wreck your productivity for the day. This includes email notifications. Check your email a few times a day and turn off social media, news, and text notifications during work hours. You’ll get way more done, which means you can be done with work sooner and spend more time doing what you enjoy. You don’t need to give up texting, social media, and news. Just do it on your break or when you’re done with work.​

It’s estimated that task switching can cut down people’s productivity by 40% (or 16 or more hours per week)

2.

Work in 60–90 minute sprints where you focus like crazy and work toward a goal. You should work on your most important task before you check your email. Give yourself a short break afterwards.

3.

Spend 50 minutes a day

  • Writing your to-do list and goals for the day.
  • Doing a 20-minute workout
  • Doing a 5–10 minute meditation
  • Taking a 20-minute relaxing walk
  • Thinking of things that you’re grateful for

This may seem like a lot, but the extra productivity, energy, and focus will save you more time than you are spending.

4.

Block off time to brainstorm. Turn off all distractions. Brainstorming sessions each week can illuminate the best path forward. They can lead to ideas and innovations that will help you succeed, save you time, and save you money. During each brainstorming session, ask “is there a better way that I could be doing things?”

5.

Consistently working more than 55 hours per week will lead to feeling burnt out, stressed, and unproductive. You don’t need to put in 90 hours a week. Ninety-hour weeks can make you less productive.

6.

Delegating tasks can help you spend more time doing the things you are good at and the things you enjoy. You can delegate chores, housework, and administrative tasks; I find that these types of tasks are simpler and cheaper to delegate. If you have more work than you can handle, look into contractors or part-time workers.

7.

It’s worth looking for a high-quality coach, mentor, or consultant who can help point you in the right direction. This will save you time as well.

8.

Focus on clients and customers who are easier to work with and are willing to pay more. We’ll go into how to secure these customers in the next section, but this has an enormous impact.

9.

Put a time limit on venting your frustrations, to others or in your own head. Sometimes people do you wrong. It’s super frustrating. But, does that jerk who cut you off on the freeway deserve to steal hours of your productivity and joy? Don’t let five seconds of frustration negatively impact hours of your precious time. Venting can feel good in small doses, but it can also put you in a bad state of mind. 

10.

Figure out where you want to go, the key steps to get there, and your 1-day, 1-week, and 12-week goals. Don't make too many assumptions about how people will respond to your product or service.


3. When Should I Set Aside Time for Marketing?

Here is what I recommend. Set aside 1 hour first thing in the morning. I always check off the most important item on my to-do list first thing in the morning. And, I believe that long-term, growing your customer base with marketing is going to be THE most important thing to do consistently. So, start with marketing at least 4 days a week. Do not check your email before you check off your task!

Here is why: Email will immediately pull your focus in a number of directions. You'll be responding to what other people want of you. You'll lose control over the schedule you want to set for yourself. Personally, I check email twice a day, but I would like to move to once per day. When I check it, I answer every email until it's done. Your job is not answering emails. Have clients call you if it's urgent. Or, hire an assistant to help with emails. However, it's so easy to spend half the day responding to emails. As the owner of your business, you have important, long-term goals to work toward. Check off your marketing task, then check your email.

SECTION 2: The 6 Key Elements to a Great Marketing Strategy

Understanding this section will put you on a path toward success. You'll have a strong vision for where you are going and you'll attract the RIGHT people. You'll learn how to attract the right customers, build a business that you love, and gain repeat business.

Your most important marketing priority is understanding your customer and your own message.You must know why people should choose you over everyone else.

Your top marketing priority is not Facebook ads, billboards, or email marketing. These are tactics, not a strategy. Tactics need to be built on a strong foundation. If you don't understand your customer, tactics will fail. It's important to get crystal clear with what you are selling, who your customers are, what they care about, and how you compare to your competitors. After, you figure out those things, THEN it's time to decide which marketing channels are worth your time, effort, and money.

