You’ve got a date with success. Remember to show up.

Picture this.

You’re out to lunch and someone approaches your table.

POTENTIAL CUSTOMER: “Hey, I’ve been hoping to run into you!  I’ve been following your work, and I’m really impressed.  I’ve got a large budget and I want to spend it with your business.  Can we set an appointment to talk about it?”

YOU: “Sure. “

At this point, you promptly get up from the table… and walk out.

What??? No one trying to build or maintain a business would EVER operate this way– yet, busy business people walk away from potential customers EVERY DAY when they refuse to plan for their marketing success.  Let’s change that.

If you’re working in small business, you’re likely juggling multiple tasks– staffing, inventory, ordering, accounting, customer service and more.  While you may recognize the importance of your marketing, your social media or advertising campaign can fall of your list of priorities in the bustle of daily business.

One of the smartest marketing moves any business person can make is SCHEDULING THEIR MARKETING.  Consider your other planning calendarprocesses.  You’re likely paying quarterly taxes.   Use those quarterly deadlines as your opportunity to plan your upcoming marketing.  Here’s the key: don’t just plan it, calendar it– and calendar every step.

Here’s an example of what that may look like.

Let’s say your a photographer who specializes in family photos.  Your goal this year– to increase your holiday sessions.  The first step is establishing the end date of your goal, whether that is a special sale or an event.  From that date, work backwards.  In this case, that end date would be the day you want to deliver your completed photos to your clients.  Recognizing that many families will want photos for Christmas cards or gifts, let’s assume you’ll  need to deliver completed photos by December 1.  Considering the amount of time in editing and delivering, let’s say you’ll want all photo shoots completed by November 20.  This means you’ll want  to hold most of your sessions between November 1 and November 20.  Now… get the word out.  Your calendar may look something like this:

  • October 1 – post to social media about getting photos now for the holidays
  • October 5 – schedule ad to run in local paper on October 10
  • October 6 – post again across social media about early bird discount
  • October 10 – post to social media with examples of fun family shoots
  • October 12 – set up booth at local business expo
  • October 14 – post to social media: last call for early birds
  • October 20 – sponsor school fall festival photo booth and pass out cards
  • October 25 – post to social media – limited appointments still available

Since you’re planning to do most of your work in November, your marketing must happen well in advance of your December deadline, but odds are, your Christmas shoots aren’t going to be on your mind before Halloween. By putting the dates on your calendar, you’ll have the reminders you need to take action before the opportunity passes and you’re forced to play catch up, or you skip your marketing efforts all together.

Think about what events are important in YOUR business, work backwards and get those marketing dates on your calendar.  Hold to them like you would any other appointment.  You would never stand up a client.  Don’t ignore your appointment with your business marketing.  Your potential customers are waiting for you.

It means more when you earn it… really.

At some point in your life, someone has said it to you.

“It means so much more when you earn it.”

And, while you might not want to hear it, you know it’s true.

Otherwise, you wouldn’t train for months for that half-marathon when you could just go out and buy yourself the T-shirt and the medal.

You wouldn’t spend hours baking a cake from scratch and decorating it when Food Lion already has one with Barbie on it.. prepackaged with candles, plates and decorative napkins.

And you certainly wouldn’t have spent years of your life and countless hours with your nose in a book to receive a piece of paper recognizing your graduation when you could have just Photoshopped the same document with your own name.

It DOES mean more when you earn it… and business recognition is no different.

When it comes to media exposure, it falls into two categories: paid media and earned media.

Paid media is just what it says.  It’s the presence in the media that you buy.  These are your newspaper, radio and television ads.  Paid media is your chance to control the message and say exactly what you want your customers or clients to hear.  But here’s the thing.  They know that.

EARNED media is that sometimes unpredictable, but terrific opportunity when your business gets exposure in a news story or an editorial.  Earned media, at its best, is when you’re caught doing something good and all the world gets to see it.  Of course, you can’t control the message of earned media, but sometimes, you can create the opportunities, and that’s exactly what I encourage my clients to do.

As a business owner, you’re probably approached more times than you can count to donate cash, products or services for an array of worthy causes.  Of course, you can’t say yes to everyone,  but I would encourage you to say yes as often as you can.  The key: set the terms that make for a win-win situation.  A local school is collecting money for their new playground?  Make a donation, but also volunteer the man power to go help build it.  A charity would like a donation for their silent auction?  Send a couple of your employees to work the event.  Race organizers come to your door for a cash donation?  Volunteer to be on the committee, or better yet, donate the water and the cups– branded with your business.

Of course your primary role is to keep your business running, but seek out visible opportunities a couple of times a year, then don’t be afraid to send out a press release to tell the media what your business is doing to help in the community.  You’re not going to get coverage EVERY time, but when you do, the story will be worth more than the full-page ad you just purchased.  For the times that you don’t get media exposure, remember, you’re getting the exposure in your community– and make the most of it.  When participating in a community event, make sure that you or your employees are wearing your business t-shirts, driving your labelled vehicles, and very identifiable.  When you make a donation, donate something with your name on it.

Earned-media is definitely more work than paid-media, but I’m not the first, and I won’t be the last to tell you, “It just means more when you earn it.”


Be the labor…

When I was growing up, my Dad always used to say,

“Be the labor great or small, do it well… or not at all.” 

These words were usually spoken when I decided I was too tired to finish raking the leaves in our yard or when my room was “clean enough.”   Little did I know I’d be using them as the theme of my first blog post, and that they would make perfect sense.

How does my Dad’s adage factor into YOUR small business marketing?  It’s simple really.  Working with small businesses, I talk to many business owners who are faced with a dillema: they KNOW that they need to market their business, but at the end of the day, they are expending all of their resources and energy on simply RUNNING the business.  At the same time,  they are being bombarded with questions:

“Are you on Facebook?”

“Do you tweet out your specials?”

“Can I register on your website?”

“When is your next sale planned?  Will you be advertising it?”

“Can I find you on LinkedIn?”

“Can I purchase on your website?”

In an effort to be all things to all people, business owners will usually jump in and try to respond to these types of requests, but they find that the day-to-day operations of their business keeps them from staying on top of a million different social media outlets and marketing functions.  Let’s face it.  Without a full-time staff, it would be virtually impossible to be current on all channels all the time.  Did you know, on average, consumers’ accepted response time to social media posts is about one hour, regardless of the time or day they post?

Be the labor great or small, do it well… or not at all. Have a plan and then follow through, follow through, follow through.

I tell my clients to have a plan. Choose the channels that are most appropriate for YOUR audience, and do them well.  Your customers or clients will forgive you for NOT being on Twitter, but they won’t be so quick to forget if you never responded to the  comments they tweeted.   Be the labor big or small, do it well… or not at all.  Choose to have a regular e-mail campaign or post your new arrivals to Instagram each week, but whatever you choose, follow through, follow through, follow through.  When it comes to marketing, your customers will value consistency over variety.