It’s Election Day. You Won’t Read this Post.

I VotedExcept you might read my post now that I’ve included a shameless mention of Election Day.

When your customers are universally interested in an event or holiday, don’t change the subject. Work with it. Although cycles of celebration may not correspond with your business cycle, customers will disregard marketing communications that don’t fit with their interests or current needs.

Small business marketing requires strategic use of resources that earn a high level of engagement from customers. We can’t waste time and money on efforts that will be ignored.

Here are some ways I help my clients address the ebbs and flows of the calendar:

  • One B2B client accepts that her clients’ attention is distracted during certain times of the year, including Independence Day, Thanksgiving and Christmas. We focus our marketing efforts on other times of year and don’t waste resources trying to “cut through the clutter.”
  • Another B2B client tackles the New Year with challenges for his clients to plan for success in the coming months.
  • To tie-in with Thanksgiving, I’m helping one veterinary client promote pet safety during the holiday, for instance with this Fido Friendly Thanksgiving Infographic.
  • With another veterinary client, we typically run seasonally-themed Facebook photo contests for clients to brag about their pets. Last year, we sponsored a Winter Wonderland contest.
  • A landscape services company knows that pre-Thanksgiving is a popular time for customers to install landscape lighting, so we run promotions during that period.
  • This summer, another landscape services client earned customer attention when we suggested ways to create an herb container garden to enhance their outdoor kitchens and barbecues.

So, after you go vote and before the results start coming in, spend some time today considering how to make your marketing communications more seasonally relevant to your customers. It will certainly be more productive than nervously biting your nails as you wait to learn who our next President will be.


Is an Editorial Calendar Part of Your Small Business Marketing Plan?

Is an Editorial Calendar Part of Your Small Business Marketing Plan?An editorial calendar helps answer the question, “What am I supposed to do next?” It’s a tactical element of your small business marketing plan that lays out the month, quarter or year. With only a few hours of work, you’ll boost marketing productivity and effectiveness.

Start with Effective Small Business Marketing Strategies

As a small business, it’s incredibly important you spend your marketing budget efficiently and effectively. You can’t afford to keep doing the same marketing tactics year after year unless you know they really work. Before implementing any marketing campaigns, make sure your strategy is solid and will help you meet your business goals.

Ensure Marketing Implementation with an Editorial Calendar

One of the toughest challenges for any small business is consistently deploying marketing campaigns on time. When you often spend your day “putting out fires,” it can be hard to remember to grow your audience on Facebook, communicate with customers via your email newsletter or schedule in-person meetings with prospects.

That’s where an editorial calendar comes in. This tool helps build discipline into the timing of your marketing and ensures no channel is neglected.

For each of my small business clients, I typically outline an entire year’s calendar, with goals set for each month. This document becomes our to-do list. It’s fairly simple– take a look at the sample below for 2016 Q1.

Sample Marketing Editorial Calendar

January 2016

  • Film two videos surrounding “Winter” campaign, post second and fourth Tuesdays
  • Write two blog posts surrounding “Winter” campaign, publish first and third Tuesdays
  • Post “Winter” video or link to Facebook every Wednesday
  • Send “Winter” campaign January Email Newsletter
  • Manage “Winter” Pay-Per-Click advertising campaign
  • Refresh website design template for 2016

February 2016

  • Stop “Winter” Pay-Per-Click advertising campaign
  • Film two videos surrounding “Love” campaign, post second and fourth Tuesdays
  • Write two blog posts surrounding “Love” campaign, publish first and third Tuesdays
  • Post “Love” video or link to Facebook every Wednesday
  • Send “Love” campaign February Email Newsletter
  • Start and manage “Love” Pay-Per-Click advertising campaign
  • Design and print “Spring” Every Door Direct Mail USPS mailer

March 2016

  • Stop “Love” Pay-Per-Click advertising campaign
  • Film two videos surrounding “Spring” campaign, post second and fourth Tuesdays
  • Write two blog posts surrounding “Spring” campaign, publish first and third Tuesdays
  • Post “Spring” video or link to Facebook every Wednesday
  • Send “Spring” campaign March Email Newsletter
  • Start and manage “Spring” Pay-Per-Click advertising campaign
  • Send “Spring” Every Door Direct Mail USPS to target ZIP code

How to Plan Small Business Marketing Campaigns

Let’s say you have a great idea for marketing your small business– building a vibrant Twitter following, partnering with a local civic organization to host community events or offering a compelling referral program to customers.

Now what? How do you make sure your campaign is successful and meets your goals?

You need a small business marketing campaign brief.

A campaign brief helps you solidify your strategy, think through implementation and gives you an at-a-glance view of what needs to be accomplished. It’s an organizational tool that removes doubt and helps campaigns run smoothly and successfully.