1. Create a Compelling Vision for Where Your Company Will Go

Make sure you have a clear vision for your business and convey that vision to others. What impact are you going to have on the world? Where do you want your business to be in 5 years? Conveying this message will help you drive sales. Knowing where you want to be in 5 years will help you create your overall marketing strategy. You need to know where you are going before you create a strategy that will get you there.

2. Who is Your Customer (and What's Important to Them)?

Do not think of marketing as convincing someone to buy. Persuading someone to buy is an uphill battle. You want to find people who already want what you're selling. Or people who have a problem, and your product or service is the exact solution. 

Now, with sales and marketing, it's still important to build trust with potential customers and make them understand why your product is an amazing solution for their problem. But, so many people spend time and money trying to sell to people who don't want or need what they're selling. If you sell wedding dresses, it's in your best interest to try and find people who will get married in the near future. You wouldn't spend your time trying to sell to 60-year-old men and 8-year-old girls. Don't spend your time trying to sell to people who aren't interested.

If you don't know where you are going, any road will get you there.

Try to put yourself in your customer's shoes.

Understand what your customers are trying to accomplish. What are their greatest hopes and fears? What keeps them up at night? In order to effectively sell or market, you have to understand your customers.

Here's a useful exercise. Write a page out of your customer's diary. If you can understand exactly what they're thinking about and struggling with, you'll be so much better at selling and marketing.

Bad or difficult customers can hurt your reputation and your business. ​

Who would you like to work with? Who do you enjoy working with the most? Work with people who you want to help the most. If you love collaborating and have a passion for a certain group, follow that insight. If you are pursuing a customer only because “they have a lot of money,” this may not make you as rich as you think. Many people are targeting those with the most money, and you’ll do better work and be better at selling to those that you truly want to help.

3. Figure Out How Much a Customer is Worth to You

How much is a customer worth to you? What is the lifetime value of a customer for you? Knowing this number is crucial for advertising. If you received a customer for $50, is that good or bad? You need to know this number to succeed with your advertising.

If you don’t know how much a customer is worth to you, you CANNOT know if you are spending the right amount of time or money to acquire new customers. Even if you hire a professional marketer to help you, if they are good at their jobs, they’ll ask you for these numbers. I have a full blog post on doing these calculations, but you can use the following calculator to do the calculations.

Basically, you are taking your profit for the first sale (money it makes you minus expenses, not including advertising), then adding that to repeat business (average number of times people buy from you again). For example, if you earn $400 from a sale, and your expenses are $100, your profit is $300. If, on average, customers purchase from you 3 more times, your total profit from each customer is $1,200 ($300 + $900).

Then, you'll also want to account for referrals. Let's say 10% of your customers provide referrals, and half of those turn into closed sales. That means 5% of customers provide sales that turn into closed business. So, since customers on average spend $300 4 times ($1,200 total), and 5% of those refer new customers who will spend the same average amount, take .05 x $1,200, and you'll get $60 on average from referrals.

So, in this example, you get $300 from the first sale, $900 in repeat business, and an average $60 worth of referrals, or $1,260 in total, per customer. This is your customer lifetime value. Knowing these numbers will help you understand how much money you can use to acquire a new customer.

How should I use customer lifetime value to figure out my advertising budget?

It's ideal to make up for your ad spend in your first sale. In our example, we found that a customer would net you $300 on the first sale and $1,260 over the next few years.

If you’re spending $600 to acquire each customer, it may take a couple years to turn a profit on that customer. It would be ideal to keep the number under $300.

But, if you're a chiropractor, it could make sense to spend $300 to acquire a new customer. Even though you need to do the work and don't make a profit on the first sale, every repeat sale and referral will be all profit.

There are times it makes sense to spend more money to acquire a customer than you make off the first sale. One common example is a software as a service company (SaaS). Let's say people sign up for $25 a month, but on average they pay monthly for 8 months. In this case, it would make sense to gain new customers for more than $25. Even if it costs you $40 a customer you'll make a profit off that customer one month later, and you'll be VERY profitable 8 months later. If you can make back the money in a month or two, it can make sense to spend more than you gain from the first sale.

