image of a blank piece of paper, green and blue pencils, paper clips and binder clips with smiles drawn on
Emails. Advertising. Postcards. You know that you need to market your business but how do you even begin? Grab a notebook and your calendar because now we’re going to do some planning.

No, really, marketing can be fun

Hopefully you’ve checked your business collateral and spent time going over (and updating) your website. Now it’s time to plan for the rest of the year.

Be honest, have you thought about your advertising for the year? Have you scheduled out your emails (and gathered content!) for the next several months? How will you contact your clients?

As I mentioned in my New Year’s post , you should be planning at least some of your marketing right now.

Will you be sending out emails?

Do this right. You should never send bulk or advertising emails from your own account. There are so many legal requirements for emailing and list management and hefty fines that come with ignoring them. You have a business to run, do you really need to take on more work?

Instead, look at free or paid email systems. While I use Mailchimp, I really have no platform favorites (one trusted partner uses MailerLite). These systems will manage your lists (subscribes and unsubscribes) and have automated features such as an auto “thank you for subscribing” email (you can see my own auto thank you if you subscribe to my mailing list).

If you’re already emailing through your own email, consider taking some time and moving over to a dedicated email system. It will be some work, but most systems have easy ways to import data. In the long run, it will save you time (and allow for easier management and growth).

You should also be planning at the bare minimum when you want to send out emails and what they will feature. While you’re at it, grab that calendar and plop in some send dates. Maybe that’s all you can do for now. A week before that date, decide what content you want (doesn’t have to be complicated. That’s why we have templates!) and what images you’ll use and set up your email. Just make sure you don’t wait until the day before sending to set up your email. That’s how typos happen.

TIP: Always—ALWAYS—send a test email to someone who isn’t you! Ask them to read it over. Does it make sense? Are there any typos? Do the links work?

Will you be advertising?

Ah, advertising, you tricky beast. You may never want to advertise and that’s fine (really? Not even digital advertising?) but if you are going to advertise, you have to plan, especially if you are advertising in a print publication. See, print pubs usually have material dates (that’s when you submit your final ad) a month before the print date. Their close date (when you agree to place an ad) may be even sooner.

Grab that notebook with your email marketing notes. Think about where you want to advertise and what you want to highlight (maybe even match up content with your emails). Reach out to the pubs or websites to secure your place, get pricing and find out submission specifications (you can probably find a lot of this information on their websites). Don’t forget about social advertising (like Facebook and Twitter).

And remember, advertising doesn’t just mean an ad in a magazine or image banner on a website. Ask yourself…

Will you be sending out postcards or flyers?

Oh, yeah. This is also advertising. I mean, so far all of this is advertising, but printed pieces like flyers and postcards are sometimes thought of as second-class work: cheap, easy and often (sadly), treated like an afterthought. But both mediums are so much more.

Take postcards, for example. I love postcards for their sheer versatility. Emails can be shared, but only digitally (I mean, you could print it out, but that never works right). An ad in a newspaper is cool, but the shelf life is pretty short. With postcards, you can use them in so many ways. Of course, you can mail them. But if you print more than you need to mail, you can also set a stack on your counter, stick one up at each coffee shop you use as a remote-office, mail them with other client information, send them out with purchases, hand them out at meet-and-greets, share a small stack in communal building spaces or with partner nearby businesses and keep a few in your bag for when someone asks, “so what do you do?”

Flyers work the same way. You can put them up, pass them out and always have them on hand.

It’s because of how amazingly useful postcards and flyers are for your business (and your brand) that it always pains to see businesses just throw together a flyer or mailing with bad clipart (which they may have just taken from a Google search which is a no-no anyway), a weird font, colors not related to their brand and text that wasn’t edited. Sometimes you need something quick (emergency closing), but even then, if you have a template and guidelines already in place, that quick “we have too many mangos today” flyer is a strong brand advertising piece.

I’m sure you still have your advertising and email notebook out. Add in flyers and postcard that you can use to supplement your other advertising and marketing. Don’t forget to consider creating a postcard or flyer that doesn’t highlight a special or have time-sensitive material but is a basic sales piece. Maybe this is the year that you make one generic-but-high-quality postcard that you will hand out to everyone you meet.

Is there anything else coming up this year?

Okay, don’t put your notebook and calendar away yet. Take a look and consider if you have any special events or milestones coming up in the next 12 months. Now is the time to schedule those in as well. Set some loose timelines and now move each of those back three weeks. Don’t wait until the last minute to throw something together. Your clients and customers will know. Instead, use ads, mailings and emails to hype your event or milestone. The more you can get your information in front of people—and the variety of mediums you use for that—the more likely they are to remember and become engaged.

Marketing doesn’t have to be hard

For some people, planning out a year’s worth of marketing in details and deadlines is the pinnacle of fun. For others, it’s tedious work. When it comes to marketing, it’s important to remember that something is always better than nothing. You might not have time to put together a complete email schedule for the year, but you can decide to do something quarterly (and then start thinking about content during your morning commute).

As you start training yourself to think ahead in your emails, advertising and printing you’ll soon start thinking of new ways to reach out to your clients and how to match your marketing to your business goals. And that’s where the real fun begins!


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