One of the most common questions that I get asked is, when you’re a startup founder how do you find the time for marketing? Let’s face it, you have a million other things that you need to focus on so how are you going to get round to writing blog posts, updating Facebook, composing tweets, crafting newsletters, and so on, and so on. Let me throw it back: how do you get time to do all of those other things when you’re so busy with marketing? It may be that this is an area that you feel uncomfortable with; or you see it as something of a ‘voodoo science’. At the end of the day though, marketing is fundamental to the success of your business – if you can’t attract, acquire and then keep customers, and ultimately get them to attract further customers on your behalf, you don’t have a business and certainly you won’t achieve growth.
The starting point of marketing is the communication to your target audience of the value that you’re going to deliver. Quite simply, there is no-one more informed, passionate and genuine to communicate that than you. As a startup founder, YOU are the brand and, as such, you need to develop the methods and practices to effectively tell your story with impact, resonance and engagement. Here are 9 ways that you can find the time and the focus to maximize your marketing efforts:
1. Recognize The Value
Anything that you do which in some way touches and impacts on a customer, or potential customer, is marketing. In this respect, it is through marketing – directly engaging with customers – that you gain feedback and insights about your product, offering and the overall experience that you’re delivering which enables you to iterate, improve and eventually validate. This in itself is justification for you to be constantly thinking and doing marketing. Engaging and conversing with customers through live events, social channels, email, and so forth is critical to deriving understanding and context for your development efforts. No successful product can be created in a vacuum. Use every engagement as an opportunity to learn more and to convey the message of the value that you promise to deliver.
2. Plan It Out
Take the time up-front to plan what marketing you’re going to do. Consider your success metrics and define the activities that will get you to these. Focus on the layers to creating demand:
– Deliver a remarkable overall customer experience
– Craft a unique and compelling story
– Tell that story through content
– Proliferate your story socially
– Amplify your story with paid media
Ultimately, create a calendar to pinpoint what you’re going to deliver when: programs, campaigns, messages / stories, channels, and content. This will give your marketing plan structure so you know when you need to focus on specific aspects and areas.
3. Keep It Small And Simple
Make your marketing consumable whilst still delivering impact, resonance and value. Simplify your effort by thinking how you can reduce elements down. Instead of creating an eBook off the bat, write a series or blogs posts that become an eBook over time. Not only will you gain traction with your audience sooner, but you’ll also have multiple assets that you can leverage. Don’t try to eat the elephant; chunk it down into bite sized pieces that you: a) are more comfortable with; b) won’t take as much time and resource to develop; and c) you can get to market quicker.
4. Allocate Specific Time
We tend to fill the time that we have available to us for any given task whether we require it or not; so constrain yourself by allocating a specific period for the elements of your marketing activity. Try scheduling 30 minutes each morning before you get into the weeds to create some content or plan and craft your social media engagements. Scarcity of time breads efficiency and results – how many times have you been on a condensed deadline and you deliver some of your best work? More often than not, constraint equals creativity.
Don’t try to do everything all at once. Identify the big wins and focus on them first. What activities are really going to move the dial? Remember though that all marketing interconnects, so you can’t neglect certain areas in favor of others for risk of undermining the whole. Build the plan, understand the relationships, prioritize and execute. Actions always speak louder than words.
6. Use Pockets Of Time
Make your time work for you by doing things on the go. It’s amazing how much you can get done in the short windows around meetings, whilst you’re traveling, or even just waiting around for other things to happen. Identify your ‘dead’ time and use it. For instance, the majority of this post has been written on my iPad during the course of a number of short train journeys. Being productive is as much about finding time as using it. This rule is especially powerful when combined with the following.
7. Use Online Tools
There are a plethora of apps, tools and services that are widely available online and via your mobile devices, either for free or at very low cost, which will enable you to optimize your efforts and the time that you have available to you (a great starting point for discovering these is my Startup Resources directory). I use tools such as Pulse, Zite and Alltop to discover content that is relevant to my areas of interest and subject matter; I then collect and collate this with Pocket and Diigo before provisioning it for my social media channels in Buffer. I do all of this purely on my iPhone; mainly as I’m traveling, stood in the lunch queue, or even – dare I say it – sat on the toilet…I like to maximize my time!
8. What Can You Automate?
Some of these tools, and notably by often integrating them, you’re able to automate parts of the marketing process to make the exercise and your time more efficient. For example, an email service such as Mail Chimp integrates with CRM tools including Picnic, Isightly or Zoho to pre-populate contacts when new subscribers are added, so you don’t manually have to migrate data across. Buffer enables you to pre-schedule your social media posts so you don’t need to be around when updates go out. Look to use technology to cut out steps and tasks, but beware of de-personalizing – always be human!
9. Outsource Part Of The Task
When your time is clearly limited, you have to hone in on where you’re actually creating and adding value. Think in terms of the return on the use of your time. Are there tasks that could be done equally as effectively and efficiently by someone else, so you can free up your time to focus on the areas where you’re generating real value? Maybe you can find cheap and willing students to do the legwork for the experience that this gives them; or possibly an available family member. There are now also readily accessible online Virtual Assistant services who, at a very low cost, can perform a multitude of tasks on your behalf – research, populating customer databases, pulling together emailings (not drafting), even producing basic marketing analytics reports. By looking in the right places and talking to the right people, you can find very competent workers at affordable prices either locally or in areas such as India and China. The beauty of using people (or teams) in these locations is that they can be working, and creating value on your behalf, whilst you’re asleep; so you can maximize your efforts by leveraging their output during your working hours.
Doing marketing doesn’t have to be, or rather shouldn’t be thought of as a chore. Despite the debate, it is neither an art nor a science, it is a hustle…have fun and experiment.