Get Clients Online
How To Make The Time For Marketing: The Ultimate Guide
Of all the problems I hear from people struggling to win enough clients, probably the most frequent is “I just can't find the time for marketing”.
It's an insidious problem. No matter how smart you are, no matter how brilliant the marketing strategies you're trying to implement: if you can't find the time for them then you won't get results.
And it's such an easy trap to fall into. If we're not naturals at marketing we probably don't know how to do it efficiently. And we probably don't enjoy it, so we kid ourselves that we're doing OK, we have enough clients for now, something will turn up anyway…and so we avoid doing the marketing we really need.
But it absolutely is possible to fit effective marketing into a busy schedule. What it takes is a combination of mindset, ruthless prioritisation, scheduling and techniques for doing your marketing efficiently. And that's exactly what you'll learn in this guide.
How Much Time Do You Need For Marketing?
Everyone's needs are different, but over the years I've found that for most small businesses or sole practitioners you need to devote a day per week to marketing and sales in order to keep filling your pipeline with new clients and growing your business.
If you're a well-established business with a steady flow of referrals and your marketing systems are set up and working for you, you can probably get by with less. Maybe half a day a week.
And if you're a new business or looking to grow fast, you'll need more time. The good news is that if you're a new business your schedule won't be packed with client work yet so you should easily have the time available.
The other situation where you'll require more time for marketing is if you're looking to establish yourself as a premium option and charge higher fees.
If you spend more time on your marketing to establish yourself as an authority in your field, you'll be able to charge higher fees and so you'll need to spend less time on client work to earn the same amount. Conversely, if you spend less time on marketing you'll be seen more as a commodity and have to take lower fees and work longer to earn the same amount.
It's a trade-off and it's up to you to decide where you want to fit on the spectrum (personally, I go for higher fees :) ).
Finally, different types of marketing need different patterns of time investment and you need to build that into your thinking.
Traditional marketing like networking, doing presentations, cold calling, personal follow-up (or these days cold emailing or networking on social media) is essentially a “pay as you go” model. You go to an event or you make a call and if you're lucky you end up with a lead who you follow up with and they may turn into a client.
You're investing a little bit of time week in, week out and each investment of time could result in a client.
With most online marketing, you tend to invest your time up front to set up your systems. You have to create a lead magnet, set up landing pages, create your follow-up emails; all before you can start to generate any leads at all. But once your system is set up you need to spend much less time on it on an ongoing basis.
That's a more sustainable model in my view, but you need to invest time up front before you start seeing any results rather than getting results as you go along.
So if you plan to start doing more online marketing make sure you build that initial investment of time into your plans. Especially if you're switching over from traditional marketing to online: you may get a dip in your pipeline of new clients as you stop doing traditional marketing and start setting up your online systems.
Does a day a week seem like a lot of time?
It's not if you think about it. One event and a couple of meetings with potential clients and associated prep and follow up calls will take you a day.
And if you think that you really can't afford to spend a day a week on marketing, that you need to be earning fees four and a half or even five days a week, then it's an indication that you may have a pricing issue.
To have a sustainable business, your fees need to be high enough that you can hit your revenue goals with 3-4 days of paid work per week; allowing you to invest the remaining time in building your business.
If you find that you can't afford to spend a day a week on marketing, your first step might well be to raise your fees so you can.
The Mindset You Need To Make The Time For Marketing
One of the biggest challenges we face when we're not professional marketers is just how easy it is to let marketing slip.
If marketing isn't our day job we can let other priorities take over. Especially if we're very client-focused and we always try to prioritise their needs.
Here are 4 simple things you can do to help make sure you have your mindset right to make sure your marketing happens.
- Firstly, make sure that the importance of marketing is always near the top of your mind.Don't allow your busyness with client work to distract you from the need to build your pipeline of new clients.
The best way to do that is to make sure you're absolutely clear on your “numbers”. Understand how many clients you need to hit your goals, how long each one typically stays with you, how many potential clients you need to talk with to land a new client, and how long that typically takes. That then allows you to set goals for how many new clients you need per month and how many meetings or calls you need to be having to get those new clients.
That way, even when you're busy with client work, you know that if you need to be having 4 calls with potential clients every month and you've only had 1 so far this month, you need to get your skates on. Those hard numbers prevent you from engaging in wishful thinking and assuming things are going to be OK.
