Some of the links in this blog post may be affiliate links. This means if you click the link and make a purchase, I will receive a commission at no extra cost to you. All opinions remain my own.
Starting a small business is hard, and small business marketing could be an entire full-time job by itself. It’s a task so big, you can dedicate an entire department of people to doing it. I’ve devised a simple method I used to track and and keep up with each marketing related task. This can be helpful if you’re struggling with the amount of marketing tasks you need to manage.
First, I break down each of my marketing channels into its own system. My marketing systems include:
- Opt-in offers or content upgrades
- Social Media
- Emails and Newsletters
- Blog posts
- Referral and affiliate programs
Then I break each system down further into its own workflows.
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The system I use for my lead magnets is pretty straightforward. I create an opt-in offer, or content upgrade, for each pillar blog post I wrote. Pillar blog content is evergreen content that represents the major categories of your blog or website. They’re thorough pieces of writing that educate your audience on specific topics, and often direct them to additional information and resources across your site and others.
I made each content upgrade to go with that specific post as a next step for my audience. Sometimes you finish reading a blog post, and you think that’s great in theory, but how do I implement it? I designed the opt-in offers to address that question and offer concrete next steps to help you implement what you just learned. The faster you implement something you’ve read, the better the chance you have of retaining that information and putting it to good use. When you’re offering your audience quick wins, and actual actions that they can take right now, they’re going to continue to look to your content for what they can learn next!
I also link opt-in offers and content upgrades in blog posts and around the website where it makes sense. You don’t want to throw something unrelated at your audience. It can appear careless and thoughtless. Linking to related information across your website provides your reader more information and also increases your website “sticky-ness”. When you have a vast amount of information on several related topics, your audience will also look to you as an authority on that subject. It will increase the know, like, and TRUST factor.
If you only have one opt-in offer, I recommend reviewing your blog categories and coming up with at least one additional offer for each category. You can also work backwards. There may be category without a pillar post, in which case, write one now, add internal links, and create its own opt-in.
You don’t want to just use a blog post to “sell” your opt-in. Ensure you’re actually providing valuable information that’s then further enhanced by the opt-in. People see obvious sales tactics. Blatant sales tactics will turn people off and violate their trust.
Each quarter, as part of my planning process, I review my opt-ins and update them as needed. A lot of times, the review will also generate ideas for new lead magnets, and new blog posts to go along with them, or vice versa.
Resources for Creating Your lead magnet
Ultimate Guide to Creating Lead Magnet – Designrr
21 Irresistible Types of Lead Magnets – Your Chic Geek
15 Ways to Promote Your Lead Magnet – Molly Marshall Marketing
Marketing on social media could be an entire book unto itself. This is another area where your marketing work can get pretty extensive and involved, if you let it. You need to keep the reigns in on your social media posting, or else this is going to be a huge time-suck. I make sure I am striking a careful balance between both creating content on social media, and also responding to any engagement I receive.
It’s easy to spend hours replying to comments, and joining in group discussions, and it’s something I really love to do, as I love interacting with my audience and learning more about how I can help them. But if I’m not careful, that engagement time can easily turn into hours versus the 10-15 minutes I dedicate to it now.
I handle social media by only focusing on two or three social media platforms at the most. Keep in mind that you don’t own the social media platforms you use (including the posts you make on them), and you don’t own the audience, so you don’t want to over invest in them. A simple algorithm change can and has thrown off the entire marketing strategy of many businesses and influencers.
Angie Gensler made an awesome infographic to help you pick social media platforms for your business.
You don’t want to depend too much on one channel for most of your traffic because that can easily change at any moment. Don’t put all your business eggs in one basket. With that being said, social media can still be a great way to connect with your audience, and drive traffic to your website when you engage with them in a reasonable way.
The platforms I focus on are Facebook, Pinterest, and Twitter. The most intensive part of your social media is obviously going to be the content for your posts, including any custom images or videos you’ll want to include. To save time, I batch my tasks, so at the same time I’m writing blog posts, I also make photos to go along with the blog post for each platform I’ll be promoting it on.
Creating social media posts and content is another thing I take care of during my quarterly planning sessions. I like for all of my content to have a coherent theme. If I’m doing a launch for a product that’s about productivity, then I use the week or two leading up to the launch to talk about productivity and help solve any problems my audience has with productivity. I do this by keeping my content consistent across platforms. If I have a blog post on productivity, I’ll use Facebook to ask questions about my audience’s views on their own productivity, or use Twitter to post quick tips on productivity.
Besides batching my tasks and creating content themes, I keep templates for each type of social media post, and just fill in the information needed. For example, I make three types of posts. One to promote blog posts, one to share interesting information with my audience, and one to share resources. Each post always contains a CTA, so I rotate through using a blog post + CTA, a photo + CTA, or a link + CTA. This makes it relatively easy to load up 30 posts to the scheduler (10 of each), and then you’re done for the month. This strategy has worked best for me on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
I store all of my content marketing templates, copy, and ideas inside of Notion. It’s a great way to build a customized system that works exactly to your standards. If you’re not familiar with Notion, take a look at my beginner’s guide! Don’t complain to me when you’re totally hooked though, and up at all hours of the night building things.