Here’s a Sample Small Business Marketing Campaign Brief, similar to what I create for my clients:

How to Plan Small Business Marketing Campaigns

Have questions about how campaign briefs could work for your small business marketing? Send me an email, and let’s talk –

How’s Your 2016 Marketing Plan Coming Along?

Sometimes, small business marketing can feel rushed and put you under pressure. When business owners first talk to me about their marketing efforts, they usually express a sense of anxiety, asking question like:

  • How do I know I’m doing enough marketing?
  • How much should I be spending?
  • How do I know if my marketing is working?

Take time now to plan for 2016, and eliminate these worries. Here are some elements you should include in your small business marketing plan.

Components of a Small Business Marketing Plan

  • Measurable goals. These might include revenue growth, increases in profit margins, number of new customers or increases in purchase frequency.
  • Brand strategy. A comprehensive brand strategy will make it easier to craft marketing messages that resonate with customers. Great news– a great small business brand strategy will likely last many years and only require small tweaks as your business landscape changes.
  • Marketing budget. Everyone should know approximately how much will be spent over the year.
  • Media and channels. Identify the best places to reach your customers, and develop campaigns for each channel. You should know which channels are proven successes, which to eliminate and which you’re experimenting with.
  • Campaign calendar. Know when you should be doing what and give specific deadlines. A calendar also helps ensure all campaigns complement each other throughout the year.

Once you have your plan in place, share it with your team. Let everyone know what to expect in the upcoming year.

And here’s the most important part: Implement the plan! You don’t have to wait until 2016. Start today!

Small Business Marketing Can Be Confusing

Check out this graphic of the Marketing Technology Universe from

Small Business Marketing Can Be Confusing

With all these categories and marketing companies vying for attention, I can see why marketing is confusing for many small businesses. But it doesn’t have to be.

Forget about the marketing universe and focus on what matters to your customers. When you learn what your customers value and where they like to spend their time, you will have the answer to which marketing messages to craft and what media to use. Then, it’s pretty straightforward to choose a marketing partner.

The Pinterest Marketing Checklist

With 14.9 million users as of July 2012, Pinterest is certainly a growing social network. But should it be part of your marketing plan? If you answer “yes” to the questions in my Pinterest Marketing Checklist, a Pinterest marketing campaign should probably be in your future.

  • Are a significant portion of your customers or influencers women?
  • Is your brand related to fashion, art, crafting, event-planning, cooking, travel or something similar?
  • Can your brand tell a story with pictures? Do pictures of your products, services or location impress?
If you answered “no” to these questions, you can dismiss Pinterest from your mind and stop reading this article. I like to make life easier for my readers. Those answering in the affirmative should read on.

What is Pinterest?

Pinterest LogoPinterest is all about organizing and sharing pictures of things you like. These pictures are collected in groupings, called “pin-boards.” Users see pictures that friends and brands “pin,” and they “repin” the content if they like it. Pinterest users want to display their style and personality, along with using Pinterest to help them plan events and store ideas.

The overwhelming majority of active Pinterest users are female. There’s some controversy in the media about the truth of this statement, but anyone who has ever visited Pinterest sees the obvious truth of it.

Brands must be careful about marketing on Pinterest– promoting oneself too obviously will ensure your “pins” are ignored. Engage users with stories and environments that subtly include products and services.

Pinterest Marketing Success Story

Fashion brand Anthropologie has made a concerted effort with their Pinterest marketing the last few months. Visitors to the Anthropologie website can pin any product, sharing it with their friends. Importantly, the brand encourages customers to spread the word on Pinterest for them, creating a more authentic, populist campaign (and relinquishing control over what products actually become popular).

Pinterest Marketing on Anthropologie

Anthropologie took the Pinterest marketing offline, as well. Pages in their catalogues cheekily display collections of pins, with copy, “From oodles of brooches to the pull of Pinterest.”

Pinterest Marketing from Anthropologie

If you’ve decided to give Pinterest marketing a try, use this Anthropologie example as a start, or contact me for more ideas – For readers who will be in Alaska on October 4, 2012, learn more about social media marketing during my presentation at the Getting Down to Business Sales & Customer Service Conference. Click here to learn more.

Marketing Podcast: Top Social Media Networks

Russell Ball guest-hosted “Getting Down to Business” when we discussed today’s top social media networks and how they fit into your small business marketing plan. Listen for specific marketing advice on Twitter, LinkedIn and more.

Download or listen below:

Top Social Media Networks

Marketing Podcast: Top Social Media Networks (3.2 MB)

This segment first aired during “Getting Down to Business” on Alaska’s Fox News Talk 1020.

Are Your Marketing Campaigns as Good as Your Marketing Plan?

Marketing implementation is just as important as strategy

Does your business have a great marketing plan that identifies who your customers are, what is important to them and how to reach them? As important as your plan is, it’s not enough if your implementation team isn’t just as strong. Here’s an example.

