More and more, I’ve been talking to business owners and marketing managers that feel overwhelmed by all the marketing channels out there.
You know you can’t possibly do it all. You believe that your job as a leader is to decide where to put your focus each day.
But it’s a lot easier to give lip service to those ideas than to live with the feeling that there’s always something more that you can be doing.
What keeps me steady and focused is having my own hierarchy that helps me prioritize the marketing I do for B. I’ve recently revised and updated that hierarchy, and I thought I’d share it with you today to see if it gives you some food for thought for your own marketing to do list.
Here’s the basic hierarchy I’m using now:
Owned content, or the content I create and publish on my own platforms, is the foundation of my marketing plan.
Time spent: It can take me anywhere from 1-3 hours a week to produce 1-2 pieces of unique content.
There are a few reasons I prioritize producing blog and email content above all else:
- It’s the best way for me to share my expertise and build trust with business leaders and marketing pros looking for PR and marketing insights for their business.
- Blogging more than once a week has been shown to exponentially increase traffic to your website.
- No matter what changes Facebook or any other social media site makes, I know that I have ultimate control over how the content on my own site is presented.
- The more I blog, the easier the content flows. When I take long breaks, starting up again is much harder. It’s easier for me to maintain a regular writing schedule to be hot-and-cold about creating content.
- When you communicate regularly to your list, it’s easier to launch. It can feel awkward to promote a new program when you haven’t been regularly providing value with content, and it should! All taking and no giving is no good for anyone. When you make a point to email your list regularly, sales emails don’t feel like a big deal. They’re welcomed by the people who have been gratefully and interestedly following your emails all along.
I also want to note here that people tend to get hung up on the difference between a blog and an email. But this is a false distinction. The words “blog” and “email” and even “podcast” describe the container of the content — not the substance. In other words, you can create one piece of content and share it with your blog for people who like to subscribe to RSS Feeds and to your email list for people who like to subscribe to email lists.
It’s like the difference between reading a book in hardcover, paperback or on a Kindle. Your audience will have different preferences, but ultimately, what they want is to read the content of the book in their preferred container.
Most business owners tend to give their email lists a little extra love in the form of bonus content or opportunities, because of how valuable it is when someone gives you their email address. It shows a high level of trust and engagement. But if you’ve been stressed out about what to put in your blog versus your in email, just publish the lion’s share of your content to both!
When I’m releasing a course or program, launch-specific content comes next.
Time spent: This can be up to 30 hours a week in the 2 weeks leading up to a first-time launch, because I do all the back-end work myself. I need a VA! :-)
Often this encompasses blog and email content, but launches often require a little extra, so I break it down a little differently:
- If I’m launching to an interest list, I don’t want to stop communicating with my main list.
- Webinars have become a big part of my launch process and require extra creation above my normal blog posts and emails.
- I tend to group any special social media content here like a new Facebook page cover (these get shown to more of your fans than regular status shares).
PR opportunities are the next step.
Time spent: Roughly 1 hour a week to pitch + up to 2 hours to follow-through on opportunities.
I used to do a lot of PR for my own business, but when I started working with clients, I let it slide.
I was fortunate. Before I opened up for PR clients, I had been online blogging and doing guest posts and interviews for years. Gosh, I was design blogging on the side back in 2010. I already had an email list full of email that knew, liked and trusted my business. People who were waiting for me to say I was taking on clients.
So I slacked off on the PR side. And it hurt. A lot.
My site traffic, domain authority (that’s the measure of how google and other search engines rank your site), and email subscriptions all went down quite considerably.
So now I’m making PR for B a much bigger priority. At this point, it only takes me about an hour or so to put together a new blog post, so there’s no reason I can’t spend another hour doing PR. I just started this up again, and I’m excited to see the results. Right now, I’ve got 5 guest posts and interviews in the hopper.
Social media comes last, if at all.
Time spent: Maybe 30 minutes a week.
I used to love Twitter so much, but social media has felt more like a promotion ground than one where people are genuinely connecting. I haven’t given up social media (for business — my instagram is full of cat photos) entirely, but I’m strongly considering it.
My plan is to run a 1 or 2 month-long test and see what happens. I’m going to track how much traffic and engagement I can generate with social media before deciding to give it up entirely.
I want to be clear that I’m not recommending you quit social media or make it last on your priority list. My friend Megan Auman gets amazing results using Pinterest for her jewelry business. This one definitely depends on your audience. You can look into social media demographics to see where your audience is spending their time.
Ultimately, I try to find a balance in my marketing between what I can track and measure and the intangibles. You can’t easily measure the way your blog content builds trust (although I do get very nice emails that help!), but based on what we know about human nature, it’s reasonable that this is a widespread conclusion and strategy. After all, trust in relationships is fostered when people show up. When they’re there for you when you need them. For me, blogging, emails and podcasting are the equivalent.
I want to be here for you when you navigate over to B, looking for something to get you unstuck around your marketing strategy or PR.