How can I improve my customer lifetime value?

The full article on customer lifetime value includes even more helpful tips, but here is a brief summary.

  • Ask for more referrals. Mention up front that if you do an incredible job, you'll ask your customer for referrals afterward.
  • Get specific with your referral requests. Don't say, "If you know someone looking to buy or sell a home, I'd love an introduction." Instead, say, "If you know any young couples who are complaining about outgrowing their space, I'd love to talk with them. The more specific you are about your ideal customer, the more likely people are to think of someone.
  • Follow up with all past customers at least once per quarter. Send cards, gift baskets, birthday presents, and helpful emails. If you have an email list, ask people if you can add them to that. Make an effort to make their day better every time you reach out.

4. How Does Your Business Compare to Your Competition?

People have a lot of choices for where to spend their money. If you own a bakery, you may be competing with hundreds of similar bakeries. So, here's a key question for your business: Why would someone choose your business over anyone else? The most successful businesses have a very strong answer to this question. 

Open up a document and write out a concise answer to this question. This exercise is challenging. It's actually more difficult to be succinct and clear. You get bonus points if you get the statement down to one powerful sentence. It's much easier to write a page about your business versus condensing it down to one sentence. Don't include buzzwords in your sentence. Make it something that your competition couldn't copy.

business in a race on a track


Example 1: Misotono Knives cares about creating quality products and being customer-focused while providing excellent customer support.

This is not a good statement. Here's why: This could apply to every other company on the planet. What company wouldn't describe itself as creating "quality products" and "providing excellent customer service"? Those are vague buzzwords. Your statement should be specific to you.

Poor quality photo of knives

Poor Images=Poor perceived quality

Example 2: At Misotono knives, each razor-sharp knife is personally and painstakingly crafted by our blade smith. Each knife is unique and comes with a lifetime warranty with fast one-to-one phone and chat support.

Here's why this statement is much better: It's unique to the company. Competitors may mass produce knives, not offer a lifetime warranty, may not offer chat support or fast responses. It's also much more descriptive. The company stands apart and justifies their higher price by demonstrating their blades are individually made, tack sharp, will last forever, and provide fast and convenient support.

Now, every statement can be improved. The goal isn't to get it perfect. The goal is to get it down on paper. Improving your statement should be an ongoing process.

high quality photo of knives

Better images=Higher perceived quality

I think a real life example will be helpful, so I'll include my response to this question for my business, Jacob LE:

"Jacob LE is revolutionizing the way small business owners set marketing priorities and find THE highest-impact actions they can take to grow their business. By providing free tutorials, one-to-one consulting, step-by-step action plans, and turnkey premium courses, we provide everything a business owner needs to create their ideal business. 

Shortened bonus sentence: Jacob LE is revolutionizing the way small businesses set and prioritize their marketing actions.

So, write out and plan out your unique description now.

Once you understand who your customers are and how your company is positioned, you can use this summary:

  • When you are networking
  • When people ask about your business
  • On business cards, direct mail, posters, and pamphlets
  • On any paid advertisements
  • On your website
  • On any media appearances.
steve jobs photo and quote

Do you see why it's important to get this part just right? Since understanding your customer and your business is so important, this isn't something to do once and then put it in a drawer to collect dust. Put this write up in a spot where you can see it. Work to update and improve it over time. You should update this statement when you have more information about who your customers are and what they care about.

When creating your statement, decide what you want to be the best at

It’s impossible to be the best at everything. Instead, we should be the best at very specific areas of focus. What can you do better than any other business in town? You just need to be the best at 1 thing and really commit to that.