- Secondly, make commitments that lead to habits.Now you know your goals for your key marketing milestones you can decide what activities you'll do to achieve them. What are you going to do to get you those meetings and calls? Is it presentations, networking, online marketing? Whatever it is (and I'll have more to say on how to choose later in this guide), make a commitment to how often and when you'll do it.
Maybe that means one presentation to a group of at least a dozen potential clients every month. Maybe it means writing one blog post or sending three emails a week.
Whatever your chosen activity: commit to doing it. Repeatedly making good on your commitments turns them into habits. And I can tell you: habits work. I've sent an email at least once a week to my subscribers for over 5 years now and it's where the vast majority of my new business comes from. Today it’s almost harder for me not to send an email every Sunday morning than it is to send one it's become such an ingrained habit.
- Thirdly, “trick” yourself into prioritising marketing.Chances are if you're reading this you're the sort of person who will pull out all the stops to deliver for your clients. You won't just go the extra mile, you'll half kill yourself doing it!
Yet when it comes to our own needs – like marketing – we're quite content to let ourselves down. We take second place to clients.
So if you want to get more marketing done, turn it into client work.
If you need to write a blog post: tell a client who's interested in the topic that you'll be writing it and tell them when you'll have it ready for them to look at. That way you now have a client commitment to live up to.
Or if you want to create and launch a new product but just can’t find the time: pre-sell it to a handful of clients as a pilot and commit to when you'll launch it for them. Again, you're turning marketing you're doing for yourself into a client commitment. And client commitments are what you're great at living up to.
- Finally, recognise that sometimes you just have to work that bit harder to get things going.Tough as it sounds, sometimes if you want to get something started you just have to work harder for a while. That might mean working a weekend. It might mean missing that regular TV show you love for a while. I'm not a big proponent of letting work take over your life, but as a one-off to break the back of an important marketing task you might just need to do it.
How To Make The Time For Marketing Through Ruthless Prioritization
Ever been told that the way to get clients is to “be everywhere on social media”? Or that you need to network, network, network. Or you need to send an email a day, write a blog post a week, make videos, do livestreaming and a whole host of other hugely time-consuming activities?
Of course, the people giving this advice don't live in the same world the rest of us do. They either work full time on marketing with no client delivery or they have a team to support them.
For those of us who have to work for clients, run masterminds, do coaching or create products as well as do client work, we simply can't do everything the experts say we need to do to win clients.
So I'm going to suggest something rather radical.
In contrast to probably every bit of marketing advice you've had which normally gives a list of additional things you need to do, I'm going to say that the most important thing you can do to improve your marketing is to start doing less: cutting out most of what you currently do.
Let's be honest, if everything you're doing right now was working brilliantly, you wouldn't be reading this article. Something needs to change.
So let's look at some ways you can cut down what you're currently doing to make more time for marketing that actually works.
Firstly, it's important you understand what marketing you're currently doing and whether it's working.
So make a list of the marketing activities you currently spend time on and how much time you're spending on each one. Then look at each one and try to assess which ones are actually working to bring you clients and which ones aren't.
To be frank, this isn't an easy exercise. Sometimes it takes a combination of activities to win a client. And if it was blatantly obvious that something wasn't working you'd probably have noticed, wouldn't you?
But the truth is that many of the marketing activities we do happen out of habit and because they're easy, not because they're effective.
We go to that monthly networking event because we've always gone to that monthly networking event. And we don't need to prep for it, we don't need to create anything new. It's full of familiar faces so we don't feel uncomfortable having to introduce ourselves to new people all the time. And we kind of vaguely remember that a few people there have given us referrals and probably some of those turned into clients, didn't they?
We log on to Linkedin and answer questions in our favourite groups because, well, it's easier than sitting down with a blank sheet of paper to write an email. And it does help our business to be helpful and be seen as knowledgeable in these groups, doesn’t it?
It's easy to fool ourselves like this. So to counteract it you need to be systematic about identifying where your clients really came from. Look at the clients you won in the last 6 or 12 months: how many of those did you first meet at that networking event or get referred to by people you met there? How many enquiries and clients have you had who are in those Linkedin groups you spend so much time interacting and answering questions in?
