The life of a small business owner is often summed up by the cry, "I just don't have the time." We are forever weighing our options against time more than any other factor. "I need more customers, but how can I possibly find time to market? I'll just buy an ad in the newspaper and see if that helps." Have you done that one or its equivalent?
It turns out that a good digital strategy can be had by just putting aside 20 minutes every day. Here's what you need to know.
The 20 Minute Plan
First, our goal: Cultivate sales by creating interactions and information that lead to potential next steps. You can tweak that to your needs, but I'd say that most of us are looking for more sales, yes? From this goal, you'll be better driven towards what should be done and what should be skipped.
Second, let's pick out an ecosystem of tools to use to work from. Let's choose e-mail, a blog, and Twitter. Why? First, I choose e-mail marketing because it is still one of the most effective levers of digital business making. Next, I choose blogging because it creates organic search engine value, which leads people to you, thus creating a potential convert. Finally, I chose Twitter because it has more opportunity for serendipity than does Facebook, and it's a little less involved than Google+. I didn't choose Pinterest because its success depends on the type of business you have (for example, a company that lends itself to Pinterest's visual presentation).
So here's what my week looks like under the 20-Minute Plan.
- Think up topics/ideas that would help a prospective buyer improve his or her experience with my product/service, or even in the larger context of the world my products or services offer.
- Start a brief (under 300 words) blog post about one of those topics (10 minutes).
- Search Twitter for prospective buyers. Follow or engage with people about what they're talking about—not just my products. (10 minutes). Consider writing down people's names and Twitter IDs into a spreadsheet file, or a CRM, if you have it.
- Finish the blog post, if I haven't yet. Post it. Invite people to subscribe to my free newsletter for more (10 minutes).
- Wait an hour or two for any comments, and then respond. (5 minutes).
- Tweet a link to my blog post, usually asking a question that might lure in interested readers. Then, spend time talking to people about their interests and challenges (5 minutes).
- Write an e-mail newsletter in plain (or nearly plain) text that augments but doesn't rehash the blog post I wrote. If you gave them four lawn and gardening tips, then give them a family secret about how you keep your weeds at bay, for instance, in less than 300 words (10 minutes; it's okay if you don't finish).
- Respond to any comments on my blog (5 minutes).
- Use Twitter Search (twitter.com/search) to find more people who need what I sell, or find potential partners for cross-selling and cross-promotion (5 minutes). Take notes!
- Tweet that I'm about to send out my free newsletter. Give a link to the sign-up page (1 minute).
- Finish up and send my newsletter. Make sure people can reply to it just by clicking Reply (10 minutes).
- Tweet replies and conversations with people about the space I serve (9 minutes).
- Respond to any and all people who have commented on my blog post or e-mail newsletter (10 minutes). If I'm lucky, I'll have some new prospects.
- Chat with people on Twitter about their interests. See if there's a way I can help them. Find potential partners and so on (10 minutes).
So that's a five-day week. But you're a small business owner who works 21 days a week, like I do, right? But let's just say we used up 20 minutes over five days. Maybe you even do your writing on Sunday because it's a better day for you. The mindset still works.
But how does this sell for you? Gently. That's the whole point. We're going to sell gently by developing your marketing such that it encourages a community, it educates your buyers, and it allows you to squeeze it into the rest of your busy day. If you can afford some more time, then shoot a short video testimonial with a happy customer/client. With even more time you could write a free e-book to offer as a giveaway to encourage more subscribers to your newsletter. Make everything feed everything else, but never duplicate your content.
There's always more to do, but 20 minutes a day is very good start. Try it for two weeks. What have you got to lose?
Chris Brogan is President of Human Business Works, a strategic advisory company to mid- and large-sized businesses seeking to better develop the digital channel for business growth. He lives in northern Massachusetts.
Image by OPEN Forum