From the desk of a Marketing Professional turned Small Business Owner
It’s now been just over a year since I first registered Mix Savvy as a business and what a crazy year it has been! Not only have I had the rollercoaster of emotions that comes with starting a business but also the hormones and morning sickness of also having a baby in the same year!
It hasn’t been easy. Some days it has been downright hard. Some days I did nothing more than hide. But on other days I have felt invincible. On top of the world. It has been the most fulfilling year of my life.
As I took a step back recently as one does at the start of a new year, I reflected on a few of the key lessons learnt over the year. Specifically in relation to what has worked for me – and what hasn’t – in marketing my own business. Here are some of the big ones.
lesson no. 1: it’s never too early to talk to your target market
While I said above that I registered Mix Savvy as a business back in December 2015, I didn’t officially launch my website until May 2016.
What was I doing between then?
Well apart from epic morning sickness, I was planning and learning. LOTS and LOTS of planning and learning, because that is what I love to do.
What wasn’t I doing? Talking or Listening to my Target Market.
I felt like because I didn’t have anything to offer yet, I couldn’t start opening up the lines of communication. This was a huge mistake!
Once I started connecting with my audience, mostly in Facebook groups, my business direction and all those plans quickly changed to adapt to the needs of my market.
If I were to have a do over this is the number one thing I would change. I would start listening to my target market as early as possible.
lesson no. 2: content really is
This is one thing I feel I have done right from the beginning – focused on Content. I knew from the start that I would need to prove my credibility and that I needed to be helpful. I needed to build that know, like and trust factor.
So I blogged. At first twice a week, then dropped back to once.
While some of those first posts aren’t exactly a perfect fit with my current direction (see Lesson 1) they helped me to develop my voice.
But more than that it has given me something to share to my target market without asking them all the time for a sale. In fact, I have rarely asked for one to date. All because of two things: content & connection.
Once my ideal audience finds my site they can instantly get an idea of what I am about, if I can help them and (hopefully) that I know what I am talking about.
Without my blog, they are just going off what I tell them about myself. Instead my content shows them.
lesson no. 3: expect some surprises
Due to my aforementioned love of planning and learning, I played a lot with different online marketing methods. I read a lot of blogs, listened to a lot of podcasts and learnt a lot of things.
My inquisitive mind thought I would give a few of those things a go – even when I doubted their effectiveness.
One of those things was Pinterest. I had my doubts. How can something that I thought was for people who make things or create vision boards help promote my service based business?
But there were a number of bloggers out there spouting the promises of success with Pinterest. So I tried it, albeit halfheartedly.
The result? I now get about 60% of my website traffic from just ONE Pin. It’s totally blown me away.
Now this isn’t a suggestion that everyone should go out and start using Pinterest immediately, it’s more to demonstrate that sometimes surprises will come up and you have to take full advantage when they do!
lesson no. 4: email isn’t a dirty word
I hate selling. I also hate getting bombarded with dozens of emails every day.
The thought of me adding to the noise was a really big challenge. I delayed it. Yes, I had an opt in and an email list but I would send only one email in a blue moon.
Even though I knew from my experience in Corporate that it was important, it felt “dirty” when I was talking about myself.
But something I read (and I forget who to credit this one to) was that instead of thinking about it as you annoying them, think of it as you are providing them with an opportunity to learn something. They signed up after all. They have shown their interest. They can unsubscribe anytime… no offence taken.
So like with Pinterest, I tried it. And what do you know? My traffic increased. The unsubscribes were minimal. I was even getting people emailing me back thanking me for the information!
As long as I stay true to my own values and focus first and foremost on providing value with only the “ask”, I’m going to keep doing this email thing. Because, well, it works!
lesson no. 5: never underestimate the power of giving
This kind of leads on from the Lessons on Content and Email, but it is worth reiterating here.
People respond to generosity.
I first learnt this back in the very early days of my business when I first started connecting with my target market. I offered some free Website reviews in a local Facebook group. I didn’t have an official website review service or any service to sell. I just wanted to learn and, to some extent, prove to myself that I had value to offer.
Then something surprising happened, one of my reviewees contacted me and asked me how much it would cost to work with me.