If you can't clearly identify at least one client you won associated with that marketing activity then mark a red flag next to it.
Next, extend your analysis by keeping a diary of how you spend your time over the next week and highlight the marketing related activities.
I know this sounds painful, but I've seen time and time again that we often burn hours a week on “marketing” activities without realising how much time we're spending on them. How long did it really take us to write that blog post? How much time did we spend researching that presentation (or rather, how much time did we spend messing around on Google long after we'd found all the information we needed)? Did we really spend that long on Twitter chatting with “influencers”?
It's only when you keep a diary that you realise just how time-consuming some of the things you do actually are. So painful though it sounds, it's well worth doing.
The next step, of course, is to match up those activities with clients you've won as above and flag up any activities where you can't clearly identify an impact on winning clients.
So far you've identified what you're currently doing and whether it's paying off. Now, you're going to figure out what activities to cut and what to keep or add.
Obviously, any activities that showed up from your earlier analysis of your current activities as clearly leading to clients or clearly not should go on your shortlist for keeping and cutting.
Try to identify what activities are most likely to work for you in your particular industry.
You might have heard all sorts of generic advice on what marketing works best, but the truth is that different approaches work in different situations.
And unfortunately, most of the people dishing out marketing advice have little experience outside the field of marketing. So their advice tends to be heavily biased towards what works for marketing type businesses and they assume the same holds true for every business. It doesn't.
So while it might generally be true that long articles do well in Google, or that you need to post frequently, or that videos get shared more than other content, maybe that's not true for you and your specific audience.
As a quick case in point: I googled “teambuilding techniques” and looked at the word count of the top 5 articles for that topic. Far from needing to write huge 2,000+ word articles as content marketing gurus would have you believe, not one of the top 5 articles was over 1,600 words and the average word count was just 873.
Don't take generic advice: check out what really works for your type of business.
So to see what works in Google for you, search for the keywords your clients would use and see what shows up in the top 10 results. Then see whether the top sites are filled with ultra long articles, videos or other content and how frequently they publish. Then check Buzzsumo to see what the most shared websites and pages are for the same keywords and again, see what kind of content does the best in terms of sharing.
It's not a hard and fast rule, but if videos are ranking well in Google and getting shared the most, then the chances are that creating videos will work for you. If long-form articles (rather like this one) are ranking well in Google and getting shared the most, then that's probably the thing for you to focus on. And if the top sites in your field only publish a new blog post every month there's absolutely no need for you to do daily or weekly updates.
Next criteria: when it comes to choosing between different marketing approaches, I would always choose “leadership” rather than “follower” activities.
Leadership activities are things like presenting at an event, setting up your own Facebook group and posting there, regularly publishing an email newsletter.
Follower activities are things like attending events to network there, being part of someone else's Facebook group and commenting on their posts and answering questions, replying to someone else's emails or commenting on their blog posts.
Follower activities can work, but leadership activities have far more impact.
Leadership activities not only position you as an expert that others listen to, they give you more airtime. People pay attention to the presenter at an event. When they're talking with you during networking time half their attention is on what they're going to say next or who else they'd like to meet.
It might seem that by answering questions in someone else's group or by commenting insightfully on other people's posts that you're showcasing your expertise. But psychologically, others will see you as a peer, not as someone who's that step ahead. It feels like by responding to others rather than initiating, you're doing something they could do themselves and so they see you as being on the same level as them.
Final criteria: do marketing you enjoy and that you feel proud of.
I know that doesn't sound very businesslike, but in many ways, it’s the most important criteria.
Partly because if your marketing doesn’t fill you with energy, you won't do it.
But just as importantly, you must always remember that your business exists to support you and what you want to do, not vice versa. Even if your marketing was amazingly successful if you hated doing it then what's the point? Your business is supposed to be something that you love and that gives you the life you want. It's not supposed to be something you dread working on.
So stick to doing marketing that you enjoy and you feel proud of.
Next, be brave and use the “rule of one”.
It's common advice to avoid putting all your eggs in one basket and to use multiple methods in your marketing. And while that makes sense for big and established businesses with lots of people working on marketing, if you're a smaller business it's much more important to put enough focus into a small number of activities to make them work and to get good at them.
