13: Where you are going wrong in marketing your small business


Are you chasing trends? In this podcast episode, I talk about how that might be wasting more time that you think. For full episode, see below.


Hi everyone and welcome to episode 13 of Your Social Media Journey. Today, I want to unpack that loaded term. Marketing. I want to talk about using content marketing, in particular. Content marketing is the practice of using your own content to build your business’s image in a way that is conducive to getting more sales. But, we need to look a bit deeper in here. So I will start with my own experience and results and then give you my four essential tips that made my own business succeed.

Advertising and Marketing is something that either business owners, especially new ones, shy away from, or THROW themselves into it. I remember being super excited about some business cards I ordered when I first started my business. It was a cupcake business and I went around handing out my business cards to anyone and everyone I met. Soon, I ran out of my 100 business cards. Guess what? The phone never rang. I bought a new mobile phone, just for the business, so that I did not have to use my personal number. You know? Just in case the phone started ringing a LOT? Well, it did not ring at all. Where was I going wrong? In hindsight, I was going wrong because I was trying to make customers out of people. Customers were not finding me, I was trying to find customers. Once this little equation changed, my business turned around. Once customers started finding me, my business started going from strength to strength. It did not happen overnight, oh gosh no! It took a while before I realised what needed to be done. What needed to be done was me being found as a maker and seller of cupcakes in London. Bear in mind that competition was tough! For every friend that I spoke to told that another of their friend was in the cake business. Or it felt like that anyway. It seemed that everyone was in the cake business. It only took me ten years to realise that this was not the case and the cake making industry is really rather small! It felt like everyone was in the cake business because I was interested in it. Its a bit l are wearing a red dress at a party, you will immediately notice someone else wearing a red dress, its like the others are simply not there. And this confirmation bias, to give it a proper name, is everywhere. Especially so in marketing. And what I see ends up happening is that people end up doing what everyone else is doing and then try to figure out once they have lost either a substantial amount of money or a substantial amount of time, or both.

So how do you market your business? Advertise without being annoying or pushy? There are ways, my friend, there are ways. The best thing you can do to market yourself is by having a website. If you have listened to my last podcast, episode 12, you will have heard Clare Drake and me talk about something new called lead pages. These are essentially one page websites that you can create without any tech knowledge and fairly inexpensively. The reason I am such a big fan of websites is because it was my website that started bringing my clients to me. That first phone call that came from a woman who randomly found my website on Google and gave me a ring was such a thrill that I cannot even describe it! She found me on Google, liked my style of baking and placed an order. As simple as that. Now, I will be the first to admit that my cupcakes then, back in 2007-08 were not brilliant. They certainly needed a lot of work to make them anywhere near as good as what I can do today. But, there was a market for those and the market was finding ME! It almost did not matter that my cupcakes were not super amazing, my customers were more than happy with what they were getting. And, of course, the more I sold, the more I made and the more I baked, the better I became. So it became a happy little spiral I climbed quite rapidly. What I did find out, and this took some time, was that not only were customers happy to pay for my products, they were also not obsessed with the latest cake trends. It was cake makers, that is, people in my own industry, the sellers – they were interested in the latest cake trends. And I see the same thing happen now. Each industry, especially creative industries, have trends. And people in the know discuss these, try to get better at these and try to sell the trendy stuff to their customers. And yes, customers buy it, too. However, if you see this from the customers point of view, customers do not care about trends, to a certain extent. They want a good quality product at a good price. Of course, there will be exceptions to the rule, but it is easy to get carried away with trends.

So how does this affect marketing your business? It does enormously. Let’s take the cake industry, just because I am super familiar with it and really understand it. If you don't know it already, I established Fair Cake, my business in 2007-08 and have managed to make a cake business succeed in fairly difficult economic climate. Check it out, www.faircake.co.uk.

Every few months, there is a new cake trend going one. A few years ago, drip cakes became popular. Then, we had geode cakes, which I find pretty unappealing, that took over. Then, we have the stripy cakes. Then, what is known as fault line cakes. Now, where are these cakes becoming popular? Online. Customers still want vanilla cake with chocolate frosting and a Happy Birthday written on it. But if you want to make a fault line cake and show that off, your customers might not see that you are equally capable of making a Birthday cake. I hope that makes sense! I see cake maker feed after cake maker feed trying to impress - each other, I guess - with their take on the latest trend. However, the cake makers getting actual business - they are the ones that are quietly churning out cakes, cakes that their customers want! Now, don’t get me wrong, if your customer wishes for a fault line cake, please, go ahead and make it. But, your, dare I say it, bread and butter cakes, will not be the trendy cakes. Just in case you are not a cake maker and are wondering what a fault line cake is - it is a relatively tall take, and it looks like it has cracked in half, horizontally. The middle “fault” sometimes reveals macarons or chocolate or simply cake. It is a fun cake, look it up! But the amount of time cake makers spend in trying out new ideas and pretty much forcing it as content on their pages - that is what the issue is. Because ultimately, we are all pressed for time. And if you are running a business, you do not have a lot of time to do marketing and advertising, let alone go for trendy stuff!

