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How to market your business when you have little time

There are lots of demands on our time when we run our own business. There’s the actual client work itself, but there’s also admin, accounts, preparation for client work and, of course, sales and marketing.

And for many of us, marketing our business falls to the bottom of the priority list. There’s not the time to do everything (especially if you have a busy home life). And marketing is one of those jobs that can make us feel uncomfortable (“who does she think she is tarting herself around for business?”). We’re worried what other people might think. Plus we’re not always sure what is going to be most effective. You’ve one “expert” telling you to post 4 reels a day using trending sounds and “transitions”. Whilst another is telling you you have to be on TikTok, Clubhouse, host a podcast or use some other platform (Twitch?).

Many business owners (especially those starting out) believe that if they do a good job for their clients then others will follow. And of course you should do a good job for clients. That’s what you’re here to do.

But relying upon clients to “spread the word” about your business on its own is unlikely to lead to a successful business. I’m not saying they will never help, but they have no incentive to do so. And they won’t necessarily sell your services in the way you want (“I found this really cheap…”). Bluntly, it’s not your clients’ job to promote your business. It’s yours.

market your business when you have little time

We’re all looking for the silver bullet that will magically grow our business without us having to make too much effort (or even show our face). The latest “hack” that will lead to thousands (or millions) of viewers to our social media account and/or website, with sales or bookings following.

But these rarely work. Yes, you may get a video go viral but you’re going to have hundreds which don’t first. And even if you did get a viral video, it may not lead to sales because they may not be looking for what you sell.

So what does work? Especially if you have little time?

How much time do you realistically have?

In an ideal world you would market your business every day. It would be a priority.

But we don’t live in an ideal world…

You should do some marketing of your business every week though (except when you’re on holiday or taking a planned break). Because consistency is a key part of a successful marketing strategy.

It is important to work out how much time you can dedicate to marketing your business and find a plan that fits that. If you don’t have the time to record 4 TikTok videos every day then don’t plan to do that. You’ll only feel demoralised and a failure. And then stop…

Do you have 1 hour a week (yes you can market your business in an hour a week as long as you’re consistent)? 2 hours? Or more?

Think about the minimum you can commit to every week. Then we can work out what else you can do when you have more time.

find time to market your business

Choose 1 Platform

Trying to be everywhere at once is exhausting and not the strategy to follow when you have little time.

You may be able to post the same content to multiple platforms (although I’m not a fan of this strategy) but you need to be doing more than just posting.

So start with one marketing platform and do that well, before adding another.

Social media isn’t the only option (although it can be a good one when you’re starting out and have little money). In the blog post 11 Ways to Market your Small Business without Social Media I went through other options, like:

  • networking
  • referrals (using a strategy beyond relying upon “word of mouth”)
  • fairs
  • collaborations
  • PR
  • speaking
  • podcast
  • SEO
  • email
  • ads and
  • directories/supplier lists

And then there are many social media platforms, including Facebook, TikTok, youTube, Instagram, LinkedIn, Clubhouse and Twitter.

I did say you couldn’t do it all!!

Given so many options, which one should you choose? Well the right one for you isn’t necessarily the same as the right one for another business (even in the same industry). I’m not a fan of a “one size fits all” approach…

Some things you need to take into account when choosing your primary marketing platform are:

  • Where your target market is. If they’re not on TikTok there’s no point using that platform. Of course you will be able to find potential clients on any platform but you want to make it as easy as you can – at least for your main platform
  • What you like doing. Hate doing videos? Well there’s little point choosing youTube. Because if you hate it you won’t keep it up. Whilst I’m all for stretching your comfort zone, you do need to choose a platform where you will show up so choose one that has features you can use that you like
  • Where you have been successful before. If you’ve had great success with getting clients through wedding fairs (and you enjoy them) then consider focusing on these. The whole point is to bring in more sales!
  • What that platform does. There are three stages in getting clients. They need to first find you. Then they need to get to know, like and trust you can help them. Then they need to be persuaded to buy. You either need a platform that does all of these or you need to choose more than one that, when combined, covers all of these.