So choose one method of lead generation (meeting new potential clients) only.
Choose one method of nurturing relationships only.
And choose one method of enrolling clients (sales calls or meetings) only.
And, of course, make sure they match. If you're generating leads personally through presentations, then follow up personally by phone or email. If you're generating leads via a webinar, use email marketing to follow-up.
Now I know the thought of radically cutting down to just three primary marketing and sales activities like this can seem a little scary.
What if you miss the one networking event where you would have met a brilliant client? What if those social media posts would have put you in touch with a key influencer in your sector?
Well, they might. But the chances are they won't.
And by focusing on a small number of activities you stand a much better chance of making those work than spreading yourself thinly.
But if the thought of cutting out all those events you've been going to and all those blog posts and social media updates you've been writing is just a bit too scary then try this:
Just do it for a month.
Cut down to just one of each core activity for a month. By the end of the month, you should have a good feel for how well things are going and if your new approach is making a difference. And by then you might even have broken your addiction to those networking events!
And if you're still not sure either way, try it for another month.
Now once you've got your core marketing systems in place you can think about adding back other activities to get even better results. But until your system is working to deliver you leads and clients on a regular basis, stick to one lead generation approach, one nurture strategy and one method for enrolling new clients.
Use Scheduling To Ensure You Get Your Marketing Done
Far too many great marketing intentions fall by the wayside when the real world intrudes.
If your marketing activities remain as items on a to-do list or a set of goals then unfortunately when the inevitable emergencies hit or client deadlines loom, they'll get pushed aside in favour of seemingly more urgent needs.
Instead, schedule your marketing activities into your calendar just like they were an important client meeting or a project task. And once they're in, hold those times sacred. Don't cancel or move them because something else comes up. Block off the time properly and schedule other things around them.
Here are some of the scheduling strategies I've found to be the most useful to help me get more marketing done in less time:
- Schedule a significant chunk of time to do marketing work at the same time week in, week out. Regularity breeds habit. And habit breeds success.
Personally, I like to schedule all of Monday morning to work on my important planning and marketing tasks. I start off by reviewing my overall goals and current projects and my big “to dos” and mark down all the tasks I want to get done this week. Then I schedule time during the week to do those important tasks.
As part of that, I'll schedule my most important marketing tasks to be done during the remainder of Monday morning.
Some tasks need a good chunk of time planned so you can “build up a head of steam” rather than trying to pick away at them a little bit at a time. Writing or other creative work is a good example of that. You'll make much more progress setting aside a couple of hours to write an article than trying to do it little at a time. So that type of creative work is ideal for you to do on a Monday morning (especially since your head is likely to be a lot clearer than after you've had a bunch of meetings, emails and other pressures pile on during the week).
- Batch together similar tasks that require a similar frame of mind.Different types of task often require you to be in a specific frame of mind when you do them. For example, brainstorming or mind mapping new ideas needs a different mindset to editing a document or providing feedback on client work.
So batch together similar types of work and do them in one session. You'll get more done that way than trying to repeatedly switch thinking modes between tasks within a session.
- Work in distraction-free bursts, then take a break.Humans aren't great at working solidly for hours without breaks. Our productivity tends to drop off after 20-30 minutes. So split up your big scheduled chunks of time into smaller bursts of concentrated effort.
We're also really easily distracted. And whenever we get distracted – like flicking over to read an email or check Facebook – it takes us an age to get back in the groove with our primary task.
The solution is to work in short bursts: but to make sure that in those short bursts we really are focused on our primary task and we keep away from email, social media, answering the telephone or any other potential distractions.
Using a timer to help us work in bursts helps too. And if you really want to get into working productively, check out approaches like the Pomodoro Technique.
I'll be the first to admit, working in this distraction-free way isn't easy. As I write this article the temptation to check email just in case something important has come in is almost overwhelming. And whenever I get stuck on what to write next, instead of sitting quietly, concentrating and thinking hard, it's all too easy to fill the void by checking social media.
But if you can resist those distractions your work quality and productivity will rise exponentially.
- Use your “gap” time productively.Although I said above that many marketing tasks need you to focus for a good chunk of time, many don't. These make great activities to fit in when you have “gap” time between other activities or you find yourself unexpectedly free for a few minutes.
