Your business v. the business of digital marketing

I met with a prospective client this morning. This client is a sole proprietor who makes many other people’s lives better through health and wellness services. Her coaching and calm, quiet leadership help people become more fit and less stressed. Yes, she is a yoga instructor.

In thinking through a marketing program for new services she is launching I was reminded that many small businesses aren’t in the business of digital marketing. They are in the business of whatever their product or service offers their customers. To read any modern marketing advice, you’d think they all have to become expert in social media, video marketing, SEO, SEM, Adwords, email marketing and digital display ads. They should spend more time each day cultivating the digital relationship with their market than on their actual business. Or they should spend a fortune on an agency who does all of this for them and who, somehow, manages to osmose the business person’s subject matter expertise.

There are books and books that profess to make it easy and allow you to do any of these things in “an hour a day”. Yet when you add up the single hours for each category, you end up with a full work day of nothing but digital marketing and social media. When does the business fit in?

My approach with this client was, not surprisingly, analytics centric. This business cannot afford to do it all and it is questionable whether every path would yield value. So we’ll start small. A basic website that can capture email addresses and offer value through content. Traditional ads in print in the local area with CTAs that land on the website with tracking codes or landing URLs so we can see what works and what doesn’t and adjust the plan. A predictable, if infrequent, email campaign that offers tips and sustains mindshare, again with measurement. Asking real customers where they would expect to see this business online leading to a basic presence on one social media channel to start. Smart use of words in all content for SEO value with measurement so that when we can afford the time to invest in SEM, we have a well-informed starting point. And more non-digital marketing such as free trial classes for employees from major companies in the area and word of mouth through existing clients.

In a variation on “measure twice, cut once” or “if you can’t afford to do it right the first time, when will you ever have time to do it again”, I found myself advocating for measurement from the get-go. Analytics isn’t easy for a non-technical small businessperson. They may have to pay for help. The time and or money invested in measurement is a powerful guide to directing the rest of their marketing investments to optimal outcomes and they can’t afford to spend unwisely — with their time or their money. The familiar mantra of experiment, measure, experiment, measure and so on and so on fits small businesses too. They might just be testing serially where a large company could afford the people or budget to test more things in parallel.

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