So there you have it. My marketing priorities each week. Sometimes when I have a little extra time, I take on a special project. Like this week, I made a little graphic for you to reference if you want to follow a similar plan. 😊
If you’ve ever signed up for an email from a political candidate, you may have noticed that they tend to send a lot of email. Even an ardent supporter is bound to get tired of near-daily messages like “I will be outspent,” or “Just a little behind.”
It’s hard to believe the barrage of fundraising emails aren’t doing the candidates harm.
Until you look at the data.
What can small businesses and creative entrepreneurs learn from modern online fundraising?
1. Never lose sight of your goal.
Presidential campaigns operate under a looming deadline, and they don’t have the luxury of creating long funnels to nurture donors. So the goal of their email marketing programs are clear-and-simple: raise as much money as possible, so the candidate isn’t outspent. Second to that is volunteer mobilization.
It’s not so cut-and-dry for purpose-driven entrepreneurs and small businesses. Often it can take months to build up trust with your community, and you’re not going for the hard sell.
But you never want to lose sight of WHY you are asking people to opt in to your list in the first place.
2. The real measure of your email marketing campaign is revenue, not open rates or click-throughs.
Here’s another interesting tidbit from the Obama campaign. The more emails they sent, the more donations they got and the lower open rates went. By the end of the campaign, when fundraising reached a frenzied pace, open rates were reportedly as low as 14%.
That kind of number would send most small business marketers into a tailspin. So many small businesses and creatives measure the success of their email marketing in terms of engagement. They want to know how open rates compare to industry standards, or how to get more click-throughs and responses.
But as you can see, open rates and other engagement indicators don’t necessarily correlate to actual revenue.
What did the Obama campaign know? Every email the campaign sent was a fresh opportunity to donate. And the more opportunities to donate you got, the more contributions they’d receive.
Again, the funnel for your business is likely longer than that of a presidential campaign. You might not want to send 3-5 emails a week, especially not sales emails!
But it’s important to keep your eyes on the prize. If you’re getting 60% open rates (that would be astronomical!) but making no sales, something is wrong.
3. Your biggest fans want you to succeed and won’t unsubscribe if you send them more emails.
Why, even when campaigns ramp up their email volume does not everyone unsubscribe?
If you ask people how many emails is enough, most will tell you once a week or less is their preference.
But when I think of the people I most enjoy getting emails from, I don’t mind how often they send messages and promotions. The ones that catch my eye, I open. The ones that don’t, I delete.
When you’re truly a fan of someone’s work, email frequency alone won’t turn you off.
In fact, you might even welcome getting an extra email a week from the individuals and businesses you value the most.
4. Consider the value of people who unsubscribe. Is it worth designing your email marketing around their preferences?
That’s not to say that people won’t unsubscribe. Most of my clients that have ample up their email frequency saw a spike in unsubscribe rates.
This can be nerve-wracking, and you might be tempted to go back to your former schedule.
But consider this: Is it worth prioritizing the people who unsubscribe?
I absolutely love helping the people that read my blog and subscribe to my emails, and a big part of my mission is getting more stories out into the world. I want to amplify the good.
But the larger your platform grows, the more you need to balance your more altruistic goals with the reality that it costs you money to host people on your email list. When you’re just starting out, a $30 or $40 monthly email list hosting fee isn’t a lot, but this number will grow into the hundreds before you know it.
It’s better to have a small list filled with raving fans than a huge list filled with lukewarm lurkers.
5. Don’t be afraid to try new things.
The biggest lesson from political campaigns it to mix it up, and test everything (or at least subject lines). A lot of us can get this idea that subscribers expect and want emails to be a certain way (short snippets of blog content or full-form posts, for example).
But what made the Obama campaign stand out was the way they elevated email marketing into a science. They tested subject lines, tone, email length…everything you can think of.
Just because I’m saying you should consider emailing your list more often doesn’t mean it’ll work for you. And just because you try it and engagement drops doesn’t mean it doesn’t work.
That’s where it comes back to testing the results against your goals.
Your own data and community are the best teachers for how your business should be doing email marketing.
Long before I opened a marketing agency, I ran a little blog called Covet Chicago in my spare time.
It was my side project, something I did after work and on weekends. I wrote about a few lifestyle topics, but mostly I reviewed local businesses and covered Chicago’s multitude art festivals. I loved that blog, and I poured my heart into it, writing 3-5 times a week.
Then I started a business. I focused my writing around my work. Ever so slowly, my blogging dropped down to twice a week, then once, and now I might publish a new post once every 6 weeks.
Like you, my main job isn’t blogging or “creating content.”
It’s running B. Every week, I’m meeting with clients, following up on leads, keeping an eye on project deliverables, creating courses and managing my team.
So why do I always urge my clients to blog more? And why I am not following my own advice?
The first question is easy to answer.
Our clients want more traffic. And while they think we can solve their traffic problems with PR, it’s my job to show them how PR and blogging work hand-in-hand.
Because the truth is that PR, alone, won’t fix your traffic problem.
PR is a multiplier. It can magnify the results you’re already getting. What it can’t do is create a steady stream of traffic from scratch.