If you're a pizza shop:

  • You can have the best thick crust pizza.
  • You can have the best thin crust pizza.
  • You can have the best oven-baked pizza.
  • You can have the most creative menu.
  • You can have the best combination of toppings.
  • You can have the best crust and best sauces in town.
  • You can have the easiest, most user-friendly online ordering system.
  • You can have the best pepperoni slices, sausage, olives, etc.
  • You can have the fastest delivery.
  • You can have the cheapest prices.
  • You can have the best tasting fairly cheap pizza in town.
  • You can have the best tasting medium-priced pizza in town.
  • You can have the best tasting pizza in town PERIOD.
  • You can be the best trendy spot for young people.
  • You can be the best fancy night out experience.
cheap pizza vs expensive pizza

But, wait. Can't I be the best at most of those? No, because if you try to be the best at everything, you’ll end up being the best at nothing. You should have one main focus. For this example, let's say you decide to have the most creative menu. It takes work, money, and effort to become THE place for a creative pizza menu. Decide what you want to be known for and dominate that area. Word of mouth will spread, and you'll build a strong reputation. Write down the one area where you'll be the best.

5. You NEED to Build Trust. Here's How...

People are very distrusting of small businesses (and they should be).

Anyone can start a small business. No matter how untrustworthy, incompetent, or unethical they are. Some companies are actively trying to scam you. People are on high alert at all times. I receive robocalls, email scams, phone scams, and social media scams every single day. Most of them are easy to spot. Some of them have been VERY convincing.

Some industries are filled with businesses working to rip you off. And, other businesses aren’t trying to do harm, but don’t have the skill, knowledge, or ability to do what they promise.

Small businesses have scammed, ripped off, and stolen from me. And it’s not because I was gullible. You can sign a contract with someone, and they can simply not do the work, or not pay you for your work. And going to court is a lengthy and expensive process.

There are a few key things that you can do to increase your customers’ level of trust:

Take away the risk with a guarantee. 

Can you guarantee money back if they aren’t happy? Can you guarantee a specific result?

Can you offer a longer warranty than your competition? Maybe even a lifetime warranty?

100% money back guarantee

Demonstrate you are competent. 

Is it clear to your customers that you know what you are talking about? Are you truly an expert? If so, here are a few ways that you can demonstrate your expertise:

  • Do public speaking
  • Create case studies
  • Publish blog posts, social media posts, or videos that demonstrate your expertise
  • Write white papers, ebooks, or a book on the subject.

Get as many reviews or testimonials as possible. 

Don’t worry about making every review 5 stars. Studies have found that pages with a review score of 4.5–4.9 actually perform better than those that have solely 5-star reviews. Include customer reviews and testimonials on your web page.

Have integrity when you are working with clients. 

Be honest with them if you make a mistake. If you have a conflict, try to understand their point of view. If they’re a difficult client, don’t work with them again. If their demands are insane, stand your ground when you need to. But, seek to have the best customer relationship possible with each person you work with.

Many people see their online presence as separate from word of mouth, in-person networking, and referrals. This couldn’t be further from the truth. In-person networking and your online presence are very closely connected. Did you know that 97 percent of customer look up local businesses online? Building trust and expertise with your online presence will have an impact on nearly everyone you meet, not only people who find you online.

6. Make More Money from Current and Past Clients

It’s expensive and time-consuming to get business from someone who hasn’t heard of you before. It’s less expensive to advertise to someone who is familiar with you but hasn’t done business with you yet. But, it is FAR less expensive and time consuming to gain business from a past customer. 

But how can you prioritize work from past customers?

  • Keep in touch. Keep the relationship going. Follow up at least every quarter. Once a month is even better. You can do this by sending Christmas cards, birthday well-wishes, or helpful articles. Make your business available to provide support. See if you can improve their day every single time you get in touch. It’s not as time-consuming as it seems.
  • Can you give people a discount or extra benefits if they sign up for repeat purchases? Could you give a subscription option? A discount if they purchase several products? 
  • Create a punch card! Having a punch card is another great way that you can prioritize repeat business. Creating a punch card where people can get a free coffee, oil change, or other service after they’ve made 5 or 10 purchases is powerful. This is an amazing tool to get people to stick with your business. It may even incentivize them to use your service if they’re close to cashing in. I know I am more likely to visit a local coffee shop with a punch card when I’m only a few coffees away from a reward. 