What I have found is that small business owners either emulate others, in their marketing efforts, or fall in the trap of advertising online - which is now extremely expensive, without giving much thought to their own content. Let’s dive deeper into content. Content is every picture you put on your website, or on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter or Pinterest. It is every video, live video, podcast episode or blog post you write. It is literally all you do online, which is public and publicly consumed. So, your first job is to ensure that your content is accurately representing who YOU are. And, it is not very difficult to do, either. You need to be sure of your products or services, what you are offering to paying customers. Even if what you are offering is the same as many other people, it is still different - it is you who are offering. I am sure you have seen shops in your own town, village or city offer exactly the same product, sometimes for different prices - and each shop succeeds in staying in business. Why? Because there is enough demand. So there is not need to reinvent the wheel. There is need to make a good wheel, supply it well and offer services when it breaks, but no need to reinvent it.

Right, now that my little lecture rant is over, and somehow it feels like a rant - here are some tips for marketing that have worked for me and that I have seen work for other business owners and hopefully you can use them in your own business.

Tip number one: Decide exactly what you are selling. So easy, right? Well, actually, especially in the creative industry, it is tricky to find your own product or service. And your content should ideally reflect what it is that you are selling. If you are selling exquisite looking jewellery, but your content is all about house plants or your latest vacation, that does not match now, does it? The easiest bit of content that you can make is take pictures of your products. I have a podcast episode about how to use smartphones for taking better pictures. If you haven’t already, do give it a listen. The second kind of content that you can use is graphics - essentially, words, written on either pictures or just shapes and patterns. This is also a powerful bit of content because it gives your customers YOUR side of the story. So if you are passionate about a particular aspect of your business, the graphics will help you there. But to use any of this, you do need clarity about exactly what it is that you are selling.

Tip number two: Look beyond the trends. Easy to say but very difficult to put in practice. It can feel like that you are lagging behind or not keeping up. But, remember that you are in business to make money from customers. Let’s be honest about that! Facebook and Instagram likes, alas, do not mean money. If I had even a single pence for every single like that my posts got on social media, I would be a millionaire. I am not. Following trends is being compliment hungry. Which is totally fine and completely understandable. But, your focus should be on your customers. Try to see your feed from your customers point of view. What are they getting out of following you? What is adding value to their scrolling? To do this, you either entertain your audience, or educate your audience. The more they stop on your page or your feed, the more your chances are of making a sale when you decide to make that sale.

Tip number three: Do an audience survey. This is actual hard work, I admit it, but it is the BEST way of figuring out where to spend your energy. Simply ask people what they are looking for from your business. One of the first customer surveys I did was by asking every single friend I had if they would let me come to their house or their offices, ideally their office, with cupcakes. At the time I thought to myself, “Who would possibly say no to free cupcakes?”, and believe you me, there were no-sayers! Anyway, it was at face to face meetings that I figured out the I was putting WAY too much buttercream on cakes and it was putting people off. Well, guess what? I saw everyone was doing that ONLINE - everyone online was making massive buttercream swirls on cakes, so I assumed that there must be demand for these cupcakes. But, in real life, NOBODY wanted such a lot of buttercream on a cupcake. And there was no way I would have figured this out had I relied entirely on my online experiences. I cannot emphasise this enough - a real life connection is ten times more valuable than an online one.

Tip number four: Change! What works today will very likely not work tomorrow. Just today, mid July 2019, several social media influencers are saying on Twitter and Instagram and Facebook and all over the media that engagement levels on social media are down. Way down. It seems that social media is become saturated with sponsored content, influencer marketing and people are becoming savvy. This is especially true of the younger generation that has grown up with social media. So now, it is even more important that you really look at what content you are serving to your audience, no matter how big or small those numbers are at present. If people are getting value out of your content, they will stick around. If not, they will move on. And to keep on top of all of this, you must be ready to change your marketing strategy. Gone are the days that you could stick pretty pictures online and sales happened – that is simply not going to happen.

So there are my four tips for marketing your business, online and offline. To recap, these are:

Decide on your product or service, have clarity about it

Look beyond trends, seek out what the customers want.

Do a survey.

Be prepared to change your strategy.

Hope you found these tips useful. As always, it is that time of the show when I beg for reviews. And my begging is paying off, too, I am getting lovely emails and comments and reviews. So just in case you have not done so already, please do take a moment to let me know how you found this episode. If you let the world know by leaving my a 5* rating wherever you are listening to this, that would be ACE. Ok, enough begging. Begging ends.

My next episode is about, Google. Yes, our old friend, Google. And how it is becoming more like Facebook! Intrigued?! Well, you will just have to come back to the next episode, won’t you? Until next time, bye for now!