    A website in itself won’t get you visible in front of potential new clients who’ve never heard of you before. No-one stumbles across your website (oh I wonder what would happen if I typed in “marieb63.sg-host.com”?). But SEO, PR, networking or any of the social media platforms can be used to drive traffic to your website. Your website then plays a role in increasing the “know, like and trust” factor and converting these visitors to clients (a good website is very good at both of these).

    Similarly, potential new clients who’ve never come across you before won’t be on your email list either (under GDPR it is unlawful to add people to your email list without consent). And whilst email is another brilliant tool to convert potential clients, you need to get people to sign up to your email list first. So you may need to run ads to a lead magnet (more on these in the blog post How to Quickly grow your Email List), promote via social media, collaboration etc.

We’re choosing one platform (or potentially a combination of platforms that work together) initially. You can always decide what else you’d like to use, when you have the time for more. Because one done well is better than several done badly…

Speaking to market your business when you have little time

What’s your Strategy?

Now you have a platform, you need a strategy to get the most out of the time you have available. Scrolling Instagram or watching TikTok videos is not going to get you anywhere…

First of all you need to think about what your objective is. What are you looking to achieve on that platform? Ultimately we’re looking for sales (because followers and likes, even viral videos, won’t pay your bills).

How will you measure success on your platform? Is it enquiries? Bookings? Website traffic?

The strategy you follow will depend on the platform you choose and your objective, but there are a number of key components.

  1. Making connections with people who have the same/similar target audience as you. If you’re a wedding cake maker, then wedding venues, florists, photographers, etc that have a similar client are great connections to make. You can do this on social media, at networking events, fairs etc.
  2. Creating content that resonates with your target market. If your platform is social media this should be a mixture of business content (sharing value and helping them, whilst showing you know what you’re talking about), content designed to engage and content designed to sell. If you are using PR or SEO then it will be more likely to be business content.
  3. Following up. If someone is engaging with your content they’re starting a conversation with you. And in real life you wouldn’t ignore them, so don’t do that online. Of course if someone asks about your services make sure that not only do you give them the information they need (and/or direct them to your website), but follow up with them a few days later to see if they have any more questions.
  4. Measure results then refine/test new ideas. Is your strategy delivering the results you want? Does it need more time? What can you tweak to make it better? What other new ideas can you test?

Find more time?

Whilst we’re all busy, making time for marketing is important to the success of your business. And the reality is that we all waste time during the day.

How can you find more time?

Start by looking at how you do spend your time each day.

  • How long do you spend scrolling social media? That’s not “working”, it’s scrolling. Can you spend some of that time responding to comments, engaging on other posts or creating content instead?
  • Is there anything you do that you could delegate/outsource? Just because you can do things yourself doesn’t mean you have to. Consider how much time you’re spending on something and whether it could be done better by someone else (in which case there’s a strong argument for outsourcing it) and/or what it would cost you. If a VA charges £30/hour but gets things done twice as quickly as you would (Canva graphics?) then it would only “cost” you £15/hour to outsource
  • Can you “batch” things you do? It takes time to switch between tasks so batching is a very efficient way of getting more done in less time. Create social media posts for the next couple of weeks in one go (it also means you have a bank of content ready to post), have a dedicated time each day to respond to emails or do admin, etc
Find time to market your business

Next Stage

Once you know how long you have each week and have a plan for how you’re going to use that time to market your business on a single platform, you can start to consider what else you can do.

When you have a spare couple of hours (you might think you never have a spare couple of hours, but meetings do get cancelled!), you can start to get ahead on your primary platform.

Then what?

What else can you add in? Can you do some PR? Maybe write some blogs for your website that will help your SEO (and can be repurposed into social media posts)? Investigate networking meetings?

Make sure your marketing strategy includes a plan for what else you will do when you have the time. You don’t want to waste that time thinking about what to do.

Conclusion

It is possible to market your business without spending a lot of time. But to do so requires the “right” strategy, on the “right” platform (for you/your business) and consistent/effective action. Spending time scrolling on social media isn’t using the platform effectively #toughlove

In the week beginning 19 September I’m going to be running a 4 day “marketing sprint” designed to help you develop a marketing plan for your business. It is completely free to take part and you can sign up here.