Have you run out of marketing steam? Tips and advice for sole traders.

As sole traders we have to take care of all aspects of our business, from finance and sales to customer service and marketing. Most of the time it’s great – there’s variety, the opportunity to learn something new, having control and taking the business where we want it to go.

But sometimes you just get stuck in a rut. There are no colleagues to bounce ideas off, you might be unsure of some aspects of business that you don’t have experience in, or maybe the ideas have just stopped flowing. What do you do then?

Help! I’ve run out of marketing steam

Firstly, don’t panic. If you have a business plan, a fab product or service and you know your target audience, you’re in a strong position to put together a successful marketing plan (and it really isn’t as daunting or complex as it sounds).

Don’t do everything all at once

If you’re just starting out, it’s easy to think that you should be building an email database and sending regular e-newsletters, be active on every social media channel, blog every week and attend every networking event in town. You don’t have to.

Choose the channels which you think are most likely to be the ones your target audience will be using, and start with those. Just because everyone you know is on Facebook doesn’t mean that you have to be, too. Equally, if that’s where your target audience is, get yourself on there and make the most of it – and maybe let go of another channel. You’ll be able to dedicate more time to a few channels, rather than spreading yourself thinly across all of them and not making the most of any of them.

Measure what you’re doing

Let’s say you use Twitter. Religiously. You put out some great content, share things you think your audience will find useful, engage with your followers. Do you know what value it has brought you? Have you had any sales or enquiries? Your number of followers or likes may not equal sales.

It’s important to know that the effort you’re putting in is bringing value – meaning financial value. If you’re spending a lot of time (and money!) on marketing, you have to know it works. There are some great analysis tools out there for digital channels, and they’re often free.

And then there’s the hard part…deciding to let go. If you find that Twitter really isn’t bringing anything of value, is it worth continuing your time investment in it? You may have to think about swallowing your fear of missing out and close your channel! Just think of Einstein, who (supposedly) said, “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results.”

Check out your competitors

What are your closest competitors up to? I’m not suggesting that you copy them, but they may give you some fresh ideas, or make you think of different ways you could approach your marketing.

Doing a bit of competitor analysis will also help you work out what makes your product or service unique. You will know what sort of threat your competitors pose – and also what opportunities they make available for you.

Get expert help

When I first started out, I had no idea about the financial side of running my own business. Tax returns, how National Insurance works, the rules about expenses – I had no clue, so I got an accountant. Now I can rest assured that my accounts run smoothly and I meet all the HMRC requirements.

It’s the same with any aspect of business, and marketing is no different. There are some great online tools and resources, and reams of blog posts on marketing ideas for sole traders.

But sometimes you need a little more direct, hands-on support and that’s what I can offer. Some one on one time talking specifically about your business and your needs, then some time for practical planning, and reviewing all the tools you’ll need.

It doesn’t matter what your business is – selecting your channels carefully, measuring them, knowing your competitors, and getting expert help can work for you if you’re out of marketing steam.

Lucy RavenspointComment