How much money should you spend on marketing?

Spending no money on marketing is often a mistake. Once you understand your customer and your message, it's worthwhile to spend money, even if it's just $50 or $100 a month. Here's why: Posting to social media and networking are often "free," but they're a big time suck. Spending money on advertising accomplishes a few things:

  • You can reach many people quickly.
  • You can bring in new customers on a consistent basis (even when you're busy).
  • You can hire other people to help with marketing tasks.
  • You instantly increase the number of people your social posts reach.

Warning: Before you spend any money, do the previous exercises where you work to understand your customers and how you differ from your competition. Then, it's worth spending a bit of money.

dollar bills


This bears repeating: While it’s tempting to only use free marketing methods, this is a mistake. Spending money, even if it’s a small amount, will save an incredible amount of time and effort. Here's the thing: You have a limited amount of time. Let's say you spend three hours a week posting to Facebook. You're stressed, overworked, and busy. Three hours a week is no small amount. In contrast, if you spent $15 to get those posts in front of more people, your results could triple, quadruple, etc. Successful companies spend some money on marketing.

The average person sees 4,000–10,000 advertisements per day, so it’s challenging to stand out. Many people talk about how they are the best and everyone is the worst. There are legitimate reasons why people choose your competitors. If you act like you're the best company of all time with no flaws, people will see through that. Focus on the areas where you are truly exceptional.

Marketing budgets are a bad idea.

Wait, am I allowed to say that? Spending the exact same amount month after month doesn't make sense. If your marketing is not giving a positive return on investment, spend less money and test and test until you have you have a positive return on investment.

Now, I understand if you may have marketing employees, retainers, or ongoing programs like Google Ads, bus stop ads, etc. If an ad is working for you, keep it running forever and contemplate ramping it up. So, there will be fixed costs and I highly recommend small businesses spend at least $200 a month testing ads. 

But, when ads aren't working, you should spend less and test like crazy. When ads are working well, increase your spend until you are at your capacity. The only reason you should spend the same on marketing each month is if your ads are working and you are at capacity. If you couldn't possibly accept more leads, keep them running but don't increase your spending. The goal is to test out ads until they become profitable and then to increase your spending once you hit on something that works well.

How long should I stick with a marketing plan and the actions in it before giving up?

One of the biggest mistakes many people make is giving up too soon. Pick a few actions and strategies and stick with them. Entrepreneurs have a tendency to constantly switch tactics when they hear about something new. Some people refer to this as chasing shiny objects. It will take time for your efforts to pay off.  You’ll receive far greater results if you stick with your strategy without frequently switching things up and changing strategy. You aren’t going to be successful by discovering some “secret hack.” You’ll be successful by having a solid game plan and sticking with it.

Most marketing efforts take 6 months to have the biggest impact. You’ll build momentum over time. People will often need to interact with your brand 10, 20, or even 30 times before becoming a paying customer. Stick with your efforts and reap the rewards.

looking at clock frustrated

SECTION 3: Putting it Together– Picking and Scheduling Marketing Priorities+Examples

Are You Ready to Create and then Track Your Plan?

OK, now it's time to create a plan and put it into action.

By the end of this section, you'll gain a better understanding of how your time marketing can be best spent. You'll also have an action-item list and you'll be ready to get started.

We'll create a list of 60-90 minute time blocks. Our goal is to plan out a few weeks of tie blocks. We're going to put THE most important tasks first. 

It's important to plan it out and write it down because actions need to happen in a specific order. For example, let's say you need to create a Google My Business Page, gain reviews, and then run Google Ads to that page. You'll need to set up the page, wait for 5 days for Google to mail you a postcard, ask for reviews over several days, and then set up the ads.

Do your marketing tasks first thing in the morning before checking email.  Focus like crazy until you get that task checked off. The priorities for every business will be different. Marketing plans will vary based on peoples' industry (restaurant vs construction company) and their stage of their business (brand new vs. scaling from 6 to 7 figures). 