I had no idea. I hadn’t thought that far ahead. So I made some really low ball offer and was taken aback when they took me up on it! I had my first client even though I wasn’t looking.
While I haven’t tried this specific strategy since (I still don’t have my services officially put together yet due to baby), this has happened regularly. I have gone into Facebook groups, asked questions, offered advice & help and now I do it in my own Facebook group too. And then people contact me and ask me to help them. No selling required.
Now this isn’t ideal if I want to make sure the work is consistent and organised, but for now it has been a great lesson that I know people just want to work with people they trust. And the best way to prove that is to be helpful!
lesson no. 6: you don’t need to be perfect
So often I see so many small businesses stall launching or putting up their website because they feel like it needs to be perfect.
Through a combination of “just needing to get things out there” and only having so many hours in the day due to kids, there are many things that I needed to finish off that are far from perfect. And you know what, people rarely notice?
Or, if it is something really noticeable like that time I was doing a Facebook Live in my group and my baby decided to interrupt the call, my audience loved it. They found it relatable.
In this modern world of “instagram perfect”, many people are sick of seeing unrealistic expectations out there. They want to connect with someone who understands them.
So while, yes, make sure what you are offering is still good and of value. Don’t put too much pressure onto yourself that it needs to fit some sort of ideal vision you have in your mind.
lesson no. 7: it’s ok to take time out
I’m a Yes person. I am the sort that puts unrealistic expectations on myself. That I “should” be doing 2-3 posts a day, 7 days a week. That I can’t have a break otherwise the world will cave in.
But something surprising happened this past year, in more ways that one.
I had it all planned out. My baby was due on the 3rd of October. I had just finished my “day job” at the end of my 36th week of pregnancy. 3 weeks to go. Plenty of time to get things set up so I had all my blog posts and social media posts setup for my business for a month or two so I could take some maternity leave.
My boy had other plans and decided to arrive just a few days later. My precious time of being able to get ahead didn’t happen. I didn’t even look at my business stuff for a few weeks apart from shooting out a quick social media post that I would be offline for a little while.
Then one day I looked at my Google Analytics just to see what damage had been done. And instead of seeing a massive downturn in visits, I was onto a record month! I was floored!
In the end I chose to take a full 2 months “off” (read: really more planning and learning) and the numbers kept rising.
Now I’m not saying this will always be the case for everyone but the fact that I had built my business with a solid foundation of content and had an Evergreen traffic source (Pinterest) in place meant it ran by itself. Not making any money, of course, but my list was growing. People were still finding me.
So now if I am having a tough day or week and I feel like I need to take some time out, as long as it’s not client work, I give myself permission. I have faith that all the hard work I have put in so far will mean business will still go on.
lesson no. 8: there’s a lot of good & bad information out there
If you have been in business a little while and started looking into how best to market your business online, this one will be no surprise to you.
There are about 39871 different marketing techniques you should be trying yesterday.
If you aren’t earning 6 figures in 30 minutes you must be doing something wrong.
If you aren’t sitting on the beach with a pina colada and your laptop, why are you even bothering?
I mean seriously!?!
Ok, maybe not everyone is that bad. And there is definitely a lot of good information out there and a lot of brilliant teachers who only want to pass on what worked for them.
But you are not them. You are your own unique business. As a small business owner you are blessed with your own set of unique strengths and passions.
How can you avoid the lure of all these wonderful promises?
I fully admit, I have been caught in the web too. Sometimes I have been really pleasantly surprised (e.g. Pinterest). Other times I have been downright disappointed.
I, as a marketing professional, still get overwhelmed by the amount of information out there in the online marketing space. This has been a real eye opener for me.
This realisation has now become my passion and mission, to help other small business owners to navigate their way around the online space, because if I find it overwhelming I can’t imagine what it is like for those who don’t have the same background as I.
So that’s my first year in business for you. I admit it has been a really big test for me. A big leap of faith. There is nothing more scary to prove to yourself that you can market businesses than trying to market your own. And while I can’t shout promises of replacing my full time income yet, I have faith that that will all come when I am ready and once I create the space in my life to be able to do so. Because it is really all in the foundations and the right approach & attitude. This year has definitely proven that to me.