But the key is that you have to be prepared otherwise that time ends up being wasted.
I remember back when I started as a consultant working alongside some very experienced professionals. Whenever something unexpected came up like a delayed flight or a postponed meeting they'd always be able to jump into doing something productive: often related to business development.
They'd whip out their “little black book” and make a couple of phone calls to clients and contacts to keep in touch. Or they'd pick up work on that presentation they had to deliver in a month's time.
In their cases, they always had that little black book handy and always had a couple of things ready to chat about. Or they had their presentation notes with them. So they could get straight to work.
In my case – at least back then – I would have to scrabble around for 20 minutes trying to find the phone numbers of the clients I hadn't spoken to for ages. And by the time I had them, the opportunity was gone and we were boarding our flight.
So be prepared to take advantage of unexpected “gap” time and you'll get more done.
- Schedule the right place for marketing as well as the right time.It's perhaps a bit of a stretch to put this in the scheduling section, but the environment you work in has a big impact on your ability to do great work.
I find, for example, that my planning and creativity is much better if I get away from the office and sit in a coffee shop for a while. I also use my iPad rather than a laptop for planning and brainstorming type tasks.
If you work with others in the same office, locking yourself in a meeting room by yourself while you do your marketing can be helpful too. You'll get fewer interruptions and you feel a bit less inhibited chatting and laughing with clients on the phone than you would sitting in a cubicle next to your colleagues.
And sometimes just moving to a different part of the house can change your mood. Especially if you regularly use one room for certain types of task. You begin to associate that room with the mindset you need to be in for that task.
And, frankly, moving about a bit is good for you :)
Get More Marketing Done Using Efficiency Tools & Techniques
Now that you've got the right mindset, you've prioritised so you're focusing only on the most important marketing tasks and you've scheduled them in to make the most of your time; it's time to actually do your marketing.
And obviously, you want to be as efficient and productive as you can be as you perform those marketing tasks.
The simplest way to be efficient with your marketing is the KISS technique – Keep it Simple, Stupid.
In the world of marketing, the experts are always trying to sell you on the latest and greatest new techniques. Complex launch sequences. 27-part adaptive marketing “funnels”. Technology that takes you weeks to understand let alone implement.
They need you to think that everything has changed and what you were doing (and they were advising) last week won't work this week. Because otherwise, you won't buy their latest shiny new tool or expensive coaching package.
Sometimes they believe their own hype because they operating in the ultra-competitive, ultra-cynical world of marketing advice.
But in the normal world that everyone else lives in, you rarely need to implement complex marketing. If you really understand your ideal client and have a product or service they're hungry for, then simple, clear marketing will work brilliantly well.
So keep things simple.
In similar vein, use the 80:20 rule to get the most value from your marketing quickly.
Like many people, I have a tendency to try to polish everything until it's perfect. As someone who teaches marketing, I have an inbuilt fear that everyone is looking at my own marketing and picking up on every flaw and imperfection and judging me on it.
Of course, it's not true for me and it's not true for you.
Your lead magnet doesn't need the perfect graphics. Your quick marketing video doesn't need a professionally produced intro with your logo dancing across the screen. You don't need the presentation skills of Steve Jobs to do a great speech at a small event that will get you new clients.
You need to do great work. But you can do great work in 20% of the time most of us spend by focusing on the essentials and getting a “good enough” version out there quickly. You can always update and improve as you go along – especially with digital media.
In fact, no matter how hard you try to polish your marketing to perfection before releasing it on the world, you'll never get it even close to 100% right. It's not until you get your marketing into the hands of your potential clients and see their reaction and feedback that you can spot what needs to be done to improve it. So get it out there quickly.
Case in point: after initially publishing this article I remembered two additional tools to add in. And a friend of mine found a couple of typos that I just didn't spot after endless spellchecking. It was only by hitting Publish that I was able to move on, then come back to add the updates and feedback.
Reuse, reuse, reuse.
I often get people asking me how I can produce so much marketing content, but the truth is I reuse a lot of content. An awful lot.
Firstly, I reuse ideas. You'll see the same core principles coming through in lots of my content. After all, none of us has hundreds of great ideas. But we can take a handful of great ideas and communicate them in hundreds of different ways.