Create 60-90 minute "Time-Blocks"

What are time blocks? They're simply a set of actions that you can accomplish in your first 60-90 minutes of work. Sometimes it's a single action (write a draft of a blog post) and other times it can be a number of actions (send 3 emails and post on Facebook and Twitter).

Once you decide on what you'll do in your "time-blocks for the next few weeks, you can check them off in your spread sheet.

Create a Sheet/System to Check Off Your Time Blocks

For my own business, I actually prefer to check off the tasks with sheets of paper and stickers. There's something satisfying about having a physical copy and using stickers or check boxers to see your progress.

When I work with clients, I create a shared Google Sheet so I can see their progress and help them complete their tasks. Some people prefer tracking progress in tools like Trello or Asana.

The important thing is you have a list of marketing tasks and a spreadsheet or way to check off each task when you complete the task.

help a reporter out checklist

What Should My Action Plan Actually Look Like?

An example of a real world plan will help you create your own action plan. I'll provide the first few marketing priorities from an actual big picture strategy session. I met with a local business. In each strategy session we first:

  • Clarified their business description
  • Created a strong vision for their business
  • Spelled out how they are different from their competition
  • Examined ongoing ways to increase referrals and repeat business
  • Calculated the lifetime value of a customer

Then we created the following 60-90 minute time blocks.

What are time blocks?

Time blocks

Marketing Strategy Real World Example (Time-Blocks)

1
Get a referral email ready to go

Create that email and get it ready to send. This should be very thought out and thorough.

Create an exact plan for asking for a 3-6 month commitment with a benefit. Tell people how they can sign up for the "gold star service plan" that we created in the consultation.

Don’t check off block 1 in your spreadsheet until you’re ready to send out a referral email. The sooner you start implementing this, the more sales you can make.

2
Add to Your Google My Business Page  & Set Up a Yelp Page

If possible, add 50-100 photos to both pages. Name the photos, and make the photos relevant to your business. Make sure you use the keywords that we created in your plan so that people can find your pages on Google.

I recommend adding in hours as well as a list with your services.

Do it yourself or hire out?

Unless you’re having major issues setting up an account, this is one it makes sense to do yourself.

3
Get Google and Yelp Reviews

Focus on Google My Business reviews in particular. Yelp actually marks over 50% of reviews as fake or spam. It’s really annoying. I wrote an entire article on how to get more Yelp reviews. You can find it here:

https://jacob-le.com/how-to-get-more-yelp-reviews/

Yelp doesn’t like when a bunch of reviews flood in at once. I would only ask for 3 at a time, otherwise they could penalize your account.


4
Set up Google Analytics

This will help you see how many visitors you are receiving as well as how many visits each page receives.

​​

In our session, we created another dozen marketing time blocks in addition to these 4.  If you want help creating yours, book it now.


What Are the Most Effective Marketing Channels?

We're about to go into a brief summary of each marketing channel. No channel is best for everyone. No matter the marketing channel, you'll want to stick with it and constantly learn and improve. I typically recommend people stick with a marketing method for 6 months. It takes at least that long to build relationships, followers, connections, and skills.

In my full length book, the Marketing Blueprint for Overtasked Business Owners, I give every several pages of analysis on every marketing strategy. Sign up for my email list to receive a free marketing checklist and mini action plan, ongoing tips and advice, AND bonuses for the book that only people on the list will receive. The book will be released in 2020.

marketing blueprint

Book cover by Sweet & Savory Design

20 Small Business Marketing Tactics Compared.

Most small businesses can only truly crush it in a few areas at once. In this section, you'll need to score each tactic in 5 areas.

Score them on a scale of 1-10 (10 being high).

  1. Enjoyment: How much would I enjoy working on this marketing tactic?
  2. Impact: What level of impact would this have on my business?
  3. Difficulty: Is it something you could quickly learn how to do? Would you need to outsource it?
  4. Effort: How much effort would be required? Would it take hundreds of hours or just a few?
  5. Investment: How much money would I need to invest?