There are also many software tools that you can use to schedule your social media posts. Some of the most popular ones are:
Once you develop a strategy and decide on your posting frequency for each, you can use software to automatically post your updates for you. Posting frequency is another topic that we could discuss extensively, and the general “rules” are different for each platform. This is a great resource which can help you decide the right posting frequency for each of your platforms.
Resources for Creating Your Social Media
Do You Really Need Social Media to Be a Successful Blogger? – Blogging Wizard
30 Blog Posts to Help You Grow Your Social Media Following – The SITS Girls
Choosing the Best Content to Share on Social Media – Outbound Engine
How to Make Your Blog and Social Media Work Together – Smart Insights
The more frequently you email your list, the more you’ll be at the top of mind when they’re thinking about your niche. I’ve seen newsletters sent as frequently as every day, to just a few sporadically throughout the year. You can experiment with your frequency and see what works best for your schedule. I’ve found that sending emails to my list works best for me on a weekly basis. My audience seems to appreciate the weekly format as well. It’s not so much that you delete emails out of frustration, but it’s enough to remain relevant and provide help and support to your audience.
Like any other form of marketing, you don’t want to come across as sales-y. Don’t make the mistake of only emailing your list when you have a new product or service to promote. At that point, they probably won’t even know who you are, let alone care what you’re trying to sell them.
Use your newsletter as another way of building your relationship with your audience – your know, like, and trust factor. Ask them if they have questions. Ask for their opinion and feedback. Start conversations. Really get to know people so you can learn how you can solve their problems better than anyone else.
Every business is a people-centric business. Every business exists to serve someone else. Your business exists to help people, to serve your hero, and your list is one of the best opportunities to help. Unlike social media platforms, you own your list. You can control how often your audience sees emails from you, and their content. You own the list of email addresses you’ve accumulated.
With that being said, do your best to show your audience how much you appreciate their trust in giving your their email address, and the time they take to read your emails. When you are running a promotion – make it interesting! I like to plan email promotions as part of my editorial calendar during my quarterly planning. There are tons of different promotions you can do in a fun way. You can run a contest, or a giveaway where the prize is your new product, or an abbreviated service. You can send out helpful tips and information centered on your promotion’s topic. Don’t just send out emails where it’s obvious the sole purpose of it is to sell something.
If you’re trying to run more promotions for your list, you can do a pre-sales for a new or existing service. If you offer consultations, or coaching sessions, sell a few together in a package at a slightly discounted rate. You can even do pre-sales for your new product, like an e-book or a new tool. Pre-sale promotions are more successful with an email list versus any other channel, as the list is a “warm” audience that already knows who you are, and is (hopefully) aware of what you offer.
You can use your list to run promotions for niche-related events or holidays. For example, if you have a business in the dating niche, capitalize on Valentine’s Day! Run your biggest promotions during the month leading up to, and then culminating in, a special offer. You can even run promotions centered on those fun, made-up holidays. If you’re in a pet related niche, celebrate “Hug Your Dog Day” or cute days like that. (I know! When is it not hug your dog day?) Make it fun!
No matter what your topic or niche, your audience will always appreciate receiving a bright email in their day. (Potentially in between all those other emails about their next meetings or their TPS reports.) A google search will pull up what odd or unusual “holidays” are coming up, but this site lists lots of them for you.
Resources for Building Your Email List
60 Free Ways to Build Your Email List – AppSumo
17 Easy Ways to Grow Your Email List Faster – WP Beginner
How to Grow Your Email List Fast – OptIn Monster
10 Effective Ways to Get More Email List Subscribers – Neil Patel
How to Grow Your Email List to 50k Subscribers – Sujan Patel
Like any of your other marketing tactics, your blog posts should be a part of your overall strategy. I’ve seen many people who committed to writing a blog post every week, but they don’t plan their topics as any part of a larger strategy. This is something you should do, again, during your quarterly planning session when you’re creating your editorial calendar. If you know you’re going to have a new product release, plan some related blog posts leading up to your launch date. If there’s a promotion coming up, center your blog posts around it.
In between your launches, or promotions, craft blog posts that help build your know like and trust factor with your audience. (I know. If I have to write know like and trust one more time, I’M going to scream, but this is SO important.) Don’t just write 600, or 1000 or 1200 or however many words Google thinks are appropriate, and finish with it. Really give them information they can put to use! They’ll look to you as an authority in your niche, so be the expert!
Write thorough, evergreen posts you can go back and update over time, keeping them relevant, and useful. Your audience will come back and refer to your posts again and again, and find something new each time.
Using this strategy will also cut down the amount of blog posts you’ll have to write. If the blog post you wrote three months ago is still relevant, up to date, and a thorough source of information, you don’t need to repeat yourself in writing another post about it. Once you have your pillar content down, you’ll want to spend most of your time on promoting your content, even more than the time you spent creating it.