Sure, you might see a small one-time spike from a big feature. Get a lot of features, and you’ll feel like you’re making progress, as all those little spikes feel like steady traffic.
But the problem is that once your coverage stops, your traffic will revert right back where you started.
On the flip side, regular blogging has been shown to dramatically increase traffic, and small businesses, in particular, see the most return for their efforts.
The data on this is clear. Companies that blog more than once a week can see their traffic double or even triple, compared to companies that blog less.
According to Hubspot’s survey of their 14,000 customers, the effect is even more dramatic for micro businesses (companies with fewer than 11 employees) than larger businesses. These micro businesses are also more likely to get leads from their efforts.
That’s why I’m making a commitment to blog twice a week, why I’m going to start anew at practicing what I preach.
Finding the time to write, and the mental energy to put a new, useful post together can feel insurmountable.
How will I fit that into my already busy week?
But there’s no excuse. More traffic equals more leads equals more business.
Blogging isn’t my job, but bringing in business sure is.
Still, I know that commitment alone isn’t enough to overcome all the real challenges to creating this amount of content. I also need systems that support this creative work.
If you want to join me in growing your audience, I thought I’d share what I’m doing to support my blogging practice.
1. Block out time to write.
It’s impossible for me to write if I’m squeezing it in between meetings. I simply cannot produce a blog post if I have to fit it in between a client meeting and a consulting call.
This is because writing is a creative act. And to be creative, you need to be in something that John Cleese calls open mode. You need time and space to allow your imagination free reign, so that your ideas can come through onto the page.
I call this time white space, and I make sure it’s blocked on my calendar every week.
2. Set aside separate time for brainstorming and execution.
There are 3 distinct steps to the writing process:
- Brainstorming and outlining. (open and creative)
- Writing. (execution time!)
- Editing. (more execution)
It’s nearly impossible for me to switch from brainstorming mode to writing in one session.
That’s because when it comes time to execute on your ideas, you must transition from open mode to closed. It’s counterproductive if you keep producing more ideas while you’re trying to commit one to the page.
Have you ever done that? And found yourself flitting from idea to idea, not able to finish a single draft?
It can really help to decide whether you’ll be using your “white space” time for brainstorming or executing before you sit down before a blank page.
3. Write first.
I’m not a morning person, but I do subscribe to the idea that you should do the most important thing of your day first.
This way, there are no excuses for not getting it done. You can’t get distracted by a client email, or pulled into a “quick” task that ends up taking you 3 hours.
If you absolutely can’t write first (maybe you have client meetings first thing or another commitment), then try to replicate the spirit of the idea. Are there any natural breaks in your day, when you know your other work will have a hard stop, so it’s easier for you to switch to writing? Maybe after lunch or a workout (my second favorite time to write!)?
4. When all else fails, set a timer.
There are days when I feel I can’t produce anything. Maybe I worked too long the day before. Maybe I reaaaally want to catch up on Game of Thrones.
The best thing to do when you’re feeling unmotivated or uninspired is to set a timer for 45 minutes, and commit to writing whatever comes out during that time.
What tends to happen is that the rhythms of writing kick your mind into gear. Your brain realizes, “Hey, this is what we’re doing now.” After 15 minutes or so, you suddenly realize you’re on track.
If, after 45 minutes, it’s still not working, then you move on. Maybe go watch that Game of Thrones episode, after all.
5. Read for 30 minutes before you start work.
In talking to my more productive friends, what I’ve noticed is that we all tend to produce more when we’re reading. Whether it’s a marketing book, an autobiography or even a novel, filling the well with new ideas can help you make connections you hadn’t considered before and spur new ideas.
Incidentally, I don’t notice this trend with blog posts. Blog posts spur me to want to take action, and there’s a lot of value in that, but they don’t to inspire my writing.
6. Expand your definition of what blog content is.
One of the questions I’ve been asking clients is, “How does your blog fit into your audience’s day?”
I find that over time we adopt rigid definitions of what kind of content we produce. Some people write a lot of how-to posts. Others do resource round-ups. Yet others write short form inspirational content.
But why does your content just have to be one thing? Or one format?
Are there moments when your audience would love to check in with you on Facebook Live? Or topics that lend themselves better to voice? Maybe all they need is to see an inspiring image.
As I commit to blogging 2x/week, I’m opening myself up to mixing up my content. You don’t always have time to read an in-depth post. Maybe something shorter is just what the doctor ordered.
7. Set achievable goals.
Now you know that blogging more brings in more traffic. You might be tempted to go all in and start blogging 5x/week.
But remember that every extra bit helps.
The more you get into the rhythms of publishing content, the easier it will become.
Don’t feel that you have to make a huge change overnight. Maybe increase your blogging from once a month to once a week. Feel it out.
Can you increase to 2x/week after 3 months?
After 4 or 5 months, see if the increase is making an impact on your traffic. Decide on the right pace for your site, and your goals, from there.
I’ll be sure to check in with you as well, to report how it’s going for B.