Scoring the enjoyment, impact, difficulty effort, and Investment will help you select the very best actions.

The most important is the impact. You can always hire others to do the tasks you don't like.The #1 thing to look for is high impact and low effort activities.

The goal is to find 3-6 activities that you'll focus your efforts on. Use your worksheet to score each one.

Google My Business

Facebook

Instagram

FB+Instagram Ads

PROS: Helps you rank higher in Google. Build trust, authority, and positive word of mouth. Set it up once, andwhile you can continue to post, it isn't required.


CONS: Mainly for local businesses. No instant results, but you’ll gain leads slowly over time. Needs to be set up properly.

  • PROS: Free option. Highly targeted Facebook Groups. You can show ads to people who've liked your page.
  • CONS: Difficult to gain traction without spending money. Time consuming. Bad at driving traffic (without paying). Poor reach. Steep learning curve.
  • PROS: One of the fastest growing social networks. Great for visual brands. Hashtags are a great way to connect with the right people.
  • CONS: Reach is going down. Bad at sending people to links.
  • PROS: Amazing targeting. Very scalable (if you're making money with your ad, you can keep putting money in). Great targeting for local and national audiences.
  • CONS: The majority of people lose money. Steep learning curve. Not as effective for low budgets. Money needed for testing.

For an even more in-depth comparison of social media marketing, read my article: https://jacob-le.com/the-hottest-social-network. Since I wrote this, Instagram has gone down in reach, so it's no longer the clear winner.

Yelp+Yelp Ads

Cold Calling

Cold Email Or linkedin Outreach

Email Marketing

  • PROS: Free account and easy to get $300 in free ad spend starting out. People go onto Yelp looking to buy.

  • CONS: Yelp hides many real reviews. Pushy sales reps. Difficult to gain reviews.
  • PROS: An efficient way of connecting with new businesses.  A fast way to generate sales.
  • CONS: Painful for many small business owners. Low closing rates are common. Challenging and sometimes demoralizing.
  • PROS: Effective with enough practice and personalization. You can directly connect with many people quickly.
  • CONS: Low open rates. Time consuming. Demoralizing for some small business owners.
  • PROS: You own the list yourself (Facebook owns your follower list), everyone who subscribes will see all your emails. Great for sales.
  • CONS: You need to get people to opt-in to your list. It's harder to spend time on your emails when you only have a few people on the list

TV Commercials

Google Ads

Direct mail

Billboards

  • PROS: Memorable. People have more trust for companies on TV. Still an effective way to reach people.

  • CONS: Expensive. More difficult to track your results. More difficult to target specific audiences.
  • PROS: Can drive website traffic for search terms that are relevant to your business. Valuable traffic. Can use retargeting to target people who visited your website.
  • CONS: More expensive per click vs. Facebook and Instagram. Ad platform is challenging for new users.
  • PROS: A high percentage of people will open if you stand out. Easier to track results and modify your mailings. Highly targeted if you have the right list.

CONS: More expensive per person reached, tossed into trashed if it doesn't grab people. Need to find a great list.

  • PROS: Authoritative. Can reach many local people.
  • CONS: Very expensive. Difficult to track your return on investment and results, more "general awareness" vs. immediate sales

Linkedin

Twitter

Pinterest

Networking

  • PROS:Good organic reach (# of people you reach without paying). Great for connecting with other businesses.

  • CONS: Paid Ads are expensive per click. Harder to send ads to website visitors.
  • PROS: Easiest social network to connect with celebrities and influencers. Good for starting conversations.
  • CONS: Challenging for small business. You need to be tweeting in real time, reacting live consistently. It's not something you can easily schedule in advance and gain amazing results.
  • PROS:Great for food, parenting, products, and fashion companies. Wealthiest social media audience. Many people are more open to purchase an item they find on Pinterest vs. other social networks. Good at sending web traffic.
  • CONS: Difficult to target local audience. Pins can take months to rank. 93% of pins are created by women a con if you have a predominately male audience). Pinterest ads not as advanced as Facebook or Google ads.
  • PROS: Face to face connections. Great for scheduling coffee meetings and face-to-face talks.
  • CONS: Networking events vary greatly in quality and the connections you'll form. If you don't find the right events, it can be a poor use of time.