While shopping for a new car, I could tell Toyota had put some effort into making their sales team and showroom friendly towards women and how they buy. The salesperson made sure to make plenty of eye contact with me and ask me as many questions as he asked my husband. He gave us privacy and space to discuss our options. He was the opposite of the stereotypical car salesman– and his support staff were just as competent. It seems Toyota has invested in training programs to make their dealerships more women-friendly.

But their marketing communications team was much too literal in their interpretation of the marketing plan. Their commercials, with a strangely overt message announcing, “We are women and kid friendly!” were almost offensive, like the Toyota dealership was overly conscious of the difference between men and women, or they were grouping women and kids into the same category. Here’s a video from the same dealership that shows a similar misunderstanding of the marketing strategy, with service technicians stumbling around in high heels.

It’s important for all of your marketing efforts to coordinate and tell the same story– or you might end up like Kings Toyota, with a great sales experience but commercials that drive your customers away.

Today’s Top Social Media Networks

As a marketing consultant, businesses often ask me which social media networks they should include in their marketing plans. The number of social media networks is skyrocketing beyond yesterday’s trifecta of Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn (although those are still the top three!). It can be dizzying to learn about these networks, let alone to decide if they make marketing sense for your business.

Based on my experience, here’s a quick primer on today’s top social media networks (and if they might fit into your social media marketing).


Brand with personality and loyal customers, like locally-owned shops, thrive on Facebook, where showing your friends you ‘like’ a brand is part of your online persona. Engage fans with quick polls, contests, pictures, videos and the occasional special deal. If you invest in Facebook advertising, also invest the time to make your Facebook Page a “hangout” for customers. For some ideas, here’s a podcast with Facebook Marketing Tips.


Most apparently, people who know things find their home sharing that knowledge on Twitter– speakers, authors, scientists, journalists, software engineers and other subject-area experts. Brands connect with these influential customers to grow loyalty and get publicity, like Morton’s Steakhouse did in their famous airport delivery to a Twitter follower. Learn some Twitter lingo with this article, “Should I be on Twitter?


Professionals mull around LinkedIn, connecting with friends and colleagues while seeking new clients, new jobs or endorsements. Many companies successfully use LinkedIn as a recruiting tool.


With a user-base that is overwhelmingly female, Pinterest is a visual site for collecting virtual pin-boards of things that interest you. Brands must carefully join these conversations– promoting oneself too obviously will ensure your “pins” are ignored. If Pinterest users sound like your customer base, engage them with stories and environments that subtly include products and services.


Although this video-sharing site doesn’t fit the conventional definition of “social media,” it can be crucial for hosting and sharing videos of interest to your network. Now, these videos can also be repurposed with Google AdWords. For businesses with interesting, funny or informative content, such as veterinarians or resorts, video can be a powerful marketing tool.


Restaurants and, increasingly, other local service businesses definitely belong on Yelp. This review site’s diligent work in building a community of reviewers and users paid off– Yelp will power Microsoft’s Bing local results, and this fall it will become part of Apple’s Maps application on the iPhone and iPad. For a more detailed look, see my article, “Yelp for Small Business Marketing.”


If you are in the travel business, have you looked up your TripAdvisor reviews? If your reviews aren’t stellar, you can partner with TripAdvisor through their business listings– and even if they are, you may want to offer special offers or appear at the top of search results.


This picture-sharing network was recently purchased by Facebook, but it’s still a force in its own right. Users subscribe to others’ photo streams, including brands they like or find interesting. Instagram has an interesting look at how some brands are using their network.

On October 5 in Anchorage, I’ll be joining some of Alaska’s top small business leaders for the Getting Down to Business® Conference. In my “Marketing Matters: Social Media” workshop, we’ll discuss the top social media networks, which ones should have a place in your marketing plan and how to tell if they are profitable. I’ll make the complex and diverse world of social media clear with straightforward explanations and common-sense examples. If you’re a small business in Alaska, you’ll want to stay-tuned for conference details.

Groupoff: Why Groupon is Usually a Bad Marketing Idea

Groupon is the group coupon website that features daily deals– if enough customers want to buy the deal, they get a coupon for a 50-90% discount. Otherwise, the deal is canceled. But since the discounts are hefty, and Groupon itself receives a commission, does this medium make sense for most small business marketing plans?

Here’s what Groupon asserts:

  • 91% of Groupon businesses report getting new customers as part of their promotion
  • 9 in 10 Groupon customers spend more than the face value of their coupon
  • 87% of Groupon business owners say their promotion increased their awareness in the community

Notice that Groupon doesn’t say anything about promotions being profitable or resulting in loyal customers who come back to pay full price. I suspect Groupon customers largely fit a profile of the adventurous consumer who likes to try new things at a discount– not exactly the audience to become regulars at your business.

The bottom line? If you have high margins and your main marketing goal is to get bodies in the door, then Groupon (or competitors like LivingSocial) can be effective at that. But if you’re seeking to build a loyal customer base of raving fans, you will achieve better results with other web marketing media.