And secondly, I reuse content once I've created it. A written article can become a podcast or the script for a video. It can be posted on your own blog or as a guest post on others or on a site like Medium.com. You can repost some or all of it as a post on Facebook or Linkedin. You can convert it into a PDF, print it out and post it to potential clients.
You can re-use sections of content. A chapter or section from your book can become a blog post like this one on email subject lines. I know people who made books by collecting blog posts or emails they've sent.
Your best emails and blog posts can be set up in an autoresponder so new email subscribers get to see them even if they joined well after they were first written. And you can use tools to re-share your content on social media regularly and automatically without needing to recreate it every time.
Any content you produce can be re-used again and again, saving you time but also making sure your audience gets to see your best work.
Use templates for marketing tasks you do again and again.
If you're anything like most people, you probably do the same types of thing on a regular basis marketing-wise.
If Linkedin is your thing, your connection requests – while personalised – are all probably quite similar. If you run a regular webinar you probably get asked the same questions time and time again. If you do guest blog posting, 80% of the emails you send to ask for the post will probably be the same.
So set up templates rather than re-inventing the wheel.
Most email systems allow you to create templates. And tools like Text Expander (or one of its many cheaper or free alternatives) can turn pretty much any repetitive task you have to do into a template.
Use tools to automate activities that don't need your personal involvement.
A lot of marketing needs you to get involved personally. But a lot doesn't. You don't need to personally tweet links to your favourite blog posts for example. And you don't need to come up with new emails to send when you can hook up new subscribers to get your best emails in sequence once they sign up. You can even automate doing webinars – though please don't pretend they're live if so and never use the fake attendee/questions options on them. And make sure you answer any questions your attendees ask fast even if you're not on the webinar live.
I've found that automating a lot of my social media has been the biggest timesaver for me. Now I know that will be sacrilege to some, surely social media is about being social? But automating the basics – like sharing your best blog posts on a regular basis – frees up your time to focus on the personal interactions that really need your time.
The tool I primarily use for automating my social media today is Social Bee which I use to automatically share my best content regularly on the main social networks. But in truth, there are dozens of similar tools you can use like Hootsuite, Buffer, Meet Edgar, Agorapulse, Sprout Social and Tweetdeck that all take away some of the workload if you're doing a lot of interacting on social media.
There are also tools available to help us stay focused. Rescue Time will record your time usage at your computer and allow you to block apps and websites at certain times. My favourite tool to overcome my natural weaknesses is the Facebook News Feed Eradicator Chrome extension. This tool blocks your general Facebook newsfeed and replaces it with an inspirational quote. You can still see discussions in your groups and get notifications of when you've been replied to or tagged. But you won’t see (and get distracted by) the general chit-chat of everyone you're connected to.
Finally, outsource work it's more effective for others to do.
Do you really need to do all of your marketing yourself?
Some of it you do – particularly the thinking and planning and the core content creation. And, of course, if you do live marketing like presentations and networking it's difficult to outsource that unless you have a lookalike :)
But many of the admin aspects of marketing can be outsourced.
If you write a blog post, do you really need to upload it to WordPress and share it on social media yourself?
If you create a video, do you really need to edit it, add your standard intro, get a transcription done and post it on Youtube yourself?
These are tasks a good Virtual Assistant or a pre-vetted freelancer on sites like Freeeup can do for you.
With outsourcing, it's not just about whether someone can do a cheaper or better job than you. It's about whether your time is better spent on higher value activities that absolutely need your personal involvement.
Personally, I struggle to outsource and give up 100% control. But there comes a time when you've stripped back to only the core activities, you've scheduled them well and you're executing them efficiently but you still don't have enough hours in the day. That's when you need to seriously consider outsourcing.
What Are You Going To Do To Make The Time For Marketing?
So now you have a huge suite of strategies and techniques you can use to make the time for marketing. But what are you going to do about it?
Just knowing these techniques isn't enough. You have to use them.
You could work your way through this whole guide step by step and get really efficient at your marketing. But truthfully, just implementing two or three of the techniques will make a big difference.
And to succeed, you don't need to do everything perfectly. You just need to claw back enough time to get enough marketing done to make an impact.
My experience has been that it's not necessarily the smartest or the most talented who get results from their marketing. It's the people who are the most determined to make it happen.
I hope that's you.