Blogging

Networking Groups

Influencer marketing

YOUTUBE

  • PROS:Increase targeted web traffic without paying for advertising monthly. Scalable. Posts rank for years.

  • CONS: It can take nearly a year for your webpage to rank fully. It takes a long time to grow and in-depth keyword research. It's very competitive, especially for certain terms.
  • PROS: Form longer-term relationships with other business owners. Can receive many referrals and leads.
  • CONS: Many are paid. Some have a strong expectation and pressure that you'll pass many leads. 
  • PROS: Tap into an existing audience. Can generate new sales and leads very quickly. You can form valuable connections with influencers that are useful going forward. 
  • CONS:Harder to continually test. Can be over quickly. You need to form relationships and work with the influencers.
  • PROS: Videos can rank for years. Amazing for building trust, connection, and a group of loyal followers. Great for pitching offers or selling online courses.
  • CONS: Growth is slow at the start. You need to become very familiar with keyword research to succeed. It often can take 1–2 years to gain major traction. More difficult to target local customers.

If you're blogging, you need to take a look at my post on the very best blog length to rank.

Great marketing actions for local small businesses

There are just a few actions that I believe make sense for nearly every small business owner:

  • A Google My Business page with several reviews
  • A Facebook Business page
  • A Yelp page with several reviews
  • Some ongoing monthly advertising
  • Google Analytics and a Facebook Pixel to track web visitors and for future online advertising
  • Some face-to-face selling, presenting, or speaking.

Quick thoughts on Social Media...it's overrated?

Don't get me wrong. You can certainly use social media to grow your business. But, I see the same story over and over.

A small business owner feels like they "need to be posting on social." They spend their valuable time and effort each week, they don't like the process and they receive 8 likes per post and exactly $0. Many small businesses use social media ineffectively.

You don’t HAVE to be constantly posting on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter to get results. It may not be the best use of your time. If you are doing social media, put some money behind it and focus more on interacting with people, finding the right people, and starting conversations. What you post is often less important than who you connect with. If you do decide that social media is the best use of your time, you need to be constantly improving, trying new things, and adapting.

Conclusion: You've Found the Highest Impact Marketing Activities. What Are Your Next Steps?

You are a rockstar. Pat yourself on the back for making it all the way through this epic post.

It's time to create your time blocks. Fill out that part of the worksheet. Set your priorities for the next 5 time-blocks, then check them off. 

What have you learned in this post?

  • You've learned 10 ways to save time and be more productive as an entrepreneur.  
  • You clarified what your business is all about.
  • You calculated how much a customer is worth to your business.
  • You've created a plan to generate more repeat and referral income.
  • You looked at the ways you are different from your competition.
  • You learned how to build more trust with potential customers.
  • You looked at your long-term vision for your company.
  • You scored 20 marketing tactics.

If you want help creating, improving, and leveling your plan, my Big Picture Strategy Session is an incredible personal consultation. It will help you create your step-by-step plan and focus on the highest-impact actions you can take for your business.

This article and sheet is a good starting point, but you'll create a more in-depth plan if you schedule the consultation. The consultation builds upon this post. Plus, you'll gain all of my insights and advice from the last 5 years of marketing small businesses.

I'd recommend you sign up for my email list to get a PDF of this post as well as a PDF of your worksheet. You'll also receive ongoing helpful tips, tricks, and advice on how to manage your time, grow your business, and succeed as a small business owner.

By signing up, you'll also get access to special bonuses for my first book The Marketing Blueprint for Small Business Owners: Save Time, Create a Strategy, and Grow Your Business in 3.9 Hours a Week, which is coming out next year. You'll only get access to these bonuses


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