Resources for Writing Your Blog
Why You Should Plan Your Content Well in Advance – Blog Marketing Academy
The Ultimate Guide to Pillar Content for Your Website – Simple Marketing Now
How to Create Pillar Content Google Will Love – Content Marketing Institute
Networking is such a general term, I almost hate to use it. It can really encompass a lot of different things, but the focal point of networking is to meet other professionals and form relationships that are helpful to both of you. Guest blogging, for example, is a great way to get in front of a larger audience if you’re just starting out.
Don’t be afraid to pitch an idea or a topic to some influencers in your niche. It helps increase your exposure, and it helps them to provide a variety of information and resources to their audience. Someone who appears to be “more successful” may look intimidating to you. But you don’t know the amount of work and struggle they put in to get where they are. Success is not a straightforward path for anyone. Many times, success seems “overnight” for some, but there is truly no such thing as overnight success. People don’t look at the amount of work you did, they just look at the results.
You can look for opportunities to be interviewed for podcasts. Again, don’t be afraid to pitch yourself! You can write your own, or research a template for an email you can send as a pitch. Sometimes these will be cold emails, but the worst thing they can do is ignore your email, or say no, so it doesn’t hurt to try.
When you’re writing your pitch for a guest blog post, for example, make sure that the focus is on what benefits their audience will receive, and what benefits they would be receiving. A pitch is less about selling yourself, and more about what you can do to help the other person. Every business is people-centric. Help other businesses!
For more help on writing pitches, check out this article.
Keep track of the pitches you send, including the content of your pitch, who it was sent to, the date it was sent, and the response – if any. This will allow you to circle back to negative or no response pitches in a reasonable amount of time. Perhaps it just wasn’t the right topic for their audience at that time, but things are always changing.
Resources for Networking
How to Craft the Perfect Outreach Email – Sujan Patel
How to Write the Perfect Podcast Guest Pitch – Podcast.io
Affiliate marketing can be a huge part of your business strategy, and make you very successful if you do it intentionally and use it to inform your audience, not simply sell something. Affiliate marketing usually involves a service or a product that you have used yourself, and genuinely support and endorse. Sell nothing to your audience that you haven’t used yourself. You’ll appear disingenuous and alienate your audience rather than build their trust. Affiliate marketing is great for those that already have an audience through their email list, as you have established more of a trust factor.
You can also place affiliate marketing links strategically throughout your blog posts. You don’t want them to be everywhere, or again, it will look sales-y and cheap. But if you’ve used a service or a product that is related to your topics, and genuinely feel good about recommending it to your audience, check to see if they have an affiliate program. A lot of popular courses usually run affiliate programs, and it’s also a great way to support someone whose work has helped you.
For the affiliate programs you take part in, you’ll want to keep all of their information organized, including storing your affiliate links somewhere accessible to you when you’re writing blog posts or other content. Also, keep track of the commission percentage you receive for each sale.
A great way to find affiliate programs to work with is at Share a Sale. You’ll need to sign up and provide some information about your website, after which you’ll receive access to a variety of affiliate programs you can join.
On the flip side, you could also create your own affiliate marketing program for one of your own products. Using affiliates is a great way to get more advertising, and it pays for itself as your affiliates simply take a portion of the revenue they have generated for you. Setting up an affiliate marketing program is beyond this blog post, but Opt-In Monster has a step by step guide.
Resources for Affiliate
The 8 Best Affiliate Marketing Programs for Beginners – Larry Ludwig
Beginner’s Guide to Affiliate Marketing – DreamHost
Affiliate Marketing Tips & Tools – WP Beginner
Affiliate Marketing for Bloggers – Create and Go
Affiliate Marketing Uses, Strategies & Tips – Neil Patel
If you run a service business, referrals can generate an enormous amount of business for you. After the first three years of running my previous service-based business, referrals were about 80% of our new clients. We sent a card and a thank you gift to every one of our clients who referred us, just to thank them for their time and effort in supporting our business. It was truly the greatest compliment a client could give us when they referred our business to someone else.
The best way to get referrals is to do two things. First, have a referral program where you tell your clients about some special benefit they’ll receive if they refer others to your business. It could be a gift card, or something monetary, but we typically offered a free onetime service to clients who had referred us. You could also do a heavily discounted service as a thank you.
Second, you need to have out of this world, super amazing, incredible, never seen before service. You have to genuinely give the best to every client that you earn. The best way to ensure you’re doing this to have a client experience process in place. Standardize the process that your clients go through all the way from on-boarding to off-boarding. This will enable you to ensure that every step your client goes through is efficient, effective, and the best it can be.
After your client goes through your process, ask for feedback. Send out surveys. Feedback is so valuable because it shows you exactly where your weaknesses are and what you can do to improve. We all have blind spots. Search for them! Your clients will appreciate you valuing their input and your efforts to improve.
Resources for Referral Marketing
How to Build a Customer Referral Program – Hubspot
Referral Marketing: An Actionable Guide – Viral Loops
Your Next Steps
There are so many aspects to consider in marketing your small business. Each of these marketing tactics could be an entire job and it can a lot for one person to keep up with!
I’ve created a marketing checklist, so that you can review each marketing strategy you have in place, and the ones you need to work on implementing or improving.
All the marketing your business needs
You'll get the marketing success checklist, and our weekly newsletter with additional systems information, and updates about our newest products and services.