I generally tell business owners who want to know about marketing that you’ll never learn it all, and it’s a waste of time to try. Instead, focus on the minimum that your business needs to understand: what is required in a basic marketing strategy, and how to think about and approach marketing. Then you can hire the right experts who can apply their knowledge of the intricacies of marketing faster than you ever will.
Business owners grapple with the big questions. One of the biggest is how to manage their budgets and staffing.
How do they know when to outsource?
How do they know what to outsource?
And how do they know who to outsource to?
And when it comes to marketing, there’s just too much information. A simple Google search is all it takes for anyone to go down a rabbit hole of blogs and surveys and product pitches. 15,000 tabs open and not a drop of actual information.
Gurus and experts abound, with their ads focusing more on their private jets than their marketing systems.
Post Marketing Stress Disorder
Small business owners wear 10,000 hats, all at the same time. They need to be an entire C-suite of executives, as well as an HR team; do long-term planning while managing that short-term fire; manage facilities and inventory; all while still serving the customer.
On top of that, there’s an entire layer of managing pitches from (I’ll say it) predatory “experts” and “gurus” online, who swear that if you follow their secret formula, the riches will roll in.
And there’s contracting with agencies that promise the moon, then slowly start neglecting their clients as they focus on winning new business.
And there’s simply the everyday wear and tear of feeling like they’ve tried everything – from one-off tactics like boosted posts on Facebook or spending money on Google AdWords to months of beating the pavement and networking around town – with nothing really driving toward an overall strategy or goal.
There’s a nagging, underlying feeling that what they’re doing and who they’re doing it with isn’t quite right – but they don’t know how to truly evaluate that.
A small business owner teaching themselves to do everything is like expecting the chef at a restaurant to make perfect duck confit and also be able to repair the dishwasher and deliver pizzas.
People develop specialized knowledge for a reason – so we can all share our knowledge and rely on each other.
So what does a small business owner need to know when it comes to marketing in order to find the right people with the right specialized knowledge?
My typical recommendation to business owners is get a basic enough understanding so that they know how to manage someone who actually knows what they’re doing.
Think about it: what is your time worth versus how long it takes to become even passably good at digital marketing?
There’s no need to learn all the intricacies – start with knowing what channels you want to be present on and why (with specific goals in mind), and that’s enough to use an expert when the time is right.
After asking a small group what content they wanted to learn about, I then created and gave a series of 4 workshops about:
- Marketing Strategy
- Social Media – Paid and Organic
- SEO and Content Marketing
- Website Copy and Conversion Optimization
Putting it all together
Although my advice is simple, understanding the foundations and concepts behind what drives good marketing is one thing – learning what it looks like in practice is something else altogether! This is the question I see business owners ask over and over and is the context I’m seeking to add in my workshops.
The heart of these workshops has been refined over the course of my 15-year career, focusing on the underlying frameworks and structures that create a solid foundation. With this, I’ve been able to create some nearly universal templates for small businesses to focus their marketing plans before bringing in specialists to their team.
These templates, applicable to both B2B and B2C businesses, include:
- Marketing Plan
- Brand Guidebook
- Content Calendar
- Campaign and Program frameworks
Once you go through the workshops, you can fill them out for your business to outline concrete marketing strategy and tactics.
And, a note about COVID-19…
Of course, this info is usually kept top-secret by companies, agencies, and consultants (after all, this is what they’re paid to create!).
A few business owners have paid me to conduct this workshop with them, and my plan was to charge a small amount for access to this information.
But with lockdowns and an uncertain economy that’s razing small businesses in particular, it didn’t feel right. This is totally free for anyone who wants it.